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Russian Language/The Pronunciation of the Word ""

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Question
Dear Maria,

Many thanks again for your recent excellent answers.

Please, how do you pronounce the word отдых? As it is written, or as if it were оддых?

My point of confusion: sometimes a following voiced consonant changes a previous unvoiced consonant e.g. вокзал > “вогзал” but other times it doesn't, e.g. смелый is not pronounced “змелый” (I believe). How can I know when pronunciation is changed in this way and when it isn’t? Grateful for any tips.

Best wishes, and many thanks,

Simon

PS Perhaps because my wife's computer is on the ground floor, or maybe because it's the main one of the house, although her Skype doesn't work perfectly, it does work better than my own, which has no sound at all: her Skype is aygul.brown.

Answer
Hello, Simon

Now, to understand this phenomenon you should get a brief introduction to phonetic processes such as assimilation.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assimilation_(linguistics)

To put it shortly, sounds can change their quality because of other sounds and because of their place in the word or word group.
And of course there are certain rules or laws that determine how sounds should do it.

In the word отдых you can see how the voiced sound Д transforms the devoiced T into Д,and the word is pronounced  оддых.
The same phenomenon takes place in the word вокзал which is pronounced вагзал. You wonder why the word смелый does not follow the same pattern. Well because it doesn't :)

Look at the two examples. The devoiced consonants are between a vowel and a voiced consonant. In the word смелый the devoiced С goes before a sonorant. Sonorants are very close to vowels, that's why preceding devoiced sounds never change their quality. Russian sonorants are л м н р й

Compare:
Сдернуть (pull sth off) - sounds ЗДЕРНУТЬ
Шнур (cord) - sounds ШНУР
Смена - СМЕНА

Not only can voiced consonants influence devoiced, but also it can be vice versa.

Сказка - the k following з makes it devoiced and we say СКАСКА

So generally in combinations of two consonants that we will label CB, B will most likely change C.

Упаковка --> УПАКОФКА  сдача --> ЗДАЧА

There are other types of assimilation you will need to learn if you want to master Russian pronunciation



Maria

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