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Iotation

Iotation is a form of palatalisation which occurs in Slavic languages.

English
singular
Serbian
singular
Serbian
plural
branch /grana/ /gran'e/
leaf /list/ /liSt'e/
stone /kamen/ /kamen'e/

It occurs by mixing of a consonant with the palatal approximant /j/, which is in Greek alphabet represented by iota (ι), hence the name. For example, ni in English onion or Spanish ˝ as in ma˝ana have the sound of iotated n. Example on the right shows how Serbian language uses iotation to express plural of a certain class of words.

An iotated consonant is represented in IPA with superscript j after it and in SAMPA with apostrophe after it, so the pronunciation of iotated n could be represented as or /n'/.

As it is invented for writing of Slavic languages, Cyrillic alphabet has relatively complex ways for representing iotation, devoting an entire class of letters to deal with the issue; there are letters which represent iotified consonants as well as letters which iotify adjacent consonants or prevent their iotation. Their exact use depends on language; see Cyrillic alphabet as used in Slavic languages.

Adjective for a phone which undergoes iotation is iotated and for a letter formed as ligature of the Early Cyrillic I (І) and another letter, which is used to represent iotation, is iotified.

Iotified Cyrillic letters

In the Cyrillic alphabet, some letter forms are iotified, that is, formed as a ligature of Early Cyrillic I (І) and a vowel.

Normal Iotified Comment
Name Shape Sound Name Shape Sound
A А /a/ Iotified A ІА /ja/ Now supplanted by Ya (Я)
E Е /e/ Iotified E Ѥ /je/ No longer used
Uk ОУ /u/ Iotified Uk Ю /ju/ Uk is an archaic form of U (У)
Little Yus /e~/ Iotified Little Yus Ѩ /je~/ No longer used
Big Yus Ѫ /o~/ Iotified Big Yus Ѭ /jo~/ No longer used

In old inscriptions, other iotified letters, even consonants, could be found, but these are not parts of a regular alphabet.

There are more letters which serve the same function, but their glyphs are not made in the same way.

Normal Iotified Comment
Name Shape Sound Name Shape Sound
A А /a/ Ya Я /ja/
E Э /e/ Ye Е /je/ Used in Belarusian and Russian
E Е Ye Є Used in Ukrainian
I І /i/ Yi Ї /ji/ Used in Ukrainian
O О /o/ Yo Ё /jo/ Used in Belarusian and Russian

Cyrillic letters for iotated sounds

Name Shape Sound
Dje Ђ ђ /d'/
Gje Ѓ ѓ /g'/
Lje Љ љ /l'/
Nje Њ њ /n'/
Tshe Ћ ћ /t'/
Kje Ќ ќ /k'/

When Vuk Karad×ić reformed the Serbian language (which was later also applied to Macedonian language), he created new letters which represent iotated consonants. This was possible because in Serbian and Macedonian only several consonants can be iotated. Though it might seem logical, the letters themselves are not called "iotated letters" or by any similar name.

See also

Last updated: 05-21-2005 14:47:34