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1. pronunciation and alphabet

pronunciation

Unlike English, Interslavic words are pronounced the same way they are written. This is good news. It means that once you learn how to pronounce individual NS characters, you will be able to pronounce any NS word.

Stress is on the first syllable of short words. That syllable is only slightly emphasized, just like in the English words "table", "memory". Long words have stress at internal syllable finishing by three or more consonants just like in the English word "December".

However, Interslavic is an artificial language and therefore allows different kinds of stressing. Polish speakers, for example, will tend to put stress always on the second to last syllable of a word; Czechs will tend to put stress on the first syllable of a word.


alphabet

Interslavic actually uses two fully equivalent alphabets: Latin and Cyrillic. In addition, it also has a transcript available in ASCII and Greek alphabets, and it is possible to use the first-ever Slavic script: Glagolitic for your pleasure.

In this course
we will use the Latin alphabet with a brief outline of its transcription in Cyrillic. Do t
ake notice that Interslavic uses the English version of the Latin alphabet supplemented by three diacritic marked consonants č, š, ž and one diacritic marked vowel ě. These letters can be written using combinations of non-accented Latin letters as cz, sz, zs and ie (example: člověk = czloviek = a man).

There are no other accented letters or other "non-English" characters except those four. Neoslavonic Latin alphabet is derived from the international standard ISO 9 and the Russian state standard GOST and the United Nations standard UN 1987 made by the United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names (UNGEGN). Neoslavonic letters can be found in many Slavic languages (for example marked Latin letters č, š, ž, ě are in Slovenian, Croatian, Czech, Slovak, ... and Cyrillic letters are the same in Church Slavonic, Russian, Bulgarian, Serbian, ...). For your information, this system of Latin character diacritics has been introduced in the early 15th century by the Czech thinker, martyr and reformer Jan Hus.

 Latin  Latin  Cyrillic  Greek  IPA  example  name
 a  a  а
 α  [a]  alphabet, but
 a
 b  b  б
 μπ  [b]  beer, bird
 be
 c  c  ц
 τς  [ts]  cats
 ce
 č  cz
 ц
 τζ  [tʃ]  chimney, bench
 če
 d  d  д
 δ  [d]  date, do, odd
 de
 dj  dj  дь
 δι  [ɟ]  duty  dje
 dž  dzs  дж
 δζς  [dʒ]  juice, gymnastics
 dže
 e  e  е
 ε  [ɛ]  bed, yes
 e
 f  f  ф
 φ  [f]  photo, leaf  ef
 g  g  г
 γ  [g]  go, get
 ge
 h
 h  х
 χ  [x]  loch (Scottish), José (Spanish) 
 ha
 i  i  и
 η  [i]  city, see, meat  i
 ě
 ie  е (ѣ)
 ε (ιε)  [jɛ]  yes, bien (Spanish), piedra (Spanish)
 jatj
 j  j  ј
 ι  [j]  yes, you
 je
 ju  ju  ю  ιου  [jʊ]  you, cute  ju
 k  k  к  κ  [k]  kill, skin
 ka
 l  l  л  λ  [l]  like, loop
 el
 lj  lj  ль  λι  [ʎ]  caballero (Spanish)
 elj
 m  m  м  μ  [m]  man, ham
 em
 n  n  н  ν  [n]  no, nose
 en
 nj  nj  нь  νι  [ɲ]  new, cognac, mañana (Spanish)  enj
 o  o  о (ω)
 ο (ω)
 [ɔ]  law, talk, no (Spanish)
 o
 p  p  п  π  [p]  pen, spin
 pe
 q  q  к  κ  [k]  kill, skin  kve
 r  r  р  ρ  [r]  sombrero (Spanish)
 er
 s  s  с  σ  [s]  see, city, pass
 es
 š  sz
 ш  σζ  [ʃ]  she, shame
 eš
 šč  szcz
 щ  σζτζ  [ʃt]  š + č
 šta
 t  t  т  τ  [t]  to, motor
 te
 th  th  ѳ  θ  [θ]  thing, teeth
 the
 tj  tj  ть  τι  [c]  Tuesday, opportunity
 tje
 u  u  у  ου  [ʊ]  put, good
 u
 v  v  в  β  [v]  voice, have
 ve
 w  w  вв  ββ  [v]  voice, have  dvojne ve 
 x  x  кс
 ξ  [ks]  sex, six  eks
 y  y  ы
 υ  [i]  city, see, meat  ypsilon
 z  z  з  ζ  [z]  zoo, zombie, rose
 zet
 ž  zs  ж  ζς  [ʒ]  pleasure, Jean (French)
 žet

