No schwa in unstressed syllables

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New Member
I've noticed that the rule I assumed about the omnipresent schwa in unstressed syllables isn't always true. Indeed, the vowel in the first unstressed syllable of words like fantastic or damnation is pronounced as the a in cat, but this doesn't happen in word like applause or affliction even if, as the former words, the a is followed by two consonant.
A similar thing happens with partake and foresee, in which the a and the o are pronounced in the way they usually are before r in stressed syllables.
Can you suggest any way to figure out which one is the right pronunciation of an unstressed vowel?
  • MuttQuad

    Senior Member
    English - AmE
    Never heard of such a silly -- and incorrect -- rule. English is, as Richard Lederer has often said, "a crazy language." There is no way to know the pronunciation of its vowels, whether stressed or unstressed except by using a dictionary which provides the phonetic symbols and/or an audio for the word.

    Examples that contradict the "rule" include cartoon, cartel, parade, carnation, etc.

    Mostly, it's just something you have to learn.
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