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Why the consonant "ф" in "кафе" is not soft (= palatalized), given that it is before the soft vowel "e"? Do loanwords usually break pronunciation rules?

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  • You are correct. I was wrong - when I think about it, "январе" and "начале", "доколе" "праве",etc. also have a soft 'e', but 'Боже' and "ближе" and "дальше" have a hard one. So it's the preceding sound determines whether it's soft or hard in non-loan words. I will delete my answer as it's wrong. – AR. Sep 13 '19 at 4:23
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Why the consonant "ф" in "кафе" is not soft (= palatalized), given that it is before the soft vowel "e"?

Most likely because that is closer to the original French pronunciation.

Do loanwords usually break pronunciation rules?

My impression is they at least tend to break the rules more often.

By the way, Russian also seems to be better about preserving the original pronunciation of foreign names--the stress in particular--compared to English.

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    Russian is similar to German in that regard of trying to preserve the original pronunciation. English, French, Spanish and Italian usually pronounce loanwords as they would pronounce it if it was a native word. – Alan Evangelista Sep 13 '19 at 1:31

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