The Upside Down e

by Briana

What is the name of the upside down "e" when pronounced in parenthesis?

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Jan 31, 2011
/ə/ "the schwa"
by: Charles Becker

This symbol /ə/ also known as "the schwa." It is an extremely common and important sound in English.

It represents the most neutral vowel in the English sound system. When we say /ə/, our tongue is central and relaxed. No muscular contraction is occurs.

/ə/ appears in words such as "but" "must" "some" "come" and "young."

As you can see, it is spelled a few different ways but is usually represented by the letter (u).

Furthermore /ə/ is used when a vowel falls on an unstressed syllable. Almost any vowel letter can be reduced to the /ə/ sound.
For example: "about" -Letter (a) is pronounced /ə/.

"Common" - second (o) is pronounced /ə/
"balloon"- (a) is pronounced ə

ə is not /a/!

The words lock /ak/ and luck /lək/ are pronounced differently. They are close in sound but very different to an American speaker!!
Students often confuse /ə/ with /a/.

To correct this problem, and learn more about /ə/ you should try "Best Accent Training mp3s."

I believe it is the best self study course for learning how to pronounce English clearly and correctly with a standard American accent. See what Diana has to say about it here.

It has many good exercises about /ə/ and /a/.

Charles Becker
Accent Reduction Specialist

Need help improving your Accent?
Read why I love Charles Becker's "Best Accent Training MP3's".
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