We all know that English spelling is rarely a good guide to pronunciation. One big reason for this is the prevalence of schwa in the spoken language. That’s why dictionaries and other written guides to pronunciation make use of a special symbol to represent the schwa sound. It looks like this: ǝ—an upside down e. But what is schwa anyway? Here are nine things to help you get to know this very important vowel.
1. ANY WRITTEN VOWEL CAN BE A SPOKEN SCHWA
A schwa is the ‘uh’ sound found in an unstressed syllable. For example, the first syllable in amazing (ǝ-MA-zing), the first syllable in tenacious (tǝ-NA-cious), the second syllable in replicate (RE-plǝ-cate), the second syllable in percolate (PER-cǝ-late), the first syllable in supply (sǝ –PLY), the first syllable in syringe (sǝ-RINGE). That’s a written A, E, I, O, U and even a Y coming out as schwa in the spoken version.
Schwas are very common in English (although they’re surprisingly difficult to play in IPA Scrabble, because they’re far more common in polysyllabic words). They’re less common in other languages, and are one of the things that contribute to non-native accents in both directions: English speakers tend to reduce vowels to schwa even when it’s unwarranted, and speakers of many other languages tend to pronounce too many full vowels.
Because of how common and distinctively-shaped schwa is, it (along with wugs) have become a ubiquitous icon for linguistics. For example, there’s a schwa necklace, dozens of schwa mugs and t-shirts, and of course the publication Schwa Fire.
I was just about to note the bit about native speakers vs. foreigners while watching that video of Jasmin & Richard singing “All Of Me” from The Voice Kids Deutschland last night
i have limited sympathy for people who get told “no” after a public proposal because public proposals are pretty much emotionally abusive
if you think it’s kinda cute, you can discuss it beforehand and then do a staged one later
but putting someone on the spot in front of a crowd of strangers (or worse, friends) and demanding they give you a yes or no answer to a complex question which will affect the rest of their life is
really not okay
Public proposals make me infinitely uncomfortable. I mean the effort is endearing, but don’t you dare do that to me
What does it sound like to have a large room of people crack their knuckles at the same time…
The *very* satisfying answer to a question I’ve never asked.
honduran white tent bats roosting under a heliconia leaf, which they sever down the length of the leaf’s midrib, thus causing its two sides to droop down under the weight and create a ‘tent’ that provides a waterproof shelter and protection from potential predators.
OH GOT THEY’RE COTTON BALLS WITH EYES AND NOSES