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Whenever I see a quotation from the medieval chronicles (or even later sources like the time of Tsar Alexey), ч is followed by ю every single time. When and how did the rule change?

2

Orthography of Russian recension of Church Slavonic uses у and а instead of ю and я after sibilants.

This rule had been mechanically copied into Russian orthography by early Russian grammarians like Lomonosov:

В окончаниях единственного первого лица глаголы с предыдущею согласною имеют всегда у, а ю принимают токмо согласные л, н и р: молю, храню, орю. Итак, неправильно пишут: хочю, лѣчю вместо хочу и лѣчу.

and Vostokov:

Гласные я, ю после ц, ж, ч, ш, щ сами заменяются гласными а, у… Таким образом производится вижу вместо вижю.

So this rule, as well as preserving the ъ at the end of words and making the letter ё a variant of е, not о, is only to make Russian orthography to be more consistent with that of Church Slavonic.

2
  • It is 100% definite that in Old Church Slavonic the sounds denoted with the letters s, ц, ч, ж, ш, щ were always palatalized.
    – Yellow Sky
    Jan 12 '16 at 8:28
  • @YellowSky: you're right, brain fault on my end.
    – Quassnoi
    Jan 12 '16 at 16:02

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