Belarusian - Lukashenko: correct pronunciation of final vowel

bearded

Senior Member
Hello everyone

I don't know any Slavic language. For a few weeks, in Italian TV the name of the Belarussian dictator has been pronounced 'Lukashenka'. I would like to know if this pronunciation is correct - and complies with a phonological rule in that language.

Many thanks in advance.
 
  • DarkChild

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    It is pronounced LukashenkA in both Russian, and Belarusian. The difference is that in Russian it's spelled with a final O, while in Belarusian it's with a final A. So, it depends which spelling is being followed.
    For example, tennis player Azarenka's last name is the same way, but it's spelled following the Belarusian way.
     

    Piotr_WRF

    Senior Member
    Polish, German
    This phenomenon is called akanye and basically means that an unstressed /o/ is pronounced more or less /a/. Russian does not reflect it in its spelling, Belarusian does.
     

    lingpil

    Senior Member
    German & Russian
    However I would like to point out that this unstressed /o/ (at least in Russian) doesn't become the same kind of /a/ like in Italian or German. The pronunciation of it comes quite close to the British English vowel pronunciation in "must". Hearing news speakers who pronounce it as a clear /a/ like in German "alpha" sounds from the Russian point of view slightly odd. I don't know if Belarusian speakers feel the same.

    Please also note that in Belarus most people (including Lukashenko himself) speak more or less standard Russian or Russian with some regional colouring. The linguistic situation is very different to Ukraine and the Ukrainian language that is indeed alive and kicking.
     

    Panceltic

    Senior Member
    Slovenščina
    Like the comments above said, unstressed /o/ in Russian turns into a weak /ɐ/ or /ə/ sound, depending on the position in the word. This is called akanye and is not reflected in spelling.

    In Belarusian though, akanye is even stronger than in Russian. The etymological unstressed /o/ becomes a fully-fledged, clear /a/, which is also shown in spelling.

    Best illustrated with some IPA:

    Russian: Лукашенко [ɫʊkɐˈʂɛnkə]

    Belarusian: Лукашэнка [ɫukaˈʂɛnka]

    Lukashenko is actually a Ukrainian surname, so here is Ukrainian for completeness: Лукашенко [ɫʊkɐˈʃɛnkɔ]. Akanye doesn't exist in Ukrainian.
     
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    In Belarusian though, akanye is even stronger than in Russian. The etymological unstressed /o/ becomes a fully-fledged, clear /a/, which is also shown in spelling.
    This pronunciation has almost disappeared: it is only found nowadays in the speech of emigrants that inhabited the Polish-owned (1920–1939) part of Belarus or their descendants. The rest of speakers pronounce a more or less in the Russian manner. That can be heard for example among presenters of the American радыё «Свабода», where only the American Данчык and the Polish Максімюк speak this way.
     

    Awwal12

    Senior Member
    Russian
    A couple of minor corrections regarding this discussion:
    1. Square brackets go for sounds (phones), slashes go for phonemes. For Russian and Belarusian the difference really matters - for example, Russian has 5 to 6 vowel phonemes but no less than 15 vowel sounds which are their positional allophones (part of them being quite distinct).
    2. Akanye in the broad sense is the merger of all non-close unstressed vowels, and in the narrow sense it's the merger of /a/ and /o/ (after hard consonants - P.S.) in the closest pre-tonic syllable into an [a]-like sound (most typically, [ɐ], but in Standard Belarusian and in some Russian dialects it's an almost unreduced [a]).
    This pronunciation has almost disappeared: it is only found nowadays in the speech of emigrants that inhabited the Polish-owned (1920–1939) part of Belarus or their descendants. The rest of speakers pronounce a more or less in the Russian manner. That can be heard for example among presenters of the American радыё «Свабода», where only the American Данчык and the Polish Максімюк speak this way.
    Modern Belarusian must be strongly influenced by Russian, since most speakers have Russian as their first language, and many ethnic Belarusians don't speak Belarusian at all (plus there's a considerable Russian minority). Compared to Ukraine (where, despite the extremely strong positions of Russian, it's deeply influenced by Ukrainian phonetics) the situation is kind of reverse. Pronunciation among Belarusian villagers must be less affected, I suppose, even though they normally speak anything but Standard Belarusian.
     
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    Modern Belarusian must be strongly influenced by Russian, since most speakers have Russian as their first language, and many ethnic Belarusians don't speak Belarusian at all (plus there's a considerable Russian minority). Compared to Ukraine (where, despite the extremely strong positions of Russian, it's deeply influenced by Ukrainian phonetics) the situation is kind of reverse. Pronunciation among Belarusian villagers must be less affected, I suppose, even though they normally speak anything but Standard Belarusian.
    Does Lukashenko/Lukashenka/Łukašenka pronounce unstressed a's the Russian or Belarusian way? Nobody will say he doesn't have a strong accent in Russian.
     

    Awwal12

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Does Lukashenko/Lukashenka/Łukašenka pronounce unstressed a's the Russian or Belarusian way? Nobody will say he doesn't have a strong accent in Russian.
    He certainly produces open sounds in many positions where Russian speakers normally make schwas (post-tonic positions included), even though schwas also occur in his speech. I cannot be sure about the exact quality of these a-like sounds, though.
     
