A friend asked me this question recently. I thought the answer was simple, something along the lines of ‘it is the sound you make in unstressed syllables when your oral articulators are doing nothing and your vocal folds vibrate’. A sort of unmarked setting of the articulatory muscles if you will. But alas, nothing is ever as simple as it seems which I quickly realised during my reading. And what better way to share my new insights than with a Lingoblog entry! The focus of this blog post is the articulatory aspects of schwa, though many other interesting fields are relevant to a description of the sound.
Is schwa a mid-central vowel?
Schwa (named after a Hebrew diacritic by German … ↪