Consonant Doubling to protect short vowels against long vowels!
(You can also watch the video below the page!)
Here are the short vowel sounds in English:
- /æ/ as in “cat”
- /ɛ/ as in “bed”
- /ɪ/ as in “hit”
- /ɒ/ as in “hot”
- /ʌ/ as in “cup”
- /ʊ/ as in “put”
Here are the five long vowel sounds in English:
- /eɪ/ as in “day”
- /i:/ as in “see”
- /aɪ/ as in “sky”
- /oʊ/ as in “go”
- /ju:/ as in “cute”
When a word has a short vowel sound and ends in a single consonant, adding a suffix that begins with a vowel will result in doubling the consonant. For example ‘big’ +’-er’—> bigger. But why?
The answer is simple: This is done to keep the short vowel sounds before the consonant (‘i’ /ɪ/ before ‘g’ in ‘big’) and to avoid changing the pronunciation of the word.
To understand what I mean, let’s have a look at the following examples. Wait till the end for the RULES.
In each of the following examples, doubling or not doubling the final consonant changes the pronunciation, and the meaning and creates a new word. For instance, “robbed” /rɒbd/ means to have something stolen from you, “robed” /rəʊbd/ is someone wearing a robe or long, loose outer garment, and while “fitted”, “fitting” or “fitter” have a meaning
*fited, *fiting, *fiter do not have any meaning to the best of my knowledge.
fat fatter vs fater or fatty vs faty
hat hatter vs hater or hatting vs hating or hatted vs hated
plan planning vs planing or planner vs planer or planned vs planed
tap tapping vs taping or tapper vs taper tapped vs taped
hop hoping hopping or hopper vs hoper
rob robbed robed
rid ridding riding
pilled vs. piled; filled vs. filed
win winning vs wining (enjoy oneself by eating and drinking lavishly. Sounds similar to whining)
din dinner vs diner or *dinning vs dining
fit fitting/fitter vs *fiting/fiter (sounds like fighter)
swipe swiping (*swip-swipping)
slide sliding (slid-*slidding)
rude ruder (rud-rudder)
How would you read the following words if they did not have double consonants?
Begin – Beginning (the start of something)
Prefer – Preferred (past tense of “prefer”)
Refer – Referred (past tense of “refer”)
Permit – Permitted (past tense of “permit”)
Admit – Admitted (past tense of “admit”)
Occur – Occurred (past tense of “occur”)
Cancel – Cancelled (past tense of “cancel”)
Benefit – Benefitted (past tense of “benefit”)
Emit – Emitted (past tense of “emit”)
So are there any RULES that we can make use of?
The words have to include or end in the CVC structure in words. CVC stands for “consonant, vowel, consonant” as in ‘big’
The word “rest” does not follow this rule and becomes ‘rested’, not ‘restted’.
Another rule is about syllable stress. In a word with 2 or more syllables, the final consonant is not doubled even though the final consonant follows the CVC rule:
e.g., begin–> beginning but visit–> visiting
beGIN (second syllable stressed) then double it (regRET-regRETTED; contROL – contROLLED (past tense of “control”))
VIsit (first syllable stressed) then don’t double it (LISten-LIStening)
w, x, or y as a consonant are not counted at the end of a word: