Letters and sounds in Russian language

Letters and sounds in Russian language
When you first hear the language, you acquaint with sounds. And sounds in Russian are denoted by the letters.
How many letters we already know from the article "Russian alphabet".

The exact number of sounds can not be counted, but you can learn how to pronounce Russian letters correctly. 
Pronounce sounds, understand sounds, listen sounds ...

First, let's look at the pronunciation of vowels:
  • А а   [a]        (like ar in “far”)              ма́мапарк 
  • О о   [o]       (like or in “port”)             котнос
  • У у   [u]       (like oo in “moon”)          у́троум
  • Э э    [e]       (like e in “bet”)                э́тоэ́кспорт
  • ы      [y]       (like i in “kick”)               мывы
  • И и   [i]        (like ee in “meet”)           тигрмир
We should write that in Russian language the stress (highlight one of the syllables in the word) is very important for correct pronounciation.So, for example, the letter О о in stressed position is pronounced as [o], and in unstressed position it will be similar to the sound [a] - пока́ [pakа́], and it is not the same as in the word ко́мната [kо́mnata].

The letter Е е under the stress is pronounced as [je] or [e], and in unstressed position as [i] - се́мь [sе́m'] и семья́ [sim'jа́].
After the letters Ж ж, Ш ш, Ц ц the letter Е е is pronounced as [y] - жена́ [zhynа́], цена́ [cynа́].

The letters А а and Я я after soft consonants in unstressed position are pronounced as [i] - часы́ [chisу́] или тяжёлый [tizhо́lyi].

And the vowel И и is pronounced as [y] after Ж ж, Ш ш, Ц ц - живу́ [zhyvú], широ́кий [shyrо́kii] -or in the beginning of the word after preposition - дом и сад [dom y sad].
  • Я я    [ja] или  [a]  (like yar in “yard”)          я́хтамоя́мя́со 
  • Ё ё     [jo] или [o]  (like yo in “your”)            ёлкамоёлёд 
  • Е е     [je] или [e]  (like ye in “yet”)               е́слипое́хатьте́ма
  • Ю ю  [ju] или [u]  (like you in “youth”)        ю́морпою́тлю́ди 
Why the last vowels can be pronounced in two variants? It's simple: if these letters stand at the beginning of a word or after a vowel, they will consist of two sounds - я́хта [jа́hta], ёлка [jolka], е́сли [jе́sli], ю́мор [júmor], but in the words - мя́со [m'а́so], лёд [l'od], те́ма [t'е́ma] и лю́ди [l'údi] - they have only one sound.

We should mention that the letter Ё ё is always stressed.

Consonants and their sounds:
  • Б б     [b]      (like b in “but”)               банк
  • П п    [p]      (like p in “spoon”)           парк
  • В в     [v]      (like in “voice”)            ва́за 
  • Ф ф    [f]      (like f in “foot”)               факт
  • Г г      [g]      (like g in “get”)               газ
  • К к     [k]      (like in “skate”)            кот 
  • Д д      [d]      (like d in “day”)              дом 
  • Т т      [t]       (like in “tie”)                тон
  • Ж ж    [ʒ]       (like s in “pleasure”)      жаке́т
  • Ш ш   [sh]     (like sh in “shell”)          ша́пка
  • З з       [z]      (like z in “zone”)             зонт
  • С с      [s]       (like in “smoke”)          сок
The first consonant have pairs (voiced/sonorous → unvoiced/voiceless): б → п, в → ф , г → к, д → т, ж → ш and з → с. And so if paired voiced consonants stand at the end of the word or in front of unvoiced consonants, they change the sound to a unvoiced one - хлеб [hlep], за́втра [zа́ftra].
And if the paired voiceless consonants stands before voiced consonants, they change the sound to voiced ones - вокза́л [vogzа́l], сде́лать [zdе́lat'].
  • Л л      [l]        (like l in “look”)               ла́мпа
  • М м    [m]        (like m in “may”)               ма́ма
  • Н н     [n]        (like n in “not”)               нет
  • Р р      [r]        (like r un “rock”)                рок
  • Х х     [h]         (like h in “hurry”)               ха́кер
  • Ц ц     [ts]         (like ts in “boots”)               цирк
  • Ч ч     [ch]        (like ch in “chair”)               чай
  • Щ щ   [shch]        (like sh ch in “Danish charter”)               щено́к
  • Й й     [j]        (like y in “boy”)               йо́га 
Some combinations of consonants are not always pronounced as they are written. So,for example, -сч-, -зч- and -жч- are pronounced as [sh':] - сча́стье [sh':а́st'e], мужчи́на [mush':ína], and -тц-, -дц-, -тс- and -дц- are pronounced as [c:] - двена́дцать [dv'inа́c:at'] или начина́ться [nachinac:а́].

Combination of the letters -чт- is pronounced as [sht] - что [shto].

In some combinations of consonants not all letters are pronounced. Usually this happens when there are three or four consonants and in these cases only a part of the consonants are pronounced. As in the cases - счастливый [sh':asl'ivyi], сердце [serc:e], праздник [prazn'ik], здравствуйте [zdrastvujt'e] или солнце [sonc:e].

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👉 Russian