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English Central Vowels. Prof. K. Horowitz ENG 115. Objectives Introduction What is a Central Vowel? What is “Stress?” Types of Central Vowels The Central Vowel Table Try Your Luck! Practice Exercises Useful Links. Index. Objectives.

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english central vowels

English Central Vowels

Prof. K. Horowitz

ENG 115



What is a Central Vowel?

What is “Stress?”

Types of Central Vowels

The Central Vowel Table

Try Your Luck!

Practice Exercises

Useful Links

  • This module is designed to familiarize second language students with the unique central vowel sound and to help them identify the correct use of pronunciation stress used in words containing those vowels.
  • Central vowels can be much harder for second language learners to identify because we’re essentially talking about a single sound. The difference is where that sound is located in a particular word, and whether or not it has stress (fuerza de pronunciacion).
what is a central vowel
What is a Central Vowel?
  • There are only two central vowel sounds, but they are represented by four symbols. Why? Because the symbol used depends on whether or not the syllable with the central vowel sound is stressed or not.
what is stress
What is “Stress?”
  • No, it doesn’t refer to when you have too much English homework! Stress refers to the emphasis you place on a particular syllable in a word when you pronounce it. We know this in Spanish as the fuerza de pronunciacion. The sound’s pronunciation stays the same, and we instead use its location to classify it.
types of central vowels
Types of Central Vowels
  • One of the central vowels, [ә], is called schwa. It sounds nearly indistinguishable from the other central vowel [], (called caret), but linguists often use both. Schwa is used to represent unstressed vowels, as any like the second vowel of the word dated. Caret, however, is always used to represent a vowel that has some amount of stress. Central vowels are often referred to as neutral vowels, Since no movement of the tongue or lips is required for pronunciation.
Both sounds also have a form that includes an “r” in it.
    • EX: firm, brother
  • Identifying both the unstressed [ɚ] and stressed [ɝ] forms is the same as with both schwa and caret.
central vowel table
Central Vowel Table
  • This table will help you identify the correct sound.
The sounds on the left are unstressed, and those on the right are stressed.
  • The sounds on top have no “r” in them, and the two on the bottom do.
Use it and perform the following steps when analyzing a word:
    • Count how many syllables there are and which one the sound is in.
    • Ask yourself “is the sound stressed or not?”
    • Ask yourself “is there a ‘r’ sound in that syllable?
try your luck
Try Your Luck!
  • Let’s try and identify the correct central vowel sound in the following word.
  • bun




Let’s try one more!
  • begun




practice exercises
Practice Exercises
  • Correctly identify the central vowel sound in the following words.
  • A . B.
  • 1. banana 1. cuff
  • 2. oven 2. under
  • 3. uncle 3. luck
  • 4. curt 4. letter
  • 5. someone 5. compare
  • 6. stuck 6. alive
  • 7. arouse 7. quota
  • 8. paper 8. gun
  • 9. world 9. unless
  • 10. after 10. rubber
useful links
Useful Links
  • Here are some sites on the Internet that can help you with these exercises, as well as those done in class.
  • University of Iowa: A site with an excellent area devoted to vowel and consonant sounds. Click on "launch English library."
  • Easton’s American English Pronunciation: A great site with plenty of information about vowel and consonant pronunciation, as well as some great practice exercises.
Tim’s ESL Site: Raritan Valley Community College Phonetic practice page.
  • Fonetiks.org: The online language library.
  • American English Vowels: Michigan State University site with exercises.