Modern Russian alphabet includes 33 letters (10 vowels, 21 consonants and 2 characters):
- Аа watermelon
- Бб banana
- Вв wolf
- Гг goose
- Дд house
- Ее raccoon
- Ёё hedgehog
- Жж bug
- Зз hare
- Ии needle
- Йй yogurt
- Кк cat
- Лл onion
- Мм mouse
- Нн scissors
- Оо cloud
- Пп tomato
- Рр robot
- Сс chair
- Тт axe
- Уу duck
- Фф lantern
- Хх hamster
- Цц chicken
- Чч watch
- Шш sphere
- Щщ brush
- Ъъ advertisement
- Ыы fish
- Ьь salt
- Ээ excavator
- Юю skirt
- Яя apple
The words consist of syllables. The syllables consist of letters that denote vowels and consonants. In the monosyllabic words, the vowel sounds under stress sound as they are called in the alphabet.
The emphasis is the selection of a sound or a whole word with a greater voice power. In school textbooks and dictionaries in disyllabic and polysyllabic words, the stress is indicated by a special icon that is placed over the vowel. In the monosyllabic words the stress is not indicated.
A syllable under stress is a stressed syllable and is pronounced with greater force than the other syllables in the word. The syllables that stand behind the stressed syllable are pronounced weakly and briefly. In such syllables, the sounds [а] and [о] sound unclear, as a very short sound [а].
In Russian, the stress performs several functions. One of them is a sense-distinguishing function, ie, the stress accentuates the meaning of the words.
In Russian there are words that coincide in writing, but differ in pronunciation (most often due to differences in stress). Such words are called homographs:
- замо́к (= lock) – за́мок (= castle)
- сто́ит (= costs) – стои́т (= is standing)
- до́ма (= at home) – дома́ (= houses)
- ду́хи (= ghosts) – духи́ (= perfume)
- мою́ (= my) – мо́ю (= wash)
In Russian, some letters are pronounced differently than they are written. This is due to the laws of phonetics. The change of sounds in the unstressed position is called reduction.
In the stressed syllables, the letters а and о denote the sounds [а] and [о]:
In the unstressed syllables before the stressed syllable and in the absolute beginning of the word without stress, the letters а and о denote the sound that sounds like a short sound [а]:
In the syllables that stand beyond the post-tonic syllable, the letters а and о denote a sound that sounds unclear, like a very short sound [а]:
At the beginning of the words in an unstressed position, the vowel О is pronounced as a sound [а]:
In Russian, we distinguish voiced (with the participation of tone - sound) and voiceless (only with noise) consonants. 12 of them form couples by sonance / voicelessness:
- б – п , в – ф , г – к , д – т , ж – ш , з – с
- Only voiced (sonants): й , л , м , н , р
- Only voiceless ч , щ , ц
Paired voiced consonants at the end of words are pronounced as the voiceless consonants corresponding to them:
The paired, voiced consonants standing in the middle of the word in front of the voiceless consonants are stunned, that is, pronounced like their twin voiceless consonants:
The voiceless paired consonants, standing in the middle of the word in front of the voiced consonants, became voiced, that is, they are pronounced like their twin voiced consonant:
The preposition в, standing in front of the word beginning with a voiceless consonant, is deafened and pronounced like [ф]:
The preposition с, preceded by the word beginning with a voiced consonant (except в), is voiced and pronounced like з:
The endings of the reflexive verbs ться or тся are pronounced as [ца]:
The endings –ого / -его in the demonstrative pronouns and adjectives are read as [ова] / [аво] / [ава] - [ева]:
The letters е, ё, ю, я are called iotated, since when we pronounce them we hear 2 sounds in combination with [й]:
- Е, е [йэ / ye]
- Ё, ё [йо / yo]
- Ю, ю [йу / yu]
- Я, я [йа / ya]
However, in words after consonants under stress they transmit the main sound:
- Е, е [э / e]
- Ё, ё [о / o]
- Ю, ю [у / u]
- Я, я [а / a]
In the unstressed position in the first syllable, before the stress, the letters е and я transmit a sound close to и [иэ].
