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What is the ‘schwa’?

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What is the ‘schwa’?

Sound Waves 26/11/20

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The schwa is the most common vowel sound in Australian English and is represented by the most letter combinations (graphemes). Although the schwa is formally taught in Unit 36, it’s important to talk with students about this sound when they come across it in earlier units as it is often difficult to hear.


For example, in the word bucket, the schwa is represented by the letter e. However some students will hear 5 sounds while others will only hear 4.

5 sounds: b/u/ck/e/t
4 sounds: b/u/ck/et

Students should know that, regardless of how many sounds they hear, the spelling of bucket doesn’t change. Students can use the pronunciation key in their dictionary to help them identify the schwa sound in words. For example, bucket is shown as /bʌkət/ with the schwa sound represented by ‘ə’. Remember, even dictionaries sometimes have more than one pronunciation of a word.

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