Schwa | schwa syncope

Schwa syncope

In phonology, syncope is the process of deleting unstressed sounds, particularly unstressed vowels. Across languages, schwa vowels are commonly deleted in some instances, such as in Hindi, North American English, and French.


Although the Devanagari script is used as a standard to write Modern Hindi, the schwa (ə, sometimes written as a) implicit in each consonant of the script is "obligatorily deleted" at the end of words and in certain other contexts.[9] The phenomenon has been termed the "schwa deletion rule" of Hindi.[9][10] One formalization of the rule has been summarized as ə -> ø | VC_CV. In other words, when a vowel-preceded consonant is followed by a vowel-succeeded consonant, the schwa inherent in the first consonant is deleted.[10][11] However, the formalization is inexact and incomplete (it sometimes deletes a schwa that exists, and it fails to delete some schwas that it should) and so can yield errors. Schwa deletion is computationally important because it is essential to building text-to-speech software for Hindi.[11][12]

As a result of schwa syncope, the correct Hindi pronunciation of many words differs from that expected from a literal rendering of Devanagari. For instance, राम is Rām (expected: Rāma), रचना is Rachnā (expected: Rachanā), वेद is Vēd (expected: Vēda) and नमकीन is Namkīn (expected: Namakīna).[11][12]

Correct schwa deletion is critical also because the same Devanagari letter sequence can sometimes be pronounced two different ways in Hindi depending on the context: failure to delete the appropriate schwas can then change the meaning.[13] For instance, the sequence धड़कने in दिल धड़कने लगा ("the heart started beating") and in दिल की धड़कनें ("beats of the heart") is identical prior to the nasalization in the second usage. However, it is pronounced in the first and dhad.kaneṁ in the second.[13]

While native speakers correctly pronounce the sequence differently in different contexts, non-native speakers and voice-synthesis software can make them "sound very unnatural", making it "extremely difficult for the listener" to grasp the intended meaning.[13]

American English

American English has the tendency to delete a schwa when it appears in a midword syllable that comes after the stressed syllable. Kenstowicz (1994) states, "American English schwa deletes in medial posttonic syllables". He gives as examples words such as sep(a)rate (as an adjective), choc(o)late, cam(e)ra and elab(o)rate (as an adjective), where the schwa (represented by the letters in parentheses) has a tendency to be deleted.[14] Other examples include fam(i)ly (About this soundlisten), ev(e)ry (About this soundlisten), and diff(e)rent (About this soundlisten).


Schwa is deleted in certain positions in French.

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Schwa
Alemannisch: Schwa
العربية: مصوت مخفى
asturianu: Schwa
Bikol Central: Schwa
български: Шва
brezhoneg: Schwa
català: Vocal neutra
čeština: Šva
Deutsch: Schwa
eesti: Švaa
español: Schwa
Esperanto: Ŝvao
français: Schwa
한국어: 슈와
हिन्दी: श्वा
Bahasa Indonesia: Pepet
italiano: Schwa
lumbaart: Schwa
Nederlands: Sjwa
日本語: シュワー
Napulitano: Ajùto:Schwa
norsk: Schwa
norsk nynorsk: Schwa
Piemontèis: Schwa
polski: Szwa
português: Xevá
русский: Шва
Scots: Schwa
shqip: Schwa
slovenščina: Polglasnik
Sranantongo: Schwa
suomi: Švaa
svenska: Schwa
Tagalog: Schwa
tarandíne: Schwa
українська: Шва
Võro: Svaa