Russian/Ukrainian: Pronunciation of Щ

Discussion in 'Other Slavic Languages' started by Phillip, Jul 17, 2006.

  1. Phillip Member

    Minnesota, United States
    English - Minnesota, U.S.A
    Hi everbody,
    In the book I am using it says that the letter
    Щ is pronounced shch as in fresh cheese, but I noticed that in a Russian book I had, it said that they pronounced it shsh as in fresh sheets. But then I found a site that had Ukrainian pronunciation audio and they also pronounced Щ like shsh. However, some of the phrases on this site were phrases I had seen in Russian books but not Ukrainian, so I don't know what to think. If someone could help me out that would be great.
    Thank you so much
  2. papillon Senior Member

    Barcelona, Spain
    Russian (Ukraine)
    The "Ch" sound in "cheese" corresponds the the letter "ч", not "щ". The sound of "sh" in "sheets" I think is a good approximation of "щ".
    I find the Ukrainian "щ" to be a bit harder than the Russian one, but it is still closer to the "sh" in sheets.

    Interestingly, while I was struggling (unsuccessfully so far):mad: with the soft German sound in Heinrich, I would sometimes find the Russian "щ" to be the closest sound (I know that's not true, but this was how I heard it..)
  3. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    The pronunciation is different in Russian and Ukranian. It's been discussed here in the forum before, but I don't remember where. Perhaps you can find the thread with the "Search" function, at the top of the page.
  4. Brian P

    Brian P Senior Member

    "shch" is the correct pronounciation but most Russians, at least in Moscow and Omsk, where I have spent a considerable amount of time, pronounce it "sh"
  5. papillon Senior Member

    Barcelona, Spain
    Russian (Ukraine)
    I would disagree with that. It is true that the sound is often transliterated as "shch", and in some places it is even pronounced like that, but this is not standard. The sound of щ is actually one consonant, not two as in shch. The relationship between ш and щ is very similar to that between "п" and "пь".

    The sound of "sh" in English is actually somewhere between щ and ш, i.e. "sh" is softer than "ш" and harder than "щ".
    This reminds of how the students of English in Russia are always entertained when they learn that the harmless russian word "щит" (shield) means something entirely different in English:D .
  6. Brian P

    Brian P Senior Member

    Thanks, Papillon. Who am I to argue with a native Russian speaker!

    Your mention of the word for "shield" reminds me of the time when I was in Russia and a young lady told me, "my mother likes to shit"! What she wanted to say was "to sew" but as she didn't know this word she said it in Russian.

    Also, an American friend of mine told me that when he was in Russia, he disagreed with something and said, "that's a load of hooey!" He wondered why his audience burst out laughing. (some readers may knot know that "hooey" is an American term for "nonsense" but in Russian it is a vulgar term for "penis" and can be used in many variants somewhat like our f--- word)
  7. Ed the Editor

    Ed the Editor Senior Member

    Hi Phillip,

    Welcome to the forums!

    My college Russian teacher was from Leningrad, and she had such a strong Leningrad accent that all her students picked it up from her. She said, and taught "shch".

    I hope this is useful.

  8. Julz Senior Member

    I second that, in Omsk and Moscow it is much like shsh. I think they try to universalize the transliteration so it isn't really correct in all cases.

    In German I would say the "ch" is like X character in Russian, atleast in Hochdeutsch.
  9. papillon Senior Member

    Barcelona, Spain
    Russian (Ukraine)
    From all this I gather that the use of "shch" sound for the letter "щ" may be more widespread than I thought. I found an interesting russian site where the author explains that actually the two-consonant sound of "shch" is being replaced by the single consonant sound that corresponds to the soft form of "ш". This latter is the sound I use and it is also the one used by TV ancors. The following is in Russian and was taken from the website:

    "..."щ" (буква, обозначающая сложный звук "шч")..." (так произносила, помню, эту букву моя бабушка, выросшая в Белоруссии ("кушать шчи"); теперь фонологическая норма русского языка требует иного: "щ" как мягкое "ш"

