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According to these consonant assimilation rules, the letters г and к form a voiced/voiceless pair, and the final consonant in the cluster voices or devoices the preceding consonant.

If these rules apply, then shouldn't the 'г' in "мягкий" be assimilated into another 'к'? Why is it pronounced like an 'х' instead (mʲæxʲkʲɪj)?

  • It's very difficult to imagine an answer to a question why something is pronounced the way it is de-facto pronounced. Basically you are making an assumption and do not explain how exactly you came to this conclusion and then asking why the reality doesn't check up. – shabunc Sep 24 at 20:29
  • @shabunc I added the basis for the assumption to the question, hopefully it makes it clearer. – Orion Sep 24 at 20:47
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    From the practical point I'd say, that in language learning "rules" are just generalizations, which should help one to remember things without memorizing 1m cases. But there are exceptions too. They certainly have explanations, but often it's easier to just remember an exception without finding an explanation. Like in English, the construct "it's part of a …". Why doesn't the word part have an article? Or 'just in case'? I've decided that for me it'd be harder to find an explanation, then simply remember the fact without one. – user907860 Sep 24 at 21:08
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    @YellowSky [волккий] first "к" is hard, second "к" is soft. – sanaris Sep 24 at 22:01
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    @user907860 This actually made me look into Portuguese phonology. As a native speaker, I had always assumed it had a fairly simple and predictable set of pronunciation rules. But revisiting it from the perspective of a new learner, it actually has quite a few special rules, exceptions, and exceptions to the exceptions. That's not even going into all the regional variations, of which there are many. I guess with any language you're just going to have to accept that not everything is going to be neatly defined. – Orion Sep 27 at 4:03
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In Belarussian (a close relative of Russian) we have two different sounds for the letter 'г'. One of them forms a pair with 'х', and the other with 'к' (in the IPA they are the velar fricative and the velar plosive respectively). Russian on the contrary doesn't have the voiced velar fricative sound, but it has the unvoiced one -- 'х'.

So you are half-right. The pair is 'г'--'к'. It's just different non-existent 'г' in "мягкий" :D

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Because it is actually not a г---к pair, but г---к,х.

Мягкий [м'aхк'ий]. Лёгкий [л'охк'ий].

Here ' equals soft sound.

Also, while the rules prescript to obtain рюкзак [р'угзак], while you hear it actually pronounced you can hear little "aftersound" and after some training understand actual letter used. Because it actually sounds with some [к'] sound.

You can actually find some people who will pronounce it in the version somewhat inclined to [р'укзак]. This к is closer to киянка then to катер.

  • That doesn't give any answer at all... In most Slavic languages the root is M(a vowel)K (cf. Rus. МЯКоть). The question is the source of [x] and why it alternates with [g] (cf. мяГенький), although the Proto-Slavic form was *mękŭkŭ. – Yellow Sky Sep 24 at 21:20
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    @YellowSky Потому, что на определённом этапе звуковое разнообразие расширилось. Поэтому язык отошёл от стандартного "двузвучного" альтернирования. – sanaris Sep 24 at 21:23
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    Давайте разберёмся. Начнём с краткой формы. Протослав. *mękŭkŭ должно было бы закономерно дать рус. *мякок, а дало мягок, со звонким Г. Допустим, К между гласными озвончилось в Г (хотя ни в одном другом слав. языке такого не произошло). Но тогда почему в мякоть тоже между гласными К остался? Откуда взялся этот Г? – Yellow Sky Sep 24 at 21:37
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    Я это просто привел как пример, как СМИ влияют на то, как люди что-то произносят. Т.е. 1000 лет назад, когда никаких СМИ не было, в селе за 30 километров от тебя уже могли говорить по-другому. А за 1000км уже слабо вообще можно было понять язык. Сегодня же все больше и больше людей на огромных расстояних говорят все более одинаково. Т.е. разнообразие произношений в целом сужается, а по вашей версии оно со славянских времен расширилось – user907860 Sep 24 at 22:01
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    @user907860 в абсолютно не правы, 1000 лет - это огромный срок, за который фонетический строй может претерпевать очень сильный изменения - далеко не всегда это будет уменьшение количества фонем. – shabunc Sep 25 at 6:33
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It is an exception to the general pronunciation of "г" ([g] / [k]). In native Russian words, a "г" directly before "к" or "ч" is pronounced [x].

Other exceptions of the pronunciation of "г":

  • "г" is pronounced as в ( [v] / [ʋ] ) in genitive endings "-го" of adjectives, participles, their nominalizations (eg. "управля́ющего", "дежу́рного") and applicable pronouns (eg "его́", "како́го"); .

  • "г" is pronounced [х] in "Бог"

  • "г" is pronounced [ɦ] / [ɣ] in certain interjections ("ага", "гей") and in the vocative "Го́споди".

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