plurals and the 'е'
in russian, is there a rule when changing a word to plural and it has an е at the beginning, does it always change to ё? I've already noticed a couple of words like this and am wondering if it is a rule (would help me remember...). TYIA!
It only might happen if the stress moves. Not always even then.
About 600-700 years ago a stressed E sound in Russian words changed to O when it used to be after a "soft" consonant but NOT before another one. So you get «Меня́ зову́т Пётр» but «Я зна́ю Петра́». Жена́ becomes жёны in plural (all hushes used to be "soft" consonants).
Another e-like vowel existed, which was not the same. It was spelt Ѣ. By the 19th century, and especially at the beginning of the 20th century it merged with E in the vast majority of dialects, and the spelling was eventually updated to reflect the pronunciation. That's why we have a stressed Е in words like «лес» ("forest") or «ве́тка» ("branch"), not Ё.
- the spelling reform is usually associated with the 1917 Bolshevik revolution but the truth is, the project was not theirs. Reforming the spelling had been proposed for a while by then, and the project had been there already. Bolsheviks were just bold enough to approve the new spelling guidelines.
However, since you have no means of knowing both the origin of the vowel and the stress pattern the word follows, you just need to memorize the plural if there is anything unusual about it.
And if one knows Ukrainian when he actually knows where Ѣ used to be rather than Е. In Ukrainian Ѣ has turned to I. So if there is the Russian word "лес" and its Ukrainian "brother" is "ліc", than we definitely know, that it were spelled once as "лѣс". The same is true for "белый" - "білий", "бегать" - "бігати", "верить" - "вірити" and others.