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1 PHONEMICS 1.1. RUSSIAN PHONEMES PHONEMES are the sounds a native speaker of a language recognizes as belonging to his or her language, out of which words are composed. The crucial aspect of the concept is that phonemes are distinct one from another for purposes of distinguishing word-forms. Since к /kót/ ‘cat’,  /rót/ ‘mouth’, and  /pót/ ‘sweat’ are different words, /k/, /r/, /o/, /t/, and /p/, which are used to express and distinguish them from one another, are different phonemes. Russian phonemes consist of CONSONANTS and VOWELS. One or more consonants can begin or end a syllable but, in Russian , a syllable consists minimally of one and only one vowel. Phonemes are written in roman-letter transcription between slashes to set them off as sounds, as distinct from letters used to represent the sounds: /k/, /r/, /o/, /t/, /p/, etc. Pairs of words of different meaning, differing as to a single phoneme , are termed MINIMAL PAIRS. Examples would be  /vón/ ‘away’ and  /vónä/ ‘aroma’, which establish the distinctness of the consonants hard /n/ and soft /nä/; л /vól/ ‘ox’ and  л /väól/ ‘he led’, showing the distinctness of hard /v/ and soft /vä/; or л /vól/ ‘ox’ and  л /vál/ ‘rampart’, showing the distinctness of /o/ and /a/. 1.1.1. PHONEMIC NEUTRALIZATION Phonemes are not necessarily distinct in all positions. For example, the distinction between /t/ (unvoiced) and /d/ (voiced) is not maintained in wordfinal position; see к ‘cat’ and кд ‘code’, pronounced the same, more like “kót” than like “kód”. The distinction in roundedness vs. unroundedness between /o/ and /a/ is maintained only under stress. Thus, сдо ‘herdNsg .’ and сд ‘herd-Gsg.’ are pronounced the same, more like “stáda” than like “stádo”. The environmentally conditioned merger of different phonemes is termed PHONEMIC NEUTRALIZATION. In a situation of neutralization, the merged phonemes are assigned to the phoneme which the neutralized phonemes most resemble. Thus, /t/ and /d/ at word-end become neutralized in /t/, and unstressed /o/ and /a/ in /a/. Strictly speaking, it 14 1. PHONEMICS is not the phonemes which become neutralized, but the DISTINCTIVE FEATURES which keep the phonemes apart. In the instance of /t/ vs. /d/, it is the feature of “voicing” which keeps these consonants separate: a devoiced /d/ amounts to, i.e., cannot be distinguished from, /t/. In the instance of /o/ vs. /a/, neutralization has to do with the features of rounding and position in the mouth: an unrounded, slightly fronted, and lowered /o/ becomes indistinguishable from /a/. Often one reasons by negative inference. A de-voiced /b/ is not so much pronounced like ideal /p/ as it is indistinguishable from /p/ at wordend (see гб vs. г, both pronounced /gri'p/. Hence, one reasons, if one cannot tell that the final sound of гб is not /p/, then it must be /p/. 1.1.2. CONSONANT PHONEMES Consonants can be classified according to PLACE OF ARTICULATION (proceeding from the front to the back of the mouth): labial, dental, palatal, post-palatal, velar; and MANNER OF ARTICULATION: stop, fricative, resonant, nasal, trill, lateral, glide; also, voiced or voiceless. The feature palatalized/nonpalatalized combines aspects of both place and manner. The distinctions along each of these axes can be considered to relate to specific phonologically distinctive features. The most important consonant features from the point of view of their participation in neutralizations are those of voice (±v) and of palatalization (± pal.). By voicing is meant that the consonant is pronounced while simultaneously vibrating the vocal chords in the larynx, or voice-box. Palatalized, or soft, consonants are pronounced with the tongue in a raised and fronted position, with the apex of the tongue against the hard palate, as though poised to say English “y”. See the pictorial illustrations at the end of the Introduction. The Russian consonant phonemes are listed in the table on the following page (fric. = fricative, affr. = affricate, res. = resonant): 1.1.2. CONSONANT PHONEMES 15 PLACE: Bilabial, labio–dental Dental, alveolar Palatal Post–palatal Velar MANNER –pal. +pal. –pal. +pal. –pal. +pal. –pal. +pal. Stop –v p pä t tä k (kä) Stop +v b bä d dä g (gä) Fric. –v f fä s sä ššä ~ šäčä š x (xä) Fric. +v v vä z zä žäžä ž Affr. –v c čä Nasal m mä n nä Trill r rä Lateral l lä Glide (w) j Hard and soft /p, b, m/ are often described as BILABIAL, whereas /f, v/ are described as LABIO-DENTAL (the lower lips contact the upper...


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