Russian phonology

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This article discusses the phonological system of standard Russian based on the Moscowdialect (unless otherwise noted). For discussion of other dialects, see Russian dialects. Russian possesses five vowels and consonants which typically come in pairs of hard (твёрдый [ˈtvʲo.rdɨj]) and soft (мягкий [ˈmʲŠ.xʲkʲɪj]) or plain and palatalized.


Russian possesses five or six vowel phonemes. A number of linguists consider [ɨ] (rendered by letter ы) to be a separate phoneme, while some others maintain that it is an allophone of /i/ (rendered by и). The latter interpretation is assumed in this article. Russian phonemes are subject to considerable allophony.

  Front Central Back
Close i (ɨ) u
Mid e (ə) o
Open   a  

Vowel allophony is largely dependent on stress and the palatalization of neighboring consonants:

Front vowels

When a preceding consonant is hard, /i/ is retracted to [ɨ]. Formant studies in Padgett (2001) demonstrate that [ɨ] is better characterized as slightly diphthongized from the velarization of the preceding consonant, implying that a phonological pattern of using velarization to enhance perceptual distinctiveness between hard and soft consonants is strongest before /i/. When unstressed, /i/ becomes near-close; that is, [ɨ̞]following a hard consonant and [ɪ] in most other environments. Between soft consonants, both stressed and unstressed /i/ are raised, as in пить [pʲi̝tʲ] ('to drink') and маленький [ˈmalʲɪ̝nʲkʲɪj] ('small'). When preceded and followed by coronal or dorsal consonants, [ɨ] is fronted to[ɨ̟]. After a labial + /l/ cluster, [ɨ] is retracted, as in плыть [plɨ̠tʲ] ('to float'); it is also slightly diphthongized to [ɯ̟ɨ̟].

In native words, /e/ only follows unpaired (i.e. the retroflexes and /t͡s/) and soft consonants. After soft consonants (but not before), it is a mid vowel ([e̞] or [ɛ̝]), while a following soft consonant raises it to [e]. Another allophone, an open-mid [ɛ] occurs word-initially and never before or after soft consonants (hereafter [ɛ̝] is represented without the diacritic for simplicity). Preceding hard consonants retract /e/ to [ɛ̠] and [e̠]so that жест ('gesture') and цель ('target') are pronounced [ʐɛ̠st] and [t͡se̠lʲ] respectively.

In words borrowed from other languages, it is often the case that /e/ does not follow a soft consonant until the word has been fully adopted into Russian. For instance, шофёр (from French chauffeur) was pronounced [ʂoˈfɛr] in the early twentieth century but is now pronounced[ʂɐˈfʲor]. On the other hand, the pronunciations of words such as отель [ɐˈtɛlʲ] ('hotel') retain the hard consonants despite a long presence in the language.

Back vowels

Between soft consonants, /a/ becomes [Š] as in пять [pʲŠtʲ] ('five'). When not following a soft consonant, /a/ is retracted to [ɑ̟] before /l/ as in палка [ˈpɑ̟lkə] ('stick').

For most speakers, /o/ is a mid vowel but it can be more open for some speakers. Between soft consonants or simply following one,/o/ is centralized to [ɵ̞] as in тётя [ˈtʲɵ.tʲə] ('aunt').

As with the other back vowels, /u/ is centralized between soft consonants, as in чуть [t͡ɕʉtʲ] ('narrowly'). When unstressed, /u/ becomes near-close.

Vowel reduction

Unstressed vowels tend to merge together. /o/ and /a/ generally have the same unstressed allophones and unstressed /e/ becomes /i/(picking up its unstressed allophones). Russian orthography (as opposed to that of closely related Belarusian) does not reflect vowel reduction.

