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Why is "До" sometimes said as "da" (in 'До скорого') but sometimes as "do" (as in 'до свидания'). Is there a rule?

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    it's not - in both cases "до" is pronounced as "da" but can be pronounced closer to "do" when pronounced slowly.
    – shabunc
    Sep 10, 2017 at 17:04

3 Answers 3

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The two-degree vowel reduction model ignores word boundaries for prepositions. In до ско́рого, the preposition is treated as a pre-emphatic syllable, and so becomes [dɐ]; in до свида́ния, it's a plain unstressed syllable, hence [də].

It can carry stress, ['do], when semantically emphasised: факты надо было проверять до публикации "[you] should've fact-checked before publishing".

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The rule is simple - unstressed o in modern Russian is not pronounced as [o] but rather as [a] or [ɐ] or [ə] - well, roughly speaking as "a". It's a special case of vowel reduction in Russian and this special case even has a separate name - it's called "аканье".

The other answers provided gave a nice overview of when it can still be pronounced closer to "до" - but it will be an excusable simplification - at least for beginners - to stick to "o" -> "a" rule.

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До is pronounced exactly the same in 'до ско́рого' and 'до свида́ния'. As @Nikolay_Ershov already mentioned, prepositions are normally treated as part of the following word, as far as stress and vowel reduction are concerned.

However, in a deliberately slow and clear speech (as that of a teacher) prepositions can be singled out and bear stress of their own: до́ свида́ния. Then до will sound like the stressed [do] and not a reduced [də].

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    > До is pronounced exactly the same in 'до ско́рого' and 'до свида́ния'. — In southern pronunciation, yes, I think they're the same; but not in the central one, which is the pronunciation that's taught and considered normative. Sep 10, 2017 at 16:59
  • @NikolayErshov, I think you refer to the distinction between the 1st degree and the 2nd degree of reduction in a 3-degree model? [о/ɐ/ə] ? Sep 10, 2017 at 19:15
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    Yes. That means they don't sound "exactly" the same, does it? Sep 10, 2017 at 19:42

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