What is a schwa?
It is an unstressed and toneless neutral vowel that is found in an unstressed syllable. It is represented with an upside-down e: /ə/ and it makes a short u sound.
How many syllables does the word ‘about’ have?
There are two syllables: a-bout.
Saying the word ‘about’, which syllable is stressed?
The second syllable is stressed: a-`bout.
What does the sound of ‘a’ make in the word ‘about’?
It sounds toneless and is unstressed. It is like /uh/ or the short u sound. The ‘a’ is a schwa.
Schwas are lazy sounding vowels. It is the most used vowel sound. All vowels and two vowel diagraphs (oo and ou) make this vowel sound.
Vowel(s) Word Phonetics
a what hwət
e the t͟hə
i family fa-mə-`lē
o from ˈfrəm
u circus ˈsər-kəs
y syringe sə-ˈrinj
ou country ˈkən-trē
oo blood ˈbləd
To help remember the vowel and diagraph schwas I have made up a story.
The family went to the circus in the country. They found a bloody syringe and want to stay away from it.
R-controlled vowels also make the schwa sound. For example, ar as in beggar, er as in her, ir as in bird, or as in doctor, ur as in burn.
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