I have been studying the different effects that happen to vowels when a preceding consonant becomes palatalized and i am having trouble figuring out the exact sound of и when there is a palatalized consonant preceeding it.

Examples: клавиатура and биржа , for both of these words they have the same IPA in the area of the и, yet sound completely different. Биржа = hard ee and клавиатура , soft e that sounds like клавеатура

IPA of each : https://ru.m.wiktionary.org/wiki/клавиатура


IPA System: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Help:IPA/Russian

  • I have just found out that they do not have the same IPA but for клавиатура i cannot find the thing they put for the I in the IPA system
    – Almonds812
    Commented Jun 9, 2019 at 3:52

2 Answers 2


Strictly formally

in биржа [и] sounds like it does in beer.

in клавиатура [и] sounds like it does in video.

The difference you perceive might stem from the vowel's being unstressed. In two these words one is stressed while another isn't.

Technically in isolation they sound identically. But without stress vowels tend to get reduced so their pronunciation is less distinct. The only formal rule for reduction of [и] in unstressed position deals with its reduction into [ы] which doesn't apply here.

I will agree that in клавиатура [и] gravitates towards [иэ] and in fact this is a syllable susceptible to mistake in writing of elementary and middle school children. Google lists 18,700 occurrances of клавЕатура.

It lists Бержа as well but almost exlusively capitalized and not in the sense of stock exchange.

  • So what is the rule here? If и is stressed ee and if not it will sound somewhat like ы/i
    – Almonds812
    Commented Jun 9, 2019 at 7:16
  • @Almonds812 there's no rule for this specific case, i guess you don't need to focus on unstressed И too much, making sure you get the stressed part correctly, but at the same time keeping in mind that it's И and not E or Э... and you may have misread my remark, the reduction into Ы does not apply here, it's for other cases Commented Jun 9, 2019 at 7:49
  • So its correct that a stressed и is always ee?
    – Almonds812
    Commented Jun 9, 2019 at 7:50
  • And unstressed is just some mix inbetween?
    – Almonds812
    Commented Jun 9, 2019 at 7:50
  • @Almonds812 yes, i think that's the right way to look at it Commented Jun 9, 2019 at 7:52

The vowel sounds in Russian words get reduced depending on their position in relation to the stressed vowel. Here, 3 different positions are distinguished:

  1. the stressed vowel;
  2. the vowel in the syllable directly preceding the stressed syllable;
  3. all the rest of the vowels in the word.

Vowels in position 1 are always pronounced as they are, and also they are loud, distinct, and long. In positions 2 and 3 the result of the reduction is like this:

  • the letters <а> and <о> become [ɐ] in position 2 and [ə] in position 3: барабан [bərɐˈban], молоко [məlɐˈko];
  • as for the letters <у>, <е>, and <и>, each of them has the same sound in positions 2 and 3: for <у> it's [ʊ] – кусать [kʊˈsatʲ] (position 2), муравей [mʊrɐˈvʲej] (position 3). For <е> and <и> the reduced sound is always [ɪ]: веселиться [vʲɪsʲɪˈlʲit͡sːə], миллион [mʲɪɪˈon].

Now, your words биржа and клавиатура. You wrote:

Examples: клавиатура and биржа , for both of these words they have the same IPA in the area of the и, yet sound completely different.

You probably simply didn't notice the difference in the IPA symbols for <и> in these two words, but the difference is there, and the difference is important, although graphically it's just a mere dot over i.

In биржа, <и> is stressed, so it's pronounced like [i] and sounds very much like the English <ее> in meet or feel: биржа [ˈbʲirʐə].

In клавиатура, <и> is in the second syllable before the stressed <у>, so it is in position 3 and that's why it is pronounced as [ɪ] (note, there's no dot over it), that's the sound found in the English words sit, pin, or big: клавиатура [kləvʲɪɐˈturə].

IPA is a set of technical symbols, that's why all their graphic elements (like the presence/absence of the dot over i) are functional and cannot be neglected, or else inevitable confusion will arise.

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    the problem is that in клавиатура [и] is not identical to [i] in the listed English words, where the preceding consonants are hard unlike the Russian [в] Commented Jun 9, 2019 at 10:25
  • 1
    it does make it in pronunciation, i will correct myself and say that there's much greater similarity between [i] in big etc. and [и] in клавиатура if compared to British English Commented Jun 9, 2019 at 12:51
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    @БаянКупи-ка - That's exactly what I wrote in my answer (about the similarity between [ɪ] in big etc. and [и] in клавиатура). Also, what do you mean by "hard"? As far as I know, the English consonants [pʰ], [tʰ], [kʰ] are sometimes called "hard" while [b], [d], [g] are "soft", but those are just casual names for fortis and lenis which has nothing to do with the Russian phonetics. The same way, the Russian твёрдые and мягкие have no analogies in the English phonetics. Besides, the question was about vowels, even though the title of the question is about consonants.
    – Yellow Sky
    Commented Jun 9, 2019 at 12:56
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    you did, only that it's worthwhile to take into account the version of English Commented Jun 9, 2019 at 13:46
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    if you compare them to each other, but if you compare them to Russian British version is closer, the specifics of the IPA system don't tell much, to me anyway, if i hear difference, i believe my ears, or it just means that for different versions of English certain notation symbols signify different allophones Commented Jun 9, 2019 at 15:25

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