День (часть вторая)

by Don  

Previously we discussed день ‘day’ in the nominative/accusative singular. What about the other forms? Here's where it gets tricky. The -е- is a fleeting vowel, which means any time you add a grammatical ending to the stem, the -е- drops out. The -ь at the end makes the stem soft, but it also drops out when endings are added, and the endings are always soft, so the declension turns out like this:


Notice that except in the nominative/accusative singular, the д is immediately followed by н, which is tricky for us Americans to pronounce. It is a nasally-released soft [d]. In other words, you make the soft [d] sound, but then you let no breath out through the mouth, releasing the breath through the nose as you say the [n]. Here are a few sample sentences.

Я не хочу говорить о том дне. I don't want to talk about that day.
Всё должно быть готово к тому дню. Everything must be ready by that day.
С того дня мы с ней ни разу не виделись. Since that day she and I haven't seen each other even once.
Мне было так грустно, что я сидел дома целыми днями. I was so sad that I stayed at home for days at a time.


Comment from: Arseny [Visitor]

And, of course locative form e.g. несколько раз на дню

01/11/11 @ 11:20
Comment from: Clifton Bancroft [Visitor]

Anyone who can say the word ‘midnight’ shouldn’t find it tricky to say ‘дни’.

Don responds: It would certainly seem that way, wouldn’t it? But in fact it’s tricky for English speakers for a couple of reasons. First off, in English one never has a [dn] in word-initial position; for some reason the ability to say something in the middle of a word does not automatically transfer to the same combination at the beginning of a word. For instance, in Spanish there are no native words that start with [sp] or [str], which is why many Spanish speakers when speaking English say “espeak” instead of “speak” or “estreet” instead of “street” despite the fact that they have the same consonant sequence in words like caspa “dandruff” or ostra “oyster”.

The second problem for us is that many English speakers do not have a soft [d] in their dialect. I have heard some native US speakers of English pronounce words like dune and tune with soft dees and tees, but that is a minority dialect, although perhaps a somewhat prestigious dialect as well.

Note to Russian speakers: you may have noticed I spelled the names of the letters dee and tee in the previous sentence. This is quite atypical for English writers, and you probably don’t want to copy that habit. I do it to correct the lazy English writing world because I know better than anyone else. You can read my micro-rant on the subject here.

01/08/11 @ 08:33

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