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Thread: Akanye

  1. #1
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    Akanye

    Greetings

    I'm preparing a performance of Rachmaninov's 6 Choruses with a choir. Although I've studied Russian, I find myself wondering about the application of akanye. Could the combined wisdome enlighten me on these issues:

    * exactly when did the phenomenon appear in Russian? Some of the texts are by Lermontov - would that be too early, perhaps?
    * is it even at all common to apply akanye in poetry/music?

    Grateful for any useful hints.

    Cordially

    Joachim

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    Re: Akanye

    I don't understand your question. "Akanye" = "аканье" is a vernacular defect of pronunciation in some regions of Russia. I think it was long before Lermontov and I don't think Lermontov used it. There are no reasons to apply it anywhere except for some very specific cases, namely to provide some local color by imitating vernacular speach of some regions of Russia.

    Or maybe you mean something else?

    Maybe you mean a general rule of Russian pronunciation: unstressed "O" is pronounced like "A"? This rule is used always and everywhere.
    "Россия для русских" - это неправильно. Остальные-то чем лучше?

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    Re: Akanye

    Thanks for your answer. Indeed, I mean the second of your interpretations: unstressed "o" becomes (something like) "a". I seem to recall a professor of mine telling me that the practice became widespread somewhere 'round the 19th century, but that might just be either my memory or the professor's knowledge of the topic. Do I understand that you'd exectue Rachmaninov (except for his Slavonic settings) with the above-mentioned rule?

    Cordially

    Joachim

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    Завсегдатай it-ogo's Avatar
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    Re: Akanye

    Quote Originally Posted by joachim
    Thanks for your answer. Indeed, I mean the second of your interpretations: unstressed "o" becomes (something like) "a". I seem to recall a professor of mine telling me that the practice became widespread somewhere 'round the 19th century, but that might just be either my memory or the professor's knowledge of the topic. Do I understand that you'd exectue Rachmaninov (except for his Slavonic settings) with the above-mentioned rule?

    Cordially

    Joachim
    Hmm... We have no sound records from that time and I am not a philologist so I am not sure if it is. But I have never heard if someone neglect this rule and say that it is old pronunciation. Actually if someone pronounce unstressed "O" like stressed "O" it is called "okanie" and concidered to be another local vernacular defect (from another region). So I recommend to pronounce as much close to the contemporary Russian pronunciation as possible. Historical color usually comes from the lexicon and grammar, not from pronunciation.
    "Россия для русских" - это неправильно. Остальные-то чем лучше?

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    Re: Akanye

    it-ogo I think you are using the wrong word, "defect". It does not fit your text.


    joachim, there are a variety of dialects, but the main breakdown is okanie/akanie. The latter occurs in central and southern dialects, the former in the North. I am sure it was not something that originated in the 19th century.

    Singing Rakhmaninov you will be singing in Russian Church Slavonic. I think the current standard is to stick with central akanie pronunciation, with some unstressed /o/ and /e/ allowed.

    I had similar problems teaching pronunciation to a chorus I sang in for ten years, which sang secular and liturgical music from Russia and other Soviet countries. We sang songs like На реках вавилонских, тамо седохом и плакахом, внегда помянути нам Сиона. I don't recall the author, maybe Бортнянский.

    I did not recommend akanie or ikanie in these songs. (words like реках would be pronounced /r'ikáx/ but in singing would probably be /r'ekáx/

    You might be able to hear some cuts from Славянка, the chorus I sang in, at http://www.slavyanka.org .

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    Re: Akanye

    Hello Chaika

    Thank you for your contribution. I'm aware of the phonetic ins and outs of Church Slavonic. The "6 Choruses" by Rachmaninov are not slavonic, however, but "normal" Russian, only dating back to the 19th century. I recommended akanye to the chorus I work with, since I gathered the o/a thing would have been going on in vernacular Russian by then. Still, thanks for sharing your insights.

