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San Pedro Manpower Development Institute English sound - the schwa.

The Schwa []

The schwa SCHWA [From German schwa, from Hebrew shw, from shw emptiness. Hebrew grammarians , traditionally mark consonants with signs referred to in Roman lettering as shevaor shewa. These signs indicate either no following VOWELsound (quiescent or movable sheva). There was nothing comparable in alphabets derived from Roman until the development of the International Phonetic Alphabet in the late 19c, when an inverted e was introduced to serve the same purpose as vocal sheva]. Also shwa, neutral vowel,obscure vowel. A term in PHONETICS for a central vowel sound represented by the symbol //. To make a schwa in isolation, the tongue is neither pushed forward nor pulled back, neither raised nor lowered, and the lips are neither spread nor rounded: hence the term neutral. Although not represented in the conventional alphabet, schwa is the commonest vowel sound in English. It typically occurs in unstressed syllables, and in the following list is shown for illustrative purposes as if it were an everyday letter: bove, gain, sppose, photgraph, scenry, sof. The schwa is the vowel sound in many lightly pronounced unaccented syllables in words of more than one syllable. It is sometimes signified by the pronunciation "uh" or symbolized by an upside-down rotated e. A schwa sound can be represented by any vowel. In most dialects, for example, the schwa sound is found in the following words: The a is schwa in adept. The e is schwa in synthesis. The i is schwa in decimal. The o is schwa in harmony. The u is schwa in medium. The y is schwa in syringe. Authorities vary somewhat in the range of what is considered a schwa sound, but the above examples are generally accepted 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. Listen to these two examples of the same question. The first is with every word stressed and the second is faster and more natural with vowels being reduced. It is important to know to learn about the schwa. To understand the concept of word or sentence stress, learners also need to be aware of the characteristics of 'unstressed', which include the occurrence of the schwa. In addition, if learners expect to hear the full pronunciation of all vowel sounds, they may fail to recognize known language, especially when listening to native speakers. Even if they understand, students often do not notice unstressed auxiliaries, leading to mistakes such as, 'What you do?' and 'They coming now'.

English as Second Language

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