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Thread: The Schwa Sound

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    #1

    The Schwa Sound

    Dear members and teachers:


    As I am getting into phonetics and phonology I have learned the importance of the Schwa Sound in English. It is the most common sound occurring in unstressed syllable of multi-syllable words (word with two or more syllables) and as a reduced vowel sound in function words (that, to, the, of can, was, have, him, her, us). It is represented by the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) as an upside down letter e; just like this symbol /ə/. It represents a mid (between close and open) and central (between front and back) vowel in the vowels chart, almost identical or very close to the short U sound /ʌ/.


    The Schwa Sound is shorter in length, lower in intensity and different in quality, it is not articulated with much energy, it is a lax and weak sound. Though vowels change in quality when they are reduced, the reduced vowel tends to be not only very short, but also very unclear, producing a sound that is hard to identify.


    The Schwa Sound is not an exact sound because vowels have not the same sound; does not have the same duration because Schwa sounds sometimes are almost unheard. The Schwa Sound allows unstressed syllable to be said more quickly so that the main beat of a spoken word be easier to to be pronounced and heard.

    OCCUR: /əˈkɜr/ The Schwa is in the vowel O

    SUPPORT: /səˈpɔrt/ The Schwa is in the vowel U

    DEFINITE: /ˈdɛfənɪt/ The Schwa is in the second vowel I

    APPLIANCE: /əˈplaɪəns/ The Schwa is in both vowels A


    ELEMENT: /ˈɛləmənt/ The Schwa are in the two last vowels E



    I would like to know if I am right or wrong in the following questions:


    1) The Schwa Sound is related to the short U sound as mentioned above, does the short U sound occur in stressed syllable as in unstressed one or only in stressed syllable whether it be a primary or a secondary stress?, for example:


    PRONUNCIATION; /prəˌnʌnsiˈeɪʃən/ it has a secondary stress.

    UNCOMFORTABLE; /ʌnˈkʌmftəbəl, -ˈkʌmfərtəbəl/ it is unstressed in the first syllable and stressed in the second one.

    UNCOUNTABLE; /ʌnˈkaʊntəbəl/ it is unstressed in the first vowel U and the second one becomes a diphthong with the previous vowel O.

    UNDERLINE; /ˌʌndərˈlaɪn/ it has a primary stress


    2) I have also noticed that the short U sound occurs in the vowel O as well, but in this case when the O is a short U sound the stress is on that vowel; it is a primary stress, for example:


    COMFORTABLE; /ˈkʌmftəbəl, ˈkʌmfərtəbəl/ It has a primary strees in the first vowel O.

    MOTHER; /ˈmʌər/ NONE; /nʌn/ OTHER; /ˈʌər/ All have a primary stress in the vowel O.


    Your assistance and help in this matter will be deeply appreciated,


    Sincerely,



    The Apprentice
    Last edited by The apprentice; 13-Nov-2013 at 05:32. Reason: Arrangement and spelling

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    #2

    Re: The Schwa Sound

    Welcome to the forum, The apprentice.

    I have made a few comments on your post.
    Quote Originally Posted by The apprentice View Post
    It represents a mid (between close and open) central (between front and back) vowel in the vowels chart, almost identical or very close to the short u sound /ʌ/.
    In most dialects of British English, it is close to /ʌ/, but it is not 'nearly identical'.
    The Schwa Sound is shorter in length, lower in intensity and different in quality,
    ... than what?
    The Schwa Sound is not an exact sound because vowels have not the same sound;
    If you are saying that the phonemic symbol /ə/ is used for a range of sounds, you are right. The same is true of all phonemic symbols. Only narrow phonetic transcription represents a precise sound.
    does not have the same duration
    ... as what?
    The Schwa Sound allows unstressed syllable to be said more quickly so that the main beat of a spoken word be easier to to be pronounced and heard.
    No. The schwa sound is a result of the loss of other vowel qualities when a syllable is unstressed.
    PRONUNCIATION; it has a secondary stress
    The primary word stress is on the fourth syllable, the secondary on the second (containing /ʌ/). Neither schwa is stressed at all. The final syllable may be pronounced as a syllabic /n/ - i.e., there is virtually no vowel sound.
    UNCOMFORTABLE; it is unstressed
    The vowels of the first two syllables are /ʌ/. The vowel of the third syllable is schwa, unstressed (as it always is). The final syllable may have a schwa or a syllabic /l/.
    UNCOUNTABLE; it is unstressed
    The vowel of the first syllable is /ʌ/.The vowel of the third syllable is schwa, unstressed (as it always is). The final syllable may have a schwa or a syllabic /l/.

    UNDERLINE; it has a primary stress
    The first syllable, with the vowel/ʌ/, bears the secondary stress; the second syllable has schwa, the final syllable bears the primary stress
    2) I have also noticed that the short u sound occurs in the vowel '' o '' as well, but in this case when the '' o '' is a short u sound the stress is on that vowel;
    Do not confuse letters with sounds.
    COMFORTABLE; It has a primary stress on the first '' o ''
    The first syllable, with the vowel
    /ʌ/, bears the primary stress.

    MOTHER; NONE; OTHER; All have a primary stress.
    The first or only syllable,
    with the vowel /ʌ/, bears the primary stress. The second vowel in 'mother' and 'other' is schwa.

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    #3

    Re: The Schwa Sound

    Thank you 5jj for all of your answers:


    It represents a mid (between close and open) central (between front and back) vowel in the vowels chart, almost identical or very close to the short u sound /ʌ/.

    In most dialects of British English, it is close to /ʌ/, but it is not 'nearly identical'.

    1) Okey. I would like to know if the short U sound is a little more front or back as well as if it is a little more high or low than the Schwa Sound

    The Schwa Sound is shorter in length, lower in intensity and different in quality,

    ... than what?

