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Lesson Transcript

Hi everyone.
Welcome to The Ultimate Russian Pronunciation Guide.
In the previous lesson, we saw how neighboring sounds can influence a consonant's pronunciation through palatalization.
In this lesson, we'll explore how neighboring sounds can influence a consonant's voicing.
What is voicing?
But what is voicing?
Voicing is a term used to characterize the vibration, or lack of vibration of the vocal cords during the articulation of a given sound.
A sound can be categorized in to two classifications: voiced, or voiceless.
A voiced sound is one in which the vocal cords vibrate.
A voiceless sound is one in which the vocal cords *do not* vibrate.
Examples in English
Consider these English sounds. Did you know that a relationship exists between these pairs of sounds?
p, b
f, v
s, z
t, d
k, g
Each pair differs only in their voicing. All the sounds on the left side are voiceless, while all the sounds on the right are voiced.
Touch your throat and produce an S sound. Now try a Z sound.
Notice how your throat vibrates when you produce a Z sound but do not vibrate when you produce an S sound. In fact, the mouth and tongue positions between an S and a Z sound are exactly the same. The only thing that differs between them is the vibration of the vocal cords, and this is what we refer to as 'voicing'.
Devoicing of Final Consonants
Now that you understand what voicing is, let's bring our attention back to Russian.
The Russian language has a tendency to devoice final consonants.
Consider the follow examples.
"зуб (tooth)
город (city)"
Notice how in the first example, the final consonant letter, which would normally be pronounced as a B sound, is actually pronounced as a P sound, so it sounds voiceless instead. Listen to it again.
зуб (tooth)
The final consonant letter in the second example, which would normally be pronounced as a D sound, is actually pronounced as a T sound.
город (city)
What about this word?
Can you guess what pronunciation the final consonant has in this word?
This consonant usually produces a V sound, but since it's in the final position, we must devoice it to get the proper pronunciation. Doing this will cause the V sound to change into an F sound, which is indeed the proper pronunciation for this word.
Строганов (Stroganoff)
Voicing in Consonant Clusters
Some voicing rules also apply to consonant clusters.
Remember the palatalization rules for consonant clusters from the previous lesson?
Well, voicing rules apply in exactly the same way as palatalization rules when it comes to consonant clusters.
The final element in the cluster will determine if the whole cluster is either voiced or voiceless.
In other words, if the final consonant of a cluster is voiced, all preceding consonants in that cluster must also be voiced.
футбол (football)
And if the final consonant of a cluster is *unvoiced*, all preceding consonants in that cluster must also be unvoiced.
водка (vodka)
Keep in mind that the spelling itself does not change, only the pronunciation.
Some letters however, have no effect on a preceding consonant's voicing.
Notice how all of these voiced letters *do not* make any of the preceding voiceless consonants become voiced.
плен (captivity)"
смех (laugh)"
кнопка (button)"
три (three)"
квартира (flat)"
Remember that these are the exceptions. Voicing rules will apply for all letters except these five specifically.
In this lesson, you learned about Voicing in Russian.
In the next lesson, you'll learn about Stress and Vowel Reduction.
Are there any voicing rules that you know of in your language? Share them in the comments.
See you in the next Ultimate Russian Pronunciation Guide lesson!