я, ю, е letters are pairs for а, у, э, and, мае should be read maje, and майе should be read majje, like it happens with мая and майя - maja and majja.


I, personally, think that э is a different vowel than е in modern Russian, unlike vowels in я-а, ю-у pairs, ie I think мяч and мач have same а, but only different м, but in case of мер and мэр I think the vowels are different. I do not know how old is this situation, but according to general logic that appear, е is just the match for э like я is for а, seems it was so historically. I do not ask about this, this is just to show the problem. I, personally, used to wrongly think that айе should be read aje just like ае, because I thought that е generally behaves differently from я and ю... For example, I thought, it does not change the m in меч, does not palatalize it, like it happens in мяч, so I thought, е has initial j only in beginning of word, so, I thought, е's behaviour after й is just like after any other consonant, while я after й should use its initial j and make a double j.

Some letter sequences here are not meaningful words, they are just examples, the question is about how letter sequence should be read.

This question is to get a proof to fix a wiktionary function/table, (I do not know what is it and how named), for https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/User_talk:Benwing2#reading_of_%D0%B0%D0%B9%D0%B5_etc , for table in https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%D0%BC%D0%B0%D0%B9%D1%8F and other similar words.

Adding on December 18:

Some answers are about what happens in real speech. I think there is some current canonical Russian writing system, where should be a simple general rule, reading (pronouncing) according to which is not incorrect, it is correct, acceptable because it is canonical, generally it maybe a little archaic, not like people really speak, but ok. For example, pronouncing "gripəm" (or maybe there should be other thing instead of ə, i am not sure, it is not important for this question) maybe what is used by more people and more often, but if somebody says "grippəm" or "grippom" it is not incorrect, because it is somewhat canonical. I think using such canonical version would be more correct to use in a table in Wiktionary. I asked about such "canonical Russian writing system", not about current etymological/phonetical processes / phases of processes / changes "in the wild" (sound shifts etc). Also some little known pronouncing rules maybe not known, not noticed by some people, and may be pronounced by them without that rule, as it is written, or there maybe dialectal differences.

Adding on January 10, 2019:

Should "йе" after vowel be pronounced [jje]? Should [jje] after vowel be written "йе" or "ййэ" or "ййе"? Should [je] after vowel be written "е" or "йэ" or "йе"?

  • Can you please be more specific. Like - My question is - ....
    – shabunc
    Dec 16, 2018 at 17:19
  • @shabunc, i added links, see
    – qdinar
    Dec 16, 2018 at 17:20
  • I'm sorry, but a link per se doesn't count as a question clarification. Links tend to become invalid, and question supposed to be self-sufficient.
    – shabunc
    Dec 16, 2018 at 17:22
  • @shabunc, i do not think that my question is not specific, it is yes or no question. please remove "hold" if you can.
    – qdinar
    Dec 16, 2018 at 17:24
  • don't get me wrong, my goal is to make this question relevant enough so that you'll have valid answer - so, is your question is about - what's the difference between мая and, say, майя ? Can you please clarify.
    – shabunc
    Dec 16, 2018 at 17:24

4 Answers 4


Gemination is a bit fuzzy in Russian:

  1. Words such as касса, масса, тонна, ванна, Мекка, поддать, Приенисейе [йй] have 'true doubles': saying them with a single consonant can hinder understanding. Minimal pairs: подать - поддать, подождём - под дождём, (нет) тона - тонна, при Енисее - Приенисейе.

  2. Then there are 'false doubles' which are normally pronounced as singles: аппарат, аккуратный, теннис, (болеть) гриппом. Saying them with a double consonant would sound inappropriate in normal speech but could be used e.g. to explain how the word is spelled.

  3. The rest of the words occupy a middle ground whereby they can be pronounced with either single or double consonants or anywhere in between without sounding odd or erroneous. These include: русский, рассказ, зажаренный, Майя, майя, Айя-София and many others. Actual pronunciation may depend on the speaker or the meaning (Майя vs майя).

The word длина is a very peculiar case as it is sometimes erroneously pronounced with a double [нн].

As for your December 18 update ("if somebody says "grippəm" or "grippom" it is not incorrect, because it is somewhat canonical"):

  • Я заболел гриппом.
  • Я пошел играть в теннис.
  • Аппарат вызываемого абонента недоступен.

If you say these sentences with 'proper' doubles, people would think you are imitating an Estonian accent or trying to spell the words out. It would sound improper and incorrect.


For я in майя there's such difference, it's supposed to be pronounced like май-йа. However, for instance, de-facto this quite exotic letter combination is pronounced just like я. For verifying both of the claims you can search youtube for Майя Плисецкая (like here) and Айя-София (like here).

