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Thread: Russian "B": different from English "V"

  1. #1
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    Russian "B": different from English "V"

    Hi, I am a total beginner learner of Russian and I am trying to better my pronunciation. I've been to websites like paulmeier.com, which includes sound bytes of the International Phonetic Alphabet, in order to learn some of the foreign sounds, especially the ы sound, in IPA represented by the "i" with a bar through the middle. When I hear it in the word "Tы", it sounds exactly as described to me. However, in the word "Вы" it sounds very different, almost like speakers of Russian are saying "Vwee" with a very odd sounding v. I've also noticed that in the Russian word "B" the v sound is different from in English. Can anyone explain this difference for me? Is the Russian B labialized or something like that?
    On another note, I've tried both Pimsleur's audio program and Transparent Language's Learn Russian Now! in my first attempts to learn the language. The audio program was great for the first for lessons, but after that it became much too difficult and I decided that it wasn't enough for me to learn just by hearing. I bought Learn Russian Now! because it had video and visual aids, but it is incredibly confusing and not in the least helpful for a virgin to the language. Does anyone have some good suggestions for a (probably computer) Russian learning program?

    Thanks

  2. #2
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    I never noticed any difference between Russian and English V-sounds. Perhaps the samples you heard were from two different speakers. People from Ukraine, Belorussia or from southern regions of Russia can pronounce вы almost as ви but it is never considered standard Russian.

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    When 'в' is followed by unvoiced consonants it is pronounced as 'ф'.
    Please correct my mistakes if you can, especially article usage.
    My avatar shall be the author I'm currently reading.

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    English v and Russian в are basically the same. The reason why the В in Вы sounds different is the transition between the letter B and the vowel Ы. Since no such vowel sound exists in English, you are not used to hearing it.

    It's sort of like, you can't quickly pronounce Ы after В without it happening.

    Also, not applicable in this example, but as Vadim says в /v/ devoices to ф /f/ when it is followed by a voiceless consonant, or when at the end of a word:

    Смирнов sounds like "Смирноф"
    вкусный 'delicious/tasty' sounds like фкусный (because K is a voiceless consonant).
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    Thanks to you who've responded. I'm still a little in the dark on the subject though. This is the exact page ( http://paulmeier.com/ipa/vowels.html ) I've found that has a sound byte of the Ы vowel. According to the IPA, this vowel's symbol is the barred "i" at the top of the middle column. It would be fantastic if someone could help me out by listening to the sound and telling me if it's the same that is in the word "Вы". It just sounds so different to me! Thank you SOOOOOO much!

    -ever grateful,
    tyler

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    And one more thing. You know how I thought that "B" in russian sounded kind of labialized of like it had a "w" after it? Well I found this sound chart, and for both the "B" and the "Б" it sounds like there's a "w" sound after it. Oy! Am I hearing the nonexistant?

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    Quote Originally Posted by livefromnizhgiy
    And one more thing. You know how I thought that "B" in russian sounded kind of labialized of like it had a "w" after it? Well I found this sound chart, and for both the "B" and the "Б" it sounds like there's a "w" sound after it. Oy! Am I hearing the nonexistant?
    In what words do you hear a /w/ after Б?
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    Hi I'm sorry I forgot to include the link to the alphabet w/ sounds that I was referencing! It's
    http://www.friends-partners.org/oldfrie ... habet.html

    I seem to hear the speaker say a slight /w/ after she says the names of the letters /В/ and /Б/. Actually, upon listening again right now, I hear her say it after /П/ too, but not after /Ф/ because the name for the letter sounds like "eff" not "be" or "ve" or "pe" like the others. So it seems to me like I can only hear this /w/ sound when a vowel *follows* those letters. Could it be that what I think is a /w/ is actually a palatalized letter? It seems unlikely to me though, because I hear the sound in the word "Вы" too, and the vowel Ы doesn't call for the palatalization of the previous consonant.

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    Hey I think I've found my answer!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Now I think I know why I seem to hear a /w/ after some Russian consonants. I've heard that in addition to distinguishing between palatalized and non-palatalized consonants, some Russians make all of their non-palatalized ones velarized, i.e. lifting the back of the tongue like you're going to say a /k/ or /g/. So... I found this article on wikipedia about lateral consonants:

    Laterals in various languages
    English has a lateral approximant phoneme /l/, which in many accents has two allophones. One, found before vowels as in lady or fly, is called clear l, pronounced as the alveolar lateral approximant [l] with a "neutral" position of the body of the tongue. The other variant, so-called dark l found before consonants or word-finally, as in bold or tell, is pronounced as the velarized alveolar lateral approximant [(/l/ with bar: this symbol doesn't copy on my computer)] with the tongue assuming a spoon-like shape with its back part raised, which gives the sound a [w]- or [similar sound)]-like resonance.

    So that explains my hearing a /w/! The speakers I've heard have all velarized their v's and b's.

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    I think I know what you mean. It is very different pronunciation from our [b]. I have taken graduate courses in Russian phonetics, phonemics, and morphophonemics, (wrote a dissertation that involved reading a lot of transcribed Russian dialect speech) and I have never come across reference to a "velarized [b]", so I think it must be something else. Where did you hear about that? In English we push a lot of air out with these (plosive) consonants, and Russians don't.

    I think there is more muscle tension in the cheeks in Russian and around the lips, but this is purely subjective opinion, nothing documented. Pronunciation is very different in English -- notice how Russians are always talking about how we mumble or swallow our words.

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    Thanks for the response, chaika. I read about some consanants being velarized in this article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_language

    It's under the subheading "sounds". I think it's interesting how Russians think English-speakers to mumble; I think exactly the same of them! The reason I think Russian is the most beautiful language on Earth is because it sounds so soft-spoken, almost to the verge of mumbling to me, and I love the sound.

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    I always thought Russian was very clearly enunciated. I find I can understand Russian words (though not sense) a lot easier than in other languages.

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    Quote Originally Posted by basurero
    I always thought Russian was very clearly enunciated. I find I can understand Russian words (though not sense) a lot easier than in other languages.
    That's why it's so hard the other way round. For me it is difficult to understand spoken English.

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    Quote Originally Posted by basurero
    I always thought Russian was very clearly enunciated. I find I can understand Russian words (though not sense) a lot easier than in other languages.

    I don't think Russian is clearly enunciated. Especially after a few pivos.
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