The letters е, ё, ю, я, the letter и, and the letter ь (a soft sign), which does not convey any sound, and serves only as a sign for soft pronunciation, show that the consonant before them is pronounced softly, for example: [д'] / [d'], [т'] / [t'], [м'] / [m'], [н'] / [n']
The letters е, ё, ю, я can be located in the following positions in the words:
- after consonants;
- at the beginning of the word (stressed and unstressed);
- after vowels (stressed and unstressed);
- after soft (ь) and hard (ъ) signs.
At the beginning of the word, after the vowels and after the hard (ъ) and soft ь signs, the letters е, ё, ю, я in stressed position transmit two sounds, close to the pronunciation of certain sounds at the beginning of some English words:
- Е, е [йэ / ye] – yellow [ˈjeləʊ]
- Ё, ё [йо / yo] – yourself [jɔːˈself]
- Ю, ю [йу / yu] – you [ju:]
- Я, я [йа / ya] – yard [jɑːd]
At the beginning of the word in the unstressed position, the letters е and я transmit a sound close to the combination й and и [йиэ].
After the separating hard (ъ) and soft (ь) signs, the letters е, ё, ю, я transmit two sounds. The separating soft sign is written in the middle of the word and is never written after the adjuncts. Also, this letter can be written before и, then it is read as [йи] or [yi]:
- Е, е [йэ] – пьеса (= performance)
- Ё, ё [йо] – пьёт (= drink)
- И [йи] – воробьи (= sparrows) – соловьи (= nightingales)
- Ю, ю [йу] – вьюга (= snowstorm)
- Я, я [йа] – семья (= family)
The separating sign ъ is written in the words only after the adjuncts that end in a consonant before the root, which begins on е, ё, ю, я. This includes the complex words with the first part двух-, трёх-, четырёх-, сверх-, меж-:
- Е, е [йэ] – подъезд (= entrance)
- Ё, ё [йо] – подъём (= climb)
- Ю, ю [йу] – предъюбилейный (= occurring before an anniversary)
- Я, я [йа] – трёхъярусный (= three-level)
In words, the letter ё is always stressed.
The letter Ж - [ж] / [zh], [g], [j], [ʒ] transmits a sound close to the sound that can be heard at the end of the English word garage ['gærɑ: ʒ]
After the letters ж, ш, ц the letter и is always written, but pronounced firmly:
The Russian sound [и] is similar to the English sound [i:] in the word cheese [tʃiːz]. To pronounce the sound [и], you need to point the tongue forward and touch the lower teeth with the tip of the tongue. When you pronounce [и], it's best to smile a little and everything will turn out. The consonant before и is pronounced softly.
The letter Й, й denotes a sound close to the sound at the beginning of the English word York [jɔːk] or yoghurt [joʊɡr̩t]. This letter in Russian words always stands in the middle of a word after a vowel or at the end of a word ( мой (= my) , май (= May) , майка (= singlet) , in borrowed words it usually stands either in the beginning or in the middle of a word ( йод (= iodine) , йогурт (= yogurt) , майор (= major) )).
The word вот (= here) in Russian sentences usually stands at the beginning of the sentence and has the meaning "here is, here you see." The word вот (= here) is always pronounced with вот.
The pronoun он (= he) and the conjunction но (= but) are always pronounced with [о], even if the stress does not fall on them in the sentence.
The letter ы stands for the sound [ы]. It is never written at the beginning of a word.
When this sound is pronounced, the entire tongue must be pushed back and the back of the tongue must be strained. The tip of the tongue no longer touches the lower teeth, as in the pronunciation of the sound [и], but is pushed back. The mouth is more closed than in case of the pronunciation of the sound [и], and when we pronounce [ы] we no longer smile. The simplest exercise that will help you learn how to pronounce a Russian sound [ы] is a pencil clamped with your teeth across. Take the pencil in the mouth and try to say [и]. Now try to pronounce the same sound without touching the pencil with your tongue. It turns out [ы]. Remember and repeat without a pencil. The consonant is always pronounced firmly before the vowel ы.