The realization of unstressed /o/ and /a/ goes as follows:

  • After hard consonants, both reduce to [ə] or [ɐ]; [ɐ] appears in the syllable immediately before the stress and in and absolute word-initial position. Examples: паром [pɐˈrom] ('ferry'), облако [ˈobləkə] ('cloud'), трава [trɐˈva] ('grass').
    • When ‹aa›, ‹ao›, ‹oa›, or ‹oo› is written in a word, it indicates [ɐ.ɐ] so that соображать ('to use common sense/to reason'), is pronounced [sɐ.ɐ.brɐˈʐatʲ].
  • Both /o/ and /a/ merge with /i/ after soft consonants and /j/ (/o/ is written as ‹e› in these positions). This occurs for /o/ after retroflex consonants as well. Examples: жена [ʐɨ̞ˈna] ('wife'), язык [jɪˈzɨk] ('tongue').
  • These processes occur even across word boundaries as in под морем [pɐˈd‿morʲɪm] ('under the sea').

Across certain word-final suffixes, the reductions do not completely apply. In certain suffixes, after soft consonants and /j/, /a/ and /o/(which is written as ‹e›) can be distinguished from /i/ and from each other: по́ле ('field' nom. sg. neut,)' is different from по́ля ('field' sg.gen), and these final sounds differ from the realization of /i/ in such position.

There are a number of exceptions to the above comments on unstressed /о/ and /a/.

  • Firstly, /o/ is not always reduced in foreign borrowings, e.g. радио, [ˈra.dʲɪ.o] ('radio').
  • Secondly, some speakers pronounce /a/ as [ɨ] after retroflex consonants (/ʐ/ and /ʂ/. This pronunciation generally applies only to жалеть[ʐɨˈlʲetʲ] ('to regret'), к сожалению [ksə.ʐɨˈlʲe.nʲɪ.ju] ('unfortunately'), and oblique cases of лошадь ('horse'), such as лошадей, [lə.ʂɨˈdʲej].
  • Thirdly, /i/ replaces /a/ after /t͡s/ in the oblique cases of some numerals, e.g. двадцати, [dvə.t͡sɨˈtʲi] ('twenty').

In addition to this, the unstressed high vowels /i/ and /u/ become lax (or near-close) as in ютиться [jʉ̞ˈtʲit͡sə] ('to huddle'), этап [ɪˈtap]('stage'), дышать [dɨ̞ˈʂatʲ] ('to breathe'), and мужчина [mʊˈɕɕinə] ('man').

In weakly stressed positions, vowels may become voiceless between two voiceless consonants: выставка [ˈvɨstə̥fkə] ('exhibition'), потому что [pə̥tɐˈmu ʂtə] ('because'). This may also happen in cases where only the following consonant is voiceless: череп [t͡ɕerʲɪ̥p] ('skull').


Russian diphthongs all end in a non-syllabic [i̯], which can be considered an allophone of /j/, the only semivowel in Russian. In all contexts other than after a vowel, /j/ is considered an approximant consonant. Phonological descriptions of /j/ may also classify it as a consonant even in the coda. In such descriptions, Russian has no diphthongs.

The first part of diphthongs are subject to the same allophony as their constituent vowels. Examples of words with diphthongs: яйцо [jɪjˈt͡so]('egg'), ей [jej] ('her' instr), действенный [ˈdʲejstvʲɪnnɨj] ('effective'). /ij/ (written ‹ий› or ‹ый›) is a common adjectival affix where it is often unstressed; at normal conversational speed, such unstressed endings may be monophthongized to [ɪ̟].


‹ʲ› denotes palatalization, meaning the center of the tongue is raised during and after the articulation of the consonant.

