Немно́го о языке́ 1.3 Немно́го о себе́

Review the letters that you have seen so far, clicking on the sound file and repeating the sound as you read through the tables.

Согла́сные и гла́сные

бу́ква звук коммента́рий
Ф  ф [f] as in face, fortune
Ж  ж [zh] as in pleasure, television
Ё  ё [yo] as in yoke, yodel
Close but not quite…

Inspect these two pairs and one trio of letters of the Russian alphabet and note the visual differences.  Hover your mouse over each one to hear the sounds they make and to see the comments about their differences.  Be sure you distinguish these letters when you read, since each letter represents a different sound.

бу́квы коммента́рий
е ё The е with the two dots is pronounced [yo] .  
Б В The top loop of the letter Б is open, while the top loop of the letter В is closed.
бвь The lower case letters б and в are just half-size versions of the corresponding capital letters, while the soft sign ь has a small back line and a single small loop.

Гла́сные. Complete picture. 

You have now encountered all ten vowels of the Russian alphabet.  In the table below they are paired.

коммента́рий звук</th> бу́ква бу́ква звук коммента́рий
as in ah, father [a] А а Я я [ya] as in yacht
as in era, met [e] Э э Е  е [ye] as in yes
as in oh, rope [o] О  о Ё  ё [yo] as in yoke, yodel
as in loop [oo], [ou] У  у Ю  ю [yu] as in university
as in the short i in  bit, but with the mouth in position to say “uh” as in hut instead [i] ы И  и [ee] as in beet, sheet (long [e])

Notice how the vowel letters come in pairs, with я, е, ё, ю consisting of an initial glide “й” followed by а, э, о, у respectively. You will hear this “й” glide when the vowel is at the start of the word, or when it follows another vowel. We will work later in the unit on the sounds that the vowels я, е, ё, ю make when they come after consonants.

Learning to pair Russian’s 10 vowels in this way will help you to make sense of some major features of Russian grammar and spelling.

Упражне́ние 1. Listening Exercise

You will hear a vowel sound. Type the vowel sound that you hear to check your answer. If you have trouble choosing the correct vowel on your first try, listen again until you feel more confident that you can match each sound to its letter.

Где ударе́ние?

Both English and Russian words have a stressed (weighted, emphasized) syllable. In this section you will to learn to recognize where the word stress (ударе́ние) is in Russian words of more than one syllable. To start we will use cognate words, that is Russian words that are very close to their English equivalents.

Click on the words below and try to identify where the stressed syllable is in each word. Note that the words are in pairs, with one Russian and one English word. Are the stresses the same?

America Америка
history история

Now mouse over the same words below and see if you can hear the stress reflected by the larger letters.

America Америка
history история

As you see, in the word America / Аме́рика the stressed syllable is in the same place in both the English and Russian words; in the word history / исто́рия different syllables are stressed.

While English word stress in shorter words often falls on the first syllable (stUdent), Russian words (both shorter and longer) can have stress on ANY syllable. You must learn which syllable carries the stress as you learn each new Russian word. The stressed syllable in Russian words is pronounced longer, more distinctly and with greater emphasis than the unstressed syllables before and after it.

Listen to the following pairs of English and Russian words and compare where in each word the stressed syllable appears. Often it will not be the on same syllable in both languages.

student студе́нт
telephone телефо́н
journalist журнали́ст
Petersburg Петербу́рг
industry индустри́я

Упражне́ние 2.

Listen to the following pairs of English and Russian words. For each word (English words too!) choose the syllable that is stressed.

How many stressed syllables can there be in one word? To help you answer, compare these longer words, listening for the stressed syllables.

demography демография
laboratory лаборатория
idiomatic идиоматический
industrialization индустриализация

Now mouse over the same words below and see if you can hear the stress reflected by the larger letters.

demography  демография
laboratory   лаборатория
idiomatic идиоматический
industrialization индустриализация

Unlike English, where words can have both a main and a secondary stressed syllable (e.g., IdiomAtic), Russian words have only ONE stressed syllable, no matter how long the word is.

