The reference material I've been reading is somewhat confusing. Some sources say that "й" is equivalent to "j", while others say it's equivalent to "y". Which is it? For example, is it pronounced "j" as in jar, "y" as in yes, or something else?

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    An example to remember: New York = Нью-Йорк. (A more accurate transliteration might be Ну-Йорк, but that's not how it goes.)
    – KCd
    Commented Nov 29, 2012 at 1:46
  • So, edit the question to make it clearer. As you can see, Jonathan Christensen is considering spelling as well. Also, й stands for palatal approximant /j/, which you are calling y. This letter is used for the same sound in other slavic languages. As for /dʒ/-phoneme, which you call 'j' - there is no such sound in Russian at all.
    – shabunc
    Commented Nov 29, 2012 at 5:37
  • I do not know anything about spelling yet. I am sorry if I cannot go from knowing half of the alphabet (and having to type every key on my keyboard to get one letter), to understanding the complex phonetic structures of a language in a few minutes.
    – ctype.h
    Commented Nov 29, 2012 at 6:00
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    @shabunc why do you say we don't have a sound for dʒ? This is not a single sound, as this very phonetic transcription indicates, but two, and exactly in Russian we have letters for both of them: д & ж. Admittedly our д is not exactly as in English, but in this case very close.
    – texnic
    Commented Nov 29, 2012 at 8:27
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    @KCd "j" in English is like voiced "ч".
    – Anixx
    Commented Nov 30, 2012 at 0:27

6 Answers 6


Й is always pronounced like Y in "Yes". The reason it is often tansliterated as J is that in many languages (German, Polish) J is also pronounced like Y in "Yes".

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    as far as I know, in all Slavic languages with latin-based alphabet, J stands for Й.
    – shabunc
    Commented Nov 29, 2012 at 5:38
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    That is difference of alphabets not of the pronunciation. Й is a sound similar to y in "yes" or in "bay" - with the differences given below. The situation is displayed correctly.
    – Viridianus
    Commented Feb 15, 2014 at 19:23

As a letter "Й" is used to make sound like Y in Yes, but its accurate to say that combination "Ye" from Yes sounds like russian "E". There are several russian letters that sounds like "Й" + another letter, for example E = Й + Э, Ю = Й + У, Ё = Й + О. Thus, the main purpose of "Й" is the formation of new letters. :) Sorry for english


Y in "Yes" is pronounced in a much more light way than the Russian Й, the distance between the tongue and the palate in English is wider.
Try to say it as Y in Yes, but the air should pass between the tongue and palate with much more strength. The hole between tongue and palate should be as narrow as it possible and also longer.

As for J as in jar, it has nothing in common with Й or any other Russian sound.


I think your confusion stems from the fact that most textbooks use the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) in their transcriptions, and the IPA symbol for the y in yes is /j/. Why did they choose j? Because in most European languages, j is pronounced like y. So in the IPA, our yes is transcribed as /jɛs/.

It might interest you to know that /y/ is also used in the IPA, but as a vowel — for instance, the German ü in über and the French u in tu. These are transcribed as /ty/ and /yːbɐ/ in the IPA. And again, that's because in some European languages, y is used as a vowel.


Letter "й" is pronounced like the sound /j/.

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    Welcome to Russian Language and Usage Beta! While probably being legit, your answer does not seem to add to the answers given by the other users. If you want to support one of the answers given earlier, please up-vote it rather then repost.
    – Quassnoi
    Commented Dec 4, 2012 at 21:02
  • This is probably more confusing than helpful. It is accurate that the IPA symbol j is used to represent sounds like the Russian й or the English y in "yes", but you should perhaps spell this out. To a visitor who is not familiar with IPA, it would look like you are contradicting the other answers here.
    – tripleee
    Commented Apr 13, 2019 at 7:23

Й doesn't really have an independent pronunciation--other than a few foreign loan words, it only occurs after vowels and changes the vowel pronunciation. It's sometimes transliterated as J, but it's definitely not like J in Jar--more like a German J, which is like an English Y. So it's better to think of it like Y in Yes.

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    Й has as much independent pronunciation as any other consonant.
    – Dima
    Commented Nov 29, 2012 at 1:06
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    Sorry, I stuck an extra word in there the first time: Can you give me an example of a Russian word that is not a loan word (like йогурт) where й occurs anywhere other than after a vowel? Commented Dec 4, 2012 at 3:11
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    @Jonathan Christensen ''й'' does not anyhow significantly change the vowel's pronunciation. It is pronounced as an independent separate consonant. For example, in word "бой" "о" is pronounced the same way as in "бог", "бор", "бот".
    – Anixx
    Commented Dec 5, 2012 at 17:03
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    @Jonathan Christensen, no questions remains, why your answer was downvoted?
    – Anixx
    Commented Dec 6, 2012 at 0:24
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    The sound Й [j] can occur everywhere in non-borrowed Russian words, it can begin words, it can follow consonants. The point is, the Russian orthography is tricky, it has such letters as Е=Й+Е, Ё=Й+О, Ю=Й+У, Я=Й+А, so если, 'if', is pronounced йесли, пьёт, 'drinks' as пьйот, юг, 'south' as йук, and я, 'I' as йа. Also, йи after consonants is written as ЬИ, муравьи, 'ants', is pronounced as муравйи.
    – Yellow Sky
    Commented Dec 9, 2015 at 23:03

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