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Yat or Jat ( , ) is the name of the thirty-second letter of the old Cyrillic alphabet, or of the sound it represents. Its name in Old Church Slavonic is jěd’ ( ) or iad’ ( ). In the common scientific Latin transliteration for old Slavic languages, the letter is represented by e with caron: (taken from the Czech alphabet).

The yat represented a Common Slavic long vowel. It is generally believed to have represented the sound , which was a reflex of earlier , or . That the sound represented by yat developed late in the history of Common Slavonic is indicated by its role in the second palatalization of the Slavonic velar consonants. It is significant that from the earliest texts, there is considerable confusion between the yat and the Cyrillic iotified a ( ). One explanation is that the dialect of Thessaloniki (on which the Old Church Slavonic literary language was based) and other South Slavonic dialects shifted from independent from the Northern and Western branches. The confusion was also possibly aggravated by the fact that Cyrillic Little Yus ( ) looks very similar to the older Glagolitic alphabet's yat ( , supported only in Unicode 4.1; image: ). An extremely rare "iotated yat" form ( ) also exists.

In various modern Slavic languages the yat has reflexed into various vowels. For example, the old Slavic root běl (white) became bel in Standard Russian (dialectal , or even in some regions), bil in Ukrainian, bjal in Bulgarian (bel in Western dialects), biel / biały in Polish, bílý in Czech and biely in Slovak. Older, unrelated reflexes of yat exist; for example, old word ( , carts) became modern Russian телеги (telegi) but in Serbian it is таљиге (taljige).

As a result of these reflexes, yat no longer represented an independent phoneme, but rather an already existing one, represented by another Cyrillic letter. As a result, children had to memorise by rote where to write yat and where not. Therefore, the letter was dropped in a series of orthographic reforms: in Serbian with the reform of Vuk Karadžić, which was later adopted for Macedonian, in Russian, Belarusian and Ukrainian roughly with the October revolution, and in Bulgarian and Rusyn languages as late as 1945. The letter is no longer used in the standard modern orthography of any of the Slavic languages written with the Cyrillic alphabet, although it survives in liturgical and church texts written in the Russian recension of Church Slavonic and has, since 1991, found some favour in advertising.

Iotified Yat

There is also another version of Yat, the Iotified Yat (majuscule: , minuscule: ) which is a Cyrillic Alphabet combined with a Decimal I and a Yat. It was rarely adopted in the earliest monuments such as the The Anthology 1073.

There is no numerical value for this letter nor it was in the Glagolitic Alphabet. There is no known historical name for this letter, but in Russian it would be йоти́рованный ять (Ĭotírovannyĭ Yat). It was said to be pronounced [jæ:] or [je:], similar to the Cyrillic letter Yae. It was encoded in Unicode 5.1 at positions U+A652, and U+A653.

Yat in Bulgarian

In Bulgarian, the different reflexes of the yat form the so-called yat border (yatova granitsa), running approximately from Nikopol on the Danube to Solun (Thessalonikimarker) on the Aegean Seamarker. The yat border is the most important Bulgarian isogloss. West of that isogloss, old yat is always realized as e (continuing into Macedonian and Ekavian Serbian dialects). East of it, the reflexes of yat prototypically alternate between or (in stressed syllables when not followed by a front vowel) and (in all other cases). Literary Bulgarian is based on the pronunciation of the eastern dialects. Some examples of the alternation in the standard language follow, with stressed vowels in bold:

  • ml'yako (milk) [n.] → mlekar (milkman); mlechen (milky), etc.
  • s'yadam (sit) [vb.] → sedalka (seat); sedalishte (seat, eg. of government), etc.
  • sv'yat (world) [adj.] → svetoven (worldly); svetski (secular), etc.

From the liberation of Bulgaria until 1945, the standard Bulgarian orthography did not reflect this alternation and used the Cyrillic letter yat for both "ya" and "e" in alternating roots. This was regarded as a way to maintain unity between Eastern and Western Bulgarians, as much of what was then seen as Western Bulgarian dialects was under foreign control. In 1945, the letter was eliminated from the Bulgarian alphabet and the spelling was changed to conform to the pronunciation.

Yat in Croatian

The Old Croatian yat phoneme is assumed to have a phonetic value articulatorily between the vowels and . In the Štokavian and Čakavian vowel systems, this phoneme did not have a back vowel parallel; the tendency towards articulatory symmetry led to its merging with other phonemes.

On the other hand, most Kajkavian dialects did have a back vowel parallel (a reflex of * and ), and both the front and back vowels were retained in these dialects' vowel system before merging with a reflex of a vocalized Yer (*ь). Thus the Kajkavian vowel system has a symmetry between front and back closed vocalic phonemes: */ẹ/ ( */ě/, */ь/) and */ọ/ ( */ǫ/, ).

