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  Philologica 5 (1998)  




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To draw up the phonetic portraits of Axmatova and Pasternak three groups of phenomena were taken into account: i) those indicating the difference between the orthoepic norms of that period and the modern norm; ii) those connected with the variability of the former; and iii) those which indicate that Axmatova’s and Pasternak’s pronunciation did not always follow the norm of that time.

In the field of consonantism, Pasternak’s orthoepy mostly complies with the literary standard of the mid 20th century, sometimes preserving traditional Moscow pronunciation variants, and sometimes even “racing ahead”. Some specific features of Pasternak’s phonetic personality can presumably be explained by his origins (his parents, who began to speak Russian later than Yiddish, moved to Moscow from Odessa, where the poet himself also spent quite a long time when he was a child). Most interesting are observations bound up with the difference between his manner of reciting poetry and prose: poetic texts are pronounced with heightened distinctness and contain more voiced sounds.

Axmatova’s pronunciation corresponds with the orthoepic norm to a lesser extent than Pasternak’s. In her speech, different kinds of divergence from the literary standard of the first half of the 20th century are found, including peculiarities of “Petersburg” phonetics as well as some features of South Russian dialects. Both tendencies are quite understandable because Axmatova spent most of her life in Leningrad, but she was born in Odessa and lived in Eupatoria, Kiev and Sevastopol for a few years.

Special attention is paid to the phonetics of rhyming words. Naturally, the poets use non-standard pronunciation variants to support the precision of rhymes; what is surprising, however, is the fact that, in the cases where the poet’s phonetic habits allow variable pronunciation, she or he can read a potentially rich or “exact” rhyme as less rich or “non-exact”. For this reason one can only very cautiously appeal to a rhyme as a transmitter of orthoepic information.


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