17

Russian doesn't have a direct equivalent to the sound of English h.

But to some English speakers it seems odd that words taken into Russian from English which have an h sound are transliterated using the letter г, which sounds like English g rather than х, which while also not perfect, sounds a lot more like h.

Harry PotterГарри Поттер (garri potter)

So my question is, are there also words where х is in fact used to transliterate h, or is г always used?

  • 5
    Sherlock Holmes -> Шерлок Холмс – Armen Tsirunyan Jun 18 '12 at 10:59
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    Hogwarts -> Хогвартс – Armen Tsirunyan Jun 18 '12 at 17:34
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    Houston - Хьюстон (or Хаустон - depends on what do you actually mean, street or city ))). – shabunc Aug 16 '12 at 8:56
22

The transliteration rules changed with time in Russian.

For instance, Daniel Defoe is Даниэль Дэфо (but Daniel Craig is Дэниэл Крейг); Thackeray, Disney and Halley are Теккерей, Дисней and Галлей (but P. J. Harvey is Полли Харви) and so on.

The names with well-established rules like Harry and Henry are almost always transliterated as Гарри and Генри; less common names like Harold and Harris can be transliterared both ways (Гарольд и Хэролд, Гаррис and Хэррис), modern last names (like Harvey above) are almost always transliterated phonetically.

  • George Washington is Георг Вашингтон in older texts and Джордж Вашингтон in the more recent texts (the last name kept the transliteration, though Washington Park, FL would be Уошингтон-Парк)
  • Harris, the deuteragonist in Three Men in a Boat… is called Гаррис, but Joanne Harris is Джоан Харрис
  • Hudson River is translated as река Гудзон, but Mrs. Hudson, the Sherlock Holmes' landlady, is миссис Хадсон (and Sherlock Holmes himself is Шерлок Холмс).

Answering your question: modern transliteration rules (as defined by the classic work Старостин, Гиляревский. Иностранные имена и названия в русском тексте) prescribe to transliterate English fricative h as Cyrillic х, unless there is an established tradition to transliterate the name otherwise.

This transliteration is a rule, not an exception.

The book does not provide a complete list of traditional names, but includes Гамильтон (Hamilton), Гайд-Парк (Hyde Park), Герберт (Herbert) and Говард (Howard).

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  • Did not Daniel Defoe come from French? – Anixx Jul 21 '12 at 22:48
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    @Anixx: no, he just added "de" to his surname (Foe) for it to sound French. – Quassnoi Jul 22 '12 at 12:06
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    Another interesting example is Томас Гексли (Thomas Huxley) and Олдос Хаксли (Aldous Huxley). BTW, the transliteration rules currently in force can be found in Wikipedia. – thorn Aug 23 '12 at 9:13
  • I would add to the list the holo- prefix (as in hologram). Formally it's Greek yet most of the loanwords with it are from Western countries so we could have had холограмма. Yet we always have голограмма and usually also голокрон (although in Star Wars sphere there was a tendency of using холокрон, now mostly diminished). – Viridianus Jan 15 '16 at 23:40
  • @Viridianus: I'm only aware of three words with this prefix rendered as холо-: холотропный, холокост and холоним. What are the other ones? – Quassnoi Jan 16 '16 at 0:16
11

I was asked a similar question by Germans, who are surprised by our transliteration of Hans and Herz as Ганс and Герц.

To answer it directly, yes. For example, Helene is often written as Хелен (Хелен Келлер, Хелен Хант). The Hampshire county name is spelled either with х or with г. The words high tech, hi-end and HiFi are never pronounced otherwise than хай-тек, хай-энд, and хай-фай (or хифи).

In general, as far as I can tell, it depends on when a particular word came to the Russian language (as already mentioned by Quassnoi) and if there are any established rules. An interesting example is the German Heil Hitler which is spelled as Хайль Гитлер (so a mixture of the two styles). The reason is that the word heil was not known in Russian until WWII, and therefore it's just spelled as it's heard in the twentieth century. The name Hitler on the other hand follows the traditional German-Russian spelling, which dates back to the time of Lomonosov and probably stems from the dialects spoken by the first German immigrants in Russia and, at the same time, the old pronunciation of г in Russian (still often mixed with х by less educated people).

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    An example of a person whose first and last names each have H, which is translated as Г in one place and Х in the other place, is the mathematician Helmut Hasse, whose name in Russian is traditionally Гельмут Хассе. – KCd Jun 24 '12 at 3:05
2

Some additional examples that come to mind --

  • Ernest Hemmingway
  • Hippy
  • Happy End
  • Hula Hoop
  • Jimmy Hendrix
  • Doctor House
  • Audrey Hepburn
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1

Not a g/h issue, but just to show an example of transliteration variants. A friend of Sherlock Holmes - Dr.Watson may be spelt as Ватсон or Уотсон, the later one often seen in old (Soviet) translations of Arthur Conan Doyle's books.

Sir Winston Churchill is always translated as сэр Уинстон Черчилль, but Winston cigarettes brand always translated as Винстон.

P.S. In the German language ei is always pronounced as ай. The names of the towns Heidelberg and Mannheim will be correctly pronounced as Хайдельберг и Маннхайм not as Гейдельберг и Мангейм, as we have seen these on Russian maps.

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    Saying "German language", you mean official koine based on Upper German dialects. But the main channel of borrowings to Russian was from Lower German dialects. – Netch Dec 1 '12 at 8:47
  • Hochdeutsch is a Standard German, this is literary and spoken norm. – las Dec 3 '12 at 0:41
0

Russian "х" sounds kind of like the Latin "H" except with a more guttural sound (like Hebrew "ח" except less harsh). Your problem with "г" is that in Ukrainian, "г" is equivalent to Latin "H" , and Russian "г" is equivalent to "ґ". That's probably a bit confusing, but I hope it helps.

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  • while I appreciate your attempt to help, please reread the question, you are trying to answer a question which is actually is not asked. At least here, in this post. – shabunc Jul 25 '13 at 18:57
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    Maybe this answer should be a comment to either the question or one of the other answers that mention Ukrainian? – hippietrail Jul 26 '13 at 1:31
  • There no such answers yet though. – Artemix Jul 26 '13 at 8:25

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