    Compared to Ukraine (where, despite the extremely strong positions of Russian, it's deeply influenced by Ukrainian phonetics) the situation is kind of reverse.
    Concerning Ukraine, I've noticed that the pronunciation in eastern and southern regions, which are expected to be the most russified / least ukrainized (since both Ukrainian and Russian started to penetrate there some four centuries ago and all that speech is newly formed), is often very, very different from anything I have ever heard among Russians or among Ukrainians from originally Ukrainian areas. If somebody is interested, check on Youtube Юрий Романенко, Сергей Белашко or — the crown of it all — Добкин-Кернес (these latter are both Jews but speak characteristic local Russian).
     

    Şafak

    Senior Member
    I am not going to read the entire thread. "Lukashenka" sounds ultra weird to me. Belarusians might pronounce his name this way but surely not Russians nor Ukrainians.

    Lukashenko" is natural. I hope we won't pronounce his surname ever again, though. So if I were you, you would not be bothered even a tiny bit.
     

    Awwal12

    Senior Member
    Russian
    "Lukashenka" sounds ultra weird to me
    ...
    Lukashenko" is natural.
    I hope you realize that no one pronounces post-tonic "o" as [o] (loaned vowel clusters are a different matter, but even then it will rather be a rounded vowel of uncertain quality). Basically "a" and "o" should be identical schwas in this position in Russian.
     

    Lorenc

    Senior Member
    Italian
    I've also heard the 'Lukashenka' pronunciation in Italian TV news and I found it very strange. In the press I only see 'Lukashenko', ie the transcription of the Russian form, whose expected pronunciation in Italian is [lukaˈʃɛŋko] (Italian never applies 'akaniye' or 'ikanie' to Italian-adapted Russian proper names). Maybe Belarus at some point communicated to journalists that it prefers that the Belarusian pronunciation be used? Unlikely.
    BTW, I've noticed Лукашенко is declined as a masculine noun in Ukrainian and Belarusian (and also in Czech and Serbo-Croatian, I think), while it is undeclinable in Russian and Polish. Of course it must be the same for all surnames ending in -o.
     
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    Awwal12

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Sure, surnames ending in -ko are indeclinable in modern Russian. Historically they were declined according to the 2nd or to the 1st (i.e. phonetically, because standard Russian has lost its masculine 2nd declension nouns long ago) declension paradigms.
     
    I've also heard the 'Lukashenka' pronunciation in Italian TV news and I found it very strange. In the press I only see 'Lukashenko', ie the transcription of the Russian form and it should then be pronounced in Italian [ lukaˈʃɛŋko] (Italian never respects 'akaniye' or 'ikanie' for Italian-adapted Russian proper names).
    The official English site of the president of Belarus uses the Ukrainian/Russian variant Lukashenko. The name and patronym are written as Alexander Grigoryevich, that is the first is in English (the Russian name is Aleksandr), the second in Russian.

    I wonder why Italian does not write Lucascenco, without any English mediation.

    Maybe Belarus at some point communicated to journalists that it prefers that the Belarusian pronunciation be used? Unlikely.Maybe Belarus at some point communicated to journalists that it prefers that the Belarusian pronunciation be used? Unlikely.
    Actually that may be true. Belarus in the recent decades has had several waves of official nativization: for example, Russian has been expelled from street signs, metro stations and city inscriptions (like on railway stations). Instead, when a second variant is provided, it is either English of transliterated Belarusian.

    reklama_metro_plakaty_na_dveryah_0286.jpg


    So, for example, 99% of passengers in the Minsk metro think and speak a different language than that of the announcements and signs. That's human rights, you know.

    BTW, I've noticed Лукашенко is declined as a masculine noun in Ukrainian and Belarusian (and also in Czech and Serbo-Croatian, I think), while it is undeclinable in Russian and Polish. Of course it must be the same for all surnames ending in -o.
    Russian dialects are divided as to which variant is used for diminutives: some dialects from the very beginning of the literacy used a-stems (-ka), others use o-stems (-ko). The standard language has generalized the former, and most modern speakers are simply unaware that the masculine o-nouns of either origin can be declined. To the extent that in the anti-Ukrainian Internet posts the -enko-surnames are proclaimed Caucasian loans.

    P. S. Concerning the numbering of the declensions. Traditional grammars and school manuals (at least at the time I studied) use the Greek and Latin system with a-stems called the 1st declension and o-stems the 2nd. University books and manuals for foreigners tend to reverse that — for unknown reasons. As a result you're never quite sure which is which.
     

    Lorenc

    Senior Member
    Italian
    I wonder why Italian does not write Lucascenco, without any English mediation.

    Such an Italianised spelling might have been used in the press until 1990 or so; until about that date newspapers often used such spellings, eg Krusciov for Хрущёв, Brezniev for Брежнев (Italian has no way or writing ж, so z must do) and Gorbaciov for Горбачёв. This was never correct, as 'officially' Italy uses the so-called academic ("Czech-style") transliteration system for Russian names: Chruščëv and Gorbačëv. Reputable publications (translated Russian literature, book on Russia's history, Italian Wikipedia etc) use this system, or sometimes simple modifications of it (eg using 'ia' instead of 'ja' for я, etc). Newspapers nowadays exclusively use English-style spellings (presumably to avoid using unfamiliar characters such as š, which are unavailable on Italian keyboards and, anyway, few know how to read properly).
     

    robin74

    Senior Member
    BTW, I've noticed Лукашенко is declined as a masculine noun in Ukrainian and Belarusian (and also in Czech and Serbo-Croatian, I think), while it is undeclinable in Russian and Polish. Of course it must be the same for all surnames ending in -o.
    It is declinable in Polish, though it declines like a feminine noun.
     
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