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The following is an extract from a table on the Wikipedia page on the Russian IPA (link below):

IPA Examples English approximation
ə ко́жа;
о́блако;
се́рдце;
собира́ть
about
ɐ облака́;
како́й;
сообража́ть;
тропа́
bud

Due to the bad examples they give in the table shown above, I cannot tell the difference between the two sounds. The stressed vowels sounds in "about" and "bud" both sound exactly the same to me and to anyone I ask (I am a native in the U.S); "about" sounds like "ubout", and "bud" sounds like "bud".

Could someone give me a better example for "ə"?
Would it be the same as the "a" in the world "apple" or "banana"?

Any help in distinguishing the difference between the two would be greatly appreciated.


Link to Russian IPA table: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Help:IPA/Russian

Link to ə: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mid_central_vowel

Link to: ɐ: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Near-open_central_vowel

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  • The first vowel of cessation or the second one of mistery might be a good case.
    – Viridianus
    Jan 5, 2020 at 17:33

2 Answers 2

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It may be worthwhile to refer to GB pronunciation because there's indeed a difference in pronunciation between a in about and u in bud

In terms of Russian phonetics, it's э in the first one and a in the second.

When stressed, Russian a is pronounced fully, while unstressed, it's pronounced like a half-hearted э or even less distinctly.

apple and banana are passable examples of э with the caveat that it's stressed in both these words, while reduced Russian a is never stressed.

I guess instead of trying to figure this out theoretically, what you need to do is record your own pronunciation and ask for feedback because you may have already gotten it down unbeknownst to yourself.

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  • 2
    I just researched the word about some more, the way it’s supposed to be said is something like aybout, but colloquial it’s ubout
    – Almonds812
    Jun 13, 2019 at 18:06
  • @Almonds812 yep Jun 13, 2019 at 18:06
  • This word is never pronounced "aybout" - much less is it "supposed" to be pronounced that way.
    – CocoPop
    May 3, 2023 at 18:47
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If you're a native American speaker (like me), I'm sure you've heard the word was in stressed positions pronounced [wǝːz] by some speakers, and as [wɐːz] by others. As it happens, [ɐ] is simply [ǝ] with a hint of [a] in it.
Listen to my recording.

I didn't know where he was.

In AmE, there's indeed no difference between the vowels in about and bud — they're both [ǝ]: [ǝbǽu̯t̚] [bǝːd]. And the only place I've ever heard [ɐ], is in that pronunciation of was I pointed out above. As you can see, it's a very slight difference. The same is true in Russian; [ɐ] is just a little more open than [ǝ] before a stressed syllable, and to be frank, I hear most Russians just pronounce it as [a].

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