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IPA mark ə
IPA number 322
IPA character description Latin minuscule Schwa
Unicode U + 0259
HTML (dec.) & # 601;
Kirshenbaum @

The Schwa or e -Schwa (differentiated from a -Schwa [ɐ] ) denotes a sound that is also called the middle central vowel . This is articulatory and acoustically located in the vowel trapezoid in the center between the other vowels . In German, it appears only in unstressed syllables (eg. B. b e riding , much e ) and verschriftlicht with the letter <e>.


In many European languages ​​the Schwa only appears unstressed. However, there are exceptions such as Albanian , Romanian and many Slavic languages:

  • In German , an unstressed, short 'e' is often pronounced as Schwa, for example in a lot of e [ ˈfi: l ə ]. It is disputed whether the Schwa lute (the e-Schwa discussed here and also the related a-Schwa as in Lehrer [ ˈleːʀɐ ]) have phoneme status in German (cf. Staffeldt 2010 (see below)). In reduction syllables (such geleg e n ), the schwa often in favor of a syllabic realized as a sequence consonant elided ; for example, Taf e l is spoken to Taf l or Dschung e l [ ˈd͡ʒʊŋ ə l ] to Dschung l [ ˈd͡ʒʊŋ ]. Although it occurs frequently, the Schwa is never marked as such in German; neither with its own phonetic sign nor with a diacritical mark as in the Luxembourgish language .
  • In French , the unstressed, accented 'e' is usually a (but rounded) schwa with an appeal that almost tends towards an - albeit breathy, short and open - 'ö'. Examples:
  • In Armenian there is the letter 'ը' for the Schwa. It is only written at the beginning of some words (also in compound words), and also at the end of the words, where the Schwa forms the definite article. In the remaining cases the Schwa is not reproduced in the spelling.

Origin of the term

The word Schwa comes from Hebrew , where it denotes the diacritical mark of the same name "ְ" ; however, in modern Israeli Hebrew this character is either pronounced [ɛ̝] or not at all. The naming of this sound as "Schwa" can be understood as a linguistic joke , because the word "Schwa" [ʃwaː] describes the sound that, according to the Hebrew original [ʃəˈwaː], would still have to be pronounced between "sh" and "wa".

The Hebrew word שְׁוָא (/ šěwā '/ or / ʃəˈvaʔ /, in modern Hebrew [ʃva] ), denotes a vocalization sign in the Hebrew alphabet that is notated as a vertical pair of dots under a consonant (example: בְ; see Schwa (Hebrew) ) . In modern Hebrew this symbol denotes either the sound [ɛ̝] or the complete absence of a vowel, in older forms of Hebrew presumably various other short vowels. In connection with certain consonants, an a, e or o sound has developed from the Schwa, which is called Chatef-Patach, Chatef-Segol or Chatef-Qametz and is written as a combination of the respective vowel mark with the Schwa ; for example in the first syllable of the word Adonaj (= Lord) - here the vowel is preceded by a glottal beat.


See also