All Russian words on this site are marked with a stress mark ( ́) to help you. The marks are placed only over vowel letters because only vowels can be stressed. The vowel Ё ё is always stressed so we will not place an additional stress mark over it. Books and internet sites for native speakers of Russian speakers normally print stress marks only in rare cases when two words could possibly be confused. To help you learn where the stress marks are, your teacher may direct you to write in the stress marks in your own written work.

Stressing the incorrect syllable when you pronounce a Russian word can make it very hard for Russian speakers to understand you. As a matter of fact, misplaced word stress can cause major breakdowns in communication. Learn the stress as you go.

Упражне́ние 3.

Listen to the words below and select the syllable that is stressed.

Use good learning strategies! Learn to hear word stress accurately.

1. Use your ears in addition to your eyes.  Listen to the audio recordings that accompany the dialogs and vocabulary on this site, and repeat new words carefully, mimicking the sound of the recording.  While the stress mark shows you where the stressed syllable is, your ears need to learn to hear that syllable, so that you can work on pronouncing words correctly in Russian.

2. As you practice vocabulary words, it may be helpful for you to tap out the rhythm of the word.  As you say the new vocabulary words aloud, make a short light tap with your index finger for each unstressed syllable, and a longer, harder tap as you pronounce the stressed syllable.

Vowel Reduction (Introduction)

Because the stressed syllable is so powerful in a Russian word, it can “steal” (or reduce) the strength of the unstressed syllables preceding it and following it.  Unstressed syllables with the vowels о, е, я will undergo "reduction," turning into sounds represented by the letters а, и,] and и respectively.  If the letters о, а, е and я are more than one syllable away from the stressed syllable or follow the stressed syllable, the reduction is even stronger, with о and аа sound, and е and я becoming even a shorter и sound. Compare the spelling of the Russian word in the left hand column, with the audio recording, and with the phonetic spelling of the word in the right hand column.

You see You hear
аэропо́рт [аэрапОрт]
Петербу́рг [питирбУрк]
америка́нка [амирикАнка]
Росси́я ассИя]
меня́ зову́т инЯ завУт]
Домоде́дово амадЕдава]

It might be helpful to think about reduction and the stressed syllable using the visuals below.  Notice that the stressed syllable is the largest one, while the others before and after get smaller. Remember that the smaller а, о, е, and я will not “sound like themselves” because they are reduced.

Домодедово = Домодедово

американка = Американка

опера = Опера

очень приятно = Очень приятно

The vowels ы / у / ю are pronounced slightly shorter in unstressed syllables, but the quality of the sounds of these vowels does not change.

Vowel reduction is not a uniquely Russian phenomenon. The vowel o in English gets reduced in unstressed syllables as well.  Compare the final o’s in the english words "cooperation" and "production." In both the final o is a schwa sound.

Making Sentences in Russian

Russian does not express forms of the verb “to be” (am, are, is) in the present tense.  Nor does Russian have articles (a, an, the). So, when you read «Ама́нда — америка́нка», you were reading a complete sentence: Amanda is an American. 

See if you can come up with English equivalents of these other sentences that you have encountered. Mouse over the Russian sentence to see one possible answer.

Дени́с Гу́рин — ру́сский.
Ама́нда — аспира́нтка.
То́ни – студе́нт.
Ма́ма — пиани́стка.
Па́па — журнали́ст.

To negate a sentence, you can put the particle не in front of the part that you want to negate.

Ама́нда не ру́сская. Amanda is not a Russian.
Не Ама́нда ру́сская. It is not Amanda who is the Russian. / Amanda is not the one who is Russian.

Упражне́ние 4.

Read each sentence below and think about whether it correctly describes the story of our students as we know it so far. Choose the negation не if that is needed to make it true. Otherwise choose the dash —.

You have also encountered the unchanging particle э́то (this [is] / these [are]). It too can make a sentence without a present tense form of “to be”.

Кто э́то? Who is this?
Э́то То́ни. This is Tony.
Э́то аэропо́рт Домоде́дово. This is Domodedovo Airport.