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I am not a native english speaker and I find it difficulty to identify some of english words with long vowel sounds. I read rules concerning long vowel sounds but there are some words with vowels of long sounds which i think they should have short sound and i don't know why they pronounce those vowels long. May be there are other rules which i don't know.
Forexample which rule makes vowel "a" in words like "brazen" and "flagrant" to have long vowel sounds?

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  • English writing is a lot like Chinese in that the way the word is written only gives you a clue about how to pronounce it, it doesn't give you the exact pronounciation.
    – The Photon
    Mar 24, 2020 at 2:04
  • Unlike in, say, Spanish, English spelling does not provide a reliable indication of pronunciation. Words with similar spelling may be pronounced quite differently. Even when there seems to be a rule or pattern (e.g., bar, car, far, jar, par, tar) an exception will come along (war).
    – nnnnnn
    Mar 24, 2020 at 2:05

1 Answer 1

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As with many aspects of English, there are no "rules", but there are some "guidelines".

The main guideline has to do with "open" and "closed" syllables. An "open" syllable is one that ends with a vowel, while a "closed" syllable ends with a consonant. So "brazen" breaks into syllables as "bra zen", while "flagrant" breaks into "fla grant".

When an syllable is "open" the vowel usually adopts the "long" pronunciation, while if it's "closed" it's usually a "short" pronunciation. Of course, this being English, there are exceptions (an obvious one being the word "bra" vs the "bra" syllable in "brazen").

A kind of rider to this guideline is that when a word ends with a vowel, then consonant, then a trailing "e" (as with "rare", eg), the first vowel is (usually) "long" (and the trailing "e" is silent).

There are other caveats to this "guideline" that I've no doubt forgotten since I studied this stuff in the 3rd and 4th grade. There is most certainly a more authoritative description online somewhere.

And of course I've skipped over the "guidelines" you'd need to determine where syllables are separated. Ie, if the breaks are "flag rant" and "braz en" then the pronunciations would be different. And this is a harder nut to crack, starting from zero.

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