How to Pronounce Russian

  • Published on

  • View

  • Download

Embed Size (px)


  • 8/6/2019 How to Pronounce Russian


    Russian pronunciation guide

    Here all aspects of Russian pronunciation will be considered. Right on this page youwill find only basic pronunciation rules which might be enough for you to pronounceRussian words more or less correct. But if you want do dig deeper into Russian

    phonetics follow the link at the bottom of the page which will bring you to thecomprehensive guide of Russian phonetics.

    Now let's discuss each letter of the Russian alphabet in their alphabetic order andsee in what ways it can be pronounced. As already mentioned in Basic facts aboutRussian language Russian language is almostphonetic that is there is one-to-onecorrespondence between the letters of the alphabet and the sounds. But this almostmeans that there are some exceptions. The most important of them are discussedhere, for others go to the comprehensive guide of Russian phonetics.

    Well, first to be mentioned, there is no division into long and short vowels in

    Russian, that means that it is no matter how you pronounce a vowel: long or short,it won't change the word's meaning. The second is that almost all consonants inRussian appear in two forms: palatalized (soft) and non-palatalized (hard) ones. Theterm palatalized means that while pronouncing the sound the middle part of yourtongue is lifted toward the hard palate and makes what is being uttered sound in ahigher pitch what is perceived by us as softness. You can determine where yourhard palate is by pronouncing the sound [j] like in "yes": it is where your tonguetouches the upper jaw. Try to compare sounds [n] and [n'] ( ' denotes palatalization)in words "not" and "new": in the first one you pronounce [n] because the next [o]vowel is on open vowel and does not require your tongue to lift while pronouncing[n]; on the contrary, in the second word you pronounce [n'] because your tongue

    automatically adjusts to the pronunciation of the next [j] consonant and lifts towardthe hard palate. You see that soft and hard consonants appear in both Russian andEnglish but the difference is the following: in English for example you can'tpronounce [n'] before [o] like in "not", you can pronounce it only in certain positionsbefore the sounds with the similar articulation (e.g. [j] or [i:]), but in Russian thesound [n'] can appear before every sound no matter how it is articulated, forexample there are two absolutely different in meaning words in Russian differingonly in palatalization or non-palatalization of [n] consonant: "" [nos] (nose) and"" [n'os] (past masculine form of "" (to carry), carried). Another exampleis "" [mat] (mate) and "" [mat'] (mother). Now you see that palatalizationbears word differentiating function in Russian so you must manage to pronounce

    every Russian consonant in both hard (which is easy) and soft (more difficult) formsto be understood properly. As mentioned above you should always pronounce softconsonants by lifting the middle part of your tongue toward the hard palate. Theproblem is how to mark the softness of consonants in writing. This problem is solveddifferently in different languages: in Polish letter "i" is placed right after theconsonant letter to denote its palatalization, Serbo-Croatian has special letters foreach palatalized consonant since there are only four of them in it; if it were thesame way in Russian we would have to use 15 additional letters in the alphabetwhich would be an unbearable burden on the language, so Russian uses twovariants of vowel letters instead: it uses "" after a consonant letter to mark both its
  • 8/6/2019 How to Pronounce Russian


    softness and vowel [a] after it (compare (mother) and (to crumple)), "" -to mark the softness of preceding consonant and vowel [o] after it (compare (bullock, ox) and ((he) was leading)), "" - softness of the consonant + vowel[u] after it, "" - softness of the consonant + vowel denoted by letter "" after it.Besides, letter "" always denotes the softness of preceding consonant plus vowel[i] after it as well (e.g. (one)) but the same vowel [i] can also be expressed bythe letter "" apart from the consonant (e.g. (to look for)), so "" has no

    counterpart while "", "", "", "" do have it. If there is no vowel following the softconsonant softness is marked by the letter "" (soft sign), e.g. (mother), (ring).

    Now let's go to the alphabet. In the following list Russian letters are on the left, theirrough pronunciation on the right. However you can always listen to proper Russianpronunciation by clicking on the words given as examples.

