pronunciation and use of Это versus Эта and Этот

DareRyan

Senior Member
United States - English
As far as I know the words это эта and этот and the words which contain them are the only words to use the character э so that the e can be accented and not be Iotified. This principle as simple as it seems brings one question to mind; With the principle of Akanye what is the difference in pronunciation between Это and Эта? Also, are Этот and Эта only adjectival forms or can they be used as subjects in the nominitive case instead of predicate adjectives by replacing a nominitive noun? I.E. I would say "Этот карандаш" but if I were to ask about the pencil would I say "Что это?" or "Что этот?"?
 
  • Anatoli

    Senior Member
    русский (Russian)
    As far as I know the words это эта and этот and the words which contain them are the only words to use the character э so that the e can be accented and not be Iotified.
    Incorrect. There are a lot of words with an "э", very often they are loanwords.
    этаж, экран, элеватор, Эстония, ....
    This principle as simple as it seems brings one question to mind; With the principle of Akanye what is the difference in pronunciation between Это and Эта?
    No difference in pronunciation, only context will tell you whatit is, kids can make errors in dictations, they need to know the genders and correct spelling. Это окно, эта дверь. The first words sounds the same, unless you dliberately pronounce the former with [o]. Sometimes we do to highlight the difference, not necessary in most cases. You'll find a lot of situations where grammatical form coincide in pronunciation only, another example: сказала, сказало. Both ending sound the same in standard Russian.
    Also, are Этот and Эта only adjectival forms or can they be used as subjects in the nominitive case instead of predicate adjectives by replacing a nominitive noun? I.E. I would say "Этот карандаш" but if I were to ask about the pencil would I say "Что это?" or "Что этот?"?
    You should only use "Что это?", no matter what sort of object it is and even if it's plural. So is the answer to these questions, the word это is used even if the word that follows is not a neuter and if it's plural:
    это - стол, это - книга, это - окно, это - тетради.
    This is a table, this is a book, this is a window, these are exercise-books.
    But:
    этот стол, эта книга, это окно, эти тетради
    this table, this book, this window, these exercise-books

    это - окно sound the same as это окно
     

    jester.

    Senior Member
    Germany -> German
    No difference in pronunciation, only context will tell you whatit is, kids can make errors in dictations, they need to know the genders and correct spelling. Это окно, эта дверь. The first words sounds the same, unless you dliberately pronounce the former with [o]. Sometimes we do to highlight the difference, not necessary in most cases. You'll find a lot of situations where grammatical form coincide in pronunciation only, another example: сказала, сказало. Both ending sound the same in standard Russian.

    I once read here in the forum, that o is a schwa if it is not stressed, whereas a is always pronounced like a.

    Is that a dialectal pronunciation? :confused:
     

    Anatoli

    Senior Member
    русский (Russian)
    I once read here in the forum, that o is a schwa if it is not stressed, whereas a is always pronounced like a.

    Is that a dialectal pronunciation? :confused:
    My answer may not sound scientific but most people pronounce both letters the same, when unstressed, that is as schwa. The quality of the sound (how clear it is pronounced) may also depend on its position in a multisyllable word.

    Sorry if it sounds confusing and doesn't match someone else's post here but that's another opinion of a native speaker. :)
    You won't go wrong if you stick with that pattern.
     

    Jana337

    Senior Member
    čeština
    I once read here in the forum, that o is a schwa if it is not stressed, whereas a is always pronounced like a.
    This is what I was taught at school. But when natives talk, the difference is hardly discernible for me.

    Jana
     

    Anatoli

    Senior Member
    русский (Russian)
    This is what I was taught at school. But when natives talk, the difference is hardly discernible for me.

    Jana
    Because we hardly discern the difference ourselves (if there is one).

    I am not sure how Russian is taught to foreigners and I also heard some native Russian supporting this idea that unstressed o and a are different but let me say something: when Russian kids go to school they already know how to speak and they have to learn when to write "a" and when "o" because if they are unstressed we can't tell what it should be spelled like if we don't know the grammar rules or correct spelling. Some people consciously pronounce unstressed o differently from unstressed a, even pronounce it clearly as o in some words or situations like "поэт" (sounds more sophisticated when o is pronounced clearly) or when a word consists of two parts, so it has 2 accents "громкоговоритель" - the main accent is on the second highlighted vowel but the first o is pronounced clearly.
     

    papillon

    Senior Member
    Russian (Ukraine)
    As far as I know the words это эта and этот and the words which contain them are the only words to use the character э so that the e can be accented and not be Iotified.
    I'll actually agree with this. Indeed, there are plenty of words starting with э, but you are right to note that эта and этот are the only ones with an accent on э (I think). I'm not sure if "iotified" is a good term here, but in the unaccented cases often the sound ы or even и is heard. People would pronounce Ыкран or Икран instead of Экран. This wouldn't happen with эта and этот.