    Edit: we also should not discount the fact that "shch" is a lot easier to teach than the non-composite sound of the more standard "щ". So even if "shch" is not fully on par with the norm, there will probably be some resistance on the part of language teachers to switch.
  10. übermönch

    übermönch Senior Member

    Warum wohne ich bloß in so einem KAFF?
    World - 1.German, 2.Russian, 3.English
    The Щ is most commonly transcribed as shch and it isn't that wrong. It's just that the sh and ch are pronounced at the same time which leads to a much softer sh. The word sheet would be written as щит (actually meaning "shield in Russian"), while the similar obscene english word would be written with a ш, but the rest would be the same. The Ukrainian щ is harder than the Russian one, but still softer than ш - it's something in between.
  11. Natalya2006 Senior Member

    Shch , say it very quickly
  12. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
  13. papillon Senior Member

    Barcelona, Spain
    Russian (Ukraine)
    Once again, I must disagree with the assertions that the "shch" sound represents the norm in Russian. In the link to the previous thread kindly provided by Outsider, I found a quote with which I agree completely:

    There is obviously some heterogeneity in the way people pronounce Щ and I may be in the minority on this thread. But please, listen to any official news program in Russian. Very few people there would say shch. Of course, these comments are in reference to the Russian language. I think it is reasonable to represent the Ukrainian sound as shch.
  14. Anatoli Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Native: русский (Russian), home country: English
    Not sure if anyone mentioned that Russian Щ is not only palatalised but it's also longer - push ship! Pronouncing SHCH is acceptable but sh'sh' (double palatalised sh') is a more standard way. Ukrainians usually pronounce it similar to Polish people (shch) but just a little softer.

    Rendering the letter as 'sh' would also be incorrect. When transcribing in English I would stick to "shch" but as for pronunciation, there's no "ch" in it but some people do pronounce it as "shch" (Ukrainian, Belarusian or some dialectal influence).

    Do we have a consensus on that?

    In an English language textbook it's probably the closest you can get if you have to describe it without the other person hearing it. Pronouncing "щ" in "Ukrianian" won't cause any misunderstanding but it's better than pronouncing "щ" and "ш" the same way.

    Listen to native speakers to get "your own description" :). On a forum, people can only describe using other letters but that can never be 100% accurate.

    Для русскоязычных участников: "щ" не только мягкое, но и долгое "ш". Не считаю, произношение "щ" как "шч" стандартным, это скорее можно услышать на Украине, в Беларуси, на юге России (диалект).
  15. Phillip Member

    Minnesota, United States
    English - Minnesota, U.S.A
    Thank you everyone for all of your posts
  16. papillon Senior Member

    Barcelona, Spain
    Russian (Ukraine)
    Phillip --
    you're welcome, although I'm afraid this thread may have left you more confused than before:( .

    BTW, I agree with Anatoli's post.
  17. Anatoli Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Native: русский (Russian), home country: English
    Some words are not spelled with "щ" but are pronounced as if they are, such as combinations of "с" + "ч" (считать [щитать], счастье [щастье]), and others: дождь [дощ] pronouncing as [дошть] is also OK.

    Beware of other descriptions too, Bulgarian and Serbian also have this letter, which aslo matches the Russian words with "щ" but it is pronounced as "шт"!

    There is a voiced equivalent of "щ" in words like дрожжи, вожжи, жжёт, дожди, позже. These are pronounced as long (double) and palatalised 'ж'. Alternative pronunciation for those is also common, so you can pronounce these words the way they are spelled (also unpalatalised).
  18. Phillip Member

    Minnesota, United States
    English - Minnesota, U.S.A
    In regards to what Anatoli said, the с" + "ч" being pronounced as щ makes sense to me, but I am a little confused on the word дождь. Doesn't the combination of ждь make the zhd' sound? Is the щ pronunciation always the case for words ending in ждь or is this just something done specifically for this word?