    Joachim

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    Re: Akanye

    Joachim, I can recommend you to imitate any kind of Russian vernacular pronunciation only if you plan to win the Best Humoristic Performance Award in Russia. Just imagine that you are in Moscow and see Russian actors performing Shakespear play "in original" imitating cockney pronunciation.

    it-ogo I think you are using the wrong word, "defect". It does not fit your text.
    I know. It was the way to emphasize the inacceptability of the aforementioned approach.
    "Россия для русских" - это неправильно. Остальные-то чем лучше?

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    Re: Akanye

    I've hear Mussorgski's songs performed (by Sergei Leiferkus, to name but one), pronouncing unstressed "o" as (something like) "a", and I don't remember finding that awkward. The longer this thread proceeds, the less I'm convinced we're talking about the same thing.

    Joachim

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    Re: Akanye

    Guys, I guess your problem is that the term akanye is used to refer to at least two very different things:
    1) The ancient way of pronouncing of unstressed adjectives endings that existed in and around Moscow ("великий" pronounced as "великай", "длинноногий" as "длинноногай" etc.). No one in Moscow talks like that anymore, but you can still hear it in some old films produced as late as 1940s, or in productions of Ostrovsky's plays by the Maly theater. A somewhat similar pronunciation still survives in some rural areas, where people pronouce "синий" as "синяй", and "делаете" as "делаетя", with a very clearly articulated [a] sound. That is what it-ogo called a defect, and that is what he meant when he said not to imitate it.
    2) Sometimes, linguists use the same term to refer to the practice of pronouncing unstressed "o" as "a." Since such pronumciation is the norm in Russian, most of native speakers never call it "akanye", because it is not some special or unique pronunciation that is worth of a special term — it is the norm, everyone speaks like that.
    So, joachim and it-ogo, you are just talking about different definitions of that word.

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    Re: Akanye

    Thanks for contributing. With all due respect, though, I thought we'd established that I'm talking about the general phenomenon of vernacular Russian turning unstressed "o" into "a". Back in my student days, we were taught that is called akanye, but apparently, the term refers to something else, and I was wrong in labelling this thread as such.

    Still, that doesn't answer my initial question: would the "o-to-a" phenomenon apply to Russian poetry dating back to the early 19th century, as featured in Rachmaninov's (vernacular) music, yes or no?

    Cordially

    Joachim

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    Re: Akanye

    Quote Originally Posted by joachim
    Still, that doesn't answer my initial question: would the "o-to-a" phenomenon apply to Russian poetry dating back to the early 19th century, as featured in Rachmaninov's (vernacular) music, yes or no?
    Finally: yes. It is obvious.
    "Россия для русских" - это неправильно. Остальные-то чем лучше?

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    Re: Akanye

    Quote Originally Posted by joachim
    Still, that doesn't answer my initial question: would the "o-to-a" phenomenon apply to Russian poetry dating back to the early 19th century, as featured in Rachmaninov's (vernacular) music, yes or no?
    Sorry, I was positive that it had been answered someplace earlier in this thread. I just hate it when people keep talking at cross-purposes, so I decided to chime in and try and achieve some mutual understanding .
    To answer the original question, you do use the regular modern Russian pronunciation when singing Rachmaninov.
    Quote Originally Posted by joachim
    * exactly when did the phenomenon appear in Russian? Some of the texts are by Lermontov - would that be too early, perhaps?
    (Mis)spelling of "o" as "a" in unstressed positions has occured in documents since 1300s. By the 19th century, such pronunciation was very common and prevalent among Russians. "Оканье" was still common among peasants and townfolk in the Volga region and in certain areas of the Russian North and Siberia, but people from Lermontov's social strata and the general population of Moscow and St. Petersburg would pronounce "корова" as "карова."
    Quote Originally Posted by joachim
    is it even at all common to apply akanye in poetry/music?
    Absolutely. It is the norm.

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    Завсегдатай chaika's Avatar
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    Re: Akanye

    Thanks, translationsnmru. I wanted to say that thing about spelling in ancient mss, but I don't have any proof, just suspected we'd see it there.

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