Schwa (vector).svg
In linguistics, specifically phonetics and phonology, schwa (/ʃwɑː/, rarely /ʃwɔː/ or /ʃvɑː/) (sometimes spelled shwa) is the mid central vowel sound (rounded or unrounded) in the middle of the vowel chart, denoted by the IPA symbol ə, or another vowel sound close to that position. An example in English is the vowel sound of the 'a' in the word about. Schwa in English is mainly found in unstressed positions, but in some other languages it occurs more frequently as a stressed vowel.

In relation to certain languages, the name "schwa" and the symbol ə may be used for some other unstressed and toneless neutral vowel, not necessarily mid-central.

The word schwa is from the Hebrew word shva (שְׁוָא  IPA: , classical pronunciation: shewa’  ), designating the Hebrew niqqud vowel sign shva (two vertical dots written beneath a letter): in Modern Hebrew, it indicates either the phoneme /e/ or the complete absence of a vowel. (The Hebrew shva is also sometimes transliterated using the schwa symbol ə, but the schwa vowel has never been pronounced that way, whether now or any earlier pronunciation, such as the Tiberian vocalization.)

The term was introduced into European linguistics by Eduard Sievers in the late 19th century, and so the spelling sch is German in origin. It was first used in English texts between 1890 and 1895.

The symbol ⟨ə⟩ was used first by Johann Andreas Schmeller for the reduced vowel at the end of the German name Gabe. Alexander John Ellis, in his palæotype alphabet, used it for the similar English sound in but.

Sometimes the term "schwa" is used for any epenthetic vowel, but other languages use different epenthetic vowels (Navajo uses ).

This page was last edited on 17 March 2018, at 09:21.
Reference: under CC BY-SA license.

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