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Vowel Reduction in Russian language

Updated: Nov 18, 2023


Vowel reduction is a notable aspect of Russian phonetics, particularly in unstressed syllables. When vowels appear in unstressed positions, they often undergo changes in their quality, becoming more centralized or reduced. Russian vowels о, а, е, and я are pronounced differently when unstressed.

One rule says that o sounds like a when it is one syllable before the stress. For example, in the word Москва, we say Масква. A different rule is that о, а sounds like ә (“uh”) when more than one syllable before the stress and anywhere after the stress. For example, the word Колорадо, we pronounce Кә ла р а дә. Another very common incident, is with the letters е, я when unstressed (not at the end of a word). In that case, we tend to pronounce them like I (“ih”). For example, in the word де[и]вя[и]тнадцать where we pronounce е, я like и.

That is just the surface of a huge subject in Russian phonetics, and the vowel reduction in particular. It is important to note that vowel reduction in Russian is not absolute and can vary depending on dialects, speaking styles, and individual variations. Additionally, the context and neighbouring sounds can influence the degree of vowel reduction.

Vowel reduction in Russian language is crucial for proper pronunciation and understanding of the language. It affects the rhythm, timing, and overall phonological patterns, making it an essential aspect to consider when learning and speaking Russian.

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