Čakavian dialects utilized both possibilities of establishing symmetry of vowels by developing Ikavian and Ekavian reflexes. According to yat reflex Čakavian speeches are divided to Ikavian (mostly South Čakavian), Ekavian (North Čakavian) and mixed Ikavian-Ekavian (Middle Čakavian), in which mixed Ikavian-Ekavian reflex is conditioned by following phonemes according to the Jakubinskij's law (e.g. sled : sliditi PSl. *slědъ : *slěditi; del : diliti *dělъ : *děliti). Mixed Ikavian-Ekavian Čakavian speeches have been heavily influenced by analogy (influence of nominative form on oblique cases, infinitive on other verbal forms, word stem onto derivations etc.). The only exception among Čakavian speeches is Lastovomarker island and the village of Janjina, with Jekavian reflex of yat.

The most complex development of yat has occurred in Štokavian, namely Ijekavian Štokavian speeches which are used as a dialectal basis for modern standard Croatian literary language, and that makes the reflexes of yat one of the central issues of Croatian orthoepy and orthography. In most Croatian Štokavian speeches yat has yielded diphtongal sequence of in long and short syllables. The position of this diphthong is equally unstable as that of closed */ẹ/, which has led to its dephonologization. Short diphthong has thus turned to diphonemic sequence /je/, and long to disyllabic (triphonemic) /ije/, but that process is not yet completely finished in most Štokavian speeches, so the pronunciation of long yat in Neo-Štokavian speeches can be both monosyllabic (diphthongal or triphongal) and disyllabic (triphonemic). However, that process has been completed in speeches which serve as a dialectal basis for the codification of Croatian language, namely the Western Štokavian speeches with diphtongal value of yat, which is the prescribed orthoepical norm by modern Croatian grammars. In writing, dipthong is represented as trigraph ije - this particular inconsistency being a remnant of the late 19th century codification efforts, which planned to redesign common literary language for Croats and Serbs. This culminated in the Novi Sad agreement and "common" orthography and dictionary. Digraphic spelling of a diphthong as ie was used by some 19th century Croat writers who promoted so-called "etymological orthography" - in fact morpho-phonemic orthography which was advocated by some Croatian philological schools of the time, and which was even officialized in the brief period of Independent State of Croatiamarker (1941-45).

Dephonologization of diphtongal yat reflex could also be caused by assimilation within diphthong itself: if the first part of a diphthong assimilates secondary part, so-called secondary Ikavian reflex develops; and if the second part of a diphthong assimilates the first part secondary Ekavian reflex develops. Most Štokavian Ikavian speeches of Croatian are exactly such - secondary Ikavian speeches, and from Ekavian speeches secondary are the Štokavian Ekavian speeches of Slavonian Posavina and Podravina. They have a common origin with Ijekavian Štokavian speeches in a sense of developing yat reflex as diphthongal reflex.

Direct Ikavian, Ekavian and mixed reflexes of yat in Čakavian speeches are a much older phenomenon, which has some traces in written monuments and is estimated to have been completed in 13th century. The practice of using old yat phoneme in Glagolitic and Bosnian Cyrillic writings in which Croatian was written in the centuries that followed was a consequence of conservative scribe tradition.

Reflexes of yat in Ijekavian speeches are from the very start dependent on syllable quantity. As it has already been said, standard Croatian writes tripgraph ije at the place of old long yat, which is in standard pronunciation manifested monosyllabically (diphthongally), and writes je at the place of short yat. E.g. bijȇl PSl. *bělъ, mlijéko *mlěko by liquid metathesis from *melkò, brijȇg *brěgъ by liquid metathesis from *bȇrgъ, but mjȅsto *mě̀sto, vjȅra *vě̀ra, mjȅra *mě̀ra. There are however some limitations; in front of /j/ and /o/ ( word-final /l/) yat has a reflex of short /i/. In scenarios when /l/ is not substituted by /o/, i.e. not word-finally (which is a common Štokavian isogloss), yat reflex is also different. E.g. grijati *grějati, sijati *sějati, bijaše *bějaše; but htio : htjela *htělъ : *htěla, letio : letjela ( *letělъ : *letěla). Standard language also allows some dual forms to coexist, e.g. cȉo and cijȇl *cě̑lъ, bȉo and bijȇl *bě́lъ.

Short yat has reflexes of /e/ and /je/ behind /r/ in consonant clusters, e.g. brȅgovi and brjȅgovi, grehòta and grjehòta, strèlica and strjèlica, etc.

If short syllable with yat in the word stem lengthens due to the phonetic or morphological conditions, reflex of /je/ is preserved, e.g. djȅlo - djȇlā, nèdjelja - nȅdjēljā.

