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According to the Russian phonology wiki (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_phonology) :

The pronunciation of unstressed /o ~ a/ is as follows: (...)
When a soft consonant or /j/ precedes, both /o/ and /a/ merge with /i/ and are pronounced as [ɪ].

Examples: язы́к ( [jɪˈzɨk] ) and "ýчасть" ( [ˈut͡ɕɪsʲtʲ] )

However, it seems that the phonem /a/ in я at the end of a word seems to not follow this rule and is pronounced [ə], such as in "тётя" ( [ˈtʲɵtʲə] ) or "деревня" ( [dʲɪˈrʲevnʲə ] ) . Am I missing a pronunciation rule or are these words which end in я exceptions?

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    Those are not the rules. Those are consequences of lazy pronunciation. People pronounce consonants properly, but do not voice vowels. So you get this palatalized schwa sound, that may sound like [ɪ] because of following consonant "adding voice" to it.
    – user28434
    Nov 5, 2019 at 9:37
  • @user28434 It is impossible to "not voice" a vowel, as you describe. Any vowel is voiced, otherwise no sound would come out. I assume that you meant that people don't move the blade of their tongue from the roof of the mouth (where it is because of the preceding soft consonant) to the center of the mouth where the schwa is pronounced. Nov 5, 2019 at 12:55
  • @AlanEvangelista, actually you can. Or here. Anyways, they point it for "а" here: you move your tongue and shape your mouth and even have airstream through it. But you don't use your vocal cords for it.
    – user28434
    Nov 5, 2019 at 13:07
  • @user28434 Thanks for the link, I had never heard of a voiceless vowel before. Nov 5, 2019 at 13:08
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    Alan, ah, I guess I misunderstand the thing then. So.. just a few lines below "the rules" you'll find the "There are a number of exceptions to the above vowel-reduction rules:" where the second item covers your examples. (To be honest personally I'd treat both rule and the mentioned exception to be too raw generalization/abstraction/idealization... In a (at least my own) every day speech I think I would barely able to distinguish between "деревня"/"деревни"/"деревне" - the endinging vowel is so extremely reduced so they all sound almost like диревнь.) Nov 6, 2019 at 5:28

2 Answers 2

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Yes, you have missed one rule. To quote the same Wikipedia page,

Across certain word-final inflections, the reductions do not completely apply. For example, after soft or unpaired consonants, unstressed /a/, /e/ and /i/ of a final syllable may be distinguished from each other. For example, жи́тели [ˈʐɨtʲɪlʲɪ] ('residents') contrasts with both (о) жи́теле [(ʌ) ˈʐɨtʲɪlʲɪ̞] ('[about] a resident') and жи́теля [ˈʐɨtʲɪlʲə] ('of a resident').

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This is not clear [ɪ] and may vary in different regions. North gravitate to [a] in "Участь", for example.

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  • The Russian phonology wiki describes standard Russian, I am only interested in it for now. Nov 6, 2019 at 4:48
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    @AlanEvangelista, Hi! There is no firmly defined standard Russian present days. In the USSR TV newscaster was got as paragon, and it was called "Academic Russian language". Their pronunciation was based on the city dialects of North-West and North, roughly triangle St.-Petersburg -- Arkhangelsk -- Moscow. As a native who was born in big industrial city in this area four decades ago, I have my own pronunciation close enough to academic. And I have big concerns about some info that phonowiki is providing. Seek for soviet narrators, they were good.
    – ratschbumm
    Nov 6, 2019 at 6:41
  • @ratschbumm: Could I perhaps encourage you to help improve the Wikipedia article, either by making suggestions on the Talk page or, if you have it well enough worked out, by editing the article directly?
    – PJTraill
    Mar 4, 2020 at 19:04

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