  Bilabial Labio-
Dental &
Palatal Velar
Nasal hard /m/   /n/     (ŋ)
soft /mʲ/   /nʲ/      
Plosive hard /p/   /b/   /t/   /d/     /k/   /ɡ/
soft /pʲ/   /bʲ/   /tʲ/   /dʲ/     /kʲ/   [ɡʲ]
Affricate hard     /t͡s/ (d͡z)           
soft         /t͡ɕ/ (d͡ʑ)       
Fricative hard   /f/   /v/ /s/   /z/ /ʂ/   /ʐ/   /x/     
soft   /fʲ/   /vʲ/ /sʲ/   /zʲ/ /ɕɕ/   /ʑʑ/   [xʲ]     
Trill hard     /r/      
soft     /rʲ/      
Approximant hard     /l/      
soft     /lʲ/   /j/  

Phonetic details:

  • Almost all consonants come in hard/soft pairs. Exceptions are consonants that are always hard /t͡s/, /ʂ/, and /ʐ/; and consonants that are always soft /t͡ɕ/, /ɕɕ/, /ʑʑ/, and /j/. There is a marked tendency of Russian hard consonants to be velarized, though this is a subject of some academic dispute. Velarization is clearest before the front vowels /e/ and /i/.[23]
    • ^ The soft/hard distinction for velar consonants is typically allophonic; /kʲ/ might be considered a marginal phoneme, although its occurrence before non-front vowels is mostly in words of foreign origin.
  • /ʐ/ is similar to the ‹g› in genre, but the tongue is curled back (as with the /r/ of American English) rather than domed. /ʂ/ differs from this only by being voiceless. For more, see retroflex consonant.
  • ^ ^ /ɕɕ/ and /ʑʑ/ are also marginal phonemes. A formerly common pronunciation of /ɕt͡ɕ/ indicates the sound may be twounderlying phonemes: |ʂt͡ɕ|. The status of /ʑʑ/ as a phoneme is also marginal since it may derive from an underlying || or || and its use is becoming more archaic compared to a geminated hard [ʐʐ] (although the former continues to be common in media and government). For more information, see Alveolo-palatal consonant.
  • Hard /t/ /d/ /n/ /l/ and soft /rʲ/ are both dental [t̪] [d̪] [n̪] [l̪] [r̪ʲ] and apical [t̺] [d̺] [n̺] [l̺] [r̺ʲ] while soft /tʲ/ /dʲ/ /nʲ/ and /lʲ/ are alveolar and laminal[t̻ʲ] [d̻ʲ] [nʲ̻] [lʲ̻]. Note that, for /tʲ/ and /dʲ/, the tongue is raised enough to produce slight frication. Hard /l/ is typically pharyngealized ([ɫ], "dark l").
  • /s/ and /z/ are laminal and dental (or dento-alveolar) while /t͡s/ is alveolar and apical.
  • Hard /r/ is postalveolar: [r̠].

A series of reductionist approaches made by many structuralists have postulated an underlying deep structure wherein soft consonants are the result of phonological processes. Despite such proposals, linguists have long agreed that the underlying structure of Russian is closer to that of its acoustic properties, namely that soft consonants are phonemes in their own right.

Phonological processes

Voiced consonants (/b/, /bʲ/, /d/, /dʲ/ /ɡ/, /v/, /vʲ/, /z/, /zʲ/, /ʐ/, and /ʑʑ/) are devoiced word-finally unless the next word begins with a voiced obstruent. /ɡ/, in addition becoming voiceless, also lenites to [x].

Russian features a general retrograde assimilation of voicing and palatalization. In longer clusters, this means that multiple consonants may be soft despite their underlyingly (and orthographically) being hard. The process of voicing assimilation applies across word-boundaries when there's no pause between words.


Within a morpheme, voicing is not distinctive before obstruents (except for /v/, and /vʲ/ when followed by a vowel or sonorant). The voicing or devoicing is determined by that of the final obstruent in the sequence: просьба [ˈprozʲbə] ('request'), водка [ˈvotkə] ('vodka'). In foreign borrowings, this isn't always the case for /f(ʲ)/, as in Адольф Гитлер [ɐˈdolʲf ˈɡʲitlʲɪr] ('Adolf Hitler') and граф болеет [ɡraf bɐˈlʲeɪt] ('the count is ill'). /v/ and /vʲ/ are unusual in that they seem transparent to voicing assimilation; in the syllable onset, both voiced and voiceless consonants may appear before /v(ʲ)/:

