Voiced and voiceless consonants
- Consonants in Russian (and in all other languages) are either voiced or
- Consonants that make your vocal cords vibrate when you pronounce them are
- Consonants that you pronounce without the vibration of your vocal
cords are voiceless.
- Most consonants in Russian are paired for
voicing. That means each voiced consonant is paired with a voiceless one.
- The consonants in each pair below are pronounced in exactly
the same manner, the only difference being in the presence or
absence of vibration in the vocal cords:
- In Russian pronunciation,
all voiced consonants at the end of the word are pronounced
like their voiceless counterparts. This phenomenon is also called
consonant assimilation, or devoicing of consonants.
also occurs when a voiced consonant is in front of a voiceless
consonant. The voiced consonant in this position will be pronounced
like its voiceless counterpart.
- For example, in the word
завтракать the voiced consonant -в- is in front of the voiceless
consonant -т-. The pronunciation of -в- will assimilate with the
pronunciation of -т-; both will be pronounced voiceless. Since the
voiceless counterpart of в is ф, that is how the в will be
- Always keep in mind that when you have a pair of
consonants, it is the second consonant that determines how the first
will be pronounced.
- In addition to devoicing in Russian
pronunciation, we also have the reverse phenomenon - voicing.
- Voicing occurs when a voiceless consonant is in front of a voiced
consonant. In this position the voiceless consonant will be
pronounced like its voiced counterpart. Let us look at an example.
- In the word отдых the letter -т- is voiceless, and the letter
-д- is voiced. Since the -т- is in front of a voiced consonant, it
will assimilate with the pronunciation of the -д-; that is, it will
be pronounced like its voiced counterpart. The voiced counterpart of
т is д. This word will be pronounced as if it were written as
- There are some voiced consonants in Russian that don't
have voiceless counterparts. These are р, л, м, н, й.
of these consonants is preceded by a voiceless consonant, the
voiceless consonant is not affected. That is, the voiceless
consonant in front of one of these voiced consonants will be
pronounced as voiceless, when we would expect it to be pronounced
сестра, книга, слушать
- The pronunciation of the
voiceless т, к, ц is not affected by the voiced consonants that
- The letter в also does not affect the pronunciation
of a preceding voiceless consonant.
For example, the letter к- in the word квартира is pronounced as voiceless.
pronunciation of the voiceless к is not affected by the following
voiced consonant в.