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Ukrainian has no phonemic distinction between long and short vowels; however, unstressed vowels are somewhat reduced in time, and as a result, in quality.
- In unstressed position /ɑ/ has an allophone [ɐ].
- Unstressed /ɔ/ has an allophone [o] that slightly approaches /u/ if followed by a syllable containing /u/ or /i/.
- Unstressed /u/ has an allophone [ʊ].
- Unstressed /ɛ/ and /ɪ/ approach [e] that may or may not be a common allophone for the two phonemes.
- /i/ has no notable variation in unstressed position.
|Stop||p b||t d||tʲ dʲ||k ɡ|
|Affricate||t͡s d͡z||t͡sʲ d͡zʲ||t͡ʃ d͡ʒ|
|Fricative||f||s z||sʲ zʲ||ʃ ʒ||x||ɦ|
(In the table above, where there are two consonants in a row, the one to the right is voiced and the other one is voiceless)
- There is no complete agreement about the phonetic nature of /ɦ/. According to some linguists it is pharyngeal [ʕ] ([ħ] [or sometimes [x] in weak positions] when devoiced). According to others it is glottal [ɦ].
- Word-finally, /m/, /l/, /r/ are voiceless [m̥], [l̥], [r̥] after voiceless consonants. In case of /r/, it only happens after /t/.
- /w/ is most commonly bilabial [β̞] before vowels, but can alternate with labiodental [ʋ] (most commonly before /i/), and can be a true labiovelar [w] before /ɔ/ or /u/. It is also vocalized to [u̯] before a consonant at the beginning of a word, after a vowel before a consonant and after a vowel at the end of a word. If /w/ occurs before a voiceless consonant and not after a vowel, the voiceless articulation [ʍ] is also possible.
- /r/ often becomes a single tap [ɾ] in the spoken language;
- /t, d, dʲ, n, nʲ, s, sʲ, z, zʲ, t͡s, t͡sʲ, d͡z, d͡zʲ/ are dental [t̪, d̪, d̪ʲ, n̪, n̪ʲ, s̪, s̪ʲ, z̪, z̪ʲ, t̪͡s̪, t̪͡s̪ʲ, d̪͡z̪, d̪͡z̪ʲ], while /tʲ, l, lʲ, r, rʲ/ are alveolar [tʲ, l, lʲ, r, rʲ].
- The group of palatalized consonants consists of 10 phonemes: /j, dʲ, zʲ, lʲ, nʲ, rʲ, sʲ, tʲ, t͡sʲ, d͡zʲ/ all of which except /j/ have a soft and a hard variant. There is no complete agreement about the nature of the palatalization of /rʲ/; sometimes it is considered as a semi-palatalized[clarification needed] consonant. Labial consonants /p, b, m, f/ have just semi-palatalized versions, and /w/ has only the hard variant. The palatalization of the consonants /ɦ, ɡ, ʒ, k, x, t͡ʃ, ʃ, d͡ʒ/ is weak; they are usually treated rather as the allophones of the respective 'hard' consonants, not as separate phonemes.
- Unlike Russian and several other Slavic languages, Ukrainian does not have final devoicing for most obstruents, as can be seen, for example, in віз "cart", which is pronounced [ˈʋiz] (help·info), not *[ˈʋis].
- The fricative articulations [v, ɣ] are voiced allophones of /f, x/ respectively when they are voiced before other voiced consonants. (See #Consonant assimilation.) /x, ɦ/ do not form a perfect voiceless-voiced phoneme pair, but their allophones may overlap if /ɦ/ is devoiced to [x] (rather than [h]). In the standard language, /f, w/ do not form a voiceless-voiced phoneme pair at all, as [v] does not phonemically overlap with /w/, and [ʍ] (voiceless allophone of /w/) does not phonemically overlap with /f/.
When two or more consonants occur word-finally, then a vowel is epenthesized under the following conditions. Given a consonantal grouping C1(ь)C2(ь), where C is any consonant. The vowel is inserted between the two consonants and after the ь. A vowel is only inserted if C2 is either /k/, /w/, /l/, /m/, /r/, or /ts/. In this case:
- If C1 is either /w/, /ɦ/, /k/, or /x/, then the epenthisized vowel is always [o]
- No vowel is epenthesized if the /w/ is derived from a Common Slavic vocalic *l, for example, /wɔwk/ (see below)
- If C2 is /l/, /m/, /r/, or /ts/, then the vowel is /ɛ/.
