Unstressed Vowels


Welcome to class! 

In today’s class, we will be talking about unstressed vowels. Enjoy the class!

Unstressed Vowels

Unstressed Vowels | classnotes.ng

Do you still remember how many vowel sounds we have in the English Language? You may need to revise your note if you don’t.

Out of all the vowel sounds, one of them is never stressed. This means that all the remaining sounds have the tendency to either be stressed or unstressed when they appear in words. But this one never has that tendency. It is always unstressed, and that’s why we call it a weak vowel. If you’ve been studying your book very well, you probably know what the weak vowel is. But if not, you will get to learn that today.

Remember in one of our classes on stress, I told you what it means when a syllable is said to be stressed or unstressed.

But as I mentioned above, whenever the weak vowel sound occurs in a word, that syllable in which it occurs is never stressed. If you are able to recognize the weak vowel sound and the letters that represent it in words, you will be certain that anytime you find it in a word, that syllable is not stressed. The weak vowel is generally known as the schwa / ə / sound.

Let me give you some examples. Read the words aloud and try to note the pattern of letters that represent the schwa / ə / sound in the following words:

again                         mother          tutor                           colour

allow                          sister               tailor                           bursar

about                                    father             pastor                        collar

away                         brother          creator                      cinema

alone                         picture           author                       data

agree                                    nature           doctor                       algebra

announce                Asia                honour                      umbrella

attend                       Russia                        labour                        agenda

Can you see the pattern in them?

Now, this is not a standard rule, but most words that begin with letter ‘a’ in the like manner of the first column have the / ə / sound, which means the syllable cannot be stressed. With that understanding, since the words are bi-syllabic, then you can rightly say that the word is stressed on the second syllable.

The same rule is applicable to the words ending with ‘-er’, ‘-or’ or ‘-our’.

Whenever you pronounce a word with the / ə /sound in it, always pronounce the weak syllable according to what its name implies, weak.


Today, search for more words in your dictionary that contain the weak sound and write down as many as you get.


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