Уӕ бон хорз, everyone.
In my writing on this site, I generally take advantage of the luxury of being able to read Cyrillic. Being able to read Cyrillic characters is useful for the learning of many potential languages that all use this writing system. In most cases, many of the letters are similar/the same across multiple languages, so it is a useful system to understand.
When thinking about learning a different writing system at first it can be incredibly intimidating, exacerbated when there are also complex phonemes to also learn about.
Ossetian Letters with exact English correlation
The letters that match their English counterparts are A, O, T, M, and K, this means you will see them exactly as they are written in English, with something close to our pronunciation.
Ossetian Letters without English correlation
Ossetian Cyrillic Latin Alphabet Equivalent
E E - Like Russian, pronounced as 'yeh' ф F Г G (as in 'Goose') Х 'KH' - Think about the Scottish pronunciation of 'Loch' where the '-ch' isn't a K sound, but instead sounds like you have gravel in the back of your throat when trying to pronounce the 'H' sound. This phoneme is called a 'voiceless uvular fricative' and it is very common across natural languages and constructed languages. Дз Z - Another example of Ossetian's consonant-shift, where the 'Z' pronunciation has replaced the of 'd+z'.
Дж J/G - Think of works like juice and george, the letter is written two different ways but with the same sound.
Хъ Q' - Another place where you can see the influence of the surrounding Caucasus Languages, this type of phoneme is called a 'voiceless uvular stop (plosive)' and is one of the sounds that is not found in Russian or most other Cyrillic based writing-systems. The 'Q''
Р R - Ossetian specifically uses what is called a 'trilled r', which might be memorable from its common occurrence in languages such as Spanish and Basque.
Ц S - In Russian and most other Cyrillic Languages, this letter would be pronounced as a 'TS' as in 'bits', but because of Ossetians historical development with consonant-shift in some consonants, this letter is pronounced like an English 'S'. The difference between articulating 'TS' and 'S' is not much, and in some instances you can hear speakers who articulate somewhere about halfway between 'TS' and 'S', giving this phoneme a high-pitched sound similar to a whistle (when expressed in this manner); this high pitched 'whistle' is an example of a phenomenon called 'hyper-sibilance'.
У U - Similar to the pronunciation of the duplicate vowels in 'boot' but not the 'U' in 'use'.
У* W* - In reality, Ossetian does not have a distinct letter representing what we in English perceive as a 'W' letter, however, in some circumstances the placement with other letters produces a sound effect incredibly similar to how English uses 'W'.
З Z ('ZH') - This is another example of Ossetian's consonant-shifting, sometimes it is pronounced as a Z as in Slavic Cyrillic alphabets, in Vladikavkaz and the surrounding area you would pronounce this letter as 'ZH'(. This sound is common in other languages like French, where it can be found in examples such as the 'g' in 'gendarmerie'.
Ч CH - As in the word 'Choose'
Kъ K' - This is another example of Caucasus areal featurism in action , this 'K' sound is articulated slightly differently than the standard 'K' sounds in both English and Ossetian, in that you use your tongue to momentarily block airflow and cause a pressure difference that is released when the speaker removes the airflow obstruction, which is basically the execution of this phoneme. For posterity, this grouping of sounds is more technically known as 'non-pulmonic egressives', or more commonly as 'ejectives'. The 'non-pulmonic' aspect of the term refers to the fact that these phonemes are not powered by the lungs and diaphragm, instead they use of the tongue to create the variation in pressure inside the mouth or certain parts of the vocal tract; the egressive aspect refers to the fact that the distinct sound comes from airflow exiting the body, as opposed to 'Ingressives' which distinguish themselves by the sound produced by the airflow coming into the body, not out.
Чъ CH' - Same as Ч above, but as the ejective variant, the brief flexing of the tongue to create the pressure change that gives ejectives their popping sounds.
Гъ This phoneme is found in languages such as German and French along with many others, and is sometimes used as an alternative to a 'trilled/tapped R', technically referred to as a 'voiced uvular fricative' which is written as an upside down R (ʁ) on the IPA chart.
Цъ This ejective does not follow the trend of consonant shift, so it is articulated as a 'TS' just as in Russian and other languages, along with the standard 'ejective' pressure-variation.
Tъ Ejective variant of the standard T letter in both languages.
Пъ Ejective variant of the letter P in Ossetian.
Й Known as a 'semi-vowel' because this letter has the ability to act as both a vowel or consonant, under different linguistic-scenarios. In cases where this letter behaves as a vowel, it has the effect of producing a set of dipthongs, 'æ' + 'й' produces roughly the same sound as the -ay in 'pay', and 'а + й' produces roughly the same pronunciation as in the English word 'eye'. Acting as a consonant, this letter can act like a 'soft j' or English 'y', as in the word 'yard'.
Several consonants have a variant where the articulation of the phoneme is the exact same as the 'standard' variant, but the speaker's lips are 'rounded', that is, shaped in a way that resembles an English 'o/u' in most cases. These variants are considered 'labialized' variants and are expressed morphologically with the addition of a Cyrillic 'У', these letters with possible labialized variants are listed as follows:
1. Г -> Гу
2. K -> Kу
3. Kъ -> Kъу
4. Х -> Ху
5. Хъ -> Хъу
As mentioned above, most vowels are close to their English cognates, but like everything in linguistics, there are plenty of exceptions:
Ы This one is a bit more difficult to pinpoint as there is much regional variation in the specific articulation of this vowel, sometimes due to influence from other language families such as Turkic. To my ear this phoneme is generally articulated in a manner that reminds me of the French pronunciation of 'Deux', but shortened to the 'average' length of single vowels in the language.