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The importance of the word stress in Russian


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The crucial role of the Word Stress in Russian

Surely, modern Russian language is a complex system, where grammar, phonetics, syntax, morphology and lexis are closely connected. And you can not 100% understand grammar, but know nothing about phonetics. Science about sounds is called phonetics and be ready to devote enough time for it. Pronunciation of certain letters depends upon a word stress. The point is we do not have strict rules on how to place a word stress. Thus, the stress can be on the first, second and last syllable. It is actually can be very problematic for foreigners to understand and learn peculiarities of Russian phonetics. If you just begin learning Russian, you may use special dictionaries, where above every word you will find a special stress sign. By the way, most of online portals offer virtual dictionaries and you can type any word and get immediate information about it.

In Russian linguistics we have very interesting notion, known as homograph. It is when identically written words have different meaning and pronunciation. And there are plenty of them. If you neglect learning  homographs, you risk to be in an embarrassed situation and simply look funny. Let us illustrate it on such example. Here are two Russian words:  they look similar, but because of stress have absolutely different meaning: “замо́к” and “за́мок”. The word “за́мок” means a fortified building and translated as a castle.  The word за́мок means special device with set of keys for opening and closing of doors or gates. Just imagine, how funny you may look, if to use the word with wrong stress.

Another pair of homographs: о'рган and орга'н. The word о'рган is used when we speak about parts of the body. When the word орга'н is a musical instrument. It is a funny word game, but be careful with it and when you are talking with your physician use о'рган instead of орга'н!

Here is one more example of homographs. Look at these identical verb phrases: Я пла́чу — Я плачу́. In the first example we will translate Я пла́чу as I pay money for something. The second sentence will be translated as I cry or I’m crying, depending upon the context. So you can not say something like this: Я пла́чу деньги…It will be a huge mistake.

If you are not sure in correct pronunciation of certain word, it is better to check the dictionary and only then say it. Also, when you learn words, try to remember right placement of a word stress. To summarize everything above-mentioned, the role of word stress is very important. The word can change the meaning, because of this small sing.  It is certainly, there is a great number of homographs in Russian language. If you want to know more use the dictionary of Russian homographs, or leave me a message in this thread. Hopefully, this post will be useful for beginners.

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