The Ukrainian Language:



Ukrainian has 10 vowels, 6 “hard” vowels, and 4 “soft” vowels that are formed by adding a “y” sound to the beginning of one of the regular vowels. 

The six basic hard vowels are  А, Е, И, І, О, У.  Although five of them look like standard English letters, they differ greatly from English both in pronunciation, and in the fact that each vowel makes only one sound.  There are no long and short vowels in Ukrainian. 

These vowels are pronounced as follows:

А    like the “a” in the American pronunciation of “car” or the “o” in “on” or “hot”

Е    like the short “e” in the American pronunciation of “let”

И    like the short “i”  in “kill” or “live”

І      like the long “e” in  “keep”

О    like the short “o”  in “torte” or the “a” in “call”

У    like the “oo” in “cool” or the “u” in “yule”

There are, additionally, four soft vowels.  These are essentially dipthongs, shorthand for the combination of Й, a consonant with the “y” sound found in “yellow,” with one of the hard vowels. There are no equivalent letters to these in English, but the sound are fairly common

Й + А  =  Я

Й + Е  =  Є

Й + І   =  Ї

Й + У  =  Ю

The sounds these letters make is fairly straightforward, and Ukrainian is essentially a phonetic language:

Я      like the “ya” in “yard”

Є      like the “ye” in “yellow”

Ї        like “yee” or the “yie” in “yield”

Ю     like “you” 

The other two consonants don’t have a soft letter equivalent, although the diphthong for “o” exists in the Ukrainian language.  Instead of being a single letter, it is written out.  At the beginning of a word, the Й letter is used, as here:

Йo    like the “yo” in “York”

Йи    like the “yi” in “yippie”  (rare local usage)

When it occurs in the middle of words,  the sound «Йо» is often written differently, with a м’який знак (soft sign) instead of a «Й».

ьо    like the “yo” sound in “gnocchi”

  Alphabet        Consonants

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