NS also has an auxiliary letter, which is actually a character without its own sound.  It is the letter "j" after consonants from the Latin alphabet and is called a "jer" or a "soft sign".   It has its own shape "ь" in the Cyrillic alphabet. This soft sign letter is used to represent a change in the pronunciation of an immediately preceding consonant - which in linguistics is called palatalization - by which the pronunciation of a consonant comes to be produced with the tongue in a position in the mouth near the palate.

Examples:  dj=дь, tj=ть, nj=нь, lj=ль


note:
  1. There is no sound difference between characters i and y (as well as in modern Greek, for example). We use these two symbols of the same sound in order to express different grammatical information about gender and case in order to separate some homonyms only. In case of "simplified orthography", it is possible to write only one character i.

  2. Letter ě=ѣ is pronounced in the same way as standard e and softens the preceding consonants from , , , to dj+e, tj+e, nj+e, lj+e. In other cases this character is pronounced as jotized e (eg. two sounds j+e). This character is often written in Cyrillic (and simplified Latin) as the standard e only.

  3. Letter combination ch can be used instead of simple h also for the sound [x] but only in international words in order to keep original Greek/Latin orthography (archiv, chorus, for example).

  4. Ligature ju=ю softens the preceding consonants from dju, tju, nju, lju to dj+u, tj+u, nj+u, lj+u. In other cases this character is pronounced as jotized u (e.g. two sounds j+u).

  5. Some Slavic languages ​​(Slovak, Russian, ...) use vowels e and i for softening the preceding consonants in the same way as softening using ě and ju. NS language does not support softening using e and i, but only using ě and ju: The combination of the letters ne is pronounced only as n+e, and not as nj+e, or the combination of the letters ni is pronounced only as n+i, and not as nj+i, for example.

  6. Neoslavonic has syllabic r, which behave in the same way as vowels when form syllables (the same situation is in Sanskrit, Croatian, Czech, Slovak, Slovenian, ...), but some modern national Slavic languages (Russian, Ukrainian, ...) lost this feature. Syllabic r typically stay between two consonants (e.g. p-r-st = a finger, sm-r-t = death, ...) and creates syllable.

  7. Old Church Slavonic (and similarly in modern Polish) has nasal vowels ę=ѧ=[æⁿ] and ǫ=ѫ=[oⁿ] plus their jotized versions. In accordance with the evolution of most Slavic languages, ​​we do not use nasals. There is simple application rule in order to nasal replacement: ę=ѧ → e and ǫ=ѫ → u.
    (e.g. językjezyk = language, bǫdǫbudu = I will be)

However, Interslavic is an artificial and auxiliary language and therefore allows different kinds of pronunciation. It will not be a big mistake, for example, if Russians or anybody else will pronounce e and i softly.



soft pronunciation of consonants versus simplicity

Eastern (partly also western) Slavic languages ​​are known for their softness and jotization. However this soft pronunciation can be a problem especially for southern Slavs and many non-Slavic people. Therefore, the Neoslavonic phonology design principle keeps following simplistic principle:
  1. Soft consonants should continue by a consecutive vowel in order to facilitate easier pronunciation.
    (e.g. nedělja = Sunday, poneděljek = Monday, burja = storm, večerja = evening meal, dinner)

  2. If a word terminates with a consonant without any consecutive vowel, we prefer to write and pronounce this word hardly.
    (e.g. kost = a bone, radost = joy, učitel = a teacher)

