The Schwa (Upside Down E)

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If there's one phonetic symbol Americans are mostly likely to know it's the "schwa" /ə/ or "upside down e" for the "uh" sound. I personally remember from elementary school. Here it is in multiple fonts

Schwa in Multiple Fonts

Sound

In phonetics this is the sound similar to "uh" in American English. In many dialects of English, vowels of unstressed syllables are commonly pronounced as schwa and is one reason for spelling difficulties (e.g. is it -ible or -able both of which are really [əbəl]) It's a common "neutral" or "resting" vowel found in many languages including French, Welsh, Irish and others.

Origin of Glyph

Schwa is close to Spanish "e" (and closer to French "e" of le), so that's why the Letter E got flipped in this case.

Origin of Name

The word "schwa" is from the Hebrew word שְׁוָא (šěwā’, /ʃəˈwa/), meaning "nought"—it originally referred to one of the niqqud vowel points used with the Hebrew alphabet, which looks like a vertical pair of dots under a letter. This sign has two uses: one to indicate the schwa vowel-sound
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schwa#The_term (19 Feb 2007)

About The Blog

I am a Penn State technology specialist with a degree in linguistics and have maintained the Penn State Computing with Accents page since 2000.

See Elizabeth Pyatt's Homepage (ejp10@psu.edu) for a profile.

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