How to pronounce Tchaikovsky (??????????)
How to pronounce Tchaikovsky (??????????)
One of the difficulties facing English-speaking media professionals and musicians includes how to pronounce the names of certain Russian classical composers. This Moscow correspondent happens to serve as part of a Yahoo Answers team on questions about Russia and every so often the question comes up. It surfaced again recently so here is some help.
?????????? is a rather easy word if you know Russian. Therein of course lies the problem as not everyone speaks the language, so here’s hoping for an explanation that is simple yet complete.
Before getting started we should make a comment about the T most transliterations place at the beginning. Why this is done is a great mystery because there is no T, nor anything resembling a T sound anywhere in the word.
With that being said we begin with a word you already know, but which unfortunately misleads many who try to say this name correctly: ???. Many readers say this word all the time. If you’ve ever strolled into a Starbucks, for example, and ordered a “chai” (tea), that is exactly what ??? is...normally. It’s the Russian word for tea and it sounds just as if it came from a Starbucks menu board.
However, in the case of the name of this Russian composer Russian grammar will take over how the syllable is formed in this instance. Because of the grouping of letters in syllables two and three, the “ah” in ??? is going to take on more of a “e” flavor so that when ?????????? is spoken, it begins as “che.”
The second syllable can be just as tricky because there is a literal orchestra of grammar going on in these 3 short letters. ??? is normally spoken just like it looks: kah-oh-veh, or “kov” in English. The “kah” is fine so lets pick things up with the O. A Russian O only sounds like “oh” when stressed. At all other times it’s converted to an “ah” (a) sound. In this instance the O carries the stress so it remains an “Oh.” In case you were wondering, Russian vowels, of which there are 10 in two pairs of 5, always carry the stress. The stress is also sounded across the syllable making it seem as if the entire syllable is stressed.
So far, in the second syllable we have kah-oh and now what do we make of the veh (?)? Some listeners swear they hear “cough” in that kov. That is pretty close, but not quite exact. “Veh” (?) is a consonant and counted among a group of consonants known as voiced consonants. Equally, there are “de-voiced” consonants that are substituted when needed. ? (veh) is a voiced consonant and when it is part of a cluster of consonants or at the end of a word, it must be de-voiced.
This same principle explains how the word vodka (?????) is easily mispronounced by non-Russian speakers. The consonant “deh” (?) in vodka must be de-voiced in favor of its counterpart, a “teh” (?), so the Russian word for vodka sounds correct when heard as “VOdT-ka.”
So in this k-o-v, what is the counterpart of the voiced ? (veh)? It is the Cyrillic letter ? (ehf), which is similar to an English “f.” Perhaps you’ve wondered why a Russian speaker calls an auto (????) as an “ahf-to.” It’s the same principle of converting the “veh” to “ehf” in certain consonant groupings. In summary, the name of composer ?????????? should be spoken as “che-KOhF-skii.”
Before leaving lets take a good at the ending. ???? is hard to transliterate because there is really nothing quite like the letter ? in the English language. ? is spoken as “ehs” (s) in most cases, ? is “kah” and ? is “e.” The ? however is a longer e and when placed next to each other, ??, creates a very long “e” sound.
So, with a little practice you will have it mastered. Remember to convert the tea (chai) to “che” by dropping the “ah,” put the stress on the O vowel in the second syllable, and convert the voiced “veh” to a devoiced “ehf.” At that point saying “che-KOhF-skii” should be a breeze.
Finally, would you like to hear ?????????? spoken by a Russian native? Simply copy and paste the Cyrillic spelling and paste it into the link below. Select Russian as the language and click on the “say it” button: http://www.oddcast.com/home/demos/tts/tts_example.php
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