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So there are words that use "bus" but where this group of letters is pronounced differently:

  • busy - "bizzy"
  • bus/bust - "bas/bast"

Case 2: Similarly with "cut" vs. "cute".

Case 3: "fetch" vs. "fever

Can someone explain why do we use different pronunciations for seemingly no apparent reason? Is there a rule about what letter follows? If its a historical reason, what is it?

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    Once again -- apparently one can never say it too often -- English spelling has no connection with English pronunciation. Learn the spelling and the pronunciation separately and don't expect any consistency between them. They sometimes look like they're consistent, but they're not. Dec 11, 2022 at 22:16
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    The "e" on the tail end of "cute" is there to change the pronunciation. A trailing "e" generally changes the sound of the preceding vowel.
    – Hot Licks
    Dec 11, 2022 at 22:36
  • Didn't you read the advice upon this matter? Dearest creature in creation / Studying English pronunciation / ... / I will keep you, Susy, busy, / Make your head with heat grow dizzy / ... / Pudding, puddle, putting. Putting? / Yes: at golf it rhymes with shutting. / ... / My advice is: GIVE IT UP!
    – tchrist
    Dec 11, 2022 at 23:38

1 Answer 1

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Some assessment in the comments—that of John Lawler—is a gross exageration. True, English spelling to sound correspondence is a mess, but it is not wholly devoid of principles. There is for instance the principle that a stressed vowel before a double consonant or before a consonant cluster receives its short value; there are other such principles. For instance in the dictionary maintained by J C Wells (Longman Pronunciation Dictionary), at the beginning of each list of entries headed by a new letter, there is a page or two of guiding principles collected under sections called "spelling to sound", and it is useful to know them. Knowing them is part of the apparatus that will allow the student to acquire gradually an intuitive knowledge of English pronunciation. That is not to say that the rules will solve the questions the reader has while ploughing through his English texts, far from it, but in any case, any serious student of the language should be familiar with these principles. You will find in this book, for instance a system of pronunciation for recently borrowed French words (literary, often); in that particular case the sounds are influenced by French pronunciation, although in English they are a compromise (but it departs from traditional English).

The modern pronunciation of English has its roots in history, as all languages, except Esperanto. For instance the pronunciation of "th" in modern English is that of sounds from Anglo-Saxon, otherwise called Old English.

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  • What's the difference between consonnant and consonant? :) As JRR Tolkien constantly explained to his students, there's no such language as "Anglo-Saxon" and there never was. It's just Old English.
    – tchrist
    Dec 11, 2022 at 23:36
  • @tchrist Mere opinion on the one hand and mere nomenclature on the other; terms are needed to identify the the parts of the language that are relevant. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_English
    – LPH
    Dec 11, 2022 at 23:41
  • The reason for that negative vote?
    – LPH
    Dec 11, 2022 at 23:45
  • People just being pretentious. I usually just ignore opinions with pretentious or patronizing wording. Usually dunning krugger syndrome. Have my own upvote!
    – Rares Dima
    Dec 12, 2022 at 18:54
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    @RaresDima I'm pleased to read your comforting words.
    – LPH
    Dec 12, 2022 at 21:00

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