My Russian teacher, claims that when pronouncing "часá" it should be pronounced as: "чi-сa" with an "i" instead of an "a". I have looked around and it appears that the pronunciation hinges around: "cha-sa". You are native Russian speakers and could perhaps tell me what is correct and what is a myth.

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    That depends on stress. Unstressed vowel (as in полчасá) is reduced, stressed one (as in и чáса не прошло) not. – Matt Oct 7 '15 at 9:14
  • Большое спасибо. – Ana Oct 7 '15 at 17:39

Your teacher is absolutely right. According to the rules of pronunciation of the Russian unstressed vowels,

the letter a after ч and щ in an unstressed syllable is pronounced as the letter и, that is as [ɪ].

Have a look:

часы́ - [t͡ɕɪˈsɨ] 'clock'

часовóй - [t͡ɕɪsɐˈvoj] 'sentry'

щавéль - [ɕːɪˈvʲelʲ] 'sorrel, dock (plant)'

счастли́вый - [ɕːɪˈslʲivɨj] 'happy'

That is why the word часá is pronounced as [t͡ɕɪˈsa].

  • So a majority of the references out there are completely obsolete including my "russian textbook". – Ana Oct 7 '15 at 9:13
  • Совершенно верно. Можно послушать машинный голосовой синтез translate.yandex.ru/… Синтез, как известно, составляется статистически, но основе анализа большого массива непроизвольной речи. По этой же причине, непроизвольности-нарочитости, сайты типа Forvo это зло. – Avtokod Oct 7 '15 at 10:05
  • Большой спасибо! – Ana Oct 7 '15 at 10:23
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    Your teacher seems to be right, but it depends on the "dialect". Some people articulate this as "a", some - close to "i". But never-never try to pronnounce a clear "i". It's something average between "a" and "i". I am an urban native speaker. – Paul Oct 7 '15 at 10:43
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    @Ana it is not that the teacher from some dialect area. It is that the teachers are taught to use this way of instruction. When I was learning English I also was taught by teachers a lot or wrong stuff. I personally would distinguish чисы from часы in speach and never pronounce it as чисы either. It is even more likely that I would pronounce it as "чесы". – Anixx Oct 7 '15 at 16:47

Do not think of a vowel reduction as simply a vowel "replace". Honestly, every time when I see a phonetic transcription, I can't believe that it's the same what I speak.

Actually, the rule of reduction is really simple: speak neither чi-са, nor ча-са, nor че-са, but ч-са, where the dash stands for "some noise" left between spelling ч and с. No speaker really cares if it's closer to one vowel or another. Just do it quick and never stress.

  • «Иканье … в настоящее время является орфоэпической нормой русского литературного языка наряду с допустимым еканьем». – Yellow Sky Oct 7 '15 at 10:27
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    @YellowSky Норма нормой, а живой язык - это живой язык. Все мы периодически и "екаем", и "окаем". Человек же просто изучает русский язык как иностранный, а не готовится работать диктором на телевидении. – Matt Oct 7 '15 at 10:43
  • То есть, вы хотите сказать, что, изучая язык как иностранный, не нужно учить его норму? – Yellow Sky Oct 7 '15 at 11:13
  • @YellowSky Я думаю, что нормы бывают разные. А в том, что касается произношения, излишняя близость к норме вообще вредна - будешь выглядеть или как советский диктор, или как американский шпион :-) – Matt Oct 7 '15 at 11:50
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    То, что вы говорите, это то же самое, как если бы американец советовал русскому не учиться говорить «going to», «want to» и «let me», а настаивал бы на том, что все говорят «gonna», «wanna» и «lemme», и так и нужно говорить, а если говорить по норме, то его за ненормального будут принимать. На самом деле всё зависит от приоритетов: если человек собирается общаться только с гопотой, то ему, естественно, норму знать не надо, но если человек собирается общаться с по-настоящему образованными людьми, то именно норму ему изучать и следует. – Yellow Sky Oct 7 '15 at 12:12

As a native speaker, I can assure you it definitely is pronounced as "cha-sa". And I really can't pinpoint the myth origin.


Considering that a in ча can be both stressed and unstressed, it really is pronounced differently depending on stress. But it's still is pronounced as a, not as I. It's just less opened and bright.

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    You can't assure me - I've been studying Russian for four years and I have yet to hear anyone say cha-sá. I've only ever heard chi-sá, chi-sóv, etc. – CocoPop Oct 7 '15 at 13:17
  • @CocoPop this synthesizer speaks a and it sounds totally correct. translate.yandex.ru/… – Anixx Oct 7 '15 at 16:40
  • I can second that one. The yandex must be used by a lot of russians/russian speaking users so it has a much better selection of words and pronounciations. There are only a few minor words that I run into that are not fully pronounced but the yandex one is the best so far. I have used many others and they are a total disaster compared to yandex. I also got the impression that the yandex is much "cleaner" pronounciation. – Ana Oct 7 '15 at 16:52
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    I personally think that @user4419802 has the most accurate answer. – kaedvann Oct 7 '15 at 16:57
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    @Anixx - Your synthesizer says [t͡ɕɪˈsɨ], and that's totally correct. – Yellow Sky Oct 7 '15 at 19:29

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