This sound is a neutral vowel. It is used to represent the weak form of other vowel sound.

Why the schwa is the most common sound

In stress-timed languages such as English, stresses occur at regular intervals. The words which are most important for communication of the message, that is, nouns, main verbs, adjectives and adverbs, are normally stressed in connected speech.


Grammar words such as auxiliary verbs, pronouns, articles, linkers and prepositions are not usually stressed, and are reduced to keep the stress pattern regular. This means that they are said faster and at a lower volume than stressed syllables, and the vowel sounds lose their purity, often becoming a schwa. The first is with every word stressed and the second is faster and more natural with vowels being reduced. The same thing happens with individual words.


While stressed syllables maintain the full vowel sound, unstressed syllables are weakened. For example, the letters in bold in the following words can all be pronounced with a schwa (depending on the speaker’s accent): support, b a nana , button, exc e ll e nt, exper i ment, col our , sist er , pict ure . It is also used when a sound is a combination of a vowel and a consonant e.g water /wᴐ:tӘ/ The vowel is a short version of the /ӡ:/ sound (vowel number eleven). One peculiar feature of this vowel is that it is always found in unstressed syllables. That is, it never has any stress wherever of occurs.


Examples are: – common spelling of /Ә/ sound (i) initial position e.g. agree, about, alone (ii) middle position e.g. comfort, contain, column

(iii) final position e.g. measure, Africa, sailor

EVALUATION: Transcribe the following words and identify the vowel /Ә/ (i) manner (ii) library (iii) other (iv) Wonder (v) forward

ASSIGNMENT: Transcribe the following words and identify the vowel /Ә/ (i) backward (ii) harder (iii) sector (iv) failure (v) potato (vii) captor (viii) quiet.


See also



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