LINGUIST List 11.629

Tue Mar 21 2000

Disc: Underlying Schwa?

Editor for this issue: Karen Milligan <>


  1. Earl Herrick, underlying schwa

Message 1: underlying schwa

Date: Sun, 19 Mar 2000 21:17:31
From: Earl Herrick <>
Subject: underlying schwa

	The comments by Browne and O'Bryan in 11.590 prompt me to add my
	two-cent's-worth to the "underlying schwa" discussion, although it doesn't
	relate exactly to an _underlying_ schwa, whatever that may be.
	I'm a native speaker of American English, in my 60's, who still has pretty
	much of my North Midland native dialect from northeastern Kansas. Thanks to
	O'Bryan's example, I now realize that I have at least three unstressed
	vowels in my speech. (I'm not sure whether I have four, because I'm not
	sure how stable the vowel of the second syllable of "pillow" is in my speech.)
	I have a schwa, of course, and I also have a high front unstressed vowel
	that occurs e.g. in the second syllable of "city". The only minimal pair
	between these that I was formerly aware of is between "sofa" and "Sophie"
	(the ordinary pronunciation of the name of my great-great-aunt whose name
	more formally was "Sophia"). But I do have a barred-i that occurs regularly
	tho very rarely. It occurs in the suffix "-ment", and it also occurs in
	distinctive pairs taken from the triad of "gist" meaning 'essence' with
	small-cap-i, "just" the adverb in "Just a minute." with barred-i, and
	"just" the adjective related to "justice" with schwa. (And I couldn't be
	sure that I was always pronouncing the adverb unstressed.) O'Bryan now
	gives me a second minimal pair, because I clearly pronounce "Hit 'im" =
	"Hit him" with barred-i and "Hit 'em" = "Hit them" with schwa.
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