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The Schwa

 
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Deborah B



Joined: 17 Oct 2006
Posts: 9

PostPosted: Mon Nov 06, 2006 2:32 am    Post subject: The Schwa Reply with quote

Hello, I had some thoughts. A light bulb, although it may need to be put out:

If a syllable in a word is unstressesd, does that not make the sound in that syllable a schwa? In other words, are schwas in all unstressed syllables? Confused Are not only the stressed syllables in a word the ones that actually are heard in their full sound, and thereby debunking all the rest of the syllables to sounds with reduced vowels at their centers? Is this an accurate summation of how stress in a sense works? Also, how does one go about teaching the schwa, if it an indiscriminate and varying location depending on the speaker?

Thank you all!

Deborah
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Lorikeet



Joined: 18 May 2003
Posts: 1370
Location: San Francisco, California

PostPosted: Mon Nov 06, 2006 4:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Don't put out your lightbulb. I think you got the general idea. The unstressed vowel (usually represented by a schwa, regardless of how it's said) occurs both in unstressed syllables in long words and in sentences as well, where the "unimportant" words (for want of a better explanation) are reduced as well.

I don't think I'd make a hard and fast rule that "all" unstressed syllables do that, and there are people who do it more or less than others. When I teach pronunciation (which I find is closely connected to listening, being of the "if you can't hear it, you can't say it" school) I do a lot of work with reduction of unstressed syllables.

As an example, in my English, if I say, "I want to go to the store to get an umbrella," the words "to" (all three of them), "the" and "an" are also a schwa.
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Deborah B



Joined: 17 Oct 2006
Posts: 9

PostPosted: Tue Nov 07, 2006 1:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

But somehow the schwa seems to have some implications: that the clarity of the vowel relative to the other syllables is an indicator of a stressed syllable. This is a guideline in a sense, is it not? Today I worked with my student having her pay attention to the vowels she hears in the words, as themselves the peaks of the syllables- the vowel stresses are the nucleus of syllables, teh peaks of the stream of speech? The unstressed are reduced to schwas and are alteratively weak vowels (meaning said in full but somehow lower, quicker (?) relative to the other syllables). The point is that the syllables and schwas seem to me to indicate that pronuciation has at its center vowel sounds (although I read a posting by a guy named revel that indicates that consonants are the key sound mediums in words toward the listener).

I don't know. Just trying to prioritize!

Bye,
Deborah
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