- The combinations, /-stw/ /-sk/ are not broken up
- If the C1 is /j/ (й), then the above rules can apply. However, both forms (with and without the fill vowel) often exist
Alternation of vowels and semivowels
Ukrainian also has a non-syllabic [u̯] as an allophone of /w/. The semivowels /j/ and /w/ alternate with the vowels /i/ and /u/ respectively. The semivowels are used in syllable codas: that is, when after a vowel and before a consonant, either within a word or across a word boundary:
- він іде́ /ˈwin iˈdɛ/ ('he's coming')
- вона́ йде /wɔˈnɑ ˈjdɛ/ ('she's coming')
- він і вона́ /ˈwin i wɔˈnɑ/ ('he and she')
- вона́ й він /wɔˈnɑ j ˈwin/ ('she and he');
- Утоми́вся вже /utɔˈmɪwsʲɑ ˈwʒɛ/ ('already gotten tired')
- Уже́ втоми́вся /uˈʒɛ wtɔˈmɪwsʲɑ/ ('already gotten tired')
- Він утоми́вся. /ˈwin utɔmɪwsʲɑ/ ('He's gotten tired.')
- Він у ха́ті. /ˈwin u ˈxɑtʲi/ ('He's inside the house.')
- Вона́ в ха́ті. /wɔˈnɑ w ˈxɑtʲi/ ('She's inside the house.')
- підучи́ти /piduˈt͡ʃɪtɪ/ ('to learn')[clarification needed]
- вивчи́ти /wɪwˈt͡ʃɪtɪ/ ('to learn')
This feature distinguishes Ukrainian phonology remarkably from Russian and Polish, two related languages with many cognates.
Voiceless obstruents are voiced when preceding voiced ones, but the reverse is not true.
- наш [nɑʃ] ('our')
- наш дід [nɑʒ ˈdʲid] ('our grandfather')
- бере́за [bɛˈrɛzɑ] ('birch')
- бері́зка [bɛˈrʲizkɑ] ('small birch')
Unpalatalized dental consonants /n, t, d, t͡s, d͡z, s, z, r, l/ become palatalized if followed by other palatalized dental consonants /nʲ, tʲ, dʲ, t͡sʲ, d͡zʲ, sʲ, zʲ, rʲ, lʲ/. They are also typically palatalized before the vowel /i/. Historically, contrasting unpalatalized and palatalized articulations of consonants before /i/ were possible and more common, with the absence of palatalization usually reflecting that, through regular sound changes in the language, an /i/ vowel actually evolved from an older non-palatalizing /ɔ/ vowel. Ukrainian grammar still allows for /i/ to alternate with either /ɛ/ or /ɔ/ in the regular inflection of certain words. But today, the absence of consonant palatalization before /i/ has become rare, though it is not considered wrong.
While the labial consonants /m, p, b, f, w/ cannot be phonemically palatalized, they can still precede one of the iotating vowels є і ьо ю я, in which circumstance many speakers replace the would-be sequences *|mʲ, pʲ, bʲ, fʲ, wʲ| with the consonant clusters /mj, pj, bj, fj, wj/, a habit also common in neighboring Polish. The separation of labial consonant from /j/ is already hard-coded in many Ukrainian words (and spelt as such with an apostrophe), such as in В'ячеслав /wjɑt͡ʃɛˈslɑw/ "Vyacheslav", ім'я /iˈmjɑ/ "name" and п'ять /pjɑtʲ/ "five".
Dental sibilant consonants /t͡s, d͡z, s, z/ become palatalized before any of the labial consonants /m, p, b, f, w/ followed by one of the iotating vowels є і ьо ю я, though the labial consonants themselves cannot retain phonemic palatalization. Thus, words like свят /sʲw(j)ɑt/ "holiday" and сват /swɑt/ "matchmaker" retain separate pronunciations (whether or not an actual /j/ is articulated).
Sibilant consonants (including affricates) in clusters assimilate place of articulation and palatalization state of the last segment in a cluster. The most common case of such assimilation is verbal ending -шся where |ʃsʲɑ| assimilates into /sʲːɑ/.
Dental plosives /t, tʲ, d, dʲ/ assimilate to affricate articulations before coronal affricates or fricatives /t͡s, d͡z, s, z, t͡sʲ, d͡zʲ, sʲ, zʲ, t͡ʃ, d͡ʒ, ʃ, ʒ/, assuming the latter consonant's place of articulation and palatalization. Where the sequences |t.t͡s, d.d͡z, t.t͡sʲ, d.d͡zʲ, t.t͡ʃ, d.d͡ʒ| regressively assimilate to /t͡s.t͡s, d͡z.d͡z, t͡sʲ.t͡sʲ, d͡zʲ.d͡zʲ, t͡ʃ.t͡ʃ, d͡ʒ.d͡ʒ/, they gain geminate articulations [t͡sː d͡zː t͡sʲː d͡zʲː t͡ʃː d͡ʒː].