    Of course, we acknowledge that the soft pronunciation (e.g. Eastern-Slavic accent) is also acceptable. These words have the same level of understandability regardless of whether they are written and pronounced softly or hardly. Moreover, declination of these words always follows the soft pattern like učitel, učitelem ... (e.g. kost [kɔst / kɔsc] = a bone; učitel [ʊtʃitɛl / ʊtʃitɛʎ] = a teacher; on jest [ɔn jɛst / ɔn jɛsc] = he is)

  3. Only in specific instances, if hardening could lead to loss of clarity or could create a wrong homonym with another word, we need to keep soft pronunciation and write soft consonants.
    (e.g. konj = a horse  ⟷  kon = ending, termination; mědj = cooper 
    ⟷  med = honey)


palatalization and euphony

Slavic languages ​​are known by the consonant softening in some situations of word derivation, declension or conjugation. This process is called palatalization. Neoslavonic it has also included, but in a very limited way of only three regular rules related with the soft consonants  č, š, ž  as
  1. kč,
  2. hš,
  3. gž.
Examples:
člověk (a man N), člověče! (man! V);
prah (a dust, noun), prašny (dust, adj.);
dolgy (long, adj.), dolžejši (longer, adj.).

In order to sound almost like an ordinary natural Slavic language, we need to improve certain artificially generated sound combinations caused by application of  grammatical endings to verbs in order to create personal form and participles. There are only three euphony rules
related to the same soft consonants  č, š, ž  as
  1. cj→č   =   ць→ч,
  2. sj→š   =   сь→ш,
  3. zj→ž   =   зь→ж.
    Example:
    prositi (to please, inf.), prosjuprošu (I please), prosjenjeprošenje (pleasing, verbal noun).


    loosing "e" and "o"

    As in Latin, Greek, Germanic and Romanesque languages, there is loosing vowel "e" in Neoslavonic word endings. The most frequent case of this loosing effect is declension, where loosing wovel is present only in the nominative.

    Example:
    pes (a dog N), p-sa (a dog G),
    December (December N), Decemb-ra (December G).
    članok (an article N), član-ka (an article G)


    example 1

    (You can hear these words in attached file example-1.wav)

    voda   [vɔda]   water
    hlěb   [xljɛb]   a bread
    auto   [aʊtɔ]   a car, an automobile
    solnce [sɜ̆lncɛ]   a sun
    člověk   [tʃlɔvjɛk]   a man (human being)
    muž   [mʊʒ]   a man (masculine)
    žena   [ʒɛna]   a woman
    dětko   [ɟɛtkɔ]   a child
    imaju   [imajʊ]   I have
    imaješ   [imajɛʃ]   you have
    imajemo   [imajɛmɔ]   we have
    veliky   [vɛliki]   big (sg. m. adj.)
    maly   [mali]   small (sg. m. adj.)
    doma   [dɔma]   at home (adv.)
    jedin   [jɛdin]   one (m.)
    dva   [dva]   two (m.)
    tri   [tri]   three
    četyri  [tʃɛtiri]   four
    pet   [pɛt]   five
    deset   [dɛsɛt]   ten
    sto   [stɔ]   hundred 


    example 2

    (You can hear these words in attached file example-2.wav)

    Vsi ljudi rodjut se svobodni i rovni v svojem dostojenstvu i pravah.
    [vsi  ʎʊdi  rɔɟʊt  sɛ  svɔbɔdni  i  rɔvni  v  svɔjɛm  dɔstɔjɛnstvʊ  i  pravax]
    All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.

    Oni sut obdarjeni razumom i svěstju, 
    [ɔni  sʊt  ɔbdarjɛni  razʊmɔm  i  svjɛscʊ]
    They are endowed with reason and conscience,

    i trěba jim jest postupati drug s drugom v duhu bratstva.
    [i  trjɛba  jim  jɛst  pɔstʊpati  drʊg  s  drʊgɔm  v  dʊxʊ  bratstva]
    and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

    (article 1. of preamble of the universal declaration of human rights by the United Nations)