Consonant Assimilation

Now that you know Russian letters, you need to know how you pronounce them within the words, as Russian letters may change their sound depending on the letters around them and whether they are in the beginning, in the middle or in the end of the word. It may seem like a lot of information but knowing rules and practicing reading regularly will help you to understand how it works. Let’s start!

Consonant Assimilation rule.

There are voiced and voiceless consonants in Russian. Some of them are always voiced (л, м, н, р, й), some of them are always voiceless (ч, щ, ц, х) and some of them form pairs for voicing:

Voiced consonants

Voiceless consonants

б

п

в

ф

г

к

д

т

ж

ш

з

с

The consonants of the same pair are pronounced in the same way, the difference is in the presence or absence of vibration in your vocal cords.

  1. In Russian, all voiced consonants at the end of the word sound like their voiceless pair:

кровь (blood) — в sounds like ф

плед (plaid) – д sounds like т

нож (knife) – ж sounds like ш

мороз (frost) – з sounds like с

озноб (chills) – б sounds like п

пирог (pie) – г sounds like к

This process is called devoicing.

Compare:

нож — ножик (knife – little knife)

кровь – кровавый (blood – bloody)

Ж ans В stayed voiced in the second case.

Another cases of devoicing:

Remember:

It is the second consonant that determines how the first will be pronounced.

Even if the sound of letters changes, the spelling stays the same:

ошибка — б is pronounced as п but we should never write ошипка, it will be ошибка.

Ошибка — mistake

  1. In Russian there is another process opposite to devoicing – it is 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:

сделать — с sounds like з

отдых — т sounds like д; in this case we can hear double д: [оддых]

Again, it is the second consonant that determines how the first will be pronounced.

Some voiced consonants – л, м, н, р, й and в – do not affect the voiced consonant that preceed them. The voiceless consonants in the words

квартира (apartment)

клей (glue)

сестра (sister)

книга (book)

свадьба (wedding)

sound voiceless, without changes (whew!).

  1. If there is a preposition in front of a word, it sounds as if it made a part of a word:

The preposition в (in) is devoiced if placed in front of a word starting by a voiceless consonant:

в квартире (in the apartment)

в шкафу (in the cupboard)

The preposition c (with) is voiced if placed in front of a word starting by a voiced consonant:

с другом (with a friend)

с братом (with brother)

I will tell about prepositions in more details in further lessons.

Let’s practice!

Now, that you know these rules, try to read first and then listen and see if you’ve done it correctly. Read the rules again if you have doubts. In this excercise I marked stress for your convenience, but again, it is not normally marked in Russian.

If there is only one syllable in the word, it is supposed to be stressed

Read:

зуб, друг, год, кот, всегдá, вокзáл, вокáл, бокáл, знáния, гóрод, снег, вóдка, прóбка, странá, мáска, тóрт, тéкст, кóмната, лёд, мёд, слóво, в кóмнате, с женóй, в садý, в пáрке.

Listen and repeat: 

I would be glad if you share your audio recording. I will tell if you done it well and explain what you should work on.

See you in the next lesson!