  • тварь [tvarʲ] ('the creature')
  • два [dva] ('two')
  • световой [vʲɪtɐˈvoj] ('luminous')
  • звезда [vʲɪˈzda] ('star')

When /v(ʲ)/ precedes and follows obstruents, the voicing of the cluster is governed by that of the final segment (per the rule above) so that voiceless obstruents that precede /v(ʲ)/ are voiced if /v(ʲ)/ is followed by a voiced obstruent (e.g. к вдове [ɡ vdɐˈvʲɛ] 'to the widow') while a voiceless obstruent will devoice all segments (e.g. без впуска [bʲɪs ˈfpuskə] 'without an admission').

/t͡ɕ/, /t͡s/, and /x/ have voiced allophones before voiced obstruents, as in дочь бы [ˈdod͡ʑ bɨ] ('a daughter would' [I like to have]) and плацдарм [plɐd͡zˈdarm] ('bridge-head').

Other than /mʲ/ and /nʲ/, nasals and liquids devoice between voiceless consonants or a voiceless consonant and a pause: контрфорс [ˌkontr̥ˈfors] ('buttress').


Before /j/, paired consonants are normally soft as in пью [pʲju] ('I drink') and пьеса [ˈpʲjɛ.sə] ('theatrical play'). съездить [ˈsje.zʲdʲɪtʲ] ('to go/ travel') is an exception to this for many speakers. Paired consonants preceding /e/ are also soft; although there are exceptions from loanwords, alternations across morpheme boundaries are the norm. The following examples show the different types of alternations:

  • дом [dom] ('house' nominative) vs. доме [ˈdoɪ] ('house' prepositional)
  • ржавый [ˈrʐavɨj] ('rusty') vs. ржаветь [rʐɐˈɛtʲ] ('to rust')
  • ответ [ɐˈtvʲɛt] ('answer') vs. ответить [ɐˈtvʲeɪtʲ] ('to answer')
  • несу [nʲɪˈsu] ('I carry') vs. несёт [nʲɪˈot] ('carries')
  • голод [ˈɡolət] ('hunger') vs. голоден [ˈɡolədʲɪn] ('hungry' masc.)
  • удаль [ʊˈda] ('daring') vs. удалец [ʊdɐˈɛt͡s] ('daring man')
  • жена [ʐɨˈna] ('wife') vs. женин [ˈʐɛɪn]('wife's')
  • корова [kɐˈrovə] ('cow') vs. коровий [kɐˈrovʲɪj] ('bovine')
  • кругл [kruɡl] ('round') vs. кругленький [ˈkruɡɪnʲkʲɪj] ('roundish')
  • широк [ʂɨˈrok] ('wide') vs. ширина [ʂɨɪˈnə] ('width')
  • прям [prʲam] ('straight') vs. прямизна [prʲɪɪˈznə] ('straightness')
  • умыкан [ʊˈmɨkən] ('abducted') vs. умыкание [ʊmɨˈkaɪɪ] ('abduction')
  • вор [vor] ('thief') vs. воришка [vɐˈiʂkə] ('thief' pejorative)
  • написал [nəpʲɪˈsal] ('he wrote') vs. написали [nəpʲɪˈsaɪ] ('they wrote')
  • горбун [ɡɐˈrbun] ('hunchback') vs. горбунья [ɡɐˈrbujə] ('female hunchback')
  • ангел [ˈanɡʲɪl] ('angel') vs. ангельский [ˈanɡʲɪskʲɪj] ('angelic')
  • высь [vɨ] ('height') vs. высок [vɨˈsok] ('high')

Because velar consonants are unpaired, palatalization contrasts do not exist, especially before front vowels. Allophonically, they become soft as in короткий [kɐˈrotkʲɪj] ('short') unless there is a word boundary, in which case they are hard (e.g. к Ивану [k ‿ɨvanu] 'to Ivan').

