Why is "нет" pronounced "nyet" instead of "net"? I was informed that the Cyrillic letter 'е' is equivalent to the Latin letter 'e'. Is this incorrect? If so, what is the equivalent of 'e' if one exists?
'Е' Can be pronounced in several ways, depending on position, stress and previous letter
Basically, Russian vowels comes in pairs. First are simple vowels
- 'А' as in u in run
- 'O' as a in all
- 'У' as u in bull
- 'И' as ee in cheese
- 'Э' as a in cat
- 'Ы' with no direct analog.
There are several derived vowels
- Э - Е
- У - Ю
- О - Ё
- А - Я
- (technically Ы - И are often paired, but this relation is incomplete)
These derived vowels are pronounced differently in different positions.
At the beginning of the word, after 'Ь' and 'Ъ' and after other vowel they are prononced as
- Е - ЙЭ
- Ю - ЙУ
- Ё - ЙО
- Я - ЙА
- И can be sometimes pronounced as йи or й, but very rarely.
however, after сonsonants they are threated differently. First, they are pronounced as their basic vowel. Second previous consonant is palatalized (some consonants are always palatalized and И is still pronounced as И and has pretty quirks after ш/ж, but the base is this).
But that's not all, we have something to blow your mind: reduction. Every vowel if unstressed is reduced.
- О (and O part of Ё) & A (and A part of Я) are reduced to really short 'a'
- Э (and Э part of E) & И are reduced to really short 'и'
- in fast speech most vowels in unstressed positions may be reduced to some common sound I doubt I can describe.
There are several inconsistencies, like жи/ши is pronounced ЖЫ/ШЫ , but never written. Another complication is the Ё often typed as Е and without context it is often impossible to guess which one is really here.
The fact that the Russian 'е' is an equivalent of the Latin letter 'e' does not mean that they should necessarily correspond to the same sound. Pronunciation of 'е' depends on the preceding consonant: 'е' "softens" most consonants (б, в, г, д, з, к, л, м, н, п, р, с, т, ф, х, ч. щ), producing the
ʲe̞ sound not found in English, as in "нет" (no) or "день" (day). When 'е' follows one of the remaining consonants (ж, ц, ш), it makes a sound that is similar to the Latin
e, as in "цель" (aim), "шея" (neck) or "жесть" (tin-plate).
"нет" is NEVER pronounced as "nyet". There is no "y" sound there. It is pronounced as "net" but with soft "n".
There is so called close-mid front unrounded vowel, this is the sound you are exactly talking about, to put it simple it is 'e' :)
In Russian there are two letters you can use for indicating this sound,
э. As many other letters, letter 'е' is used for indicating different set of phonemes. In the beginning of the word 'e', for example, actually stands for 'je', after consonants it stands, almost always, for [e] as well, it's just that the preceding vowel is palatalised. Exceptions are
ц plus the majority of foreign words (e.g.
This is not that simple, since there are lot of words of foreign origin obeying "normal rule": checkout for example
я sometimes indicate that the consonants before them are palatalized.