Russian alphabetical order

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages and Linguistics (EHL)' started by e2efour, Nov 17, 2013.

  1. e2efour Senior Member

    England (aged 73)
    UK English
    Why does the letter ю come before я in the Russian alphabet? After all the alphabet is at least partly based on Greek and largely follows the same order as the Roman alphabet.

    What is the historical justification for this? Is it, for example, a question of the original pronunciation in old Cyrillic?
     
  2. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    Both letters are additions to the Greek alphabet and have no direct correspondence (except that the letter ю is probably relation to the Byzantine Greek sequence Omicron-Yota). I can't see how Greek should dictate a natural order in which these letters should occur in Cyrillic.
     
  3. e2efour Senior Member

    England (aged 73)
    UK English
    The Greek alphabet clearly largely dictated the order of the Cyrillic alphabet ("alphabetical order" is not a modern concept, as far as I am aware).
    When ю and я were invented (ю possibly based on your omicron-iota suggestion), their position in the alphabet was presumably based on pronunciation. As in the Latin alphabet, /ju/ comes after /ja/ in alphabetic order.
    How were ю and я pronounced in early Cyrillic?

    If letters are added to the latin alphabet, no alphabetical order may be possible from their sounds, so they can just be put at the end of the alphabet (as in Swedish, the last three characters of which are å, ä and ö. which correspond to /oː/, /ɛː/ and /øː/).
     
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2013
  4. Maroseika Moderator

    Moscow
    Russian
    There was not Я in the early Cyrillic, this letter has appeared very late, when pronunciation of little yus Ѧ and iotacized A have coincided. Graphically Я is reckoned to be cursive Ѧ. Predecessors of Я also had nothing to do with the Greel alphabet, so position of Я in the Russian alphabet also could not be defined by the Greek one.
    As for Ю, since graphically it was ligature, its position also could not depend on the Greek alphabet. In fact, all the ligatures, nasal letters and other letters alien to the Greek, were positioned in the end of the Russian alphabet. But to our days most of them have disappeared and only Ю and Я remained.
     
  5. ahvalj

    ahvalj Senior Member

    The original cyrillic alphabet had three letters that in the modern Russian are replaced by the letter «я» — «Ꙗ» (Ꙗблъко > яблоко), «ѧ» (мѧсо > мясо) and «ѩ» (ѩчьмы > ячмень) (see here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Early_Cyrillic_alphabet). Since «я» is the modified variant of «ѧ» (essentially, its right half), it occupies the same position — i. e. after «ю».
     
  6. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    I still don't understand. Why should the Latin transcription influence the position of the letters in Cyrillic? Pronunciations don't have positions as such only letters have. E.g. the German letter "z" is pronounced /ts/ but that doesn't mean it is has to be placed between "t" and "u".
     
  7. ahvalj

    ahvalj Senior Member

    The Latin alphabet had no effect on the original cyrillic letter order. The new cyrillic letters were added either close to their Greek prototypes («б») or to the end (the majority). See the link in my previous post.
     
  8. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    Wasn't that what I said?:confused:
     
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2013
  9. ahvalj

    ahvalj Senior Member

    Don't worry, there was nothing personal.
     
  10. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    That wasn't my problem. I was just puzzled what you meant because your reply sounded like a contradiction while you made essentially the same point I did. So either you misunderstood me or I misunderstood you or both and I would like to resolve that. Or did you mean your reply as a confirmation?
     

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