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Why is it spelled...?

Why is the word read spelled the same but pronounced differently for both the present and past tense of the action of reading a book?
Often in questions about word history we can describe quite well what happened in a word's development but fall short in trying to explain why it happened. Our modern infinitive verb read came from Old English rædan. Its meaning in Old English was "to advise." Its past tense was red. In the normal course of events both of these Old English long vowels would have become in Modern English long <e>, the first spelled <ea>, the second spelled <ee>, so we would have modern read and reed, both rhyming with steed. However, over time the Old English verb changed, falling in with those other Old English verbs that produced modern bleed, bled; speed, sped; feed,fed; breed, bred; lead, led, etc., all with a short vowel in the past tense. By Middle English the infinitive form was usually spelled rede or reed, with the past tense usually spelled red, redde, rad, radde. The OED's earliest citation of read for the past tense is in the 17th century. It's not clear exactly why the <e> and <a> spellings common in Middle English were replaced with <ea>, but a good guess would be that there was a felt analogy with words like bread, dead, dread, head, spread, tread--all with short <e> spelled <ea>.
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