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Watching a video with Russian speakers, I noticed two people who pronounced "г" as in Ukrainian, i.e. like a hard English "h". They also used аканье. As far as I know, they were Russians.

My questions: Is this a marker of a regional Russian accent, and if so, which region(s)? Or were these people more likely to be of Ukrainian descent?

More generally, what other distinctive markers of regional accents are there, and could somebody recommend a guide?

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    This is a marker of specific part of south Russian dialects - ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/… - as of other distinctive markers, I believe this would be too broad for a single answer.
    – shabunc
    Nov 7, 2022 at 10:01
  • Thanks, the link answers my question perfectly. Nov 7, 2022 at 10:50
  • It is not called аканье. Аканье is about pronunciation of О like А. In Russian it happens in unstressed positions. What you describe is called гэканье (hɛ́kanʹje) [ˈɣɛkənʲje].
    – user31264
    Nov 30, 2022 at 17:01
  • I mentioned аканье to indicate that the speakers were probably not Ukranian. Thanks for introducing me to the term гэканье. Dec 1, 2022 at 14:04

2 Answers 2

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Fricative g is typical of the Southern dialect.

The Southern Dialects are spoken around Tula, Ryazan, Oryol, Lipestk, Tambov and most of Kaluga, Voronezh , and Kursk Oblasts. These dialects are also found in the southern part of Penza and the western part of Saratov, Don Voisko Oblasts.

The Northern Dialect of the Russian language is spoken North of Moscow and along the Volga River. The dialects of this region don’t exhibit typical vowel reduction in unstressed syllables. Among the dialects of the Northern Region are Pomor, Olonets, Novgorod, Vologda-Kirov, and Vladimir-Volga.

Language scholars insist on dividing the dialects into three groups; the above-named Northern and Southern dialects, as well as the Central Dialects. They maintain that the Central Dialects are spoken in and around Moscow.

(source orthography preserved)

Source: https://thetranslationcompany.com/resources/language-country/russian/russian-dialects.htm

Read more here in the Wikipedia article Russian dialects.

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  • Thanks very much, that answers my question. I'm slightly closer to my goal of being able to identify regional accents. Nov 7, 2022 at 10:54
  • My pleasure. The question is really too big.
    – V.V.
    Nov 7, 2022 at 16:07
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    These dialects are long outdated and all the information online regarding them is false information that is no longer applicable to modern russian. Currently there's only "standard russian" and "southern russian" (around krasnodar and more to the southwest). Even the very page that you linked, when you switch the language to russian, states that the differences in speech among russians these days is negligible and can mostly be inspected through idioms and likewise phrases used in everyday verbal speech. The pronunciation is pretty much the same.
    – keke
    Nov 30, 2022 at 10:26
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    @CocoPop The terms: "Northern dialect", "Southern dialect", and "Centra dialect", should be left with their first letter capitalised (as seen in the Wikipedia article), because these are names. Sep 1, 2023 at 12:40
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    @CocoPop: attributed, direct quotes should be left as is, even if they use sloppy grammar or orthography. It's ok to copy-edit original content submitted to this site, but not fairly used external content. One reason for this, among hundreds of others, is that the author of the quote is not here and can't speak for themselves; another one is that fair use is a tricky subject and we should clearly separate external content from ours. Just recently, I quoted a statement from a phonetics book with one apparent error and one point I don't agree with, but I had left them in place.
    – Quassnoi
    Sep 3, 2023 at 0:39
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My questions: Is this a marker of a regional Russian accent, and if so which region(s)? Or were these people more likely to be of Ukrainian heritage?

It's observed around the ukranian border (pre-crimea). Every dialect in the world is a gradient (they call them continuums) so it's very rare that they follow the country border in how immediate the change is. As such, the russian language around those borders is influenced by the ukranian language. There's also a distinct dialect called "surzhyk" from around those lands. The closer the person to the former border, the more ukranian-like they would speak, both in pronunciation and the vocabulary.

This has nothing to do with heritage, only the geographical location.

More generally, what other distinctive markers of regional accents are there, and could somebody recommend a guide?

Other than the one you've already noticed, there's none. All the information you see online regarding russian dialects is outdated. Those classifications were last used in the 50s, and were compiled in the 1910th. However the spread of radio and TV during USSR, and more so today with the internet, the russian language became very uniform, to the point that you can no longer tell someone's origin (within russia) by the way they speak, with the only exception being the southwestern regions of russia as per my description above. You also mentioned аканье, which doesn't exist anymore either.

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  • It is true that Russian is more uniform than most other widely spoken languages. But there are way more differences that what you believe. I can easily tell people from the Urals from those from Moscow and then further from Tula or Krasnodar by the way they speak. Sometimes it takes a bit more trained ear, but the differences exist. And it has to do with heritage in the sense that people carry their accent with them when they move, even though later on many acquire the local one.
    – Zeus
    Dec 1, 2022 at 6:49

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