    Sound samples coming soon... - like "a" in "part" but shorter, e.g. (winter), (to give), (yes). - like "b" in "bone", e.g. (banana) (hard), (birch) (soft)

    - like "v" in "vast", e.g. (gate) (hard), (carpet) (soft) - like "g" in "get", e.g. (town), (cucumber) (both hard),

    (genius) (soft) - like "d" in "day", e.g. (water) (hard), (to do) (soft) - at the beginning of the word, after all vowels and letters "" and "" like [je]

    in "yes", e.g. (fir), (diet), in other positions it marks the softness of thepreceding consonant (except "","" and "", e.g. (woman), (six), (prices), and other consonants in some foreign words, e.g. (phonetics)) and is pronounced almost like Russian "", i.e. like "e" in "let", e.g. (to sing), (newspaper)

    - at the beginning of the word, after all vowels and letters "" and "" like [jo]in "yawn" but shorter, e.g. (hedgehog), ((he) gives), ((he) beats), inother positions it marks the softness of the preceding consonant (except "" and"", e.g. (silk), (yellow)) and is pronounced like stressed Russian"", i.e. like English "o" in "corn" but shorter, e.g. (honey), (carpet).Note that "" is always stressed in Russian.

    - like "g" in "rouge", e.g. (yellow), (to live) (both hard); "" isvery seldom pronounced in soft form so in the previous examples letters "" and"" did not soften it.

    - like "z" in "zest", e.g. (to call) (hard), (green) (soft) - like "ee" in "teen" but shorter, e.g. (winter), (to drink). Note that

    the consonant preceding "" is always soft except for letters "", "" and ""which are always hard in Russian (in these cases letter "" is pronouncedidentical to ""), e.g. (life), (wide, masculine), (circus).

    - when beginning a syllable (very seldom) like "y" in "yes" or like "j" inGerman "ja", e.g. (iodine), (coyote), when terminating a syllable - like"y" in "may" ("" is pronounced like a semivowel in this case so it is called "" ( short)), e.g. (my), (T-shirt). Note that "" can have onlysoft form since it is a palatal sound, i.e. it is pronounced with the tongue touchingthe hard palate, so it is already palatalized and can't be pronounced withoutpalatalization.

  • 8/6/2019 How to Pronounce Russian


    - like "k" in "kick" but not aspirated, e.g. (cow), (juice) (both hard), (paintbrush) (soft)

    - like "l" in "look", e.g. (pigeon) (hard), (forest) (soft) - like "m" in "moon", e.g. (to wash) (hard), (place) (soft) - like "n" in "not", e.g. (she) (hard), (they) (soft) - like "o" in "port" but shorter, e.g. (milk), (house) - like "p" in "pay" but not aspirated, e.g. (dad) (hard), (beer) (soft)

    - no exact counterpart in English but it is like rolled "r" in "rock" in Scottishpronunciation, e.g. (to work) (hard), (river) (soft)

    - like "s" in "say", e.g. (advice) (hard), (family) (soft) - like "t" in "time", e.g. (that, masculine) (hard), (shadow) (soft) - like "oo" in "moon" but shorter, e.g. (chair), (moon) - like "f" in "fast", e.g. (torch) (hard), (coffee) (soft) - no exact counterpart in English since English "h" is pronounced as a

    pharyngeal sound and Russian "" is articulated by the back part of the tonguetouching the soft palate, it is rather like German "ch" in "Buch", e.g. (bad)(hard), (cunning, crafty) (soft)

    - like "ts" in "cats" (but pronounced as one sound) or like "Z" in German

    "Zeit", e.g. (father), (Gipsy) (both hard). Note that this consonantnever appears in soft form in Russian unlike Ukrainian and Belorussian.

    - like "ch" in "check", e.g. (tea), (black) (both soft). Note that thisconsonant never appears in hard form unlike Belorussian

    - like "sh" in "shock" but not so soft, e.g. (soul), (noise) (bothhard). Note letter "" never denotes soft consonant since there is another letter"" for this purpose

    - this letter denotes long and soft "" like "sh" in "she" but a bit softer andlonger, e.g. (pike), (raincoat). Of course this letter can't appear inhard form like "" can't appear in soft form

    - this letter is not pronounced in Russian, it is usually a partitive sign betweenthe prefix and the root, it can only appear between a consonant and letters "","", "", "" which are then pronounced as at the beginning of the word or after avowel, i.e. with consonant [j] preceding a vowel: [je], [jo], [ju], [ja] (in stressedposition). Example: (to drive up), (advertisement)

    - no exact and even similar counterpart in English, this sound is very hard todescribe, you should pronounce [i:] as in "mean" then lower the middle part ofyour tongue a bit and bring your lips to neutral position, then you will hearsomewhat similar to Russian sound. But better listen to the examples: (soap), (to breathe), (forget), (rat)

    - this letter like is not pronounced in Russian, like "" it is a partitive signbetween the parts of the word, also like "" it can appear between a consonantand letters "", "", "", "" which are then pronounced with a conso