The letter ц - [ц] / [ts] / [tz] transmits a sound close to the sound that can be heard at the beginning of the English word tsunami [tsu: 'na: mi].
After the letters ц, ж, ш, the letter и is always written, except for a few words in which ы is written ы after the letter ц:
The letter ч transmits the sound [tʃ], similar to the sound at the beginning of the English word cheese [tʃi: z] or the name Charley [tʃa: li].
The letter ч in writing always transmits a soft sound. Traditionally, after ч, the letters а and у are always written, instead of я and ю (except for a few words).
The combination of ч with the consonants gives different sounds:
- The combination чт is pronounced as [шт]: что (= what) , чтобы (= to) , что-то (= something)
- The combination чн is pronounced as [шн]: конечно (= of course) , скучно (= boring) , яичница (= fried eggs) , горчичник (= mustard plaster)
- The combination зч is pronounced as [ш’:]: возчик (= carrier) , разносчик (= peddler) , заказчик (= customer)
- The combination сч is pronounced as [ш’:]: счастье (= happiness) , песчаный (= sandy) , рассчитать (= calculate) , расчёска (= comb)
- the combination жч is pronounced as [ш’:]: мужчина (= man) , перебежчик (= turncoat)
- The combination тч is pronounced as [ч’:]: лётчик (= pilot) , наводчик (= pointer) , отчество (= patronymic) , матч (= match) , ветчина (= ham)
- The combination дч is pronounced as [ч’:]: находчивый (= smart) , подчеркнуть (= emphasize)
The sound indicated by the letter щ is pronounced as a long soft ш [ш’:] / [ʃ’:] / [shсh].
The letter щ, as well as the letter ч, always conveys soft sounds in writing. Traditionally, after them the letters а and у, and not я and ю are always written (except for a few words).
The letter э is most often written at the beginning of the borrowed and some Russian words: это (= this) , эта (= this) , этот (= this) , Эмма (= Emma) .
The demonstrative pronouns - это (= this) , эта (= this) , этот (= this) , та (= some) , тот (= that) , то (= someone) , etc., serve to distinguish a particular object, feature, quantity, etc. from other objects, attributes, etc. Pointing to an object, we say: «Это …» . These pronouns are also able to express the additional information about the designated object, for example, its genus or number: эта - f.g, этот – m.g, это – n.g., эти - pl., etc.
In Russian there are words that coincide in writing and in pronounciation, but have different meanings. Such words are called homonyms:
- Том (имя) (= Tom) – том (книга) (= volume)
- коса (инструмент) (= spit) – коса (причёска) (= braid)
- лук (оружие) (= bow) – лук (растение) (= onion)
- Боб (имя) (= Bob) – боб (растение) (= bean)
- труба (музыкальный инструмент) (= trumpet) – труба (печная) (= chimney)
- Роза (имя) (= Rosa) – роза (растение) (= rose)
- Панама (государство) (= Panama) – панама (головной убор) (= Panama hat)
- Вера (имя) (= Vera) – вера (от слова верить) (= faith)
In Russian there are the omoforms - words that sound the same only in some grammatical forms and most often belong to different parts of speech:
In Russian, there are five main types of speech prosodies (SP): SP-1, SP-2, SP-3, SP-4, SP-5.
In all types of SPs, three parts can be distinguished: tonic, pre-tonic and post-tonic.
The tonic part is equal to one syllable and is the center of the SP, since there is a significant change in tone. The pre-tonic and post-tonic parts are different in volume and may be absent.
SP-1 is typical for narrative sentences with a neutral message. SP-1 is characterized by a decrease in the tonic part, which can be sharp and blurred. The pre-tonic part is pronounced on the usual average tone of the speaker. The tone of the post-tonic part is below the usual and is still lowering on the last syllables. The center of SP-1 is always on the word, which expresses the part of the statement, unknown to the interlocutor.
For example, the sentence Таня пишет письмо. (= Tanya is writting the letter.) can be read in different ways:
- Таня пишет письмо. – Here the center of the SP is on the syllable Та(ня). …ня пишет письмо – the post-tonic part
- Таня пишет письмо. – Here the center of the SP is on the syllable пи(шет). Таня - the pre-tonic part, пи… - the tonic part, …шет письмо - the post-tonic part
- Таня пишет письмо. – Here the center of the SP is on the word (пись)мо. Таня пишет пись… - the pre-tonic part, …мо - the tonic part.
