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https://www.duolingo.com/TheHockeyist

Why is the letter э so rare and why is it only seen at the beginning of words?

I've only seen it in это and its derivatives, as well as a few other words. I can think of электричество, этаж, экран, эму, Эфиопия, Эквадор, Эстония, экватор (and a few derivatives), and the interjection эй. The letter э always seems to begin a word, and it never is seen in the middle of a word for some reason.

As a learner, I'm very curious about this. My dictionaries only list about half of a page of words that beign with э. Why is э so rare? I know that it's fairly new to the alphabet.

2 years ago

12 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/annika_a
annika_a
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We have поэт in the course, don't we?

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/TheHockeyist

Argh! I forgot that поэт existed! (This shows how tired I am.) And аэропорт! It seems to only occur after a vowel in the middle of the word. And фэнтези... weird.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/LICA98
LICA98
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in Russian transliteration of English names, a is often transliterated to э – Sam-Сэм, David-Дэвид, Mary-Мэри, Ian-Иэн, Frank-Фрэнк, Matthew-Мэттью

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/TheHockeyist

Hm. Э is more common than I thought.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/LICA98
LICA98
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It's probably because in the beginning of a word, the Е sounds as "ye", so Э is used when it has to sound like "e". In the middle of the sentence е can sound both as е and as э (for example in words like "проект" or "секс", е sounds like э)

example words with э in the middle or the end: аэропорт, поэт, мэр, фэнтези, силуэт, поэтому, каноэ, алоэ

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/salamista
salamista
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Seems like it's used mostly to imitate the original pronunciation of foreign words. Correct?

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/LICA98
LICA98
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yes, it appears often in foreign words

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/lee_livingston
lee_livingstonPlus
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Quick cut/paste from Wiki:

In contemporary Russian, ⟨э⟩ is used to represent [e], [ɛ] in initial position (e.g., электричество 'electricity') and post-vocalic position (e.g., дуэль 'duel'). Among such words there are only a few native Russian roots: эт- (это 'this is', этот/эта/это 'this (m./f./n.)', эти 'these', поэтому 'thus' etc.), эк- (экий 'what a'), эдак-/этак- (эдак/этак 'that way', эдакий/этакий 'sort of') plus few interjections like эй 'hey', э 'uh, oh', э-э-э 'uh'.

They go on to say the regular e is used for most foreign words with the exception of proper nouns. Nice info on the history too.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/TheHockeyist

Thanks for the find. Very interesting info.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/SeptimusBones
SeptimusBones
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I dunno about the rarity, but at least the word поэт has э in the middle.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/perloff
perloff
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Russian is my native language (together with Ukrainian) but before Duolingo launched the course I had never thought about the difficulties in learning Russian for non-speakers. I really respect those guys who can answer questions like this just because I've never even thought of the reason we use this letter — Э. I mean, I read these threads and always find something useful. Thank you for the question and thanks to everyone for responds.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/TheHockeyist

No prob.

2 years ago