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Thread: Trick for memorizing "и" "ы" spelling rule in Russian?

  1. #1
    Hanna
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    Trick for memorizing "и" "ы" spelling rule in Russian?

    As I'm doing my Russian flashcards from back when I started my studies..... I'm finding that I struggle with и vs ы in written Russian.

    Is there any logic to which consonant they appear after, or must I simply memorize each combination?

  2. #2
    Почтенный гражданин
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    Maybe, I don't completely understand you question...

    И and ы are different letters for different cases: soft and hard, so, actually, any combinations are possible in syllables: вы, ви, фы, фи, бы, би, пы, пи and so on. (I guess you know the basic principles of Russian spelling, so I don't go into details here.) That is the logic. I don't think there can be any logic more general than that.

    Of course, there are a few exceptions:

    1. Always soft: щи, чи. Щы and чы are impossible both phonetically and orthographically.
    2. Always hard: ши, жи. Phonetically, it is шы and жы, but orthographic rules deny these combinations for some reason. So we speak шы and жы, but we write ши and жи.
    3. Always hard, but spelling varies: цы, ци. Ци is in roots and цы is in endings. (Цирк vs молодцы - hard in both cases.)
    4. After some prefixes, и mutates into ы: играть -> подыграть, идея -> безыдейный. (But after some prefixes, it does not: интересный -> суперинтересный. In such cases, even spelled with и, the previous consonant remains hard.)
    5. Theoretically possible, but hardly can be found in the native vocabulary: кы, гы, хы.
    Lampada, Hanna and Soft sign like this.

  3. #3
    Hanna
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    You are right, I am just being lazy about memorizing the rule; I have to do it
    The trouble is simply that I can't always hear the difference between и and ы.
    I don't normally have any difficulties with spelling.

    I know that there is a difference and I hear it if people speak slowly, but because ы doesn't exist in any languages that I speak, I tend to just think of it as an alternative version of i and I don't really know when one or the other is used.

    This is difficult for me for the exact same reason that "the" and "a" (definite articles) are difficult for Russians. Or pronouncing the letter "h".

    If there is no logic other than that there are some spelling rules, then I'll just learn the rules. It's just a matter of memorising some combinations with the consonants I believe.

    Last edited by Hanna; July 8th, 2014 at 02:40 PM.

  4. #4
    Почтенный гражданин
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hanna View Post
    I hear it if people speak slowly
    By the way, when people speak slowly, /ы/ can actually be of a different quality, compared to the normal spoken language. The main difference a Russian native speaker hears between /ти/ and /ты/ is in the quality of the consonant: soft and hard. The quality of the vowel may vary.

    I study Turkish and face the same trouble. Turkish vowel system is absolutely symmetrical, it has pairs e - a, i - ı (this pair is very close to и - ы), ö - o, ü - u. Surprisingly, distinguishing between /i/ and /ı/ sometimes can be as hard for me as distinguishing between /ö/ and /o/ or /ü/ and /u/. This is because the quality of these vowels play a more important role in Turkish, than in Russian.
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  5. #5
    Властелин
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    well, the one I remember from school is ЖИ-ШИ пиши с буквой И (mnemonic rhyme taught in Russian schools)

    hence Жизнь, not Жызнь, Широта, not Шырота

    don't cover all cases, but is helpful for those combinations
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  6. #6
    Завсегдатай maxmixiv's Avatar
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    Ци is in roots and цы is in endings. (Цирк vs молодцы - hard in both cases.)
    And with exceptions as usually:
    - на цыпочках
    - цыган
    - цыплёнок

    Hanna, don't you really recognize the difference between сыта and сито, мыля и миля, рык и Рик?
    Hard to believe!
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    "Невозможно передать смысл иностранной фразы, не разрушив при этом её первоначальную структуру."

  7. #7
    Hanna
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    Quote Originally Posted by maxmixiv View Post
    And with exceptions as usually:
    - на цыпочках
    - цыган
    - цыплёнок

    Hanna, don't you really recognize the difference between сыта and сито, мыля и миля, рык и Рик?
    Hard to believe!
    I can hear the difference, about half the time, but it just doesn't register with me, because my brain considers both sounds to be "i".

