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Here is a verse by Marina Tsvetaeva:

Совсем ушел. Со всем — ушел.

(Надгробие)

My way of pronouncing "cо всем" is exactly the same as the way I pronounce "cовсем," but that makes it impossible to distinguish the two sentences. If I had to emphasize the difference between the two sentences, I'd pause between Со and всем, which seems unnatural (at least to me). Is there any difference in the pronunciation of these two phrases? Are the two o's pronounced in the same way? Is there a pause between and всем?

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  • Oh, my favorite poet, she liked to play with words like that. That was intended, actually. So yes, you can emphasize, but we would never know as we don't have recordings of her voice (which saddens me you cannot imagine how much). Commented Mar 12 at 23:55
  • In English a "purple people eater" can be "an eater of purple people" or "a people eater that is purple". If we mean the former, then we can say the first two words quickly, pause, then speak the final word at normal speed with extra emphasis. In any spoken language, we constantly modulate the prosody subtly to enhance clarity, and unsubtly if needed to eliminate outright ambiguity, and we do so automatically and semi-subconsciously. Surely Russian is no different. And here the ambiguity is deliberate, so using unusual prosody to voice the poet's intention is kind of the whole point, no? Commented Mar 13 at 0:29
  • @ghostarbeiter I am not a Russian native speaker - I believe that my pronunciation is often good enough to make me understand but it doesn't mean that it is the way Russians speak. In that case if I say "Со всем" in the way I speak (not in the context of the poem) people understand me but maybe there is some subtle difference. For instance I read that not all unstressed o's are pronounced in the same way while I don't make any difference - in practice it "works" (people understand me) but I was wondering if we are in such a case.
    – Bruno
    Commented Mar 13 at 0:44

3 Answers 3

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There is no difference in pronunciation between со всем and совсем whatsoever, or, the way the kids on the internet put it these days, от слова совсем. There's no pause or accent or anything.

That's hardly surprising, given that совсем (the adverb) is etymologically со всем (the phrase) in a very thin disguise.

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To distinguish the two sentences, I would add a little pause where the dash is. The pause, along with a bit of a rising tone just before it, is a common way to indicate ellipsis:

  • Маша любит красное вино, а Катя↗ – белое.
  • Совсем ушел. Со всем↗ – ушел.
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The second phrase has a noun omitted. It means something like "со всем имуществом - ушёл", "со всеми вещами - ушёл", "ушёл - и забрал с собой всё".

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