Lately I'm into improving my English (UK) pronunciation. I'm using the IPA chart for such purpose.

I was wondering if there's any relationship between the ə sound and the several diphthongs that involves the "schwa" symbols, in the pronunciation (for example eə)

I mean is there some similarity to take into account?

  • 3
    I don't understand the question. What do you mean by "if there's any relationship between": the same symbol is used because they are effectively identical sounds. (They might not be precisely identical, but they're close enough for the purposes of English).
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Jul 11, 2016 at 14:41
  • What I mean is the following: if I listen the vowels I mentioned teachingenglish.org.uk/article/phonemic-chart to me they sound different the part that is supposed to be a schwa, so what I was trying to understand is how the diphthong are supposed to be pronounced, in my head I thought the pronunciation is a kind of "continuity" between the single sounds mentioned in the diphthongs. Commented Jul 11, 2016 at 15:26
  • In that site, I hear the isolated schwa cut a little shorter, but otherwise the same as the last element in the diphthongs.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Jul 11, 2016 at 16:07
  • Related.
    – Schwale
    Commented Jul 11, 2016 at 16:28
  • 1
    Diphthongs aren't always pronounced exactly the same way by all speakers, and the pronunciation of some diphthongs in British English has changed since the symbols were assigned, so if people don't pronounce the last piece of the diphthong exactly like a schwa, it's not something you should worry about. Commented Jul 30, 2016 at 12:38

4 Answers 4


The compound phonemes incorporating schwa (such as those in: near goat mature cure) do not in any way reproduce the schwa short vowel sound, although you might think they suggest it. They are just compound phonemes. No need to read anything into them.



The "similarity" is not coincidental; the vowel found in words like "care" is often transcribed as /eə/ because, historically, many people pronounced it like the sound [e] followed by the sound [ə], squished into one syllable. (The non-syllabic part was the [ə]; a more explicit transcription would be /eə̯/.) However, in modern Southern British speech, words like "care" are often pronounced with a long monophthong rather than a centering diphthong due to the phenomenon of "smoothing", so it may be better for you to aim for /ɛː/; at any rate, you should be aware of the existence of this pronunciation.

Here is a blog post about it by Geoff Lindsey: Smoothing, then and now


A schwa is a very lax, muddy short vowel sound, as in the first syllable of "muddy."

Many vowel combinations make that sound. It's not about the letters; it's about the sound.

I think the reason why you see so many vowel combinations that result in the sound is because the English language has so many words from so many other languages.

  • 1
    You should see if you can find any references to back this up. Also, "muddy" is not pronounced with a schwa.
    – Laurel
    Commented Sep 2, 2016 at 20:00
  • merriam-webster.com/dictionary/schwa America and Muddy are the same sound. Commented Sep 12, 2016 at 11:35
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    @Jennifer: in some dialects of American English, they are. And maybe some varieties of other Englishes as well. For the rest of us, they're not. Commented Oct 1, 2016 at 17:36
  • @JenniferMelekOzgur, schwa is by definition unstressed. The vowel in "muddy" is stressed. The vowels you are referring to in "America" and "muddy" are transcribed differently in IPA. Your answer is not accurate and also doesn't answer the user's question. Commented Dec 4, 2016 at 16:34

The schwa sound is for the unpronounceable (r) in british accent as well so there is a relation between using either the schwa sound or the diphthongs that involves the schwa, and the (r) sound. For example all words that are transcripted using schwa/diphongs with it, include the (r) sound like beer, bear,near,etc So i think the only relation between them is the (r) sound

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