Before hard dental consonants, /r/, /rʲ/, labial and dental consonants are hard: орла [ɐrˈla] ('eagle' gen. sg).

Before soft labial and dental consonants or /lʲ/, dental consonants (other than /t͡s/) are soft.[dubious ]

Velar consonants are soft when preceding /i/; within words, this means that velar consonants are never followed by [ɨ].

/x/ assimilates the palatalization of the following velar consonant легких [ˈlʲɵxʲkʲɪx] ('lungs' gen. pl).

Palatalization assimilation of labial consonants before labial consonants is in free variation with nonassimilation, that is бомбить ('to bomb') is either [bɐmˈbʲitʲ] or [bɐmʲˈbʲitʲ] depending on the individual speaker.

When hard /n/ precedes its soft equivalent, it is also soft (see gemination). This is slightly less common across affix boundaries.

In addition to this, dental stridents conform to the place of articulation (not just the palatalization) of following postalveolars: с частью[ˈɕɕasʲtʲju] ('with a part'). In careful speech, this does not occur across word boundaries.

Russian has the rare features of nasals not typically assimilating place of articulation. For example, both /n/ and /nʲ/ appear before retroflex consonants: деньжонки [dʲɪnʲˈʐonkʲɪ] ('money' (scornful)) and ханжой [xɐnˈʐoj] ('hypocrite' instr.). In the same context, other coronal consonants are always hard. The velar nasal is an allophone before velar consonants in some words (функция [ˈfuŋk.t͡sɨjə] 'function'), but not in most other words like банк [bank] ('bank').

Consonant clusters

Russian is notable for having fewer phonotactic restrictions than many other languages, producing word-initial clusters that would be difficult for English speakers. Some, such as in встретить [ˈfstrʲetʲɪtʲ] ('to encounter'), can have as many as four segments.

3 Segments Russian IPA Translation
CCL скрип [skrʲip] squeak
CCC* ствол [stvol] (tree) trunk
LCL верблюд [vʲɪrˈblʲut] camel
LCC толстый [ˈtolstɨj] thick

For speakers who pronounce [ɕt͡ɕ] instead of [ɕɕ], words like общий ('common') also constitute clusters of this type.

2 Segments Russian IPA Translation
CC кость [kosʲtʲ] bone
LC ртуть [rtutʲ] mercury
CL слепой [sʲlʲɪˈpoj] blind
LL горло [ˈɡorlə] throat
CJ дьяк [dʲjak] dyak
LJ рьяный [ˈrʲjanɨj] zealous

If /j/ is considered a consonant in the coda position, then words like айва ('quince') contain semivowel+consonant clusters.

Clusters of four consonants are possible, but not very common, especially within a morpheme. Some potential clusters are deleted as well. For example, dental plosives are dropped between a dental continuant and a dental nasal: лестный [ˈlʲɛsnɨj] ('flattering'). At word boundaries, there is generally an audible release between consecutive consonants at word boundaries (rather than an overlap) so that each consonant is pronounced distinctly, especially in comparison to English. This allows for a more accurate perception of similar consonants such as /t/ and /tʲ/.

Supplementary notes

/n/ and /nʲ/ are the only consonants that can be geminated within morpheme boundaries. Such gemination does not occur in loanwords.

The historic transformation of /ɡ/ into /v/ in the genitive case (and also the accusative for animate entities) of masculine singular adjectives and pronouns is not reflected in the modern Russian orthography: его [jɪˈvo] ('his/him'), белого [ˈbʲɛ.lə.və] ('white' gen. sg.), синего [ˈsʲi.nʲɪ.və]('blue' gen. sg.). Orthographic г also represents /x/ when it precedes other velar sounds: легко [lʲɪxˈko] ('easily').

