Central Vowels

All material in this site from: 

Your Voice and Articulation by Ethel C. Glenn, Phillip J. Glenn, and Sandra Forman

4th edition, Allyn and Bacon, 1998

This page is dedicated to the production of the CENTRAL VOWEL sounds.

Listen to a short lecture on stressed and unstressed central vowels.

Click on symbols below to go to practice area.

stressed midcentral vowel
unstressed midcentral vowel
stressed lower midcentral vowel
unstressed lower midcentral vowel


is a stressed midcentral vowel
To form the phoneme , press the blade of the tongue firmly against the alveolar ridge. The tip of the tongue may be either pointed or slightly curled back.  There is little lip rounding and the jaw is moderately open.
click for sound

Orthographic spellings:

er = terse
ir = thirst
ur = absurd
or = word
ear = heard
our =  courage
yr = myrrh
olo = colonel

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is an unstressed midcentral vowel.
sometimes called the hooked schwa, is produced in approximately the same manner as . However, the tongue is slightly lower and more relaxed.  is articulated with less force than It is found only in unstressed syllables.
   click for   sound

Orthographic spellings:

er = mother
ur = mixture
or = color
ar = dollar

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is a stressed lower midcentral vowel.
 To form the phoneme , lay the front of the tongue on the floor of the mouth and make it relatively relaxed.  The middle of the tongue is moderately tense where it rises slightly.  The jaw is also relaxed and there is no lip rounding.
   click for sound

Orthographic spellings:

u = hundred
o = cover
ou = double
oe = does
oo = blood

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, commonly called a Schwa, is an unstressed lower midcentral vowel.
Sometimes called a "neutral" sound, the schwa is formed in the same way as , but is shorter and weaker.  The schwa is the most commonly used phoneme in the English language.
   click for  sound

Orthographic spellings:

a = sofa
e = benefit
i = April
o = occur
u =  upon
ai =  fountain
ia = official
ie = efficient
eo = dungeon
oi = porpoise
ou = dubious
he =  vehement

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