15 votes

What is the Cyrillic alphabet?

9 comments

  1. [8]
    ThatFanficGuy
    Link
    Fun fact: the letter Њ is a composite of Н (which makes the sound [n]) and Ь (which palatalizes – read: softens – the previous consonant's sound). The latter is called the "soft sign". Also fun...

    Fun fact: the letter Њ is a composite of Н (which makes the sound [n]) and Ь (which palatalizes – read: softens – the previous consonant's sound). The latter is called the "soft sign".

    Also fun fact: the Abkhaz Cyrillic letter Ҕ makes the same sound, [ɣ], as the Cyrillic letter Г in Ukrainian. In Russian, Г makes a hard [g]. (This "sliding" of the Ukrainian Г is the reason many places use the Latin H when transcribed into English: it sounds that much like like the voiceless [h] than the voiced [g].)

    If you want to understand what these sounds are exactly, there's an interactive board of the International Phonetic Alphabet. The IPA is used to transcribe sounds of the languages of the world independently of the script of said languages. Click on each sound to hear it in different positions: after a vowel, before a vowel, and between two vowels.

    9 votes
    1. [2]
      Adys
      Link Parent
      It gets stupid! The cyrillic name for Anna in Ukrainian is (sometimes) Ганна, which SHOULD transliterate as "Hanna", but LEGALLY transliterates as "Ganna". I know an Anna who isn't particularly...

      Also fun fact: the Abkhaz Cyrillic letter Ҕ makes the same sound, [ɣ], as the Cyrillic letter Г in Ukrainian. In Russian, Г makes a hard [g]. (This "sliding" of the Ukrainian Г is the reason many places use the Latin H when transcribed into English: it sounds that much like like the voiceless [h] than the voiced [g].)

      It gets stupid! The cyrillic name for Anna in Ukrainian is (sometimes) Ганна, which SHOULD transliterate as "Hanna", but LEGALLY transliterates as "Ganna". I know an Anna who isn't particularly happy about this.

      In Greek, Gamma (Γ) represents /ɣ/ or sometimes /ʝ/ and in fact, its lowercase counterpart is γ which.. yep, that's a "y". In french, we call that letter "I-grec", or "Greek 'I'". Of course greek I is Eta (Η), which in cyrillic became... /n/. Oof.

      As for Ukrainian, there is a hard Г letter: Ґ. But it's very rarely used according to Ґанна. Er, Ганна.

      Would you believe that latin G actually does still come from Γ? It just so happens that in roman latin, it was used as a hard /k/. "I don't remember seeing a gamma in the latin alphabet", you say? Yeah, they kind of softened it into a curve... making it look a lot like a "C". Oops. A, B, C. Αlpha, Βeta, Γamma.
      And of course when "C" got its "accent" later on, transforming it into a "G", when it started representing far too many sounds to keep track of.

      I find it amusing that Ґ and G accidentally got almost the same history on the east and west of Greece.

      10 votes
      1. ThatFanficGuy
        Link Parent
        sir you are upstaging me right now Funny enough, Russian also refers to the letter Y (the Latin one, as used in e.g. mathematics) as "игрек", which I suspect is pronounced quite like its French...

        sir you are upstaging me right now

        In french, we call that letter "I-grec", or "Greek 'I'".

        Funny enough, Russian also refers to the letter Y (the Latin one, as used in e.g. mathematics) as "игрек", which I suspect is pronounced quite like its French equivalent.

        6 votes
    2. [5]
      blitz
      Link Parent
      Do you know why the opposite holds as well? A lot of English words/names use Г in Russian where we would use H in English. Harry Potter -> Гарри Поттер Hamburger -> Гамбургер Robin Hood -> Робин...

      Do you know why the opposite holds as well? A lot of English words/names use Г in Russian where we would use H in English.

      Harry Potter -> Гарри Поттер
      Hamburger -> Гамбургер
      Robin Hood -> Робин Гуд

      It really confuses me when Russian has Х which seems much closer in sound

      5 votes
      1. ThatFanficGuy
        Link Parent
        The Russian language has a long tradition of adapting foreign languages to the Russian speaker's tongue during translation. For a native Russian speaker, it would be easier to comprehend and say...

        The Russian language has a long tradition of adapting foreign languages to the Russian speaker's tongue during translation. For a native Russian speaker, it would be easier to comprehend and say "вокзал" than "воксхол" (which is how you would transcribe Vauxhall in Russian).

        It would be a straightforward affair to simply transliterate a foreign personal name. It is, however, not how languages work, at least up until fairly recently. Bear in mind that a particular tsar of Russia was not named Nicholas II from birth: his name was Nikolai II, yet his name was "adapted" to the English audience to make it seem that much less intimidating. (Human history is really that of conquering the unknown.) The same applies to the Russian language.

        In Russian, the last name of the famous German physicist is pronounced /ein-SHTEIN/, while in English it's /AIN-stain/. In German, it's /AIN-shtain/.

        For what it's worth, I find it easier to pronounce "гамбургер" than I do "хамбургер". It feels like that much more effort. So my guess is: the translators figured the same went along the path of least resistance. (Which was likely there because the the city from which the dish get its name is also called Гамбург in Russian, even though the German pronunciation of Hamburg clearly favors the [h] sound.)

        4 votes
      2. [3]
        Adys
        Link Parent
        If I’ve learned anything in learning my previous four languages it’s that how close two sounds are to each other is in the ear of the beholder. For example the English “th” (as in “there”) to me...

        It really confuses me when Russian has Х which seems much closer in sound

        If I’ve learned anything in learning my previous four languages it’s that how close two sounds are to each other is in the ear of the beholder.

        For example the English “th” (as in “there”) to me is closer to the French “V” (Victor) than to “Z” (Zero). Yet to most other French the opposite is true. And it’s true that the tongue positions are closer for th/z but that’s what leads to that horrible horrible French accent. And to Dutch people, they hear it as “D”.

        Greek and English both mark a difference between the two sounds, eg Beta (th) and Delta (v).

        I would agree with you that Harry is closer to харри than гарри, but within the mouth that’s not actually true. Who knows what native Russians are hearing.

        3 votes
        1. [2]
          blitz
          Link Parent
          That's funny, my dad immigrated to the US from Moscow in his 30s, and during the rest of his life he never learned to pronounce the English "th" sound, instead approximating it with "Z", ("zere").

          For example the English “th” (as in “there”) to me is closer to the French “V” (Victor) than to “Z” (Zero).

          That's funny, my dad immigrated to the US from Moscow in his 30s, and during the rest of his life he never learned to pronounce the English "th" sound, instead approximating it with "Z", ("zere").

          1 vote
          1. ThatFanficGuy
            Link Parent
            Which is how all Russians would approximate it. Despite the Greek origins of Cyrillic (and the presence of a theta derivative as a letter of the alphabet up to a certain point), there's no close...

            Which is how all Russians would approximate it.

            Despite the Greek origins of Cyrillic (and the presence of a theta derivative as a letter of the alphabet up to a certain point), there's no close approximation of the voiceless dental fricative [θ]. The closest we get is the letter Ф, also of Greek origin, representing the [f] sound, which is a voiceless labiodental fricative, and it's not close enough to replace [θ] in a Russian native speaker's English pronunciation.

            2 votes
  2. cmccabe
    Link
    I missed posting this on Cyrillic Alphabet Day, May 24th, but it’s a fun (although short) read even if late.

    I missed posting this on Cyrillic Alphabet Day, May 24th, but it’s a fun (although short) read even if late.

    2 votes