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Russian Stress and Vowel reduction

It is impossible for me to read a russian word in cyrillic without mistake. For example "пока" of course you will read it as "Poka" at first right? , without the aid of the latin script you will not know where will the stress be. As a response you don't know whether to type "пака" , "пока" or "поко". Why Russian? why? Please help. Thanks in advance.

November 4, 2015



It will get easier as you get used to Russian vocabulary, believe me. And of course, once you use a word over and over again, you will memorize where the stress is, and thus how it's written and how it's pronounced.

I was in such a desperate mood on the first two or three days of a Russian language class I attended. However, in such a short time as 2-3 weeks, I had already memorized lots of words and even started guessing where the stress would be (although my guesses were not correct all the time :D)


You have to memorize both the spelling and the pronunciation of every word you learn.


Every writing system has been primarily designed with native speakers in mind.

Russian words tend to have a number of forms, and the words themselves tend to be made of typical parts. The stress may change the pronunciation, so it makes for a clearer experience to spell parts of the words more or less consistently. Then we "pretend" we do not notice slight variations when a syllable is in a weak position or when some consonants meet.

It also reflects the vowels' historical pronunciation as well as their pronunciation in some regions.


Please, don't tell me about Russian spelling, ghoti-fish. :)


Those letters don't make those sounds in those positions. Ghoti sounds like goatee.

In fact, the ti part isn't even a very good illustration of inconsistent spelling on its own. It's only pronounced as sh in words like "illustration," where it sounds like that because of a regular sound change called yod coalescence, where a y-sound merges with the preceding consonant to make a new consonant. The same effect produces the ch sound in picture, as well as the slurring of "got you" into "gotcha."

On a side note, I believe gh is only inconsistent from the expected sound (a hard g as in gun) in the string -ough, which should be treated as a single unit.


My point is if you know an alphabet, you can read aloud a Russian text and be understood in general. Although, the wrong stresses may make your words ambiguous. In English, knowing alphabet is not so helpful: live (verb) or live (noun), woman or women, children, or chemistry, etc.

It is extremely difficult for the beginners from Russia to read a text in English. You have to look for each and every word in the dictionary for transcription. Humanity should adopt IPA as their universal alphabet.


That would do less than you might hope. Even in IPA words are often written close to phonemically, so you won't see palatalization or labialization marked down in English even though those traits are phonemic in other languages, because they aren't phonemic in English (but they do exist).

Besides, phonemic transcription of English is impossible due to the immense variety between dialects. The current system, while quite difficult to learn, is very effective, because it is the same between dialects due to prioritizing morphology and etymology over phonology. A phonetic system wouldn't show that boxes and huts end in the same morpheme, for example, and I don't even want to think about how you would propose transcribing words like pin and pen, cot and caught, or ferry and fairy when these are sometimes homophones and sometimes not, depending only on who's saying them.

By the way, live is an adjective; the noun is life.


You just need to get used to it. Russian is really not that hard at all to read. Unlike english; Autumn, through, tough, height, fruit, queue, draught, chaos, albeit, lettuce, womb, Greenwich, niche, etc, how the hell do you pronounce those if your not a native speaker? reading them for the first time is impossible. English has far more complicated words to learn how to read and spell.


There is even a poem on this: The Chaos by Gerard Nolst Trenité (http://ncf.idallen.com/english.html)


Well, I don't know if you're going to read this but I'm going to tell you anyway :D The reason you think it's impossible to read a word in russian it's because you haven't learned about Vowel Reduction, which is important when you're learning Russian, so Vowel Reduction is like some rules that tell you how to pronounce the vowels, exemple: when stressed, A sounds like A in Father but when it's unstressed it sounds like an unclear schawa sound like the word About in English. There's more, but I have been struggling trying to learn all the rules so I think I'm going to learn what I need to know because I have spent A LOT of time into it, so I hope it helps. :D

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