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Although it is sometimes taught that there is no soft ж in Russian, in fact this is not so and many Russians pronounce a soft ж in the word дрожжи.

What other Russian words contain a ж which is pronounced soft in standard or at least common pronunciation? And what are some good rules for remembering when a ж should be pronounced soft?

  • Дожди used to be pronounced [Дожжьи], but it is no longer widespread either. – alamar Nov 12 '18 at 12:42
  • @alamar [citation needed] – OmarL Nov 13 '18 at 15:53
  • @Wilson ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/… – alamar Nov 13 '18 at 16:45
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Apparently palatalization of [ж] MAY occur in cases of its phonetic gemination [жж] due to assimilation of an adjacent phoneme of the word root. In all such cases this adjacent phoneme can alternate with [ж] in other roots as well.

Other such words are:

1) дожди (rains) - which can be pronounced [дажжи] due to assimilation of [д] able to alternate with [ж] in other roots as well: сад - сажать, сидеть - сижу etc.

2) подожди (wait!) - [падажжи] for reason as in 1)

3) позже (later) - [пожже] due to assimilation of [з] able to alternate with [ж] in other roots as well: лазить - лажу, возить - вожу etc.

4) вожжи (reins) - this is conventional spelling, which can also have the form of возжи because its root is essentially воз just like in the verb возить mentioned above, so the reason for gemination [жж] is as in 3)
4а) also sing. вожжа - which can be pronounced as [вожжя]

5) жжёт (burns) - this is conventional spelling, where the gemination [жж] occurs due to assimilation of the root phoneme [г] which features in such cognates as зажиГать, ожоГ and which is able to alternate with [ж] in other roots as well: бог - божиться, могу - может, лог - ложбина, рог - рожок, друг - дружить etc.

Now the gemination [жж] in дрожжи, which is conventional spelling like жжёт, can't be explained by reference to its root or other Russian words, because the word is unique. However it can be explained by reference to its etymology and equivalents in other Slavic languages

Происходит от праслав. *drozga, от кот. в числе прочего произошли: ст.-слав. дрождиѩ мн. (Син. Пс.), укр. дрíжджi, дрíщi, болг. дро́ждие, сербохорв. дро̀жда ж., словенск. drôzga «отвар солода», чешск. droždí «дрожжи», словацк. droždie мн., польск. drożdże, в.-луж. droždźe, н.-луж. droždźeje.

Apparently it derives from the root дрожд or дрозг. Whatever the case, all д, з and г can (as shown above) assimilate into or alternate with ж to fashion gemination дроЖЖи.


Дажжи (дожди) и падажжи (подожди) are different from the rest in this list in that palatalized pronunciation of [жж] in them is the only option. Their penultimate phoneme [д] is palatalized in the normative pronunciation due to [и], so after its assimilation into [ж] the palatalization is simply kept. The other words allow for alternative pronunciation, either with or without palatalization.

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  • Thanks for this. Now I'm wondering whether there are any cases of geminated /ж/ without part of the prolonged sound having an association with another phoneme that can in other forms of the word alternate with /ж/. – ruffle Nov 12 '18 at 15:21
  • @ruffle i don't think there're any – Баян Купи-ка Nov 12 '18 at 15:37
  • I'm accepting this answer because there is so much well-communicated information in it. But strictly I asked whether any words other than дрожжи are commonly pronounced with soft ж. If I had to guess I would say perhaps вожжи should go on the list, but I've never heard a soft ж in езжу, позже, or дожди even if reliable sources say it can be used in these words. Unfortunately I haven't got any native Russian speakers around at the moment whom I can ask! – ruffle Nov 13 '18 at 18:55
  • @ruffle well since i'm a native speaker just like the rest of the contributors, you can ask me in particular, all words i've listed i heard pronounced with palatalized Ж, including езжу, which i overlooked, дожди and подожди i myself pronounce this way when i'm lazy to spell it out fully... i don't think though that any of these words are commonly pronounced this way, it's a matter of speaker's idiosyncrasy, дрожжи i personally prefer as дрожжы – Баян Купи-ка Nov 13 '18 at 19:56
  • It's accent related pronunciation. Russians from Moscow and related region usually say like Баян Купи-ка written. Russians from Saint Petersburg or North-West Russia don't use soft ж at all. – Andrey Chistyakov May 21 '19 at 16:49
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The Russian Wikipedia lists the following words:

  • до[ж’ж’]и (дожди)
  • дро[ж’ж’]и (дрожжи)
  • по[ж’ж’]е (позже)
  • е[ж’ж’]у (езжу)
  • ви[ж’ж’]ять (визжать)
  • дребе[ж’ж’]ять (дребезжать)
  • бре[ж’ж’]ить (брезжить)

We don't hear much of the soft Ж these days. You are more likely to hear a hard Ж in the words above and [жд] in дожди.

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The most common of such words that is also commonly mispronounced is дождь. Often even native speakers pronounce it with a soft д at the end which is not supposed to be. Here’s how it’s pronounced in a famous song from 1990s, here’s a standard pronunciation

A less common word is вожжи, a horse tack.

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