SP-2 is typical for the interrogative sentences with a question word ( кто (= who) , что (= what) , где (= where) , куда (= where) , откуда (= where from) , почему (= why) , зачем (= what for) , etc.). The center of SP-2 is usually on the question word or on a word that specifies the subject of the question. The pre-tonic part of SP-2 is pronounced in a usual tone or with a slight increase in voice. The tonic part is usually pronounced with a slight increase in tone and a slight increase in the verbal stress. In the post-tonic part the tone drops below the average, as in SP-1.
For example, the sentence Кому ты пишешь? (= Who are you writing to?) can be read like this:
- Кому ты пишешь? – Here the center of the SP on the syllable …му, ко… is the pre-tonic part, ты пишешь is the post-tonic part.
- Кому ты пишешь? – Here the center of the SP on the syllable ты, кому is the pre-tonic part, пишешь is the post-tonic part.
- Кому ты пишешь? – Here the center of the SP on the syllable пи…, кому ты is the pre-tonic part, …шешь is the post-tonic part.
SP-3 is typical for the interrogative sentence without a question word. The tonic part begins with a higher tone in comparison with the pre-tonic part and it rises within the syllable. In the post-tonic part the tone drops below the average, no rise in tone is allowed. In the interrogative sentences without a question word, the center of SP always specifies the subject of the question.
For example, the sentence Таня пишет письмо? (= Is Tanya writting a letter?) can be read like this:
- Таня пишет письмо? – Here the center of the SP on the syllable та…, …ня пишет письмо the post-tonic part.
- Таня пишет письмо? – Here the center of the SP on the syllable пи…, Таня is the pre-tonic part, письмо is the post-tonic part.
- Таня пишет письмо? – Here the center of the SP on the syllable …мо, Таня пишет пись… is the pre-tonic part
SP-4 is typical for an incomplete interrogative sentence with a comparative conjunctа ( А вы? (= What about you?) , А Светлана? (= And Svetlana?) , А дети? (= What about the children?) ). The pre-tonic part of SP is pronounced in an average tone, sometimes with a slight decrease, especially before the tonic part (the center of SP). If the shock part is at the end, the tone begins at a lower point than the average, and within the syllable the tone rises steadily. If SP-4 contains the post-tonic part, then the tonic part is pronounced with a decrease in tone, and the post-tonic part is pronounced with an even increase in tone. The stressed and the final unstressed vowels can be stretched.
- А вы? (= And you?) – (we) read: А вы(ыыы)?
- А эти? (= And these?) – (we) read: А э(эээ)ти?
- А дети? (= What about the children?) – (we) read: А де(еее)ти?
- А Светлана? (= And Svetlana?) – The tonic part -…ла…, the pre-tonic part А Свет…, the post-tonic part …на.
- А остальные? (= What about the rest?) – The tonic part -…ны…, the pre-tonic part А остальт…, the post-tonic part …е.
- А вы? (= And you?) – The tonic part -вы, the pre-tonic part А, the post-tonic part is absent.
SP-5 is typical for evaluation sentences with the pronouns. The pre-tonic part of SP-5 is pronounced in an average tone. This part is usually short, since the SP is usually on the pronoun word. In the tonic part, the tone rises above the average, as in SP-2, the main is usually elongated. The tone above the average continues in thepost-tonic part. On the last word, the tone drops below average. The speech rate of SP-5 can be slowed down.
- Какой чудесный вид! (= What a wonderful view!) – The tonic part -…дес…, the pre-tonic part Какой чу…, the post-tonic part …ный вид.
- Сколько здесь цветов! (= How many flowers are here!) – The tonic part -…тов, the pre-tonic part Сколько здесь цве…
- Какие прекрасные розы!! (= What beautiful roses!) – The tonic part -…кие, the pre-tonic part Ка…, the post-tonic part прекрасные розы.