In honor of Anton Yelchin, I have a question about Pavel Chekov.

Chekov's Russian accent is irregular. Apparently, Walter Koenig based the accent on that of his father, who had difficulty with the "v" sound. Yelchin would continue using this accent when he took over the character.

Since his accent is not normal in the real world, is it considered normal in the Star Trek world? Has it ever been lamp-shaded or remarked upon, in-universe?

  • 1
    I think the closest we came to any other Russian characters would be the Rozhenkos. They were from Belarus, which borders Russia. While they do have an accent, I would not equate it to the pseudo-Russian accent of Checkov. – Paul L Jun 20 '16 at 20:27
  • 1
    natural russian drift talking in english 200 years after present day? hard to say if any of their accents would have been "normal in the real world" in 200 years – Himarm Jun 20 '16 at 20:28
  • 5
    I'm Russian - and this concurs with my own experience in learning to speak English. It took me a while to get used to using the "v" sound when appropriate. Same goes for a lot of Russians. This might seem odd, since it's actually the "w" sound that's absent in Russian, but I think it's an over-compensating thing. You want to sound American, so you pronounce w's everywhere. – Misha R Jun 21 '16 at 0:24
  • 6
    The fourth movie does sort of hang a lampshade on it in the context of his accent being interpreted by 20th century Americans. "Nuclear wessels..." – Crashworks Jun 21 '16 at 0:29
  • 1
    @MishaRosnach You should make that into an Answer – Adeptus Jun 21 '16 at 5:13

According to this site for people learning English as a second language, Russian speakers often have trouble distinguishing between the English "v" and "w" sounds.

As with many other learners of English, the /w/ and /v/ sounds are troublesome, west being pronounced vest, for example, or vice versa.

If in Chekov's time English retains the "v" and "w" sounds and Russian still doesn't have separate sounds corresponding to English "v" and "w", it seems reasonable that Chekov would have trouble distinguishing between them. In that case he might use a sound that an English speaker would hear as somewhere between a "v" and a "w", or might mistake for either.

  • 8
    Trouble distinguishing, or simply trouble pronouncing a w consonant where no such exists in Russian, and using v as a substitute. By analogy, many European languages have a "rolled" r; how many English speakers (not Scots) can comfortably roll an r? – Anthony X Jun 21 '16 at 0:14
  • 2
    @AnthonyX As I said, I don't know Russian, I believe the linked article is saying that Russian doesn't have separate sounds that correspond to English "v" and "w". That suggests that Russian speakers would have difficulty distinguishing between them when heard, and pronouncing them differently when they speak English. – Blackwood Jun 21 '16 at 2:38
  • 1
    @AnthonyX: Some sounds are just relatively easy to produce, regardless of whether they occur (or are phonemic) in your native language. Other sounds give even native speakers trouble, the rolled R being one of them. For example, for most people learning Hungarian, both the sound represented by "ty" and the sound represented by "gy" are equally foreign. Nobody ever has trouble learning to say "ty", but "gy" gives even hardened linguists conniptions. – Martha Jun 21 '16 at 4:39
  • 1
    ..."west being pronounced vest, for example, or wice wersa." – Brandon Dybala Dec 12 '16 at 18:08

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.