  19. Anatoli Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Native: русский (Russian), home country: English
    You can say so (specifically for this word). There is no rule to pronounce the combination of "ждь" as щ but this word is usually pronounced like this. You can also pronounce it as "дошть" (voiced consonants lose their strength), in which case the pronunciation matches the spelling. The plural form дожди could be pronounced both as [дажжи] (жьжь - palatalised long ж) or [дажди].

    You will find that other Slavic languages have a sound there, which usually matches Russian
    "щ", for example in Polish it's "deszcz" (szcz = shch) but pronounced somewhat differently as decribed in this thread for Ukrainian.

    Don't hesitate to ask if you're still unsure.
  20. polaco

    polaco Member

    My college Russian teacher was from Leningrad, and she had such a strong Leningrad accent that all her students picked it up from her. She said, and taught "shch".

    My teacher is from Kazakhstan and says exactly the same.

  21. Anatoli Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Native: русский (Russian), home country: English
    Sorry, I can't provide you with voice recordings but pronouncing "щ" as "шч" will reveal that you are Polish. As I said, you can get away with it but it's not standard and not common.

    Polish accent is picked up straight away when used in Russian with consonants щ and л (quite different from Polish szch and ł), + palatalised consonants сь, зь, дь and ть (different from Polish ś, ź, dź and ć).

    Russian [щ] is best described to Polish people as [śś] - in pronunciation, not meaning, for example "вещь" as [wieśś], not [wieszcz], щётка - [śsiotka], not [szczotka]. (Another common error in pronunciation of Russian by Polish people - [ч] is pronounced as [ć], not [cz], although in meaning it will match the words with "cz"). "Чёрный" ("czarny") is pronounced as [ciornyj], not [czornyj]
  22. papillon Senior Member

    Barcelona, Spain
    Russian (Ukraine)
    So much so that in my final high school Russian exam (very important test) I misspelled "песчаный" (sandy) as "пещаный":eek:.
    However, I think that for -дождь- (rain), the prononciation [дошть] represents the "official" norm. While I might say [дощ] when speaking to a friend, I would make an effort to say [дошть] if I were, say, on TV.
    Sorry, I completely disagree for all of these! For дожди, prononciation is "dajdi", I don't know anyone who would say "дажжи", I would find it odd. (See the edit part!) For the rest of the word, I don't think they represent a voiced couterpart to "щ". It is true that they are long (double) but they are not palatalised. In fact, a word like вожжи (reins) sounds like [вожжы] and жжёт (burns) sounds like [жжот].

    How's that for starters? Two people from the same exact city can't even agree on prononciation details!:D

    Edit: on second thought, prononciation of rains as "дажжи" is OK, I just had a brain glitch. In this case, it is true that the [жж] combination would indeed represent the voiced [щщ] sound, Sorry!
  23. Anatoli Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Native: русский (Russian), home country: English
    So, what's your opinion in the end, Papillon, my countryman?

    I will still insist on [дощ] pronunciation, if you don't mind. I have a linguistic background and this things were always of interest to me. People do mix up the spelling with pronunciation, especially with Russian where it's supposed to be close one letter - one sound.

    Words like конечно, скучно, булочная are supposed to be pronounced with "ш", same as что, чтобы. Here spelling of the words affects their pronunciation by some people. The norm is to pronounce them with a "ш", not "ч". The word "дождь" and its plural "дожди" have 2 norms of pronunciation, as I stated before, so дошть и дажди are also OK but not the only correct form. I also mentioned other Slavic languages for a reason. You should know the Ukrainian too. You can easily trace it to "щ". This norm might be getting a bit obsolete.

    The discussion maybe fruitless, if we don't have a dictionary or other source of pronunciation and we only confuse learners. There are a few points in Russian pronunciation where there could be different opinions, like how to pronounce "лёгкий" (light (of weight) - [лёхкий] or [лёхкай]. The former is more common.

