Mutant Ninja Consonants (Palatalization)
As you might have expected, since stem consonants and ending consonants don't get along together, when when they appear at the edges of stems and endings, mutations are likely to occur. With the exception of the four wimps, й в м and н, that simply disappear when an ending begins with consonant, most consonants hold their ground but suffer various mutations when assailed by an unfriendly consonant in an ending. The most common type of mutation a stem consonant suffers is called palatalization.
Palatalization is actually the results of the historical development of the language. It represents the same kind of substitutions as those found in English pairs such as those in Table 1, except the Russian spell them out while we don't.
Table 1: English Palatalization divide : division d : zh fuse : fusion z : zh submit : submission t : sh oppress: oppression s : sh
Russian palatalization is not only similar to this change in English pronunciation, several of the specific changes in Russian are identical to those in English.
What Palatalizes in Russian?
Table 2 identifies the consonants which undergo palatalization in Russian today. Once you have mastered the alternations caused by palatalization, you will need to learn where these changes take place. The sounds to the left of the angle bracket ">" are replaced by the one to the right of it when palatalization occurs.
Table 2: Russian Palatalization Labials Dentals Velars Palatals Examples Glosses п > пль I step б > бль люби+у > люблю I love ф > фль графи+у > графлю I graph в > вль стави+у > ставлю I put м > мль греме+у > гремлю I roar т к > ч прята+у > прячу I hide д з г > ж виде+у > вижу I see с х > ш носи+у > ношу I carry ст ск > щ (шч) иска+у > ищу I look-for
The mutant consonants (ш ж ч щ) are easy to spot because they are unlike any Latin or Greek consonants and larger than other Russian consonants. They are sometimes called 'hushes' because of the sounds they represent. Historically, all were once soft, hence the rule which forces us to write и and never ы after them. However, now ш and ж are hard and so any и following them are pronounced exactly like ы even though it is not written. Щ is now pronounced like a soft ш in Moscow but it and ч are always pronounced soft everywhere.
Where Does Palatalization Occur?
Now that you are familiar with the sounds that palatalize and how they palatalize, you need to know in which environments these sounds palatalize. Palatalization is not triggered by other sounds alone but specific sounds in specific morphological contexts. Here are the contexts.
The Present-Future Conjugations
Palatalization applies throughout the present-future of the first conjugation verbs ending on a:
писа- write пишу пишем пишешь пишете пишет пишут
First conjugation stems ending on the velars к, г, х undergo palatalization before е only, i. e. everywhere except in the 1st person singular and 3rd person plural:
мог- may, can могу можем можешь можете может могут
Second conjugation stems (those ending on и and е) palatalize in the 1st person singular only:
виде- see вижу видим видишь видите видит видят
Only vowel stems on -a palatalize in the Imperative:
Palatalization in the Imperative
писа- Пиши! показа- Покажи! остави- Оставь! пёк- Пеки!
Palatalization and the Past Passive Participles.
Palatalization applies only before the Past Passive Participle ending -ен as illustrated in the following Table 4.
Palatalization in the PPP
остави- оставлен показа- показан испёк- испечён написа- написан
In the blanks below, write in the correct form of the verb based on the stem given to the left and the person-number of the pronoun before the blank. Then push the button to see if your answer is correct. Sorry, no prizes this week.