The sound /ʑ:/ is known as the voiced alveolo-palatal sibilant fricative and, roughly speaking, is the average of /z/ as in zebra and /ʒ/ as in vision. Russian speakers can understand /ʑ:/ as the voiced counterpart of щ or, alternatively, as the soft counterpart of ж.

Until recently I thought that the sound /ʑ:/ occurs in Russian only in a couple of rarely used words, namely дрожжи and вожжи, but a few days ago a Russian speaker told me that the sound is much more common, referring to визжу, брюзжу, дребезжу, размозжу, and брызжет as examples.

Curious, I tried to find an exhaustive list of words with that sound, but did not succeed.

My question: How prevalent is the sound /ʑ:/ in the Russian language from a native speaker's perspective?

To clarify, I am curious as to roughly how many words you pronounce with that sound - a few, a few dozens, or much more than that. If there is an exhaustive or nearly exhaustive list of these words, I would like to see it. I am also curious whether the prevalence of this sound is dialect-dependent. Finally, if this sound is quite common, I am curious why there is no own letter for it, especially as its voiceless counterpart has its own letter, щ.

1 Answer 1


When a native speaker speaks they never think of actual phonemes. Nobody is thinking like: "hey, I'm pronouncing "ɯ" in 10% of cases when it's actually spelled as "o". To answer your question - it's not prevalent.

This statement from wiki is valid:

В русском литературном языке [ʑ:] (обычно обозначается [ж❜:] или [ж̅’]) может встречаться внутри корня на месте сочетаний -жж- и -зж-; на месте сочетаний щ + любой звонкий звук из {б г д ж з} (Пример: товарищ генерал), а также в слове дождь и однокоренных, а также [ʑ] (обозначается [ж❜]) может встречаться в заимствованных словах.

While it's stated as "в русском литературном языке" - and this leaves space to speculating on whether it's more frequent in casual speech my answer would be "no, it isn't".

In any case the term "prevalent" can hardly be applicable here.

  • 3
    +1, you have better chances to find the information on the frequency of usage and the number of words in the sources meant for the learners of Russian as a foreign language. The natives don't bother. As to "sound is dialect-dependent" - in some cases it is. Дожди, for example, is pronounced differently in different regions/dialects. Also, some people say подожди, обожди using this sound (but never жди).
    – tum_
    Commented Nov 10, 2019 at 7:43

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