     

    papillon

    Senior Member
    Russian (Ukraine)
    Because we hardly discern the difference ourselves (if there is one).
    I agree with Anatoli, I don't think we make any difference between those two sounds. And, of course, children in school have a really hard time figuring out when to write O or A (same thing with E and И).
     

    Anatoli

    Senior Member
    русский (Russian)
    I'll actually agree with this. Indeed, there are plenty of words starting with э, but you are right to note that эта and этот are the only ones with an accent on э (I think). I'm not sure if "iotified" is a good term here, but in the unaccented cases often the sound ы or even и is heard. People would pronounce Ыкран or Икран instead of Экран. This wouldn't happen with эта and этот.

    этнос, эврика, этика, экспорт, эра, etc. They are all borrowed transliterations, of course.
     

    SCOM

    New Member
    English and USA
    I agree with Anatoli, I don't think we make any difference between those two sounds. And, of course, children in school have a really hard time figuring out when to write O or A (same thing with E and И).

    It's interesting, despite my incorrect profile, I'm actually a native of Kiev, but moved to the United States when I was 3. I still speak fluent Russian, but I have problem writing, because I get those two sets of letters confused. I mean as far as I can tell there's no difference in sound, at least for O and A. The Russian word for window starts with an "o" but it's pronounced almost exactly the same as the first letter of Russian word for automobile, which is A, although the latter is a foreign word so maybe that's why.
     

    Thomas F. O'Gara

    Senior Member
    English USA
    I'm surprised to see the confusion about a and o. As we were taught, unstressed a is always a schwa. Unstressed o is pronounced like a if it is in the syllable directly in front of the accented syllable; otherwise it is also pronounced like a schwa. Хорошо = khərasho.


    Also (although I may be on unsteady ground here) I believe that in certain very limited situations этот and эта can be used as subject pronouns: Это наша новая машина. Эта как ветер ходит.


    As I am not a native speaker, any comments would be appreciated.
     

    papillon

    Senior Member
    Russian (Ukraine)
    I'm surprised to see the confusion about a and o. As we were taught, unstressed a is always a schwa. Unstressed o is pronounced like a if it is in the syllable directly in front of the accented syllable; otherwise it is also pronounced like a schwa. Хорошо = khərasho.
    This is probably regional. Your prononciation is very characteristic of the typical Moscow accent. In fact, when people want to imitate someone speaking like a Muscovite, they will often use the word Хорошо and they will say as you described, perhaps even understressing and shortening the schwa and overaccentuating the a, so that it almost sounds like khraasho.:D
    Also (although I may be on unsteady ground here) I believe that in certain very limited situations этот and эта can be used as subject pronouns: Это наша новая машина. Эта как ветер ходит.
    yes, this is so. Just like in English:
    This car is new: car is the subject
    This is our new car: this is the subject.
     

    Crescent

    Senior Member
    Russian, (Ukraine)
    In fact, when people want to imitate someone speaking like a Muscovite, they will often use the word Хорошо and they will say as you described, perhaps even understressing and shortening the schwa and overaccentuating the a, so that it almost sounds like khraasho.:D
    Really? I always thought that when people want to make fun of a Moscow accent, they always tell the famous joke:

    "Девушка, а Вы - Москвичка?"
    " Да, а ШО?"

    ;)

    Approximate translation:
    'Young lady, are you from Moscow?'
    'Yes. So waa?'
    (Okay, not very good, but it makes a point! :p)
     

    ballena

    Member
    Russian
    Really? I always thought that when people want to make fun of a Moscow accent, they always tell the famous joke:

    "Девушка, а Вы - Москвичка?"
    " Да, а ШО?"

    ;)

    Approximate translation:
    'Young lady, are you from Moscow?'
    'Yes. So waa?'
    (Okay, not very good, but it makes a point! :p)
    This joke is not about Moscow accent, it actually has the opposite meaning. It makes fun of people who just recently moved to Moscow (from Ukraine, for example) and consider themselves true Moscovites.:D

    PS: I understand that telling this joke you probably knew exactly what it means and were really joking.;)
     
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