PRONUNCIATION

Izgovor

Contents:

Overview   •   Alphabet extensions   •   Stress   •   General remark

Overview (Prěgled)

How ethnic languages are pronounced is determined by their native speakers. This goes for Interslavic as well: although it is neither an ethnic language nor a language intended to serve as a standard language for Slavs, it should be comfortable and familiar to pronounce for Slavs. All Slavic accents are equally correct: just like the British, American and Australian pronunciations are all equally correct in English, a Russian pronunciation of Interslavic is by no means better or worse than a Serbian or Polish pronunciation. As a result, the pronunciation of most sounds (phonemes) is variable, depending on the nationality of the speaker, and any given pronunciation is just an approximation. The fact that pronunciation is fairly free, however, does not mean that there cannot be an "ideal" pronunciation for every phoneme.

All letters can be pronounced as they are pronounced in any Slavic alphabet. In the following table, exceptions are given in the third column:

LetterEquivalent in SlavicIPAPronunciation (English)
A А [ɑ] ~ [a] as a in English „father”
B Б [b] as in English
C Ц [ʦ] as ts in English „bits
Č Ч Pol. cz [ʧ] ~ [tʂ] as ch in English „church
D Д [d] as in English
ДЖ Pol. , Srb./Mac. џ [ʤ] ~ [ɖʐ] as j in English „John”
E Е Rus./Bel. э [ɛ] ~ [e] as e in English „best”
Ě Е Ukr. є, Pol./Slk. ie, Slv./SCr. je, Blg. йе [jɛ] ~ [je] as ye in English „yet”
F Ф [f] as in English
G Г Ukr. ґ [g] ~ [ɦ] as g in English „good”
H Х Pol./Cz./Slv. ch [x] as ch in Scottish „loch
I И Ukr./Bel. і [i] ~ [ɪ] as ea in English „beat”
J Ј Rus./Ukr./Bel./Blg. й [j] as y in English „yard”
K К [k] as in English, but without aspiration
L Л [l] ~ [ɫ] as in English
LJ ЛЬ Pol./Cz. l, Srb./Mac. љ [lʲ] ~ [ʎ] as li in English „million”
M М [m] as in English
N Н [n] as in English
NJ НЬ Pol. ń, Cz./Slk. ň, Srb./Mac. њ [nʲ] ~ [ɲ] as ny in English „canyon”
O О [ɔ] ~ [o] as o in English „or”
P П [p] as in English, but without aspiration
R Р [r] rolled r
RJ РЬ Pol. ri (as in akwarium) [rʲ] ~ [r̝] raised alveolar trill
S С [s] as s in English „spin”
Š Ш Pol. sz [ʃ] ~ [ʂ] as sh in English „shop”
T Т [t] as in English, but without aspiration
U У [u] as oo in English „book”
V В Pol. w [v] ~ [ʋ] as v in English „avoid”
Y Ы Ukr./Slv./Scr./Mac./Blg. и [i] ~ [ɨ] as i in English „bit”
Z З [z] as in English
Ž Ж Pol. ż [ʒ] ~ [ʐ] as si in English „vision”

Notes:

  1. In the pronunciation of vowels, there tends to be some variation on the scale of open/closed and front/back. Only u is always [u].
  2. To avoid fuzziness, akanje (pronouncing unstressed vowels as [ɑ] or [ə] in Russian) should be avoided.
  3. Apart from a e ě i o u y, the letter r can be a vowel, too. That is the case when it appears after a consonant and is not followed by a vowel, resulting in so-called syllabic r. It should be pronounced with a schwa before it (more or less like the name „Murphy”): trg [tərg], cukr [ʦukər].
  4. Speakers of languages like English and German should be aware that any type of aspiration (as in English „pork” or German „Tüte”) must be avoided.
  5. When ě follows a dental/alveolar consonant (t d s z n l r), this consonant is pronounced soft (see phonology). After other consonants it produces the same sound as e, but preceded by j: dělo sounds like *ďelo, pěsok like *pjesok. Note: in Cyrillic, both e and ě are usually written е, because this is how it is written in practically all Cyrillic-writing languages, and the Cyrillic equivalent ѣ is hardly understandable to anybody.
  6. A consonant before i can be pronounced soft, too, but this is not mandatory.
  7. Likewise, a consonant is inherently soft before j as well, unless this consonant is part of a prefix: znanje is pronounced znańje, but in the word odjehati the d remains hard.
  8. On the other hand, although the Proto-Slavic phoneme e softens the preceding consonant in Polish and Russian, it is better to keep a hard pronunciation in this case.
  9. The letter l is a somewhat special case. Before a o u y, as well as syllable-finally, it sounds like the „thick” l in full. Before e, ě and i is rather tends to follow the pronunciation pattern of lj: lev [lʲɛv] ~ [ʎɛf], etc.
  10. There are no strict rules for devoicing voiced consonants at the end of a word, or voicing unvoiced consonants before voiced consonants. Anybody can use the pronunciation he feels most comfortable with. Thus, Bog [bɔk] and prosba [prɔzbɑ] are both correct. In general however, it deserves recommendation to follow a pronunciation that is as close as possible to how it is written.
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Alphabet extensions (Razširjenje azbuky)

