Palatization Nation

One of the challenges of pronouncing Ukrainian language is the pronouncing the “soft-sign” ь. It is not an independent sound, but simply softens the letter before it through a process called palatization. I’ve struggled to understand this concept even after watching some helpful Ukrainian introduction videos.1

However, it turns out that other languages use palatization, including Sanskrit. The venerable Sanskrit language has been thoroughly studied for countless centuries and has developed (similar to Latin) well-structured learning methods, both ancient and modern:

So, palatization is just a way for taking sounds like “s”, “t” and “d” and changing them like so:

  • An English “t” sound becomes “ch” or something similar.
  • An English “s” sound becomes “sh”.
  • An English “d” sound becomes more like a “j” sound.
  • An English “n” sound becomes more like “ñ” as in canyon.

And so on.

Going back to Ukrainian in particular, the sounds change like so:

  • Ба́тько (father) sounds roughly like “bachko”, instead of “batko” without the soft sign.
  • Будь ласка (please) sounds roughly like “booj laska” instead of “bood laska”.
  • До́нька (daughter) uses the same nasally “n” as in “canyon” rather than regular English “n”.
  • Similarly, the “l” sound in сіль is a softer, more nasally “l” sound.

These are explanations by a non-native Ukrainian speaker but comparing the same process with other languages, such as Sanskrit or English, hopefully will provide another way to make sense of soft signs in Ukrainian language. Enjoy!

1 I think the issue, at heart, is that Ukrainian language hasn’t been a widely studied language until very recently. People are finally taking it seriously, and that’s a good thing. I look forward to seeing Ukrainian resources increase over time, just as Japanese language resources increased and have greatly improved since my days in college.

Published by Doug

🎵Toss a coin to your Buddhist-Philhellenic-D&D-playing-Japanese-studying-dad-joke-telling-Trekker, O Valley of Plentyyy!🎵He/him

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