Vowels 12 and 14, /ə/ versus //     22 pairs       [thethy.html]

The schwa has many spellings. The // diphthong is spelled <iCe>, <y> and <i> in levis, and occurs in the letter name I.

This is a contrast between a short vowel which is always unstressed and a diphthong. It is not in itself a problem for learners. A number of the words with schwa are weak forms of grammar words.

Interesting pairs include:

philosophers philosophize
starlet starlight

The density figure is 0.3%. The set makes 19 semantic contrasts giving a loading of 86%.

a I 
acclamation acclimation
Allah ally
alumna alumni
carbon carbine 
  carbons carbines 
coalman coalmine  
coalmen coalmine
datum daytime
'em I'm
labour layby
  labours laybys
levers levis
philosophers philosophize
signallers signalize 
starlet starlight
the thy
to tie 
topography typography
turban turbine
  turbans turbines
westerners westernize

John Higgins, Shaftesbury, December 2009