The Most Commom Vowel in English!

by Lynn Bo - Date: 2008-11-06 - Word Count: 293 Share This!

The Schwa. This tiny, reduced vowel is most commonly heard in English. And guess what, there is no written symbol for it in the English alphabet. It can be represented by any vowel.

Look at these three words

In these 2 syllable words the same vowel is used twice. However, the pronunciation of each vowel is quite different.

That is because one syllable is stressed and one is not. The vowel that is in the stressed syllable receives its "full" pronunciation. It is longer and louder then the vowel in the unstressed syllable. In fact the vowel from the unstressed syllable is reduced to the schwa sound.

So in those examples the schwa sound is represented by an a, o, and an e. In the following examples the schwa is underlined












This is one of the reasons why spelling in English is so tough. It is hard to know what letter the schwa sound is being represented by. Also as a note it is perfectly acceptable and infact more standard to reduce the vowel in the unstressed syllable to the schwa. It is not considered sloppy and will make you more intelligable to the native English listener.  If you listen even to the president he will reduce the vowels as well. To not do so changes the rhythm and fluency of the speech.

I good way to practice this is to write down a list of words that you use frequently and to identify the syllable that will be reduced. Remember that it needs to be a multi-syllabic word.  To check you pronunciation listen to an online dictionairy and compare your pronunciation to theirs . Do you hear the reduced vowel in their production?

Related Tags: esl, english as a second language, word stress, accent reduction, spoken english, english pronunciaton

Lynn Bo is an expert in the field of accent reduction. She is nationally recognized for her line of software programs and intensive personal and corporate training programs.

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