Between any vowel and /i/ (excluding instances across affix boundaries but including unstressed vowels that have merged with /i/), /j/ may be dropped: аист [ˈa.ɪst] ('stork') and делает [ˈdʲɛləɪt] ('does').[49]

Stress in Russian may fall on any syllable, and may shift within an inflexional paradigm: до́ма [ˈdo.mə] ('house' gen. sg.) vs дома́ [dɐˈma]('houses'). The place of the stress in a word is determined by the interplay between the morphemes it contains, as some morphemes have underlying stress, while others do not. However, other than some compound words, such as морозоустойчивый [mɐˌrozəʊˈstojtɕɪvɨj] ('frost-resistant') only one syllable is stressed in a word. Russian also has an intonation pattern similar to that of English.

Non-open back vowels velarize preceding hard consonants: ты [tˠɨ] ('you' sing.). /o/ and /u/ labialize all consonants: бок [bʷok] ('side'), нёс[nʲʷos] ('he carried'). 

Historical sound changes

Russian scribe, 15th century

The modern phonological system of Russian is inherited from Common Slavonic, but underwent considerable innovation in the early historical period, before being largely settled by about 1400.

Like all Slavic languages, Old Russian was a language of open syllables. All syllables ended in vowels (as in Fijian and Hawaiian), and consonant clusters, in far lesser variety than today, existed only in the syllable onset. However, by the time of the earliest records, Old Russian already showed characteristic divergences from Common Slavonic.

Around the tenth century, Russian may have already had paired coronal fricatives and sonorantsso that /s z n l r/ could have contrasted with /sʲ zʲ nʲ lʲ rʲ/, though any possible contrasts were limited to specific environments. Otherwise, palatalized consonants appeared allophonically before front vowels. When the yers were lost, the palatalization initially triggered by high vowels remained, creating minimal pairs like данъ /dan/ ('given') and дань /danʲ/ ('tribute'). At the same time, [ɨ], which was already a part of the vocalic system, was reanalyzed as an allophone of /i/after hard consonants, prompting leveling that caused vowels to alternate according to the preceding consonant rather than vice versa.

The loss of the nasal vowels (the yuses of Cyrillic, which had themselves developed from Common Slavic *eN and *oN before a consonant). Non-nasalized vowels took their place, possibly iotated or with softening of the preceding consonant:

  • PIE: *h₁sˇnti
  • Lat: sunt
  • ComSl: *sǫtь
  • OCS: sǫtь
  • Russian (bookish): суть [sutʲ] ('they are', 3rd person pl form of быть 'to be', used rarely in modern Russian, cf. Polish ).

Borrowings in the Finno-Ugric languages with interpolated /n/ after Common Slavonic nasal vowels have been taken to indicate that the nasal vowels did exist in East Slavic until some time possibly just before the historical period.

Simplification of Common Slavic *dl and *tl to *l:

  • ComSl: *mydlo
  • Polish: mydło
  • Russian: мыло [ˈmɨ.lə] ('soap').

A tendency for greater maintenance of intermediate ancient [-s-], [-k-], etc. before frontal vowels, than in other Slavic languages, the so-calledincomplete second and third palatalizations:

  • Uk нозі /nozʲi/
  • Russian: ноге [nɐˈɡʲɛ] ('leg' dat.).

Pleophony or "full-voicing" (polnoglasie, 'полногласие' [pəlnɐˈɡlasʲɪɪ]), that is, the addition of vowels on either side of /l/ and /r/ between two consonants. Church Slavonic influence has made it less common in Russian than in modern Ukrainian and Belarusian:

  • OCS: vrabii *[ˈvrabii]
  • Russian: воробей [vərɐˈbʲej] ('sparrow')
  • Uk: Володимир /woloˈdɪmɪr/
  • Russian: Владимир [vlɐˈdʲimʲɪr] ('Vladimir') (although the nickname form in Russian is still Володя [vɐˈlodʲə]).

