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Palatalization in Russian language. What it is and why is so important?


The Russian alphabet written on a blackboard.

 


Palatalization is a prominent feature of the Russian language that plays an important role in distinguishing the meanings of words. It is a phonological process whereby the pronunciation of a consonant is altered to produce a more palatal sound.


In Russian, palatalization can occur in two ways: through the influence of a preceding palatalized sound or through the presence of the soft sign (ь) after a consonant.


The first type of palatalization is known as progressive palatalization and occurs when a non-palatalized consonant is followed by a palatalized vowel (я, е, ё, и, ю). In this case, the non-palatalized consonant becomes palatalized, meaning that the middle of the tongue is raised towards the hard palate during its articulation.


For example, the word "Лена" (name Lena) is pronounced with a non-palatalized н, whereas the word "меня" (me) is pronounced with a palatalized н. Similarly, the word "гора" (mountain) is pronounced with a non-palatalized г, while the word "герой" (hero) is pronounced with a palatalized г.


The second type of palatalization is known as regressive palatalization and occurs when a consonant is followed by the soft sign (ь). In this case, the consonant also becomes palatalized, regardless of whether the preceding vowel is palatalized or not.


For example, the word "мат" (checkmate) is pronounced with a non-palatalized т, whereas the word "мать" (mother) is pronounced with a palatalized т due to the presence of the soft sign.


Palatalization is an important aspect of the Russian language, and its correct usage is essential for achieving a natural-sounding pronunciation.




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