    I just found something on my previous post:
    It makes me feel belonging to the older generation :) I am not that old.
  24. Flaumiger Senior Member

    U.S., English
    I heard somewhere that the "щ" sound was pronounced like "ж" but with more of an English "h" sound to it, those two Russian letters having a relation similar to that of the relation between "t" and "d". I either do not remember or did not know the person's source/background, though, so I do not know how credible this information is.

    I recognize that this is a very old chain, but I still hope that someone will respond to it...
  25. Maroseika Moderator

    Nominally щ is nothing else than long soft ш.
    This is one of very fue long consonants in Russian. I remember only one more such consonant - this is a sound pronounced in дожди.
  26. Anatoli Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Native: русский (Russian), home country: English
    Flaumiger, we haven't completely agreed with Papillon about the pronunciation of "дожди", see posts #22, and #23. Suffice to say, there are 2 versions, both are OK: [даж'ж'и́] or [дажди́] (' symbol stands for palatalisation). This is about Russian, by the way, Ukrainian and other languages will have a different pronunciation.
  27. Kolan Banned

    Montréal (Québec)
    Russian (CCCP)
    It is far more intense, as well. And it is longer normally at the end of word, before a vowel it wouldn't be noticeably long.
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2008
  28. Blacklack Senior Member

    По-моему, обсуждение ушло очень далеко от темы.

    1. В русском литературном языке, насколько мне известно, есть "ленинградская" норма произношения щ как шч (sh'ch') и "московская", давно уже принятая на радио и телевидении, предписывающая произносить щ как мягкое шш (sh'sh'). Ленинградская норма, мне кажется, отражает более старое произношение. Точно можно сказать, что она отмирает.
    2. В украинском литературном языке однозначно положено произносить щ как шч (shch), причем ч более твердое, чем в русском. На практике никто почти этот звук так не произносит. Обычно употребляют русское щ (по московской норме).
    Отдельно надо упомянуть о "что". Русская норма предписывает произносить што, украинская — шчо. В реальности десятки миллионов людей в Украине, Белоруссии и смежных областях России (да и вообще в России) говорят шо.
  29. Kolan Banned

    Montréal (Québec)
    Russian (CCCP)
    - Деда, а што это там на стене? - Спи, внучек, сабля. - Шобля? - Да спибля! :d
  30. Maroseika Moderator

    "Н" in "дно" is also shorter than in "Дон". But this difference doesn't change the nature of "н".
  31. jakubisek Member

    So, let me try to summarize (say if I got it wrong)
    1) Russian pronunciation "shch" is not wrong, just a bit more conservative and less widespread (the commonest being long palatal fricative)
    2) Ukrainian normative pronunciation is "shch", but the long palatal ("Moscow style") is also common. Or is it also the most common in Ukrainian language? And the word for what is an exception as it is "sho" where the sh is NOT palatalized? Is that what you say? Ukrainian native speakers here? Did I get this right?

    And is it not so that the entire Ukrainian language is sort of "overrun" by Russian as many Ukrainians speak more Russian than Ukrainian? And in that case the long palatal would be just a sort of Russian accent in Ukrainian, not at all "correct"?

    I just have to transcribe Ukrainian words into an idiosyncratic system of romanization where the affricate ("ch") is transcribed as TSH. The goal is a reasonable approximation for an uninitiated reader of the transcription (who has no special phonetic skills). In this case, what transciption of the Ukr word for higher/above would you find as most reasonable - "vishe", "visshe" "vishshe" or "vishtshe"? And the word for what as "shtsho" or simply "sho"
  32. swintok Senior Member

    English - Canada
    The Ukrainian literary norm for щ is [shch] with the sounds very distinct. In official speech and on radio or television, if the announcer is trying to speak "proper" Ukrainian, he or she will use this. In oral usage, the further west one travels from Kyiv (and in the Ukrainian communities outside Ukraine), the more likely one will hear [shch]. The further east, [shsh].
  33. Selyd Senior Member

