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I've heard words whose endings contain voiced consonants such as год (and others that I cannot remember off the top of my head), and these consonants are pronounced unvoiced (e.g., "гот").

Another letter I've heard is Б as П.

Perhaps this applies to all words/letters or most (>¾)?

Sorry that I could not think of more than one example.

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  • 1
  • I'd add that it's not always so. Sometimes in some words the consonants can still be pronounced as voiced or half-voiced-half-unvoiced, it depends on the manner of speech of the speaker. However, simply trying to force them being voiced explicitly is an awkward way to talk signifying maybe rancor or another alerted emotional state. So don't be surprised if you encounter any of these IRL from time to time.
    – noncom
    Mar 29 '16 at 11:28
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    @noncom: this is called "incomplete neutralization"; I found a paper on it here: sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0095447014000175
    – sumelic
    Mar 29 '16 at 15:55
  • @sumelic indeed, I've read the summary on the paper - it's pretty much that. Good find :)
    – noncom
    Mar 30 '16 at 18:13
19

This is the picture every Russian learns in 1st grade (7 years old) This is the picture every Russian learns in 1st grade (7 years old)

Each consonant from the top row is pronunced unvoiced (substituted by letter from bottom row), if it's located at the end of closed syllable* (such as the consonant end of the word). We never say a voiced consonant in the word ending, and for children it's hard to write a word "год", because it does sound "гот". So we use another word form to check. For "год" it's "годы". For "гот", it's "готы". In open syllable, there are no doubts, each consonant is written as it sounds.

Here are some samples:

http://te.zavantag.com/tw_files2/urls_4/6/d-5436/5436_html_6b06cc3b.png

http://900igr.net/datas/russkij-jazyk/Bukvy-i-zvuki-russkogo-jazyka/0009-009-B-p-sugro-d-t-obe-g-k-utju-v-f-koroka-z-s-ukaka-zh-sh.jpg

Furthermore, unvoicing consonants is so natural for Russians, that we have significant difficulties when learning to pronounce English "dog", "red" and etc. "Dok" and "ret" is the default option, hard to overcome for the beginners.

*Note: general "end of closed syllable" rule is good only for the beginners. Actually, not every closed syllable has the final consonant devoiced, if the next consonant is voiced there occurs no devoicing, like in "годный", "грабли", "бодрый", etc. The devoicing doesn't always occur even at the end of the word, e.g. "год и один месяц" – here "год" is pronounced as "год", not like "гот", the rule is: the devoicing occurs before a pause or before a voiceless consonant.

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  • I would like to add, that usually to verify is taken the plural of the same word. For example: "поезд"-"поезда", "раб"-"рабы" etc.
    – Ken Bekov
    Mar 29 '16 at 4:14
  • Agreed, we used to do so, in the 1st grade. Mar 29 '16 at 4:27
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    "Located at the end of closed syllable" - you should rewrite that, not every closed syllable has the final consonant devoiced, if the next consonant is voiced there occurs no devoicing, like in годный, грабли, бодрый, etc. The devoicing doesn't always occur even at the end of the word, e.g. год и один месяц – here год is pronounced as год, not like гот, the rule is: the devoicing occurs before a pause.
    – Yellow Sky
    Mar 29 '16 at 10:36
  • Agreed, please suggest your correction. Mar 29 '16 at 10:39
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    The rule is: the devoicing occurs before a pause or before a voiceless consonant.
    – Yellow Sky
    Mar 29 '16 at 10:40
1

It's worth keeping in mind that unlike most other consonants in Russian, м, н, л, and р generally remain voiced before a pause, or before a voiceless consonant.

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