'schwa' - articulation and use of a sound in the English and French language

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2002

12 Pages, Grade: 1,0


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Description of the schwa sound

3. The French / / sound
3.1. The French schwa at the end of the “mot phonétique”
3.2. The French schwa inside the “mot phonétique”
3.2.1. The schwa in front of a vowel
3.2.2. The schwa in front of consonants
3.3. The French schwa at the beginning of a “mot phonétique”
3.4. Several schwa sounds after each other
3.5. Proper names

4. The English schwa
4.1. Unaccented position
4.2. Initial position
4.3. Final position
4.4. Unstressed prefixes
4.5. Unstressed suffixes

5. Conclusion: Contrast of the English and French schwa sound


1. Introduction

The following essay will introduce the English and French / / sound, it will firstly describe their articulation and secondly explain the use of these sounds in both languages. As a conclusion, there will be a contrast of the French and English schwa sounds.

2. Description of the schwa sound

The English / / sound is called “schwa”. It is the “most frequent vowel”[1] in the English language and therefore “the most important sound”[2] in English.

It is a central, non – rounded and half – closed vowel and it occurs always in non – stressed positions. It is a “neutral vowel”[3] because the lip position is neutral[4] and not rounded[5]. This schwa sound is “extremely short”[6].

The French / / sound has several names. It can be called “e muet”, “e instable” or “e caduc”. The different names will be explained in the following chapters.

It is also central in French but the lips are rounded. This French sound occurs normally only in non – stressed positions. The front vowels [œ] and [ø] replace it in stressed positions[7]. If the French schwa is pronounced, it is also very short[8].

3. The French / / sound

The French schwa is normally always written as <e> without any accent. Exceptions from the spelling are the forms of the verb “faire”, e. g. “faisait” [f_zε] and the word “monsieur” [m_sjø].[9]

As mentioned above, the French / / sound has several different names. The names “e caduc”, “e muet” and “e instable” are the most common names for this sound. The following rules of its pronunciation will explain these different names and their meanings.

3.1. The French schwa at the end of the “mot phonétique”

The French schwa sound at the end of a “mot phonétique” is normally mute. The name “e muet” is therefore justified in this case.[10]

The following examples[11] will explain this.

- c’est la rose: [roz_]
- voilà son texte: [tεkst_]
- la fleur verte: [vεrt_]

In all three examples, the <e> at the end is not pronounced, it is at the end of the “mot phonétique”.

The only exceptions are monosyllables at the end of the “mot phonétique”. In this case, the schwa at the end is pronounced.


- prends – le: [l_]
- sur ce: [s_]

The schwa is not mute any more in monosyllables.


[1] Joanne Kenworthy, Teaching English Pronunciation (New York: Longman, 1987) p. 51.

[2] ibid.

[3] ibid.

[4] cf. A. C. Gimson, An Introduction to the pronunciation of English (London: Arnold, 1989) p. 119.

[5] cf. Ibid.

[6] ibid., p. 121.

[7] cf. Bernard Tranel, The Sounds of French (Cambridge: CUP, 1987) p. 86

[8] cf. Hans-Wilhelm Klein, Phonetik und Phonologie des Heutigen Französisch (München: Max Hueber Verlag, 1963) p. 91.

[9] Cf. Tranel, Klein

[10] a “mot phonétique” is a group of words in a sentence that belong together

[11] cf. Peter Röder, Französische Phonetik und Phonologie (Erlangen: Verlag Parlm&Enke, 1996) p. 94.

Excerpt out of 12 pages


'schwa' - articulation and use of a sound in the English and French language
University of London
Aspects of Contemporary French
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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484 KB
Comparison with French, double spaced
English, French, Aspects, Contemporary, French
Quote paper
Sylvia Hadjetian (Author), 2002, 'schwa' - articulation and use of a sound in the English and French language, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/43121


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