    2) I mean than a vowel or a stressed vowel.

    The Schwa Sound is not an exact sound because vowels have not the same sound;

    If you are saying that the phonemic symbol /ə/ is used for a range of sounds, you are right. The same is true of all phonemic symbols. Only narrow phonetic transcription represents a precise sound.

    3) I think this is because vowels have not the same sound and, consequently, Schwa is a reduced vowel sound, is it right or wrong?

    does not have the same duration

    ... as what?

    4) Of another Schwa sound, for example:

    The word COMFORTABLE has a stressed short U sound in the first syllable; a two Schwa sounds in the second and third syllables and a syllabic L in the last one or fourth syllable, but the first of the two Schwa sounds is mostly elided or omitted when this word is pronounced. I think this is because of the length of the syllable when pronounced


    The Schwa Sound allows unstressed syllable to be said more quickly so that the main beat of a spoken word be easier to to be pronounced and heard.

    No. The schwa sound is a result of the loss of other vowel qualities when a syllable is unstressed.

    5) Okey. So, is this one one of the reason for english to be a stress timed language?

    PRONUNCIATION; it has a secondary stress

    The primary word stress is on the fourth syllable, the secondary on the second (containing /ʌ/)
    . Neither schwa is stressed at all. The final syllable may be pronounced as a syllabic /n/ - i.e., there is virtually no vowel sound.

    6) In this case, I was only reffering to the short U sound, not the Schwa, because I woul also like to know if this sound occurs in stressed syllable whether it be a primary or a secondary stressed.

    UNCOMFORTABLE; it is unstressed

    The vowels of the first two syllables are /ʌ/. The vowel of the third syllable is schwa, unstressed (as it always is). The final syllable may have a schwa or a syllabic /l/.

    7) Is it the first short U sound a secondary stress in this word?

    UNCOUNTABLE; it is unstressed

    The vowel of the first syllable is /ʌ/.The vowel of the third syllable is schwa, unstressed (as it always is). The final syllable may have a schwa or a syllabic /l/.

    8) Is the short U vowel of the fisrt syllable a secondary stress?
    UNDERLINE; it has a primary stress


    The first syllable, with the vowel/ʌ/, bears the secondary stress; the second syllable has schwa, the final syllable bears the primary stress.

    9) Okey. The short U sound is stressed in this word.

    I have also noticed that the short u sound occurs in the vowel '' o '' as well, but in this case when the '' o '' is a short u sound the stress is on that vowel;

    Do not confuse letters with sounds.

    10) You are quite right, vowel letters are not the same as vowel sounds .

    COMFORTABLE; It has a primary stress on the first '' o ''

    The first syllable, with the vowel
    /ʌ/, bears the primary stress.

    11) Okey. Here I can notice what you told me above about not to confuse vowels with sounds; the first O is a short U sound and the second one a Schwa.

    MOTHER; NONE; OTHER; All have a primary stress.

    The first or only syllable,
    with the vowel /ʌ/, bears the primary stress. The second vowel in 'mother' and 'other' is schwa.


    12) I have to more questions to you:

    a) Can the short U sound occurs in stressed syllables as in unstressed ones?

    b) Are all the short vowel sounds stressed sounds?

    c) You told me to put ''English'' in capital letters, but when it functions as an adjective, does it have to be put in upper case letters too?



    Thanks again for your assistance 5jj, it helps me a lot in my English pronunciation.


    Regards,



    The Apprentice.
    Last edited by The apprentice; 03-Oct-2013 at 21:01. Reason: Arrangement

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    #4

    Re: The Schwa Sound

    I would like to know if the short U sound is a little more front or back as well as if it is a little more high or low than the Schwa Sound
    It is slightly lower and farther back.

    3) I think this is because vowels have not the same sound and, consequently, Schwa is a reduced vowel sound, is it right or wrong?
    The schwa sound is a vowel in its own right. It frequently replaces other vowels in unstressed syllable.


    5) Okey. So, is this one one of the reason for english to be a stress timed language?
    It is the prominence of stressed syllables in English that puts it at the stress-timed end of the spectrum.

    UNCOMFORTABLE;
    7) Is it the first short U sound a secondary stress in this word?
    It can be.

    UNCOUNTABLE;
    8) Is the short U vowel of the fisrt syllable a secondary stress?
    It can be.

    UNDERLINE;
    9) Okey. The short U sound is stressed in this word.
    It can bear secondary stress.



    12) I have two more questions to you:

    a) Can the short U sound occurs in stressed syllables as in unstressed ones? Yes

    b) Are all the short vowel sounds stressed sounds? No

    c) You told me to put ''English'' in capital letters, but when it functions as adjective, does it have to be put in upper case letters too? Yes

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    #5

    Re: The Schwa Sound

    Thanks a lot 5jj:

    Now I am totally understood about the Schwa Sound, soon I will be posting more threads on some pronunciation and grammar issues.


    Very sincerely,


    The Apprentice
    Last edited by The apprentice; 03-Oct-2013 at 21:02.

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    #6

    Re: The Schwa Sound

    Quote Originally Posted by The apprentice View Post
    T soon I will be posting more threads on some pronunciation and grammar issues.
    That's fine.

    Please try in future to ask about one point at a time - you can always ask follow-up questions later. If you ask too much at one time, the responses can become a little hard to follow.

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    #7

    Re: The Schwa Sound

    Thank you 5jj: for your advice.

    I posted a thread about a pronunciation issue, maybe with more than one points; I had not read this advise at the time I had sent it.

    Excuse me, but now I know I have to expose only one point by thread.


    Sincerely,



    The Apprentice
    Last edited by The apprentice; 03-Oct-2013 at 21:02.

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