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Ukrainian і and Russian е/о

Hi, I noticed that in many places where Russian has the vowels е/о, Ukrainian has і/ї:

сок - сік (‘juice’)

ем - їм (‘[I] eat’)

место - місто (‘place’ in Russian and ‘city’ in Ukrainian)

This rule is clearly not universal (e.g. сон - сон ‘dream’), but I can’t really determine when it does or does not apply.

Can anyone explain how this works?

May 28, 2015



Thanks! But it says that this is a reflex of /o/ and /e/ in closed syllables, but сон is a closed syllable with an /o/...


I could be wrong, but my first guess is that maybe it has something to do with the "fleeting е/о" that keeps it from turning into і. День/дня, сон/сну, вогонь/вогню, серпень/серпня, etc. Either way, it's probably better just to memorize the words as you come across them, cause any rule is bound to have exceptions.


Oh, so, like, if it originally came from ъ in OCS rather than о?


yes, it did. сънъ - съна (modern Ukrainian сон-сну, modern Russian сон-сна), similarly *дънъ - дъніа (день - дня). ъ was called "yer" and phonetically is a schwa (ə) like e in taken.


Yes, it has to deal with Yat, so it is true only for words which had it. But you can't determine it by just looking on a word


Another thing is words with forms like хлад/град/глад/враг will appear in Ukrainian as холод/город/голод/ворог (usually in Russian too, except ворог in this example) not холід/горід/голід/воріг etc. But again, there's most likely exceptions, but it's something to keep in mind if you already know another Slavic language.

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