Stress and reduction of vowels
Stress plays an important role in the Russian language. In order to speak Russian correctly it is necessary to know the place of the stress in the words. In some cases incorrect stress leads to the change of meaning or grammatical value of the word. Stress in Russian is not fixed, it may fall on any part of the word (beginning, center, end) and it is not shown in texts. Moreover, stress may change its place in different forms of the same word and it is a real difficulty for those who are learning Russian.
Russian words are normally written without stress marks. Therefore, it is important to devote special attention to the place of stress in words when learning Russian. In order to help students to memorize the place of stress in Russian words, in manuals and text books stresses are usually marked, most frequently with [ ´ ] above the stressed vowel. On our site there are several view modes of stressed vowels in Russian texts. You can find more information about it on the page Functions and Settings. We do not put stress marks on one-syllable words, as there is only one place for the stress to fall, and on the words with Russian letter ё which is always stressed. In the transcriptions of Russian words stressed vowels are always bold.
Reductions of vowels
In Russian, unstressed vowels are not pronounced as distinctly as stressed vowels. The alteration of a vowel in an unstressed position is called reduction. As a result of reduction, some letters denoting vowel sounds are read in a different manner than they are read in the alphabet.
In unstressed position there are no alterations in reading of letters и, ы, у, ю. Letter ё is always in stressed position, that is why it is read either as [yo] (at the beginning of the word, after vowels, ь and ъ) or as [o] (after consonants).
The letter а denotes a short neutral sound [ə] which is similar to the final sound in the English word water. It should be mentioned that we will not indicate this nuance of the pronunciation since we consider it not very important for those who begin to learn Russian. On our site you will see in transcriptions that letter а denotes sound [a] both in stressed and unstressed positions.
Other letters are read in unstressed positions as follows:
е - [yi] at the beginning of words, after vowels, ь and ъ
- [i] after consonants
The highlighted letters denote reduced vowels denoted by the letter е:
питьевая вода [pit'yivaya vada] drinking water
адрес [adris] address
о is read as [а]
The highlighted letters denote reduced vowels denoted by the letter о:
город [gorat] city, town
обед [ab'et] luch
э - [i] at the beginning of words and after vowels
- [i] after hard consonants (occurs very rarely)
The highlighted letters denote reduced vowels denoted by the letter э:
экскурсия [ikskoorsiya] excursion
я – [yi] at the beginning of words, after vowels, ь and ъ
- [i] after consonants
The highlighted letters denote reduced vowels denoted by the letter я:
янтарь [yintar'] amber
памятник [pamitnik] monument
In the endings of nouns, adjectives etc., in unstressed position the letter е denotes a cross sound between [i] and [e] . We recommend you to read this letter as [e] ([ye] after vowels and ь) in such cases.
In the endings of nouns, adjectives etc., in unstressed position the letter я should be read as [a] ([ya] after vowels and ь).
кофе [kof'e] cofee
платье [plat'ye] dress
здание [zdaniye] building
вишня [vishn'a] cherry
набережная [nabirijnaya] quay
- Stress in Russian is not fixed, it may fall on any part of the word, and it may change its place in different forms of the same word.
- The reading of letters е, о, э, я is different in stressed and unstressed positions. Letter о is read as [a], э is read as [i] or [i]; е and я inside the word are read as [yi] or [i].