Major phonological processes in the last thousand years have included the absence of the Slavonic open-syllable requirement, achieved in part through the loss of the ultra-short vowels, the so-called fall of the yers, which alternately lengthened and dropped (the yers are given conventional transcription rather than precise IPA symbols in the Old Russian pronunciations):

  • OR: объ мьнѣ /o.bŭ mĭˈně/ > R: обо мне [ə.bɐ ˈmnʲe] ('about me')
  • OR: сънъ /ˈsŭ.nŭ/ > R: сон [son] ('sleep' nom. sg.), cognate with Lat. somnus;
  • OR: съна /sŭˈna/ > R: сна [sna] ('of sleep') (gen. sg.).

The loss of the yers has led to geminated consonants and a much greater variety of consonant clusters, with attendant voicing and/or devoicing in the assimilation:

  • OR: къдѣ /kŭˈdě/ > R: где [ɡdʲɛ] ('where').

Consonant clusters thus created were often simplified:

  • здравствуйте [ˈzdra.stvuj.tʲə] ('hello'), not *[ˈzdra.fstvuj.tʲə], although such a pronunciation could be affected in the archaic meaning be healthy
  • сердце [ˈsʲɛ.rt͡sə] ('heart'), not *[ˈsʲɛ.rdt͡sə]
  • солнце [ˈso.nt͡sə] ('sun'), not *[ˈso.lnt͡sə].

The development of OR ѣ /ě/ (conventional transcription) into /(j)e/, as seen above. This development has caused by far the greatest of all Russian spelling controversies. The timeline of the development of /ě/ into /e/ or /je/ has also been debated.

Sometime between the twelfth and fourteenth century, the allophone of /i/ before velar consonants changed from [ɨ] to [i] with subsequent palatalization of the velars.

The retroflexing of postalveolars: /ʒ/ became [ʐ] and /ʃ/ become [ʂ]. This is considered a "hardening" since retroflex sounds are difficult to palatalize. At some point, /t͡s/ resisted palatalization, which is why it is also "hard" although phonetically it is no different than before. The sound represented by ‹щ› was much more commonly pronounced /ɕt͡ɕ/ than it is today. Today's common and standard pronunciation of ‹щ› is /ɕɕ/.

The development of stressed /e/ into /o/ when between a soft consonant and a hard one:[58]

  • OR о чемъ /о ˈt͡ʃe.mŭ/ ('about which' loc. sg.) > R о чём [ɐ ˈt͡ɕom].

This has led to a number of alternations:

Word Gloss Word Gloss
безупре́чность irreproachability упрёк reproach
бере́чь to protect берёг he protected
ве́дение conducting вёл he conducted
ве́дреный fine, good вёдро fine weather
весе́лье merriment весёлый merry
вле́чь to attract влёк he attracted
гре́бля rowing грёб he rowed
гре́зить to dream грёза a dream
дале́че distantly далёк distant
двоеже́нец bigamist двоежёнство bigamy
де́нь day подённо by day
деше́вле cheaper дешёвый cheap
е́ль fir-tree ёлка fir-tree
жере́бчик stallion (diminutive) жерёбая with foal
жечь to burn жёг he burned
желть yellow paint жёлтый yellow
зе́млю earth (acc. sg.) чернозём black earth
изреше́чивать to pierce with holes решёта sieves
кле́плет he/she/it riviets клёпаный riveted
коле́сник wheel-wright колёса wheels
коте́льная boiler-room котёл boiler
ле́дник refrigerator лёд ice
лечь to lie down лёг he lay down
наве́ртит he/she/it will twist навёртывать to twist
пе́нь stump пёнышек dear, little stump
пере́дний front (adj) перёд front (noun)
перекре́щивать to cross перекрёсток cross-road
пе́рья feathers пёрышко dear, little feather
пе́стрядь colored cotton cloth пёстрый variegated
Пе́тя Pete Пётр Peter
пе́чь to bake пёк he baked
пле́ть lash плётка lash
поме́лья brooms мёл he swept
предре́чь to foretell предрёк he foretold
пренебре́чь to neglect пренебрёг he neglected
просве́рливать to bore, drill свёрла borers, drills
проче́сть to read прочёл he read
пче́льник apiary пчёлы bees
реме́нь strap ремённый made of straps
реме́сленник artisan ремёсла trades
роже́чник horn-player рожо́к horn
сельский rural сёла villages
семь seven сам-сём with six others
се́стрин sister's сёстры sisters
смерть death мёртвый dead
созве́дие constellation звёзды stars
спле́тня gossip сплётка gossip
стере́чь to guard стерёг he guarded
тве́рдь firm foundation твёрдый hard, firm
те́мень darkness тёмный dark
те́плит to light тёплый warm
те́рнии thorns тёрн blackthorn
тете́рька heath hen тетёрка heath hen
те́чь to flow тёк it flowed
тре́плет wears out трёпаный worn out
тяже́лее heavier тяжёлый heavy
Фе́дя Ted Фёдор Theodore
че́рнь niello чёрный black
че́рти devils чёрт devil
че́сть honor почёт honor
шерсть hair шёрстка hair (diminutive)
шесть six сам-шо́ст with five others
щель chink щёлка chink

