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Pronunciation of [ə] is notoriously difficult for Japanese speakers, and while trying to communicate its importance in languages such as English and French, I started to wonder: do any dialects of Japanese employ the schwa, or some approximation of it?

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There is a dialect of Ryūkyūan employing [ə]:

“The Yaeyama Taketomi-jima dialect has a six-vowel system: a, ə, i, u, o, e. <…> _ə_ is a vowel found only in the Taketom-jima dialect…

(Handbook of the Ryukyuan Languages)

This implies also the fact that [ə] is notoriously rare even for Ryūkyūan.

  • 印象的!Given what's said about the lexical distance between even 鹿児島弁 and Ryūkyūan, I guess there won't be many speakers of 標準語 who know Ryūkyūan well enough for me to usefully reference it. Could be an amusing thing to mention though. – Colin Stark Oct 3 '18 at 11:12

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