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Generally voiced consonants become unvoiced when they're at the end of a word.

д is pronounced т

б is pronounced п

в is pronounced ф

г is pronounced к

ж is pronounced ш

з is pronounced с

Are there any exceptions to this rule?

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  • 1
    Бог (god) is one of the exceptions. The final г is pronounced x. – Olga Dec 1 '17 at 16:26
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    It's not an exception to the rule. It's a remnant of the fricative "г" the word Бог used to be pronounced with. To this day some people will say "Слава Боhу" (with a fricative "г"), but not "Слава Боху". – Avi Gordon Dec 1 '17 at 18:04
  • I think it's an exception and a very interesting one. Thank you, Olga. I didn't know that. – CocoPop Dec 1 '17 at 20:43
  • Isn't the final /b/ in чтоб also always kept voiced? – CocoPop Dec 1 '17 at 20:44
  • @Olga, it's an exception but not to this rule. As Avi Gordon has mentioned, the devoicing rule applies to бог like it applies to any other word. – Sergey Slepov Dec 2 '17 at 21:58
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Yes, if the next word starts with a voiced consonant (of those you listed), then the final consonant also becomes voiced, even if it was unvoiced: кот был, код был both have [д], while кот стал, код стал both have [т] before [с]. This only happens in continuous speech, when there is no pauses between the two words. See Final-obstruent devoicing.

Voicing and devoicing happens not only at word boundaries, but also at morpheme boundaries. E.g. in посадка the Д sounds like a Т and сделка is pronounced with an initial [з-]. See Оглушение согласных.

Also, if you want to 'spell out' a word, you could say e.g. Глеб with the voiced Б. This is the most common way of explaining how something is written, rather than spelling out individual letters.

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  • for кот был it's an exaggeration, i heard some people do talk like this, but it's personal idiosyncrasy, originally voiced consonants may restore their voicing but the unvoiced ones never become voiced, if they do it's an accent – Баян Купи-ка Nov 27 '17 at 22:00
  • @БаянКупи-ка, see e.g. this. – Sergey Slepov Nov 27 '17 at 22:54
  • See also russian.stackexchange.com/q/11949/2104 – Sergey Slepov Nov 27 '17 at 23:17
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    I'd say that in кот был 'т' becomes a bit more voiced, but not as voiced as 'д' would be. And as for me, in other cases (including ones in listed example), unvoiced consonants are still less voiced than voiced ones, even if their voice is raised by their neighbours. – Alissa Nov 28 '17 at 13:06
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    @Trey, please raise a separate question. That's how this site works. I'll be easier for others to find. – Sergey Slepov Dec 2 '17 at 21:54
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For more precision, we can say that obstruents (like the consonants you mention) devoice; but resonants (м, н, л, р) are exceptions in that they don't devoice in final position: so там, он, вал, and вор all end in voiced consonants.

That's admittedly a bit of a simplification - Jaye Padgett has a paper where he mentions disagreement about the degree of devoicing of resonants, in section 2.3. But my sense is that's the overall tendency.

В is kind of marginal in that it does devoice in final position, but it doesn't cause voicing of a preceding consonant: свой [svoj], not *[zvoj].

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  • Very interesting. Funny enough, in Polish /v/ itself devoices after a voiceless consonant: twarz [tfash] świąt [shfiont] twój [tfuj]. (sorry, I can't access the IPA at the moment). – CocoPop Dec 1 '17 at 20:51

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