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Take these three words:

Soup

Super

Supper

The first two words, Soup and Super both begin with the same sound: soo. However the addition of a p in supper changes the pronunciation from soo to suh (short-u). Is there a "rule" in the English language that defines that the double letter modifies the preceding vowel pronunciation? Or is this just one of those "because English is complicated" things?

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    The spelling doesn't change the pronunciation. The pronunciation existed first. The spelling attempts to indicate the prounciation (among several things), and this is the convention that has developed in English, for better or worse. – choster Oct 8 '19 at 15:24
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Vowels before a doubled letter are (almost?) always short. Here are some other examples:

  • diner, dinner
  • pined, pinned
  • moped, mopped
  • hoped, hopped

On the other hand, vowels followed by (non-doubled) consonants followed by -e- are (almost?) always long:

  • her, here
  • pin, pine
  • mop, mope
  • hop, hope

This is relevant to the "doubling-up rule", which says to double the terminal consonant letter in single-syllable words when adding a vowel suffix like -er or -ed. This rule helps us differentiate:

  • pin -> pinned / pine -> pined
  • mop -> mopped / mope -> moped
  • hop -> hopped / hope -> hoped

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