Why the y’s?

My latest article for The Week is on the reason for the many y’s in transliterations of Ukrainian and Russian names, and how to read them:

A word to the Y’s on Ukrainian and Russian

2 responses to “Why the y’s?

  1. You hinted at the Ukrainian/Russian difference in Г — as in Ukrainian “Luhansk” and Russian “Gorbachev”, but didn’t go any farther. But never mind, thanks for the article. I studied Russian for 2 years a very long time ago but my only exposure to Ukrainian was a radio commercial somewhere in rural Alberta in the 1980’s.

    • I actually did go further in the draft I submitted to The Week, but they found it necessary for the sake of focus to trim that and a few other digressions out – it’s a rather long article even still! Basically, it’s that in Ukrainian the Г does, as you note, stand for something more like “h” (though often actually voiced; phonemically, /ɦ/). There is a letter in Ukrainian that is said as “g,” though – it’s a modified Г, written as Ґ. Thanks for raising the question!

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