Where does schwa occur?

Where does schwa occur? 

The Schwa Vowel Sound

The Schwa Vowel Sound

Over the last two weeks some pronunciation teachers and students asked me this~

“Susan, where does the schwa sound occur?”

Now THAT’s what I call an excellent question!

Where to find the schwa vowel sound

1. The schwa sound occurs before or after the stressed syllable. I’ve typed in the schwa symbols in the words below so you can see them.

  • cəMUNəcate
  • cəmunəcAshən

Using the reduced schwa vowel sound before or after (sometimes before AND after) the stressed vowel sound creates CONtrast.

Americans depend on hearing the CONtrast between stressed and unstressed vowel sounds. That’s one way that we identify words.

2. The schwa sound often occurs in words such as: to, you, a, an, but, for, of…..

Again, this helps create contrast.

Less important words in a sentence are reduced (said with a schwa vowel sound) and important words are emphasized. This makes your important words stand out.

When your important words stand out, Americans will usually understand what you said.

Speaking American English without schwa

What happens if you DON’t speak using stressed vowel sounds and schwa vowel sounds?

A couple of things come to mind……

  • Your words will be difficult for Americans to immediately understand
  • Your speaking pace will be too fast
  • You may come across in an abrupt and unfriendly manner

You can learn more about the schwa vowel sound here on my ConfidentVoice blog.

Thanks for visiting!

About the author

Susan Ryan is an American accent and pronunciation coach. Contact her at susan@confidentvoice.com with your questions.