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13. Intonation in the Russian Language

audio only:

When speaking in Russian, the intonation with which we pronounce the words in the phrase is crucially important - the meaning of the whole phrase depends on it. The intonation has its own structure - the most important part of it is a logical center that we emphasise by our voice in different ways.

IC-1 (ИК-1)

In a simple affirmative statement we use an IC-1 (intonation contour 1). The intonation is flat and falls at the end of the phrase.

Э́то я. IC-1
Э́то мой компью́тер. IC-1
Э́то моя́ су́мка. IC-1
Мой телефо́н тут. IC-1
Я́блоко то́же тут. IC-1

IC-3 (ИК-3)

If we want to ask a question, we can do it without changing anything in the structure of our statement, but using a special intonation. First, we find a logical center - what exactly we are asking about. We pronounce the focus word with a sharply raised pitch which then falls abruptly. The answer to such a question will be ДА or НЕТ.

Э́то компью́тер? IC-3
    — Да, э́то компью́тер. IC-1
Э́то моя́ су́мка? IC-3
    — Да, э́то твоя́ су́мка. IC-1
Су́мка то́же тут? IC-3
    — Да, она́ то́же тут. IC-1

Please note that the intonation center can be in different parts of the phrase, we can ask about different things.

Э́то мой па́спорт. IC-1
Э́то мой па́спорт. IC-1
Э́то мой па́спорт. IC-1
Э́то твой па́спорт? IC-3
    — Да, э́то мой па́спорт. IC-1
Э́то твой па́спорт? IC-3
    — Да, э́то мой па́спорт. IC-1
Твой телефо́н тут? IC-3
    — Нет, он не тут. IC-1
Твой телефо́н тут? IC-3
    — Нет, не мой. IC-1
Твой телефо́н тут? IC-3
    — Нет, не телефо́н. IC-1

IC-2 (ИК-2)

We can ask a question using special question words ГДЕ, КУДА, КТО, ЧТО etc. In this case the question word is at the beginning of a phrase. To emphasise the question word we usually raise the pitch:

Что э́то? IC-2
Кто э́то? IC-2
Где мой па́спорт? IC-2
Где моя су́мка? IC-2

Often in colloquial speech, in front of the question - with a question word (IC-2) or without it (IC-3) - we add “A”:

А кто э́то? IC-2
А э́то тво́й бага́ж? IC-2
А э́то Мари́я? IC-2

“A” in these questions doesn’t have any meaning, doesn’t affect the meaning of the question, is not emphasised by the voice, “A” only shows that this is a colloquial style of speech.


What did you hear - a statement (IC-1) or a question (IC-3)?

ИК-1 (IC-1) ИК-3 (IC-3)

Correct answers: table with answers

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