Pronunciation tricks with the soft sign

Pronunciation tricks with the soft sign

Apr 20, 2023

Dear friends 👋, I was recently asked a really good question about the … pronunciation of the soft sign (yes! it’s not a joke 🙂).

And can YOU say which word out of these three, in terms of pronunciation, is odd: чья, чьё, чьи❓

Yes, we all know that the soft sign does not indicate any sound and that, among other functions, it can play the separating role in the letter combinations ЬЕ, ЬЁ, ЬЮ, ЬЯ, where

(1) it shows the softness of the preceding consonant and, at the same time,

(2) makes the vowel letters  Е, Ё, Ю, Я ‘independent’. In other words, not any soft-indicating letter out of these four can ‘influence’ the consonant it follows when separated from it by the soft sign. The consonant softness is marked by the soft sign 'Ь', and the vowel following the soft sign should be pronounced in its alphabetical version, i.e. ‘Е’ as [й'э], ‘Ё’ as [й'о], ‘Ю’ as [й'у] and ‘Я’ as [й'а]. For example, ‘лье’ is [л'Й'э], ‘бьём’ is [б'Й'ом], ‘пью’ is [п'Й'у], ‘скамья́’ is [скам'-Й'а́].

It’s OK. No questions here. But what if the soft sign is followed by ‘И’ or by ‘О’❓ I mean, ‘И’ in its alphabetical variant is not [й'и] but [и], and ‘О’ is not [й'о], it’s [о]❗

Interestingly, in words with the letter combinations ЬИ, ЬО, the soft sign (apart from its soft-indicating function) also denotes the appearance of the additional phoneme [й'], or [j]. For example,

👉 -ЬИ-: ‘муравьи́’ (plural from ‘мураве́й’) is pronounced as [му-рав'-Й'и́], ‘ручьи’ (plural from ‘руче́й’) as [руч'-Й'и́], корм для ‘свиньи́’ (genitive singular from ‘свинья́’) as [св'ин'-Й'и́], etc.

👉 -ЬО-: ‘компаньо́н’ is pronounced as [кам-пан'-Й'о́н], ‘батальо́н’ as [ба-тал'-Й'о́н], ‘шампиньо́ны’ as [шам-п'ин'-Й'о́-ны], etc.

If you are interested, you can find the description of all functions performed by the soft sign here ⤵️

Part 1: 

Part 2: 

Part 3:

Thank you.

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