    Вы заставили меня вслушаться в моё звукообразование.
    Дам два набора слов по их произношению.
    Щ - щеня, щітка, Щек, щука, борщ, гуща, Щербина, щовечір, щедрик.
    ШЧ - ще, борщі, Щека, прощупай!, Щецин, щічка, щепа, щуря, щуреня.
    Наше "шо" занимает изолированное положение. Но я бы не утверждал, что
    шоканье прямо миллионноустое.
    Это произношение ближе к литературному, Левобережья и Поднепровья.
    Запад и Полесье наверное будет иначе. Не могу утверждать.
    Щ звучит коротко и резко. ШЧ звучит длинее и снижено.
    Местообразования звуков разное.
    Чем мог.
  34. Christo Tamarin

    Christo Tamarin Senior Member

    I am considering Щ in Russian. Perhaps, the same considerations apply to Ukrainian.

    Щ is equal to Ш+Ч by definition. For those speaking English, "FreSH CHeese" is more close to the Russian Щ than "FreSH SHeet".

    If Polish is concerned, Polish has four different sounds (phonemes):

    • hard Ш/SH (sz)
    • soft Ш/SH (ś)
    • hard Ч/CH (cz)
    • soft Ч/CH(ć)

    Russian has only two of them:

    • hard Ш/SH (sz)
    • soft Ч/CH (ć)

    If Polish cannot be refered, then we are to say that the Russian Ш/SH is usually hard and the Russian Ч/CH is always soft.

    If you are not aware of hardness and softness of consonants in Slavic, then just keep the Russian Щ=Ш+Ч=SHCH as in "FreSH CHeese" and stop reading this further.

    Next. In Russian, in the Щ=Ш+Ч consonant cluster, the softness goes from Ч back to Ш according to a process called assimilation by softness. Thus, a new sound appears in Russian, a soft Ш/SH, which is allophone of the usual hard Ш/SH. The cluster Щ=Ш+Ч is pronounced more easily if both Ш+Ч are soft.

    Next. If we compare Ш/SH and Ч/CH, we are to say that Ш/SH is fricative and Ч/CH is plosive. During the last century, the Щ=Ш+Ч consonant cluster changed in Russian in this way: both Ш+Ч being soft, the second part Ч/CH lost its plosiveness and thus became another soft Ш/SH. We come to this Щ is a double soft Ш/SH or a long soft Ш/SH. Note that the word soft is very important. The Russian Щ cannot be a long hard Ш/SH. If you pronounce Щ as a long hard Ш/SH (as in "freSH SHeet"), there could be misunderstanding.

    In Polish notation, the Russian Щ could be ść (conservative) or śś (innovative). It should never be szsz. Understanding will not be damaged if you use szcz for the Russian Щ (foreign accent will be noticed, of course). It is also possible to use szć but it is hard to pronounce.

    Note_1: The innovative pronunciation of the Russian Щ as a long soft Ш/SH introduces a new phoneme, Щ. According to the conservative pronunciation, Щ is just Ш+Ч.

    Note_1: In the word счастье, e.g., first the initial С/S, influence by the following Ч/CH, is assimilated to Ш/SH. Thus, we have Ш+Ч which is Щ.
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2013
  35. bibax Senior Member

    Czech (Prague)
    In most (if not all) languages using Latin alphabet the established transcription of the Russian and Ukrainian щ is the same as of the (hypothetical) combination шч, e.g. Bulgarian/Serbian Хрушчов, Czech Chruščov, German Chruschtschow, etc. It is not a good idea to change it.

    BTW1, some decades ago we learned in school that the Russian щ is pronounced š + č. We always pronounced ščuka, ščit, ... and we didn't care about nuances.