Note that the /e/ that derives from the yat usually did not undergo this change with only the following fifteen exceptions:

  • звёзды from звѣзды ('stars')
  • гнёзда from гнѣзда ('nests')
  • сёдла from сѣдла ('saddles')
  • издёвка from издѣвка ('jibe')
  • смётка from смѣтка ('apprehension')
  • медвёдка from медвѣдка ('mole crickets')
  • вёшка from вѣшка ('pole for hanging')
  • вдёжка from вдѣжка ('something to be inserted')
  • цвёл from цвѣлъ ('flowered')
  • обрёл from обрѣлъ ('found')
  • зёвывал from зѣвывалъ ('was yawning')
  • надёвывал from надѣвывалъ ('was putting on')
  • надёван from надѣванъ ('[is] put on')
  • запечатлён from запечатлѣнъ ('[is] captured')
  • подгнёта from подгнѣта ('[is] rotten')

Loanwords from Church Slavonic reintroduced /e/ between a soft consonant and a hard one, including:

  • лев vs. лёв ('lion')
  • небо ('sky') vs. нёбо ('roof of the mouth')
  • хребе́т vs. хребёт ('spine')

A number of Russian's phonological features are attributable to the introduction of loanwords (especially from non-Slavic languages), including:

  • Sequences of two vowels within a morpheme.
    • поэт [pɐˈɛt] ('poet'). From French poŔte.
    • траур [ˈtraur] ('mourning').
  • Most instances of word-initial /e/.
    • эра [ˈɛrə] ('era'). From German ─ra
  • Word-initial /a/.
    • авеню [ɐvʲɪˈnʲu] ('avenue').
    • афера [ɐˈfʲɛrə] ('swindle').
  • The phoneme /f/ (see Ef (Cyrillic) for more information).
    • фонема [fɐˈnɛmə] ('phoneme'). From Greek φώνημα.
    • эфир [ɪˈfʲir] ('ether'). From Greek Αἰθήρ.
    • фиаско [fʲɪˈaskə] ('fiasco'). From Italian fiasco.
  • The occurrence of non-palatalized consonants before /e/.[65]
  • The sequence /dʐ/ within a morpheme.
    • джин [dʐɨn] ('gin') from English.
    • джаз [dʐas] ('jazz) from English.

Many double consonants have become degeminated, though they are still written with two letters in the orthography.


  1. Russian language
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  11. List of English words of Russian origin
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  15. Russian language-History of the Russian language
  16. List of Russian language television channels
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  20. Russian language-Runglish
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  28. The differences of Moscovian and St.-Petersburg's speech
  29. Vowel reduction in Russian
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  31. Russian proverbs:USSR
  32. ALA-LC romanization for Russian
  33. Great Russian language
  34. Olympiada of Spoken Russian
  35. Russian cursive
  36. Russian jokes
  37. Russian National Corpus


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