Deviations of spoken language
- [ɨ] for /ɪ/
- [t͡ɕ] for /t͡ʃ/ and [ɕt͡ɕ] or even [ɕː] for [ʃt͡ʃ]
- [rʲ] for /r/, [bʲ] for /b/, [vʲ] for /w/ (e.g. in words Ха́рків, Об, любо́в'ю)
- [v] or [f] (the latter in syllable-final position) for [w ~ u̯ ~ β̞ ~ ʋ ~ ʍ] (e.g. in words любо́в, роби́в, вари́ти, вода́), in effect also turning /f, w/ into a true voiceless-voiced phoneme pair which is not the case in the standard language
- Final-obstruent devoicing
Modern standard Ukrainian descends from Common Slavic and is characterized by a number of sound changes and morphological developments, many of which are shared with other East Slavic languages. These include:
- In a newly closed syllable, that is, a syllable that ends in a consonant, Common Slavic *o and *e mutated into *i if the following vowel was one of the yers (*ŭ or *ĭ).
- Pleophony: The Common Slavic combinations, *CoRC and *CeRC, where R is either *r or *l, become in Ukrainian:
- The Common Slavic nasal vowel *ę is reflected as /jä/; a preceding labial consonant generally was not palatalized after this, and after a postalveolar it became /ä/. Examples: Common Slavic *pętĭ became Ukrainian /pjätʲ/ (п’ять); Common Slavic *telę became Ukrainian [tɛˈlʲæ] (теля́); and Common Slavic *kurĭčę became Ukrainian /kurˈt͡ʃä/ (курча́).
- Common Slavic *ě (Cyrillic ѣ), generally became Ukrainian /i/ except:
- word-initially, where it became /ji/: Common Slavic *(j)ěsti became Ukrainian ї́сти /ˈjistɪ/
- after the postalveolar sibilants where it became /ä/: Common Slavic *ležěti became Ukrainian /lɛˈʒätɪ/ (лежа́ти)
- Common Slavic *i and *y are both reflected in Ukrainian as /ɪ/
- The Common Slavic combination -CĭjV, where V is any vowel, became -CʲːV, except:
- if C is labial or /r/ where it became -CjV
- if V is the Common Slavic *e, then the vowel in Ukrainian mutated to /ä/, e.g., Common Slavic *žitĭje became Ukrainian [ʒɪtʲːæ] (життя́)
- if V is Common Slavic *ĭ, then the combination became /ɛj/, e.g., genitive plural in Common Slavic *myšĭjĭ became Ukrainian /mɪ̞ˈʃɛj/ (мише́й)
- if one or more consonants precede C then there is no doubling of the consonants in Ukrainian
- Sometime around the early thirteenth century, the voiced velar stop lenited to [ɣ] (except in the cluster *zg). Within a century, /ɡ/ was reintroduced from Western European loanwords and, around the sixteenth century, [ɣ] debuccalized to [ɦ].
- Common Slavic combinations *dl and *tl were simplified to /l/, for example, Common Slavic *mydlo became Ukrainian /ˈmɪlɔ/ (ми́ло).
- Common Slavic *ǔl and *ĭl became /ɔw/. For example, Common Slavic *vĭlkǔ became /wɔwk/ (вовк) in Ukrainian.
- Rusanivs’kyj, Taranenko & Zjabljuk (2004:104)
- Rusanivs’kyj, Taranenko & Zjabljuk (2004:407)
- Buk, Mačutek & Rovenchak (2008)
- Danyenko & Vakulenko (1995:12)
- Pugh & Press (2005:23)
- The sound is described as "laryngeal fricative consonant" (гортанний щілинний приголосний) in the official orthography: '§ 14. Letter H' in Український правопис, Kyiv: Naukova dumka, 2012, p. 19 (see e-text)
- Українська мова: енциклопедія, Kyiv, 2000, p. 85.
- Danyenko & Vakulenko (1995:6, 8)
- Danyenko & Vakulenko (1995:8)
- Žovtobrjux & Kulyk (1965:121–122)
- Rusanivs’kyj, Taranenko & Zjabljuk (2004:522–523)
- Danyenko & Vakulenko (1995:8–10)
- Danyenko & Vakulenko (1995:8 and 10)
- Ponomariv (2001:16, 20)
- Ponomariv (2001:14-15)
- Buk, Mačutek & Rovenchak (2008)
- Carlton (1972:?)
- Mascaró & Wetzels (2001:209)
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- Vitalij Marhalyk. Проблеми орфоепії в молодіжних телепрограмах
- Shevelov (1977:145)
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- Carlton, T.R. (1972), A Guide to the Declension of Nouns in Ukrainian, Edmonton, Alberta: University of Alberta Press
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