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vowel sound COMPUTER

1 - Some Example words

computer, balloon, alphabet, pencil, emphasise
What other words do you know with this sound?
Sound

Balloon

Sound

Alphabet / Alpha

Sound

Pencil

Sound

Does not rhyme with Lucille

A computer

Sound

2 - Stressed or unstressed

Listen to each sentence and say whether the highlighted word is stressed or unstressed.
  1. CAN can
    audio You can drive as fast as you like on some motorways in Germany.
  2. FROM from
    1. audio Where are you from?
    2. audio I'm from Dover

3 Introduction to Schwa

The schwa sound is soft and unstressed. It occurs twice in the "a Balloon.
Click on the pictures to hear these words. Where was the schwa sound?
What other objects have this sound in their name?
The reduced vowel sound called schwa is the most common vowel sound in spoken English. Schwa is a quick, relaxed, neutral vowel pronunciation very close to a short u. The purpose of schwa is to allow unstressed syllables to be said more quickly so the main beats of spoken words are easier to place on the stressed syllables.
Schwa does not have an exact and standard pronunciation. Due to the near-identical pronunciation of schwa and short u, many dictionaries merge the transcription of the two sounds and strictly use …ôr. Separate symbols are retained here to indicate whether a vowel sound falls on a stressed or unstressed syllable.

Schwa occurs in two different circumstances:

  1. in an unstressed syllable of a multi-syllable word
  2. as a reduced vowel sound in a function word

Schwa in an unstressed syllable

In words with more than one syllable, not every syllable is given equal emphasis when spoken. Three levels of syllable stress are possible:

  1. stressed
  2. secondarily stressed
  3. unstressed

Every multi-syllable word has a single stressed syllable. The single stressed syllable of the word has the most emphasis. The remainder of the syllables may have a secondary stress or may be unstressed.

The word emphasize has all the levels of stress. The first syllable is stressed, the second syllable is an unstressed syllable pronounced as schwa, and the third syllable has a secondary stress.

4 - Doctor Forster went to Gloucester

Click on the Doctor. Does he say the word "computer" Learn this limerick
Doctor Foster
Doctor Foster went to Gloucester
In a shower of rain
He stepped in a puddle
Right up to his middle
and never went there again.
Doctor Foster

5 - About this schwa sound

Words that begin com- or con- usually have an unstressed first syllable. Here are some exceptions

6 - More Example Words

computer, doctor, potter, monitor, furious, nation, curtain, pencil, Japan, ...

concrete, conversation, contact, combination, combat, Common, Complicated, Congress

unstressed short first syllable

ability (Not able), above, abort, abuse, achieve, adapt, adopt, ahead, alarm, alone, aloof, amongst, annoy, apparent, appalled, arrive, assume, attack, aware, away, occur, oppose, address, adjustable, appreciation, available, allert, associate, apologise, additional, ...

This is the most common vowel sound in the English language. use this sound to make your speech smooth and run together well.
Notice the different ways of pronouncing the word 'the' in examples 6 and 7. Can you see why this is so?

Your Score -

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Schwa practice. Listen and repeat sentences read by native Engish Speakers.

Click a 'native' speaker's flag for examples

  1. Arsenal footballers in London.
    audio Listen to a native speaker. audio Listen to a native speaker. audio Listen to a native speaker. audio Listen to a native speaker.
  2. Alone again
    audio Listen to a native speaker. audio Listen to a native speaker. audio Listen to a native speaker. audio Listen to a native speaker.
  3. pencil breaker
    audio Listen to a native speaker. audio Listen to a native speaker. audio Listen to a native speaker. audio Listen to a native speaker.
  4. patterned curtains
    audio Listen to a native speaker. audio Listen to a native speaker. audio Listen to a native speaker. audio Listen to a native speaker.
  5. Ellevate the nation
    audio Listen to a native speaker. audio Listen to a native speaker. audio Listen to a native speaker. audio Listen to a native speaker.
  6. The attacker arrived early
    audio Listen to a native speaker. audio Listen to a native speaker. audio Listen to a native speaker. audio Listen to a native speaker.
  7. The doctor assumed I had an appointment
    audio Listen to a native speaker. audio Listen to a native speaker. audio Listen to a native speaker. audio Listen to a native speaker.
  8. That teacher creature.
    audio Listen to a native speaker. audio Listen to a native speaker. audio Listen to a native speaker. audio Listen to a native speaker.
  9. Monitor the situation
    audio Listen to a native speaker. audio Listen to a native speaker. audio Listen to a native speaker. audio Listen to a native speaker.
  10. Doctor Foster went to Gloucester.
    audio Listen to a native speaker. audio Listen to a native speaker. audio Listen to a native speaker. audio Listen to a native speaker.
  11. Worcester sauce
    audio Listen to a native speaker. audio Listen to a native speaker. audio Listen to a native speaker. audio Listen to a native speaker.

