Yet Another Russian Pronunciation Thread...

On Mon, Jan 15, 2007 at 10:38:45PM +0200, Isaac Penzev wrote:
> H. S. Teoh wrote:
> > > > The same is true for Russian and Ukrainian speakers. I still am
> > > > not sure about the precise quality of English /V/.
> > >
> > > I thought [V] was the reduced phone of the Russian /a/ and /o/
> > > phonemes?  So I thought <kholodylnik> was [xVlV'd15nik].
> > [...]
> >
> > That's what I thought, too. I'm not too sure about the precise value
> > of [V], but a "lax [a]" is certainly what happens in Russian words
> > such as хорошо [xVrV"So:] and большое [bVl^j"So:j@], at least to my
> > ears.
> The correct pronunciation:
> холодильник [x@5V"d;il;n;ik]
> хорошо [x@rV"So]
> большое [bVl;"Soj@]
> where [;] stands for palatalization [_j].

Hmm. I have trouble with IPA [@], because it seems to have different
values depending on language! The [@] in English seems to be lower than,
say, the [@] in Malay (in such words as _kerana_ [k@ranV]). It always
sounded to me as having sortof an [V]-like value.

> 1. No length distinction.


> 2. /o/ and /a/ indeed merge in unstressed positions, but have
> allophonic [V] only in the Grade 1 reduction (that is, the first
> prestressed syllable, and the final open one). Otherwise it is [@].

What about /ja/? Recently I've been wondering how to distinguish between
the verb endings -ит and -ят when unstressed. Does -ят reduce to [jit]
or does it remain something like [j@t] in order to be distinguished from
-ит [jit]?

> 3. Most speakers perceive unstressed /o/ as if it "alternates" with
> /a/.  That is why we usually perceive [V] as a variant of [a].

I also hear [V] as allophonic to [a], although I can tell the difference
if I was consciously listening for it.

> We all know that precise IPA values differ from language to language.
> I hear *Russian* [V] as in the IPA chart, but the *GA* [V] sound like
> [6], while the *RP* [V] is definitely [7] for me (and I indeed
> pronounce _but_ as [b7t], and still nobody complains), OTOH the
> *Portuguese* [6] is more like [&] for me, while the *German* [6] is a
> pharyngalized [a]... Am I deaf?

I have the same problem too! The IPA [@] gives me trouble, 'cos
different people (esp. across languages) pronounce it differently. I
have heard it said that even phoneticians do get their vowels biased
from their L1, even after professional training in phonetics. For
example, some people pronounce [e] which sounds to my ears like [E],
whereas Daniel Jones (whose pronunciation is supposed to be the
"official" pronunciation of the cardinal vowels) pronounces it closer to
what I perceive as [e].

It could be that we're hopelessly biased by our L1, and perhaps by
unconscious past associations of L1 vowels with IPA vowels, so that we
can't reach 100% agreement.


Let's eat some disquits while we format the biskettes.