Йе is actually pronounced just like е ([je]) - so Том Сойер would have been pronounced identically has it have been spelled Том Соер - this spelling does not exist for historical reasons just like we spell йогурт, not ёгурт.

Generally speaking gemination is not something very typical for Russian - however it do exist to some extent - but specifically about йй one can claim it's virtually non-existent.

  • 1
    The video for Айя-София that you linked to clearly says it with a double йй. Dec 20, 2018 at 4:02
  • also in the video he says clearly majja, for me.
    – qdinar
    Dec 20, 2018 at 10:01
  • first video is soviet time video, dictors, as i know were higly trained and selected, and pronounciation norms on media were controlled by state. there should be somewhat canonical pronounciation. so it verifies how it is supposed to be pronounced. to say about the second video i have to learn about its author. i think, he reads just correctly, and there is not contradiction between how it is should be and how it is pronounced. in both i hear jj. so, only first of your claims verified. and how contradictory claims could be verified by same videos?
    – qdinar
    Dec 20, 2018 at 10:15
  • at forvo.com/word/… i see transcription as Tom Soyyer and 2 recordings first somewhat like with jj or with o:j (longer o), second is with j.
    – qdinar
    Dec 20, 2018 at 10:17
  • i think the writing as сойер might have been a mistake, while it should had been сойэр or соер.
    – qdinar
    Dec 20, 2018 at 10:23

It is not quite clear what all the paragraph about what you thought on Е and Э is aimed at. If we decided to write айэ, it would sound just like ае: в мае. Unless we would like to make an extra effort to show this unusual combination in speech.

It is impossible to soften й.

The letters я, ю, ё, е do sound as йа, йу, йо, йэ in the alphabet, and also after vowels, ь, ъ and й. In the latter case the sound й is reduplicated, but any consonant reduplication is partially reduced (say, to 1 1/2), so it can still sound as 1 й in fluent speech. But when we pronounce it distinctly we do have something like йй there.

The declension of the word майя on the second link is weird. You can decline only Майя as a name, but it requires a capital letter. Besides, why is there no Genitive in plural? The word майя meaning the Maya people is indeclinable in Russian.

  • "It is not quite clear what all the paragraph about what you thought on Е and Э is aimed at.0 If we decided to write айэ, it would sound just like ае: в мае." - as i said, i think, that in modern russian э is usually read differently than э inside е. i think, айэ would usually be pronounced like ajæ, and ае like aje. (see the difference between мер and мэр: forvo.com/word/%D0%BC%D0%B5%D1%80 , forvo.com/word/%D0%BC%D1%8D%D1%80 ). and this might affect how people started to use е after й, as i shown in comments to shabunc's answer.
    – qdinar
    Dec 20, 2018 at 10:49
  • "If we decided to write айэ, it would sound just like ае: в мае." - so, i think, you give a little prove to the idea, that i said about, that historically "е is just the match for э like я is for а".
    – qdinar
    Dec 20, 2018 at 10:56
  • "But when we pronounce it distinctly we do have something like йй there." - so you say about what i asked/clarified in addition to my question: the double jj version is canonical, because distinct pronounciation here means canonical pronounciation...
    – qdinar
    Dec 20, 2018 at 11:00

i have come to idea/conclusion that writting vowel + й + я/е/ю/ё should be avoided because they are ambiguous, it should be replaced with vowel + я/е/ю/ё for single j, vowel + й + ь + я/е/ю/ё for double j. i have written this as an answer at https://rus.stackexchange.com/a/449850 .

Should “йе” after vowel be pronounced [jje]? я, ю, е letters are pairs for а, у, э, and, мае should be read maje, and майе should be read majje, like it happens with мая and майя - maja and majja. Right?

-- i think now: no, since й is a consonont, it should behave like other consonants, and should not create second [j] (double [j]). (я does not create an additional consonant when used after a consonant, but, it just palatalizes it. also е/ю/ё).

Should [jje] after vowel be written "йе" or "ййэ" or "ййе"?

-- neither, "йе" is ambiguous, "ййэ" and "ййе" are strange, not cyrillic, since they use йэ or йе instead of е, and "ййэ" is not correct if it is in a russian suffix, because э is used to mean a different vowel, that is used in loanwords, in positions except beginning of word. in case it is not russian [jje] but the [jjæ], that may be in loanwords, then ййэ should be used.

Should [je] after vowel be written "е" or "йэ" or "йе"?

-- "е". "йэ" to show the different vowel that may be in loanwords.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.