Stressed Syllables and the Schwa Sound
The important words and syllables in a sentence are said with extra energy in English.
This is called stress or the tonic accent.
In the following sentence the stressed syllables are written in capital letters.
The WOman WENT to the STAtion and WAITed unTIL the TRAIN aRRIVEd.
The Schwa Sound
This is the most frequent vowel sound in English. It's the sound in most unstressed syllables.
Here is the phonemic symbol for the schwa: ə
(There is also a schwi, an unstressed "i", and a schwoo, an unstressed "oo".)
The schwa is what remains when you remove almost all the energy from a vowel.
It's the sound "you don't hear". It's also called the "neutral e".
Many "grammar" words have two pronunciations.
One strong, stressed full vowel sound, used to emphasise the word, and another, unstressed, schwa sound.
This second sound is the most common in natural speech.
The schwa sound can be written with many different letters.
In the following sentence all the letters coloured yellow are examples of the schwa sound.
The woman went to the station and waited until the train arrived.
The alternation of stressed syllables and the schwa sound gives the typical rythm of English.
The WOman WENT to the STAtion and WAITed unTIL the TRAIN aRRIVED.