The letters ъ and ь
We are starting our next lesson on the Russian language course. In this lesson, we will talk about the letters ъ and ь.
The letters ъ and ь do not represent any sound. These letters are also called separating letters. In fact these letters separates previous and subsequent letters from each other. For example: "ателье", "барьер", "необъятный" and so on. Pay attention on pronounciation. These letters are not only separators, but also have a number of other features. As you can see from their names, these letters soften the letter that precedes it - in the example of the letter "ь", or harden it - in the example of the letter "ъ". In addition, as we said in one of our previous lessons, the separators ъ and ь indicate that the first letter "я", "е", "ё", "ю" which comes after these letters, is pronounced with 2 sounds, first wich is being the consonant sound [ й ]. You can find more information about this in our previous lesson.
The letter ъ
First of all, let's talk about the letter ъ. The letter "ъ" separates the vowel sound from the consonant sound, like the letter "ь". The difference here is that, as we have said, the letter "ъ" does not soften the consonant that precedes it as the letter "ь". Therefore, his name is a hard or solid sign. But in our lesson we will call it by its original name - "твердый знак". For example: the word "съел" uses a твердый знак. Here, the "c" sound that comes before it, is a hard consonant.
Solid or hard sign of the Russian alphabet or - твердый знак - how it is called in Russian comes only before the letters "я", "е", "ё", "ю". But when? Does it always come before these letters? Of course not. There are a number of conditions for this: 1. The letter "ъ" comes after the prefixes ending in a consonant and separates the prefixes from the root of the word. For example, as you can see in the word "подъезд", the letter "ъ" is used between the prefixe "под" and the root of the word "езд" ("ехать" is the root of the word). Note that the prefixe "под" here ends in a consonant. 2. The letter "ъ" is also used in compound words, the first part of which is numarals "двух-", "трех-", "четырех-". For example: "трехъярусный". 3. And the final condition - in the foreign words entered into Russian from other languages, after the foreign prefixes "аб-, ад-, диз-, ин-, интер-, кон-, контр-, об-, суб-, транс" a твердый знак is used. For example: "адъютант", "инъекция", "объект", "субъект", "трансъевропейский" etc. If we pay attention to the word "Трансарктический", we will see that the letter of твердый знак is not used here. The reason, as we have said, is that a твердый знак comes before the letters "я", "е", "ё", "ю". In the word "Трансарктический" the letter "a", which is the first letter of the word "арктический" comes after the word "Транс". And pay attention to another word of the same rule. This word is "трансъевропейский". As you see the first letter of this word is the letter "е", and that’s why after the prefix "транс" we must use the separator - "ъ".
The letter ь
Now let's talk about the letter ь. The original name of this letter in Russian is - "мягкий знак". As you can see from the name, this letter softens the letter that precedes it. Let's see this with an example, in the word "ученье" the letter мягкий знак is used. If you pay attention, мягкий знак softens the consonant "н" that comes before it and separates the letter "н" from the letter "е". Pay attention to pronunciation. Now let's remove the letter "ь" from this word – and we get the word - "учене". As you can see, the pronunciation has changed and in general such a word does not exist in Russian.
Thus, the letter "ь" is used in the middle of the word (but not after the prefixes), and is used to seperate the consonant which comes before from the letters "и", "е", "ю", "я" that come after that consonant: "карьер, вьюн, бурьян, подьячий, семья, ружье, ночью, чья, пью, шью."
At the same time, the letter мягкий знак can be used at the end of words. That is, even if we call this letter a separator, it may not always act as a separator, as in the word "ученье". In the word "Огонь", the letter мягкий знак comes at the end of the word and it does not separate any letter, so there is no letter to separate in the word after it. Here мягкий знак is simply softens the sound that comes before him.
It is necessary to pay some attention to this letter, because the fact that this letter is not used in the word may result in a different meaning of the word. For example, if we take the letter "ь" in the word "хорь" (ferret), this word will have a completely different meaning. Let's look at another example - if we take the letter "ь" in the word "Уголь" (coal), then it will mean "Угол" (corner).
In the middle of the word "ь" is used after the soft "л" consonant. But, if there is a double "л" in the word, then the letter "ь" is not used. For example: "гулливый, аллея, иллюзия.".
I would like to bring to your attention, in some foreign words which transferred from another language to Russian, the letter "ь" can also be used before the letter "o": "батальон, бульон, гильотина, карманьола, компаньон, миньон, павильон, почтальон, шампиньон. ".
At the same time, the letter "ь", which does not act as a seperator, has a grammatical feature, so it indicates the gender of the noun, so in Russian, nouns are divided into three parts according to gender - male, female and middle gender. We will talk about this in detail when we will learn the nouns in our next lessons. However, for now, know conditionally that if the letter "ь" does not act as a separator, as in the example of the word "мышь", then the letter "ь" means that the word "мышь" belongs to the feminine noun.
If the letter "ь" is followed by the adjective suffix "-ск", which forms an adjective from nouns, then the letter "ь" in that word is not used: "казанский (Казань), кемский (Кемь), сибирский (Сибирь), зверский (зверь), январский (январь)". But, there are exceptions to this rule – they are: the words "сентябрьский, октябрьский, ноябрьский, декабрьский, июньский, деньской" and Chinese names ending in "-нь": "юньнаньский ( Юньнань)". These are exceptions. Apart from these exceptions, If the letter "ь" is followed by the adjective suffix "-ск", which forms an adjective from nouns, then the letter "ь" in that word is not used.
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