Word stress is a way of differentiating a certain
syllable of the word from the others. In the Russian language, a
word has one stressed syllable characterized with the following
- it is pronounced with greater intensity;
- stressed vowel is very clear and distinct;
- stressed vowel can be a bit longer than unstressed
ones. This is possible because there is no opposition between
long and short vowels; the length of a vowel has no semantic value.
Now let's consider the stress placement in Russian
words. The Russian stress is not fixed on
a certain syllable unlike in other languages (in Polish it falls
on the last but one syllable, in French it falls on the last syllable,
in Finnish stress always falls on the first syllable). It is free
and it can fall on any syllable of the word, but each word, of course,
has its definite stressed syllable.
The stress can move from
one syllable to another in different forms of the same word: e.g.
голова(head) - головы(heads)
рука (hand, arm) - руки (hands, arms)
курить(to smoke) - курит((he) smokes)
любить(to love) - любит((he) loves)
So, Russian has free and moving stress which is
the most difficult to study. You just have to learn by heart and
remember the way how each word is stressed, otherwise you might
be not understood or misunderstood because the stress can sometimes
distinguish the sense of words: e.g.
мою(I wash) - мою(my)
замок (castle) - замок (lock)
уже (narrow) - уже (already)
дома(at home) - дома(houses)
There are words which have two accepted in the
literary language ways of stressing, for example творог and творог
(curds) are both right.
There are also words which have one accepted in the literary language
way of stressing, but can be pronounced by the Russians incorrectly,
for example звонит instead of звонит ((he) phones), договор instead
of договор (agreement, contract) etc. To help a native speaker and
a learner of Russian to avoid common errors in stressing, there
are pronunciation dictionaries usually intended not for transcribing
the words but mainly for marking the stress.
In this Reference Book
and Introductory Phonetic Course,
we mark the stress of each word by making the stressed vowel bold,
for example картина (picture), зима (winter), молоко(milk).