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I believe the diphthong would be /ɪ͜j/ but it just sounds like an /ɪ/ when native speakers pronounce it. For example, the word зданий has this ending and it just sounds like a one vowel finish.

I'm interested in how this word would be pronounced if written as здани and зданй; I think that will help me hear the difference

Edit: Or even better, does this diphthong have an english equivalent?

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Quite frankly, "what's the point" of specific phoneme combination is a very strange thing to ask about. I'm not sure that "ий" can be considered a diphthong, since й is not a vowel. But more importantly, you are wrong when you say that Russian speakers tend to pronounce it like /ɪ/ – it's clearly /ɪj/, you can not pronounce "здани" instead (it will sound exactly how it's written, without /j/) or "зданй" – the latter is an impossible combination in Russian.

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Adverbs ending with "ий/ый" might be pronounced as "-и/-ы" sometimes ("/сини/", "/красны/", "/новы/"). And maybe this confuses you. In other cases "ий" is "/ий/" and "ый" is "/ый/" including "зданий", "приключений" etc.

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I believe the diphthong would be /ɪ͜j/ but it just sounds like an /ɪ/ when native speakers pronounce it. For example, the word зданий has this ending and it just sounds like a one vowel finish.

This might be heared like that just if the word with ending "ий/ый" is the last one in sentence.

But if any word comes after the word with ending "ий/ый" - then the "й" gets stronger and more audible.

Or even better, does this diphthong have an english equivalent?

The first syllable of words "yo" and "yours" sounds pretty much like Russian "й".

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