#819… “More About ə” [sci, relig, ETC]


   ” ə “


   Okay, what’s the big deal here?


   2 things:

   (1)  You probably didn’t “get it” in #818.

   (2)  It illustrates a “feature” of our website.


And for more you need the DOOR.




   Part of what we do here is pick apart and sort things so they can be taken in as quickly as possible. We violate a lot of technical rules of grammar and organization–like starting sentences with numerals, numbering and “stacking” common bits of information, and going overboard with punctuation marks, italics, boldface, and coloring.

   In serious narrative or highly technical writing we wouldn’t do that.

   So, to show how we often do that sort of thing, we’ll mess with what we’ve already told you in our last website where we discussed the ə.


   No it doesn’t come in color. We did that.

   It’s an upside-down e. And it’s “roughly” pronounced “uh.”

   It helps us pronounce words–sometimes. Other times it’s, well, excess baggage¹.

   For example:

   It’s the sound of

   a   in alone and sofa

   e   in system

   i   in easily

   o   in gallop

   u   in circus

   As universal as the schwa seems to be, there are some quirks to it. It sometimes falls silent altogether in the middle of a word, like in car(ə)mel, sep(ə)rate, ev(ə)ry, lit(ə)rally and choc(ə)late. Yet in other dialects it actually appears out of nowhere. This happens in older US English dialects and in Irish English with words like real(ə)tor, Kath(ə)leen, ath(ə)lete, gir(ə)l, fil(ə)m, kil(ə)n².

   Did you learn something here? We did.


   ¹ Why did this happen? Words have a history. And they travel around many places and invade many “new” languages. English, a world language especially in modern technology, of course is a sponge for this sort of thing. Why keep sometimes unwieldy verbal tangles? Tradition, tradition, tradition. Attempts to modernize spellings in the past have had only modest success.

   ² Our source for details here before messing around with them is https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/schwa.



Author: John Knapp