The Cyrillic script has a long history, dating back to the arrival of Christianity in Slavic lands in the ninth century. Since then, it has gone through numerous evolutions, most recently the reforms of 1918, finally to arrive at its current form, the modern Russian alphabet. But is the Russian alphabet really the best way to write the Russian language?
None of these present a big problem, once we've learned to write this way, but it does make it harder for children and foreigners to learn Russian. Our script is not perfect. And yet Russian is one of the languages said to have "good" spelling - in general, words are spelled as they are pronounced.
This page will introduce you to another script for Russian, called Shwa. It solves all the problems mentioned above, and will be shared by many other languages around the world, enabling us to read their names and them to read ours. Shwa has full digital support, and it enables all the languages of the world to be written on the same small keyboard: only 20 keys! Writing Russian in Shwa integrates us with the broader world.
Russian is written in Shwa using six vowel letters (International Phonetic Alphabet in green):
In Russian, vowels are only tense when stressed and reduce to lax when unstressed. However, the two sounds are usually within the range of the same Shwa letter. In rapid or lazy speech, vowels are often reduced further, but this isn't spelled.
|б b||д d||г g|
|п p||т t||ц ʦ||ч ʨ||к k|
|в v||з z||ж ʐ||жж ʑː||хг ɣ|
|ф f||с s||ш ʂ||щ ɕː||х x|
|м m||н n|
|р ɾ||р r|
|л l||л ɫ|
|й ь j||ъ ɰ|
The consonants in blue are always hard, while those in green are always soft - we'll explain below
Most consonants can be hard (velarized) or soft (palatalized). In the current spelling, this is indicated by the following vowel : ы э а о у ъ indicate that the preceding consonant is hard, while и е я ё ю ь indicate it's soft (the last in each group is used when no vowel follows the consonant).
But in Serbian, which also uses the Cyrillic alphabet, soft consonants are indicated using the suffix ј, and there are only 5 vowel letters. That's the approach that Shwa uses, using the Palatal suffix to indicate that the preceding consonant is soft. However, there are some exceptions:
Now that you've learned the letters, why don't you try reading a sentence?
|Волков бояться - в лес не ходить.|
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