Words that can be stressed or unstressed

These words can be stressed or unstressed. Make example sentences with them and find any other words that do this.
was, can, them, ...

     888888888888888888888
   s 88 ooooooooooooooo 88     s 888888888888888888888888888888888888888
   S 88 888888888888888 88    SS 888888888888888888888888888888888888888
  SS 88 888888888888888 88   SSS 8888                         - --+ 8888
  SS 88 ooooooooooooooo 88  sSSS 8888           o8888888o         | 8888
 sSS 88 888888888888888 88 SSSSS 8888         o88888888888o         8888
 SSS 88 888888888888888 88 SSSSS 8888        8888 88888 8888      | 8888
 SSS 88 ooooooooooooooo 88 SSSSS 8888       o888   888   888o       8888
 SSS 88 888888888888888 88 SSSSS 8888       8888   888   8888       8888
 SSS 88 888888888888888 88 SSSSS 8888       8888   888   8888       8888
 SSS 88 oooooooooo      88 SSSSS 8888       8888o o888o o8888       8888
 SSS 88 8888888888 .::. 88 SSSSS 8888       988 8o88888o8 88p       8888
 SSS 88 oooooooooo :::: 88 SSSSS 8888        8oo 9888889 oo8        8888
 SSS 88 8888888888  `'  88 SSSSS 8888         988o     o88p         8888
 SSS 88ooooooooooooooooo88  SSSS 8888           98888888p           8888
 SSS 888888888888888888888__SSSS 8888                               8888_____
 SSS |   *  *  *   )8c8888  SSSS 888888888888888888888888888888888888888
 SSS 888888888888888888888.  SSS 888888888888888888888888888888888888888
 SSS 888888888888888888888 \_ SSsssss oooooooooooooooooooooooooooo ssss
 SSS 888888888888888888888  \\   __SS 88+-8+-88============8-8==88 S
 SSS 888888888888888888888-. \\  \  S 8888888888888888888888888888
 SSS 888888888888888888888  \\\  \\       `.__________.'      ` .
 SSS 88O8O8O8O8O8O8O8O8O88  \\.   \\______________________________`_.
 SSS 88 el cheapo 8O8O8O88 \\  '.  \|________________________________|
  SS 88O8O8O8O8o8O8O8O8O88  \\   '-.___
   S 888888888888888888888 /~          ~~~~~-----~~~~---.__
  .---------------------------------------------------.    ~--.
  \ \______\ __________________________________________\-------^.-----------.
  :'  _   _ _ _ _  _ _ _ _  _ _ _ _   _ _ _           `\        \
  ::\ ,\_\,\_\_\_\_\\_\_\_\_\\_\_\_\_\,\_\_\_\           \      o '8o 8o .
  |::\  -_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-___  -_-_-_   _ _ _ _  \      8o 88 88 \
  |_::\ ,\_\_\_\_\_\_\_\_\_\_\_\_\_\___\,\_\_\_\,\_\_\_\_\ \      88       \
     `:\ ,\__\_\_\_\_\_\_\_\_\_\_\_\_\  \,\_\_\_\,\_\_\_\ \ \      88       .
      `:\ ,\__\_\_\_\_\_\_\_\_\_\_\_\____\    _   ,\_\_\_\_\ \      88o    .|
        :\ ,\____\_\_\_\_\_\_\_\_\_\_\____\  ,\_\ _,\_\_\_\ \ \      'ooooo'
         :\ ,\__\\__\_______________\__\\__\,\_\_\_\,\___\_\_\ \
          `\  --  -- --------------- --  --   - - -   --- - -   )____________
            `--------------------------------------------------'

    

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