    BTW2, in related words Czech has šť (š + palatal t), Old Czech had šč. For example štika < ščika < ščuka, štír < ščír < ščúr, štít < ščít, štěstí < ščěstie, štěně < ščeně, ...
    The pronunciation ščika, ščír (or even ščuka, ščúr) should be still, after several centuries, understandable (sounds like a Moravian dialect) whereas śuka/śśuka/ššuka, śit/śśit/ššit, etc. is rather incomprehensible for us.
  36. nonik Senior Member

    In old cyrilic script, you can see this shape of sh/št , look at this

    and they are saying it is combination of two letters, letter ш puting over letter T.

    so, originaly it would be Š+T, ŠT......nošt/nosht-night

    today in some slavic languages/dialects it is ŠČ.
  37. swintok Senior Member

    English - Canada
    На разговорном языке на Западе, в Полесье и в диаспоре, все эти слова на вашем списке одинаково звучат, как ШЧ. На премер, нет разницы во звуке Щ в словах борщ и борщі. Звук ШЧ тоже остаеться литературной нормой для буквы Щ, по-моему.

    Извиняюсь за плохой русский. Нечасто на нем пишу.
  38. Duya Senior Member

    Not in WR world
    BTW3: In BCS the situation is similar: the default reflex is št, but some dialects, chiefly in Bosnia and Slavonia (ikavsko-šćakavski) preserve šć (šćap, dvorišće, šćipati). Those features are gradually waning with spread of the standard language, and now are present mainly in the speech of elderly and village people.
  39. itreius Senior Member

    It's also true for Central/Northern Croatia. The Kajkavian dialect has the šč reflex (dvorišče, ščap, ščipati, prišč, etc.), but due to the influence of standard language, it's being (and for the most part among younger speakers, already has been) replaced by št.
  40. Sobakus Senior Member

    As far as I know [št] was the southern dialect reflex of the same sound that gave eastern [tʃ] and western [ts], hence ночь, нощ and noc. Not sure how it came to represent [ʃtʃ] in eastern dialects though, maybe first there was a шч digraph that was merged with the letter from Church Slavonic.
  41. jakubisek Member

    So you pronounce the first group with śś, have I understood right? (or with short single ś ?)
    Now, what makes the words in each group belong to it? I do not see any perceivable regularity, as different sound is realized in the same phonemic surrounding.
    And, what is your pronunciation typical for? Kyiv?
  42. jakubisek Member

    By "this pronunciation" you refer to "shokanye" or to the pronunciation of two groups differently as you described above? Or to what, got a bit confused:confused:

    "What" as "sho" is a REGULAR exception? I mean, it is always pronounced "sho", in the literary norm as well?
    Dyakuyu you for clarifying :)
  43. jakubisek Member

    Thank you all for the illuminating detailed discussions on the various version of the same grapheme in Russian and Ukrainian. How about Belarussian, btw?

    Note that in wondering, "how did it become" so and so in Russain, we have to remember that the grapheme was introduced to OCS first. At that time, OCS was already a disctinctively Southern Slavic language. Therefore, it's phonological inventory DEVELOPED (with shifts) from the unattested pan-Slavic predecessor, just as the Eastern and Western Slavic languages did. So, even if OCS had "št" (or ść, or whatever), the Russian sound did not develop from that one, but both developed differently from a common root.
    Seems clear that two different phonemes or phoneme combinations have merged in the "št" of the South as we have two different developments corresponding to it in the northern lggs:

    Bulgarian RU

    nošt noć
    ošte yiśśo/yeščo
    što što

    Isn't it so....? Sorry, I just bla-bla here without going to check out in historical Slavic phonology books, where the proper answer will be, of course.

    Well, but as the original question was of a LEARNER of Russian, after what all has been said, we should end with some simple conclusion, like "pronounce it as in Fresh Cheese (be prepared to understand a different pronounciation, rather close to sounds occuring in Skandinavian, Polish, German ich-laut)"
  44. swintok Senior Member

    English - Canada
    The differences in pronunciation of the two groups would be common in Kyiv, Eastern, and Southern Ukraine. In Northern and Western Ukraine, Ukrainian-speaking areas of central European countries, and in the traditional Ukrainian communities outside Ukraine (North and South America, Australia), there is no difference in the pronunciation of the Щ in both groups of words. The letter is always pronounced /shch/. The literary Ukrainian taught in schools requires the /shch/ pronunciation.

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