Let's chat about stress and... feet
Revision as of 17:39, 16 July 2011 by Natbrown (Text replace - "Do not" to "Don't")
Exercises with the arms and legs ↔ Упражнения с руками и ногами
Учительница: It is time to work out with your legs.
Ученик: I suppose I am going to have to pick up an object with my feet now?
Учительница: Well, not exactly. You are going to have to pick up that word for feet: the word for both feet and legs in Russian is но́ги. Your socks will do as an object. Anyway it is mostly going to be everyday kinds of activities like standing, walking and not to forget, talking. Follow our Russian video Русские падежи, урок 2 so you do not get lost and do not rush. More haste less speed. Don't waste your time learning things about Russian, learn Russian instead.
Ученик: It is you who always wants to go into explanations. Not me.
Attention ↔ Внимание
Where the stress is in a Russian word ↔ Где стоит ударение в русском слове
Учительница: Это нога́...
Ученик: Нога́? It is o, but Masha pronounced it more like u in up.
Учительница: Correct. That is the way it should be pronounced, but try comparing its pronunciation with the first o in the English word comfort. In thе word нога́ the stress falls on the last а́.
Ученик: What is this word stress?
Учительница: Compare the way you pronounce words present and desert in these sentences:
The different meanings of these words are achieved by changing the position of the stress from first e to the last e within the words present and desert.
The stress is as important in Russian as the length of a certain vowels in English, compare: beet and bit; peak and pick; pot and port; shot and short. In contrast to English, the length of a vowel in Russian has no role to play: ногa, но-o-o-oгa-a-а, pука, pу-у-у-укa-a-а, — are the same words in Russian.
The stress in Russian is even more important than the length of a vowel in English: in the case of any misunderstanding it may bring confusion not to the individual word, but the whole sentence. Это нога́ и это нога́, а это но́ги.
Ученик: Но́ги. Why?
Учительница: The root of the word нога́ is ног, its ending is a: it shows that this noun belongs to the feminine gender and is singular. In the English word leg there is no gender ending, because of the absence of genders in modern English.
Ученик: I can understand so far. But now in но́ги it is o for nor.
Учительница: The stress has moved back one syllable and the vowel o undergoes changes in pronunciation as a result.
Ученик: When Maya said на другой ноге she pronounced o more like u in up again!
Учительница: Now it is the word ноге́, prepositional singular for нога́ That is why o is unstressed and pronounced as the first u in up.
Ученик: How do I know where the stress should be?
Учительница: I am sorry to tell you that you won't immediately, you will discover it only through trial and error, in other words, practice.
Russians themselves are not always sure that they are placing the stress correctly, particularly on foreign words which came into Russian not so long ago. In some foreign words, it is even considered correct to pronounce the unstressed o the same way as the stressed one: радио (radio), оазис (oasis).
Whole books are written about this subject by Russians and for Russians. Nationwide TV discussions and seminars are held on this theme year after year. The correct (accepted, right) stress is a distinct mark of an education in Russia. The law of Russian society says that the first thing any educated person must know, is how to apply stress correctly. Russians laugh at those who apply stress incorrectly and they can also dislike someone just because the person doesn't place it correctly.
Ученик: Dislike? Maybe I shouldn't bother with learning this language at all.
Учительница: Don’t you worry. You are going to be in a privileged position. Russians are so proud of the fact that their stresses almost always fall on the most unpredictable places, that they graciously concede to you as a foreigner and wouldn't be too hard on you. If you ask them for help they will be delighted and generously correct you.
If it is any relief to you, let me tell you that Russians have jokes about the way all their leaders spoke. Those who made them about Stalin and Beria have done time for it, under Khrushchev and Brezhnev it was not such a serious offence. Even Gorbachev’s southern accent was the subject of jokes.
Ученик: All right, so I have no chance to know where the stress should be. The stress is very important and in the case of the word нога́ it moves back one syllable но́ги sometimes and sometimes it doesn't move, like in the word ноге́ (dative or prepositional case). Oh.
When I was doing the exercises with my hands, the stress moved as well but then the sound у in pука́ did not change as much as the sound o in нога́.
Ученик: Is there is any vowel which is always pronounced the same?
Учительница: The letter ё is always stressed and always pronounced the same. But unfortunately it is usually written e except in dictionaries, other clever books and Wikipedia, because strictly speaking it isn't considered to be a separate letter of the Russian alphabet.
Ученик: It isn't much of a help, is it?
Учительница: I did my best to make a table for you that makes some sense. Read Stress and Russian vowels ↔ Ударение и русские гласные.