This is part of the phonetics class but I can not find any information about this in the book, the hand outs or on any other electronic resource. It is somewhat narrow field (question). I am curious what "папа и баба" would translate into Russian graphemes?

  • Could you please explain what do you mean by "grapheme"? I suppose that the answer is "no difference at all". Commented Mar 14, 2016 at 4:11
  • GRAPHEMES are individual letters and groups of letters that represent single phonemes, like the “s” and the “oo” in “spoon”. readingdoctor.com.au/phonemes-graphemes-letters-word-burger
    – ева
    Commented Mar 14, 2016 at 4:21
  • I was thinking exactly the same what you wrote.
    – ева
    Commented Mar 14, 2016 at 4:24
  • 1
    You see, Russian writing is much more easy, than English. My answer is not 100% accurate (there are lots of exceptions), but it's good enough for the beginners. Here is the rule: no graphemes! You see the letter, you read the sound. There are significant differences only for consonants preceding letters "е, ё, и, ь, ъ, ю, я". Commented Mar 14, 2016 at 5:06
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    @ева: I don't think the authors of that site understand well what grapheme is. A grapheme, by definition, is the smallest unit of a writing system, which "oo" is not for English. They don't have to represent a single phoneme (or any number of phonemes at all). What they call a grapheme, is in fact a multigraph: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multigraph_(orthography)
    – Quassnoi
    Commented Mar 14, 2016 at 12:36

2 Answers 2


Папа и баба translate into a total of 11 graphemes (of which 5 are distinct: п, а, и, б, space) in modern Russian writing, П and п being allographs of the same grapheme.

If we would have used a Church Slavonic written rendition of the same phrase:

Па́па и҆ ба́ба

, that would have been a total of 14 graphemes, 7 distinct: п, а, и, б, space, acute accent, psili.


папа and баба translate in graphemes as папа and баба. There ara no graphemes --or if you want, the words are the graphemes. For the phonetics is as complicated languages which use them (incidentally English is the only language I know, that presents graphemes. German, French, Spanish, Italian, etc. don't).

If Russian phonetics is unfamiliar to you, it might then be helpful to consider lerning IPA instead. In particular, if your aim is to learn another language after/together with Russian.

  • The question was a two part question. IPA and Cyrillic grapheme. I have managed the IPA part easily. I have major difficulty understanding why someone asks something about something that is hardly documented but I guess that is how things are when you hire people that are no real teachers. The graphemes are not even covered in her own hand outs.
    – ева
    Commented Mar 14, 2016 at 10:08
  • @ева If it was a two-part question, you should make that explicit in the body of the question. There, IPA is not mentioned. Graphemes are useless. Even in English, they are the worst alternative.
    – c.p.
    Commented Mar 14, 2016 at 11:33

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