For comparison, we do not write Манэ or Монэ et cetera. They are Мане and Моне.

Why then Гаянэ and not Гаяне?


2 Answers 2


Actually your assumption is wrong - de-facto both versions, Гаянэ and Гаяне are used (the same about Armine), this is even mentioned in Wikipedia:

Гаянэ́ или Гаяне́ (арм. Գայանե) — армянское женское имя греческого происхождения; русские формы имени — Гаиания, Гаяния1. Греческая форма (др.-греч. Γαϊανὴ) образована от др.-греч. Γῆ, Γᾶ, Γαῖα — Гея, либо от γῆ, γαῖα, γαίη, γαἶα — земля.

The same holds true about Манэ/Мане and Моне/Монэ - it's just that, again, de-facto, the form with -е ending currently prevails.

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So, the real question is - why in one particular case (French last names, to be specific) one form dominates while we can not say the same about Armenian names?

To start with, when it comes to "natural" Russian words, rules about how e is pronounced are very straightforward: at the beginning of the words and after vowels it's pronounces like "йэ" and if it follows a consonant that consonant is softened (palatalized). So, if we follow this rules, Гаянe would be pronounced as Гаяньэ - it doesn't sound right for Armenian speaker, doesn't sound right at all.

Following factors increase the probability of Russians spelling Armenian names with 'э':

  • They doesn't not transliterate this names from Latin alphabet
  • In that rare cases when they do (for instance, in scientific texts) in original they, surprisingly can see both form - Գայանե and Գայիանէ (the obsolete form) - those can designate slightly different sounds, but in both cases the closes would be Russian 'э'.
  • Most likely if someone spells this name at all is because he knows someone named Гаянэ, Рипсимэ, Арминэ etc. - they hear how the person themselves pronounce this names. And, when they hear it, the spell it as they hear it.

Funny thing is that for Russian Armenians this situation is sort of like the Наталья/Наталия "controversy" - in fact, many of them prefer the ending and insist on using it when referring to them, say, in letters. Also, keep in mind that for some Armenian names the '-е' form dominates, so there are more Арменs rather than Армэнs.

In my opinion, following factors are contributing to the prevalence of "-е" spelling in French names:

  • The tradition to translate this way all foreign word in general (see галифе, портмоне, стейк, флешка and even Фейсбук and Хеллоуин)
  • The fact that these names are transliterated from Latin script where they are written like (in our case) Manet and Monet.
  • The fact that Russians usually don't know any French people and French people usually don't pronounce their names to Russian speakers - that's why if someone spells their name, they usually just google how it pronounced de-facto. Since the contributing factors mentioned about, they most likely find Манеand Моне and just go with it. Thus, increasing the number of "-e" cases further.
  • The point of how wrong palatalized consonants may sound for Armenians looks irrelevant here, and it is irrelevant in general. Armenian has no palatalized / non-palatalized consonants distinction, neither it has different N's like Spanish and Italian [n] vs. [ɲ]. On the other hand, Armenian consonants are paired as aspirated / non-aspirated, but nevertheless Armenians don't object when foreigners don't aspirate them when needed. Note: Russian Хачатурян [xət͡ɕɪtʊˈrʲan] vs. Armenian Խաչատրյան (Xačatryan) [χɑt͡ʃʰɑt(ə)ɾˈjɑn] - 3 cons. and 3 vowels in the Russian variant are different from Armenian.
    – Yellow Sky
    Commented Nov 28, 2020 at 14:06
  • Also, Armenian has 2 letters very similar to the Russian e and э: ե is [jɛ] at the beginning of the word and [ɛ] elsewhere, է is [ɛ] at the beginning of the word, it used to be read as the long [ɛː] in Classical Armenian, now used only at the word onset. Perhaps some Armenians associate e with ե and э with է, and since "Armen" is written Արմեն, with ե ~ e, not է ~ э, they prefer the spelling Армен to Армэн. But that's just a guess.
    – Yellow Sky
    Commented Nov 28, 2020 at 14:27
  • @YellowSky exactly the fact that there's no palatalisation in Armenian makes the palatalised form quite annoying for Armenian speakers, your guess about ե / է (and we can add ը for completeness - there are three letters of interest ;) actually makes sense, however to be honest it's more a matter of tradition and. something that people got used to - exactly like Наталия/Наталья
    – shabunc
    Commented Nov 28, 2020 at 14:43
  • 3
    @YellowSky I know it cause I am a native Armenian speaker whose sister hates when her name is spelled Сатинэ and prefers the Сатине spelling but doesn’t like when it softened nevertheless. I know it as someone whose name is Шаген and who just can not stand Шагэн. Here’s how I know it ))) :P
    – shabunc
    Commented Nov 28, 2020 at 14:56
  • 1
    As of last name ending - this is because, when pronounced quickly, ean/yean/ian in combination with a vowel ending sounds almost as palatalized version.
    – shabunc
    Commented Nov 28, 2020 at 14:58

The spelling Гаяне is also possible. Гаянэ is an Armenian female given name, Գայանե in Armenian. Personal non-Russian names with э are to be remembered, there's no rule where and why one writes э in such names.

Правила русской орфографии и пунктуации. Полный академический справочник / Под ред. В.В. Лопатина, 2006 says э is written "in many foreign-language personal names", see §8 here:

Не в начале корня после согласных буква э пишется для передачи гласного э и одновременно для указания на твердость предшествующего согласного в следующих случаях.

... 2. Во многих собственных именах иноязычного происхождения, напр.: Бэкон, Дэвид, Дэн Сяопин, Дэвис, Рэлей, Рэмбо, Сэлинджер, Сэм, Сэссон, Тэтчер, Тэффи (личные имена и фамилии), Мэриленд, Тайбэй, Улан Удэ, Хуанхэ (географические названия). Буква э сохраняется в любых словах, производных от таких собственных имен, а также при переходе их в нарицательные, напр.: улан удэнский, рэлей (физическая единица), сэссон (стрижка).

The famous Rosenthal in his Справочник по правописанию и литературной правке для работников печати also says that э is written in some foreign personal names, see §6 here.

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