Belarusian/Lesson 4

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Vowel Reduction (Akannie)[edit]

Vowel reduction is a common phonetic phenomenon that occurs in many languages, not only in Belarussian. What is pecular to Belarusian is that in this language the reduction of vowels is reflected in writing.

Consider the word tutorial. The letter o is stressed here, and is pronounced as a long o sound. Now, in the word tutor the o letter becomes unstressed, and, as a result of reduction, is pronounced as a neutral ә sound. However, in writing, the letter o is preserved. It would not be so in Belarusian. The o would have become a (tutar). Among Belarusians, this phenomenon is often referred to as аканне akannie (i.e. saying "a").

So, the rule for akannie is as follows.

In Belarusian, the letters о and э are normally stressed. If as a result of word flexion or derivation they become unstressed, they transform into а.

хво́ры "khvory" ill --> хваро́ба "khvaroba" an illness, a disease

го́лас "holas" a voice --> галасо́к "halasok" a voice (diminutive)

рэ́чка "rechka" a (small) river <-- рака́ "raka" a river

The last example shows that the result of word flexion or derivation is not necessarily loosing о or э, but it can be gaining them as well. In the initail word, рака, the first vowel is actually э, not а, but as it is unstressed, it is shaded by а. But in the derivation, the stress is shifted to the first syllable, and the letter э becomes undisguised. So, when you encounter an unstressed letter а, it can be a shaded о, a shaded э, or just а.

Adjectives[edit]

In Belarusian, adjectives have several forms depending on number and, in singular, on gender. The typical adjective endings are shown below.

Masculine Neuter Feminine Plural Meaning
ы ое ая ыя
стары́ старо́е стара́я стары́я old
малады́ маладо́е малада́я малады́я young

The word стары (старая) can also be used as a noun, meaning an old man (woman) (not a typical case for Belarusian).

Гэ́та стары́. "heta stary" - This is an old man.

Гэ́та стара́я. "heta starаyа" - This is an old woman.

Гэ́та стары́я. "heta staryyа" - These are old (wo)men.

Most adjectives, however, have unstressed endings. In this case, due to akannie, the neuter ending is transformed into ае.

Masculine Neuter Feminine Plural Meaning
мо́цны мо́цнае мо́цная мо́цныя strong
хво́ры хво́рае хво́рая хво́рыя ill

Я хво́ры. "ya khvory" - I am ill.

Ты малада́я. "ty maladaya" - You are young.

Яны стары́я. "yany staryya" - They are old.

Note that моцны is used with inanimate things, e.g. a strong rope, a strong wind, a strong feeling. To say about physical strength, the word дужы should be used.

Ты ду́жы. "ty duzhy" - You are strong.

Мы ду́жыя. "my duzhyya" - We are strong.

Exercises[edit]

1. Adjectives[edit]

Practice adjective flexions using them with ён, яно, яна, яны.

Sample: стары: Ён стары. Яно старое. Яна старая. Яны старыя.

(1) хво́ры

(2) но́вы (new)

(3) малады́

(4) прыго́жы (beautiful)

(5) ду́жы

Clue: (1) Ён хворы. Яно хворае. Яна хворая. Яны хворыя. (2) Ён новы. Яно новае. Яна новая. Яны новыя. (3) Ён малады. Яно маладое. Яна маладая. Яны маладыя. (4) Ён прыгожы. Яно прыгожае. Яна прыгожая. Яны прыгожыя. (5) Ён дужы. Яно дужае. Яна дужая. Яны дужыя.

2. Translation[edit]

Translate into Belarusian.

(1) I am ill.

(2) He is strong.

(3) They are new.

(4) This is an old man.

(5) Who is this? This is a woman. She is beautiful.

(6) What is this? This is a tree.

(7) The church is there.

Clue: (1) Яна хворы (хворая). (2) Ён дужы. (3) Яны новыя. (4) Гэта стары. (5) Хто гэта? Гэта жанчына. Яна прыгожая. (6) Што гэта? Гэта дрэва. (7) Царква там.