Apart from the standard alphabet given above, the Interslavic Latin alphabet also has a set of optional characters that basically do two things. First of all, they represent phonemes that evolved into different directions in the Slavic languages, and secondly, they link directly to their Proto-Slavic origins. For example, the vowel å in kråva „cow” indicates that this word derives from Proto-Slavic *korva, which became krova in Polish and Sorbian, korova in East Slavic, and krava in Czech, Slovak and South Slavic. The most extreme case is undoubtedly đ (from Proto-Slavic dj), which in various languages evolved into [ʣ], [z], [ʒ], [ʒd], [j], etc.

These characters are not used in ordinary written Interslavic, i.e. they are written, but without the diacritics (except for ć and đ, which are written č and respectively), and can of course also be pronounced as such. However, it is also possible to try for an „average” pronunciation that does more justice to the Slavic majority. In the case of aforementioned kråva, for example, that would mean a sound somewhere between a and o (in IPA: [ɒ]).

LetterIPAPronunciation (English)
Å å [ɑ] ~ [ɒ] as o in English „mother”
Ć ć [ʧ] ~ [ʨ] as ch in English „cheap”
Ď ď [dʲ] ~ [ɟ] as d in English „duke”
Ð đ [ʤ] ~ [ʥ] as j in English „jeep”
Ę ę [jæ] ~ [jɛ] as ya in English „yam”
Ľ ľ like lj, usually before j
Ń ń like nj, usually before j
Ò ò [ə] ~ [ʌ] as o in English „memory”
Ŕ ŕ [jər] as er in English „layer”, but with trilled r
Ś ś [sʲ] ~ [ɕ] as sh in English „sheet”
Ť ť [tʲ] ~ [c] as t in English „tube”
Ų ų [oʊ] ~ [u] between ow in American English „mow” and ew in „hew
Ź ź [zʲ] ~ [ʑ] voiced equivalent of ś

Notes:

  1. Of particular significance here is the character ę. The „hard” pronunciation [ɛ] is characteristic for South Slavic, but in the remaining languages its pronunciation varies between [ja], [jɛ] and [jɔ̃]. Following majority rule, e should be pronounced as a hard [ɛ], but ę more like [jæ]. This means that ę behaves like ě rather than e, and like ě it can soften a preceding consonant.
  2. Despite the ogonek, ę and ų are not pronounced as nasal vowels like in Polish!
  3. The letter ŕ is the soft counterpart of syllabic r. It can soften the preceding consonant or have it followed by [j]: mŕtvy [mjǝrtvɪ].
  4. The soft consonants ť ď ś ź (pronounced hard in South Slavic, partly also in Czech and Slovak) are realised either by having the hard consonant followed by a j-like sound, or by softening or by palatalising it.
  5. The soft consonants ľ and ń are used for writing lj and nj before j, resulting in a certain prolongation of the latter, for example dělańje [dʲɛɫanʲĭɛ]. They can also be used as alternative spellings for lj and nj, for reasons of consistency with ť etc.
  6. Likewise, when ŕ is not preceded or followed by a vowel, it is an alternative way of writing rj.

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Stress (Naglas)

Accentuation is free. However, if you want to stay on the safe side, it would deserve recommendation to follow as guidelines:

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General remark (Obča primětka)

When it comes to speaking, one has always to remember that the listener is probably not familiar with Interslavic, and even if he is, he is not used to hearing it spoken. Whenever you use Interslavic in a conversation, always make sure that the person you are talking to actually understands you. Speak slowly, keep eye-contact, articulate well, and always be a good listener. After all, communication is not just a matter of language, the non-verbal part is equally important.

The same, perhaps even more so, goes when you are addressing an audience. Interslavic has been constructed to maximise intelligibility, but that does not mean every Slav can understand every word of it. Listening to Interslavic is a matter of constantly making connections and connotations, and whenever a person hears a word he doesn't understand—which is quite inevitable—the odds are that he starts pondering about it and misses the rest of your sentence. It is necessary that you always give your audience all the time it needs to process your information, to let it sink in. So don't speak fast, speak clearly, take a deep breath between sentences, use prosody as well as you can, and so on...