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Actually a question about a phoneme rather than spelling. Would the Oxford Dictionaries ever render a vowel in an unstressed syllable with ʌ for its standard pronunciation guides, or would the schwa tend to take the place of 'that kind of sound' unstressed syllables. It is possible to say an unstressed syllable with an ʌ, but the question is whether it is rendered with ʌ in the Oxford standard pronunciation guides. Would the schwa appear for that similar kind of sound in unstressed syllables?


  • edited August 2018

    I see it is used in hiccup but is there some secondary stress on that syllable with the /ʌ/ which would not tend to be
    there when rendered with a /ə/, or am I just imagining things?

  • Got my answer, I guess: ʌnˈnəʊn

  • By definition, ʌ is a stressed vowel in those accents on which British and American dictionaries base their pronunciations.

    In other accents, ə may be a stressed vowel. And in other accents, ʌ may be an unstressed vowel.

    The phonetician John Wells devised a system of LEXICAL SETS. Words in any one set in any given accent are generally pronounced with the same vowel as each other — even if they're pronounced differently in another accent.

    One set is the STRUT words, which are pronounced with ʌ in British RP and in General American.

    Another set is the commA words, which are pronounced with ə in most but not all accents.

    In RP the lettER set is pronounced with ə — although General American and some other accents pronounce them with ər.

  • And yet, the Oxford dictionary uses it in my example above in an unstressed syllable, though I guess it may have secondary stress.

  • edited August 2018

    I should like to have this clarified though. It is clear that /ʌnˈnəʊn/ uses /ʌ/ in a syllable which does not get the main stress, and there is no secondary stress indicated. This is from the Oxford online dictionary.

    Is the fact that /ʌ/ is used there indicative of the syllable getting secondary stress or something?

  • Hi @norwegianblue. Let me check this with our pronunciations team and get back to you.

    Best wishes,


  • Thank you! That's very kind of you.

  • Hi there @norwegianblue. Our pronunciations team said:

    As you know, Oxford Dictionaries’ British English transcription uses schwa /ə/ for the unstressed central vowel, as in the first syllable of ago or the second syllable of saga. But not all vowels in syllables without primary or secondary lexical stress reduce to schwa, and the presence of a symbol other than schwa in one of our transcriptions does not indicate lexical stress. There is a full range of unstressed but unreduced vowels for which we’d use the appropriate symbol, including /ʌ/ in e.g. unknown, upend, umbrella.

    I hope this helps!

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