In modern standard Croatian syllables that carry yat reflexes are recognized by alternations in various inflected forms of the same word or in different words derived from the same stem. These alternating sequences ije/je, ije/e, ije/i, ije/Ø, je/i, je/ije, e/ije, e/je, i/ije are dependent on syllable quantity. Beside modern reflexes they also encompass apophonic alternations inherited from Proto-Slavic and Indo-European times, which were also conditioned by quantitative alternations of root syllable, e.g. ùmrijēti - ȕmrēm, lȉti - lijévati etc. These alternations also show the difference between the diphthongal syllables with Ijekavian reflex of yat and syllables with primary phonemic sequence of ije, which has nothing to do with yat and which never shows alternation in inflected forms, e.g. zmìje, nijèdan, òrijent etc.

Yat in Macedonian

In Macedonian, yat is rendered as in all cases.

Yat in Russian

In the Russian language, written confusion between the yat and е in appears in the earliest records; when exactly the distinction finally disappeared in speech is a topic of scientific debate. Some scholars, for example W.K. Matthews, have placed the coalescence of the two sounds at the earliest historical phases (the eleventh century or earlier), attributing its use until 1918 to Church Slavonic influence. Within Russia itself, however, a consensus has found its way into university textbooks of historical grammar (e.g., V.V. Ivanov), that, taking all the dialects into account, the sounds remained predominantly distinct until the eighteenth century, at least under stress, and are distinct to this day in some localities. Meanwhile, the yat in Ukrainian usually merged in sound with (see below), and therefore has remained distinct from <е>.</е>

The story of the letter yat and its elimination from the Russian alphabet makes for an interesting footnote in Russian cultural history. See Reforms of Russian orthography for details. A full list of words that were written with the letter yat at the beginning of twentieth century can be found in the Russian Wikipedia.

Yat in Ukrainian

In Ukrainian, yat has been traditionally represented or . In modern Ukrainian orthography its reflexes are represented by <<A wiki_link="і" href="/і">і> or <<A wiki_link="ї" href="/ї">ї>. However, in some phonetic orthographies from the nineteenth century, it was used to represent or . This corresponds more with the Russian pronunciation of yat rather than actual word etymologies. The modern Ukrainian letter <<A wiki_link="є" href="/є">є> has the same phonetical function. Several Ukrainian orthographies with the different ways of using yat and without yat co-existed in the same time during the 19th century, and most of them were discarded before the 20th century. After the middle of 19th century Orthographies without yat dominated in the Eastern part of Ukraine and after the end of 19th century they dominated in Galicia. However, in 1876-1905 the only officially legalised orthography in the Eastern Ukraine was based on Russian phonetic system (with yat for ) and in the Western Ukraine (mostly in Carpathian Ruthenia) orthography with yat for was used before 1945.

'New yat' is a reflex of (which merged with yat in Ukrainian) in closed syllables. New yat is not related to the Proto-Slavic yat, but it has frequently been represented by the same sign. Using yat instead of <<A wiki_link="е" href="/е">е> in this position was a common after the 12th century. With the later phonological evolution of Ukrainian, both yat and new yat evolved into or . Some other sounds also evolved to the sound so that some Ukrainian texts from between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries used the same letter (<и> or yat) uniformly rather than variation between yat, new yat, <<A wiki_link="и" href="/и">и>, and reflex of <<A wiki_link="о" href="/о">о> in closed syllables, but using yat to unify all i-sounded vovels was less common, and so 'new yat' usually means letter yat in the place of i-sounded <<A wiki_link="е" href="/е">е> only.</и> <и>In some etymology-based orthography systems of the nineteenth century, yat was represented by and new yat was replaced with <ê> ( with circumflex).</ê></и> <и><ê>At this same time, the Ukrainian writing system replaced yat and new yat by <і> or <ї>.</ї></і></ê></и>

Yat in Rusyn

In the Rusyn language, yat was used until 1945, and removed under Soviet rule. Nowadays some Rusyn writers and poets try to reinstate it, but this initiative is not really popular among Rusyn intelligentsia.

Yat in Serbian

Standard Serbian is based on Neo-Štokavian dialect with Ekavian (/e/) reflex of long yat, with secondary Ijekavian variety allowed and used primarily by Serbs in Croatiamarker, Bosnia and Herzegovinamarker and Montenegromarker.

Yat in Romanian

In the old Romanian Cyrillic alphabet, the yat, called eati, was used as /æ/. It disappeared when the Romanian language adopted the transitional alphabet, first in Wallachia, then in Moldovamarker.

Code positions

Yat is present in Unicode, though it is often absent from commonly available fonts.If your browser handles Unicode correctly and has a font which includes the letter, you should see the capital and small yats here: .

Character encoding Case Decimal Hexadecimal Octal Binary
Unicode Capital 1122 0462 2142 0000010001100010
Small 1123 0463 2143 0000010001100011

Its HTML Entities are &#1122; or &#x462; for the capital and &#1123; or &#x463; for the small letter.

See also

  • Yus
  • (Semisoft sign)


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