Schwa & co


That "sound" that is articulated usually when there is a "u" in CvC words like "but, cut, hut,....

In most dialects, the schwa will vary to some degree, but speakers will be hard-pressed to note enough differences --if any-- when a speaker articulates a word, It is possible that the difference might in fact be more pronounced, but that the listener believes the phoneme to be a schwa due to familiarity and context. Finally, keep in mind that it is an UNstressed phoneme. It is hardly pronounced.

A schwa (/ə/) in English dialects can be represented by 13 different letters: a, e, i, o, u, y, iou, io, oo, ou, oe, ough, and ia! Here are some examples for these spellings: about, children, pencil, renovate, supply, syringe, luscious, mission, blood, does, cousin, thorough, and especially. (Even “one” or o_e could be included as it is pronounced “wun”.) So, even 14! And we are surprised people cannot spell? Decode words? And for foreigners, it makes learning to speak or pronounce really difficult.

Other phonemes

/ei/: 12 different spellings: great, raid, grey, gray, ballet, mate, table, caffe, matine, reggae, vein, vain
/ɛ/: 11 different spellings: bear, care, aerial, their, there, questionnaire, mayor, bury, any, friend, leopard
/i:/: 10 different spellings: be, been, bean, key, mere, elite, people, ski, debris, quay

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