Belarusian/Lesson 1

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Belarusian Alphabet[edit]

The Belarusian alphabet is based on the Cyrillic writing system. It is virtually identical to the Russian alphabet, differing from it just in a few points:

  • i is used instead of и
  • ў letter, specific to Belarusian, is used to denote short u sound
  • шч combination is used instead of щ
  • ' (апостроф/apostrophe) is used instead of ъ or the hard sign.

The Belarusian alphabet contains 32 letters:

Аа - a - pronounced like a in art

Бб - be - pronounced like b in body

Вв - ve - pronounced like v in van

Гг - he - has no correspondence in English; the voiced analog of х; occasionally pronounced like g in guest

Дд - de - pronounced like d in desk

Ее - e/ye - pronounced, depending on position, either like a long e after consonant as in Lenin or ye in yes (Initially, after vowel or any of the two signs).

Ёё - o/yo - pronounced, either like o in shore (only after Ч, Ш, Ж or ШЧ) or yo in York. Either way, always stressed

Жж - zhe - pronounced like s in pleasure

Зз - ze - pronounced like z in zoo

Іі - i - pronounced like i in machine

Йй - i nieskladovaye "non-syllabic y" - pronounced like y in toy

Кк - ka - pronounced like k in kitten

Лл - el - pronounced like l in lamp

Мм - em - pronounced like m in map

Нн - en - pronounced like n in net; pronounced like a Spanish ñ after i or e.

Оо - o - pronounced like o in sort: usually, but not always stressed

Пп - pe - pronounced like p in park

Рр - er - differs largely from English r sound; similar to Italian r in ridere

Сс - es - pronounced like s in Sun

Тт - te - pronounced like t in top

Уу - u - pronounced like u in put

Ўў - u nieskladovaye "non-syllabic u" - pronounced like the w in know

Фф - ef - pronounced like f in fox

Хх - kha - pronounced harder than English h sound; similar to German ch in Buch

Цц - tse - pronounced like ts as in cats; similar to German z in Zeit or Italian z in canzone

Чч - cha - pronounced like ch in chalk

Шш - sha - pronounced like sh in shelf

Ыы - y - pronounced like y in myth

Ьь - miakki znak "soft sign" - not pronounced: softens previous consonant and, if in any position except the end, separates syllables

Ээ - e - pronounced like e in end: if found after a consonant, it is shorter than the previous "e" mentioned above.

Юю - yu - pronounced like a yu as in "Yugoslavia";

Яя - ya - pronounced, like "ya" in "yard" or "Goya"

NOTE. In tarashkievitsa, letter Ґґ (ge) is also used to denote the sound g (as in english guest). Narkamauka uses г letter instead. The position of ґ in the classical Belarusian alphabet is immediately after г, before д. Thus there are 33 letters in tarashkievitsa. Sometimes in tarashkievitsa combinations ДЖдж and ДЗдз are given the status of letters on their own.

Exercises[edit]

1. Cities[edit]

Try to read and recognize the names of some cities. Confer the hint below if you have difficulties. Note that " ́" is a stress sound (which is normally omitted). Also note that proper names in Belarusian, as in most other languages, are capitalized.

Масква́

Ло́ндан

Варша́ва

Амстэрда́м

Стамбу́л

Hint: Maskva (Moscow), Londan (London), Varshava (Warsaw), Amsterdam, Stambul (Istanbul)

2. Animals[edit]

Try to read and remember Belarusian names of some animals. Confer the pronunciation hint below if you have difficulties. Pay special attention to the stress - like Russian and Ukrainian, there is no fixed stress position in Belarusian, and stressing the wrong syllable (or even missing out a sign) can create misunderstandings. Virtually every book and dictionary concerning these three languages place an accent in the tonic syllable, so make sure you do the same . Note that о is normally stressed in Belarusian.

кот - a cat (male)

ко́шка - a cat (female)

саба́ка - a dog

каро́ва - a cow

каза́ - a goat (female)

бара́н - a sheep (male)

пту́шка - a bird (general)

варо́на - a crow

саро́ка - a magpie

ка́чка - a duck

жа́ба - a toad

слон - an elephant

Hint: kot, koshka, sabaka, karova, kaza, baran, ptushka, varona, saroka, kachka, zhaba, slon