    In my native language, for example, I grew up in an area where many people pronounce some "i" like "ы" rather than "и". I personally don't, but I hardly even notice it if somebody else does. To my brain, и/ы is an artificial difference that I just don't notice unless I really focus on it.

    I know that it is important in Russian, but it takes some time to get used to.
    I took a 2.5 year break in my (rather relaxed) Russian studies, so I found that I had lost the "feeling" for that, and I remember making spelling mistakes with it even before my break (in flaschards). I never memorised the rule because I assumed it was fall into place naturally, but somehow that never fully happened. When it's explained, the logic is complex.

    I have the same problem with "ь". Sometimes it's obvious where it's needed, but quite often, when trying to spell a word, I have no idea whether it's needed or not. It's really frustrating. This so called difference is just barely noticeable as far as I'm concerned.

    It's a bit like with the bizzare peculiarities of English spelling, only in my case I am used to the bizarre nature of English spelling and I don't notice it anymore.

    No doubt, with practice and experience Russian spelling becomes second nature, but I am not there yet. But it's extra challenging because the silent sounds and some sounds that don't exist in other languages.

    Basically it's the same problem as you probably encountered with definite articles; you probably thought "What the heck is that needed for? What a nuisance!" - but to me that is as obvious as the difference between и and ы is - requires zero thought.

    i understand several European languages quite well, but that's just because it's quite easy, you can just glide along and pick things up with little effort. Russian needs work, effort and using your brain a bit. No freebies....

    In some cases it's totally obvious, it's not as if I can't hear it.
    But there are also these exceptions where you think it'd be one, but it's the other....

    Other than those two, I love Russian spelling - it's really phonetic.
    If you are going to be fair, compared with English spelling, Russian spelling is more logic - the challenges are these two things that are different.

    Anyone who wanted to produce a course in Russian for Europeans and English speakers should have a special chapter each just for drilling in the silent signs and the sche/sh sounds and their spelling rules. It would be effort well spent.
    I'm tired of doing my flashcards right, then missing on the spelling.

  8. #8
    Завсегдатай maxmixiv's Avatar
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    you probably encountered with definite articles
    oh, yes! I'd say more: I cannot hear difference between 'a' and 'the'! Too short sound.
    Hanna likes this.
    "Невозможно передать смысл иностранной фразы, не разрушив при этом её первоначальную структуру."

  9. #9
    Hanna
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    Quote Originally Posted by maxmixiv View Post
    oh, yes! I'd say more: I cannot hear difference between 'a' and 'the'! Too short sound.
    Really?!
    Ok - then you know exactly how I feel about those spelling challenges I mentioned...

    I also sometimes used "a" when it should be "o".

  10. #10
    Завсегдатай Throbert McGee's Avatar
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    I cannot hear difference between 'a' and 'the'! Too short sound.
    Yes, sometimes everything becomes a "schwa" in fast speech -- thus the use of phonetic alphabets in radio (Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta...)

    Which reminds me of a little game. Below are the titles of seven famous English "сказки", respelled as they might sound when heard over a bad telephone connection. Can you match each title with its plot? (It may help to read the words aloud -- strongly-stressed syllables are underlined.)

    1. Ladle Rat Rotten Hut
    2. Insulin Griddle
    3. Check Under Beam Stock
    4. Gull Deluxe Inner Tree Pairs
    5. Fruit Or Luke Ink Less
    6. Free Whittle Pegs
    7. To Prances Ender Bee


    a. A criminal breaks into a house and destroys everything belonging to the baby.
    b. Magic beans grow to giant heights.
    c. A girl finds herself in a land of talking chessmen.
    d. True royalty is revealed by extremely sensitive skin.
    e. He who builds the strongest house is safest from the villain.
    f. A cannibalistic witch traps children with candy.
    g. Elderly woman turns out to be furry "drag queen."
    Говорит Бегемот: "Dear citizens of MR -- please correct my Russian mistakes!"

  11. #11
    Завсегдатай maxmixiv's Avatar
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    I could help even better to know English names for famous сказки
    Some might be even not well known in Russia, perhaps?

    One more popular tale:
    Tendjewberrymud
    "Невозможно передать смысл иностранной фразы, не разрушив при этом её первоначальную структуру."

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