Which O Is Stressed In обо?

Discussion in 'Русский (Russian)' started by RhoKappa, Mar 7, 2009.

  1. RhoKappa Senior Member

    Standard American English
    Hello, everyone. I'm new to this forum and I'm excited to get help from you all to help me learn Russian. I can use all the help I can get. This is my first post, so please be gentle with me. Sometimes you will find me asking stupid questions, but understand that I am studying Russian on my own. I am always willing to learn something new every day.

    Here is my first question, and it is very easy. Consider this phrase.

    Они говорят обо мне.

    This is a simple question of pronunciation. My book does not specify with stress marks which o is stressed in обо. My chances are 50/50, so I'm guessing the first one.

    Is it pronounced обо or обо?
  2. CapnPrep Senior Member

    It's a trick question… There is a third possibility, and in fact your book gives you the answer!
  3. Maroseika Moderator

    The first "о" is slightly stressed, though in normal speech this stress is not so evident. However when singing one would rather pronounce [а-а-аба мне] or [а-а-аба-а-а мне] мне but scarcely [аба-а-а мне].
  4. tram-pam-pam Senior Member

    If you stress the first syllabus too much, in normal speech it'll sound as another word - оба (both).
  5. Maroseika Moderator

    I guess this is impossible. Such disaster may happen only if [a] of обо is substituted with [o] of оба.
  6. palomnik Senior Member


    Welcome to the forum!

    In case you haven't already guessed, the stress in обо мне is on мне. Treat the whole phrase as if it were one word.

    Simple? Yes, maybe.
  7. Slavianophil Senior Member

    Yes, prepositions in real speech are normally not stressed at all. Except for long complex prepositions like "в течение".

    Short ones are pronounced as if they were part of the following word.
  8. luvana

    luvana New Member

    I agree.

    In "обо мне" the first о is pronounced as [a] and is stressed, the second o also sounds like an [a] but is even more subtle
  9. RhoKappa Senior Member

    Standard American English
    Ah, thanks. From what I gather, I suppose that neither of the o's are stressed, but an elision follows to мне, making it sound like one word. No wonder my book does not specify stress marks. I thought that every Russian word had one stressed vowel, but apparently there are exceptions, with some words having no stressed vowels and some words even having two stressed vowels.

    Just like the phrase они говорят об этом. The o in об is not stressed and has an elision to этом, making the two sound like one word.

  10. CapnPrep Senior Member

    That's right. Some words don't have an independent stress, and instead they have to "lean on" the following word.

    But "elision" is not the right term, because no vowel is deleted (in fact, an extra vowel is inserted in обо мне). If you want to use a technical term, you can try "proclisis". :)
  11. RhoKappa Senior Member

    Standard American English
    Really? I thought an elision is the combining of two words into one sound, like the French chez elle. Proclisis, eh? I'll look it up.
  12. stargzr Member

    los angeles
    English (USA) - Russian - bilingual
    how about this..
    "a- baah mne" while stressing the secon half of the word.
  13. palomnik Senior Member

    If you keep up with Russian you will have to deal with the fact that it's a stress timed language. In the case of Russian this means that unstressed vowels can end up going off in a variety of directions. You've probably already studied about how "o" and "a" change their pronunciation when they are not stressed, and this is important. Other vowels change too, picking up influences from the consonants surrounding them, but these are harder to quantify.

    The fact that native Russian speakers will dispute just how much unstressed vowels will change (as you can see from the posts above) shows just how confusing this can be!
  14. RhoKappa Senior Member

    Standard American English
    That's probably right. Too bad we don't have means to freely upload audio here. I had it as "abamnye," but there are so many ways to pronounce it.

    The letter O in Russian is not easy to pronounce. It depends on if it is stressed, and if unstressed, its position in a word in relation to another stressed vowel. Consider the word хорошо, which best illustrates. The correct stress is in the final o, which sounds like o as in "doe." If o immediately precedes a stressed vowel, it sounds like a as in "father." If o begins a word and is not stressed, it again sounds like a as in "father." For example, the name Олександр. For all other places, the unstressed o has an uh sound, as in the dumb expression "duh." Hence, хорошо sounds like "khuh-ra-SHO," with the stress at the end. At least, that is how I understand it.

    On a side note, people in Ukraine tell me that when I speak Russian, I speak with a Russian accent. Ukrainians have a slightly different accent, and I think the letter o, as explained above, is distinctively Russian. Also, the word что in Ukraine sounds more like "шо." Perhaps that is because the Ukrainian language sometimes mixes in with the Russian.

    With обо, neither o is stressed, so it should sound like a-buh, though the a-sound is more faint. I think that is correct.

    Last edited: Mar 7, 2009
  15. sokol

    sokol Senior Member

    Vienna, Austria; raised in Upper Austria
    Austrian (as opposed to Australian)
    In IPA this would be [kərɐʃɔ] (so, this is the phonetic representation of "khuh-ra-shó"), and my Russian textbook agrees with you that it should be pronounced like that.

    обо then would be [ɐbə] following the explanations provided above - or, using your "transliteration" to English sounds, "abuh" as you wrote (with no vowel stressed, but with the first one being slightly "stronger").
  16. vox05 Senior Member

    Russia, Russian
    Yes, however 'ш' is pronounced not 'ʃ' but 'ʂ'

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