The symbol is called a “schwa” (pronounced w). This neutral vowel sound is found in unstressed syllables. All five English vowels, as well as the semi-vowel Y, are sometimes pronounced as a schwa.

Click on the sample words to listen to the sound files. The letter pronounced as a schwa is in bold.

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schwa vowel examples
a about
e   enemy
i   incredible
o oppose
u   focus
y   vinyl

Note: when a word ends with (consonant + l + e), the sound of the (l+e) is actually a schwa + l sound (l).

schwa examples

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2 Responses

  1. Diana 15 April 2015 / 14:46

    I have a very specific question about the schwa in words like noodle, uncle, puzzle, etc. When transcribing these words into IPA, should I put the schwa in at the end followed by an /l/, or should I omit the schwa and put an /l/ with a little dash underneath it? With syllabic consonants, can the schwa be omitted? Which was is more accurate?

  2. lkl 18 April 2015 / 12:26

    I don’t know anything about “an /l/ with a little dash underneath it,” but in IPA, words like that omit the schwa, for example [noodl].

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