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I heard the Russian Г (твёрдое Г) (год), Russian palatalized Г (мягкое Г) (мозги) and Belarusian Г (гэты). Does this list describe all types of "Г"-sounds in Eastern Slavic languages?

More precisely:

    • Do some (especially borrowed) words in the Belarusian language use the "Russian Г" sound (Гузік)?
    • It is considered outdated to use the letter Ґ (Ґузік) for that sound, isn't it?
    • Do Ukrainian Г and Belarusian Г have the same pronunciation?
    • Do Ukrainian Ґ [Belarusian Ґ] and Russian Г have the same pronunciation?
  1. There is "alternative sound of Г" in some words of the Russian language (ага, угу, бог, господь). What type of Г is it?

I hope such "barbaric" description of sounds is understandable. Ideally, the answer should use and explain all kinds of Ge through the International Phonetic Alphabet.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – bytebuster Mar 28 '17 at 8:19
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    • Do Ukrainian Г and Belarusian Г have the same pronunciation?

      In general — no.

      Belarusian Г is usually considered to be voiced velar fricative [ɣ].

      Exact nature of Ukrainian Г is debated. Some claim it is voiced glottal fricative [ɦ], while others — voiced pharyngeal fricative [ʕ] (both sample sounds in Wikipedia represent Ukrainian Г badly). Also pronunciation of Ukrainian Г may vary, depending on word etymology and speaker's dialect, sometimes it may turn into Belarusian-like [ɣ]. But most agree that in the "canonical" dialects of Ukrainian language in majority of words (excluding cases of borrowed words when it's sometimes pronounced as [ɣ] just because of mimicking pronunciation of original language, e.g. Greek) it differs from Belarusian Г.

      (However in mid-schools Ukrainian children are usually taught that Ukrainian Г is a voiced counterpart of the Х [x]. Not because it really is (it is not; Belarusian Г [ɣ] is), but rather because no other Ukrainian consonant fits this role better — and such a simplified view is enough for mid-schools.)

      (Please don't be confused by the "[ɦ] vs. [ʕ]" dilemma. The "[ɦ] vs. [ʕ]" is more theoretical question about right classification of the sound, not about right pronunciation. Per my individual perception, Wikipedia samples for both [ɦ] and [ɣ] represent Ukrainian Г inexactly, and for [ʕ] — even worse (thus Ukrainian Г for me sounds like something between Wikipedia samples for [ɦ] and [ɣ]). Real pronunciation of Ukrainian Г can be heard, for example, in the O. Avramenko's lessons — he begins almost every his lesson with "доброГо дня".)

    • Do Ukrainian Ґ [Belarusian Ґ] and Russian Г have the same pronunciation?

      In general — yes. It is voiced velar stop [ɡ].

    More info: Ukrainian phonology.

  1. There is "alternative sound of Г" in some words of the Russian language (ага, угу, бог, господь). What type of Г is it?

    The "Russian phonology" Wikipedia article says it's either [ɡ] (strict), or [ɣ] (like Belarusian).

    While the "Ge (Cyrillic)" Wikipedia article says it's region-dependent: /ɡ/ generally, /ɣ/ in the Southern Russian dialect and may be /ɦ/ in the regions bordering Belarus and Ukraine.


UPD. by @yalov

    • Do some (especially borrowed) words in the Belarusian language use the "Russian Г" sound (Гузік)?
    • It is considered outdated to use the letter Ґ (Ґузік) for that sound, isn't it?*

    Consensus on this has never been reached, There are 3 answers:

    • Jan Stankievič promoted both the reintroduction of the practice of pronouncing Latin [g] in newly assimilated words, and the adoption of the letter Ґ to represent it.
      Станкевіч Я. Гук "Ґ" у беларускай мове. Бацькаўшчына, 1956

      Also, original norm of Taraškievica (1918) doesn't include Ґ.
      Ґ were discussed at Belarusian Academical Conference (1926), where some changes of the Belarusian alphabet were proposed, but never were implemented; and Ґ is included in modern normalization of Taraškievica (2005).

    • Зычны гук Г выбухны has the list of words with [g], but uses Г-letter for that.
    • [g] tends to move into [ɣ], and it was done completely for the last 100 years. So there isn't [g] and Ґ.
  • There is some info Ghe_with_upturn and Зычны_гук_Г_выбухны. Belarusian Ґ-sound is voiced velar plosive. It is not Russian voiced velar stop [g], right? So Bel Ґ-letter is deprescated; Bel Ґ-sound is still on, but it tends to move into something called "fricative Г/pharyngeal Г", IRL into [ɣ] – yalov Mar 25 '17 at 19:21
  • @yalov, I'm absolutely not expert in that. But English Wikipedia article for "voiced velar plosive" redirects to "voiced velar stop". So I suppose them to be same-or-close things. – Sasha Mar 25 '17 at 19:30
  • @yalov, just to clarify: for me Ukrainian Г sounds between the Wikipedia example for [ɣ] and the one for [ɦ] — depending on word position and etc (and the one for [ʕ] is unrelated at all). But it's just personal impression (not necessarily objective). And it doesn't necessarily relate to exact nature of the sound. – Sasha Mar 25 '17 at 20:09
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This question comes from a wrong assumption that these consonants are similar. The seemingly similar Cyrillic letters Г and Ґ are the ones to blame.

The reality is quite different.


Theory

First off, as a general rule, the spoken language is always the key, and the writing only "encodes" the real, actual sounds of each particular language. It is a good idea to keep in mind that the writing can spoil the entire picture. Take the vowel о. Ukrainian о is almost always different to the Russian counterpart, despite the fact is "encoded" with the same symbol.

Leave alone the fact that even within the same language it can be tricky: there are three different vowels in Russian word молоко [mə lɐ 'kɔ] (or even five if you consider the dialectal [mə ɫʌ 'ko]), for example — all five "encoded" with о.


Phonemes in question

Returning back to G-consonants,

Ukrainian Г is "voiced glottal fricative",
Ukrainian Ґ is "voiced velar stop" (just like the Russian Г), and
Belarussian Г is "voiced velar fricative"

So they belong to three different classes, having very few in similar.

This image shows (pretty schematic) the location of glottis and velum:

Speech organs
(image courtesy of The Marine English Forum)


Similar Phonemes in Slavic Languages

This also implies the answer to te question,

Does this list describe all types of "Г"-sounds in Eastern Slavic languages?

The answer is, there is no such thing as "Г"-sounds. One may or may not consider various consonants a "Г"-sound or not, depending on many factors. Take the following examples:

  • Full glottal stop ʔ. If you speak Russian, this is the phoneme in word не-а — why not?, it is also glottal;
  • Voiceless velar fricative x (as in Ukrainian хліб) — why not?, it differs from Belarusian Г only by being voiceless.

See, if we replace the term of "Г"-sounds with something more formal (e.g., "glottal" or "fricative"), we automatically get the full list of languages having this phoneme, regardless of how they are written.


Phone-to-Phoneme

Yet another consideration is for mapping phones to phonemes. Each phoneme may be pronounced differently by different speakers (in other words, they produce different phones), but a listener would map these phones to the same phoneme to decipher the word.


Further reading

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