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I came across the word подъезд [pɐdˈjest].

I am aware of the fact that there is a j added, as the e comes after the ъ. However, I wondered why it is a ъ and not a ь here. How would the word be pronounced, if it would be written like подьезд? And is there a rule that basically implies that there cannot be a ь here in this case?

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The silent letter ъ is written only after prefixes ending in a consonant, like под-. According to the Russian orthography rules, you cannot write ь there.

The function of the silent letter ъ (“hard sign”) is to signify that the following е, ё, ю, я are read with [j] which follows a “hard” (non-palatalized) consonant.

The function of the silent letter ь (“soft sign”) before a vowel is to signify that the following и, е, ё, ю, я are read with [j] which follows a “soft” (palatalized) consonant (accompanied with ʲ in IPA).

The letter combination дъе is pronounced as [dje].
The letter combination дье is pronounced as [dʲje].

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  • Thanks for your answer. I am aware that I can find russian grammar rules here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_grammar However, I was not able to find this specific rule (telling me that after prefixes ending in a consonant I can only write ъ and not ь). Do you have a source where I can find this? – BertHobe May 2 at 11:04
  • One further question: Is "е" a vowel that is always palatized? Here it says this: en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Appendix:Russian_pronunciation However, in this case the е is not palatized? Just a [j] is added. – BertHobe May 2 at 11:34
  • @BertHobe vowels cannot be palatalized, only consonants. The consonant [й] ([j]) is always soft in Russian. – Anixx May 3 at 6:47
  • @BertHobe - Here's the rule for Ъ used only after prefixes ending in a consonant in Modern Russian orthography: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hard_sign#Modern_Russian:_hard_sign Before 1918 the rules for Ъ were different, see the same Wiki article for details. As for the further question, by “Palatal letter” they mean that those letters (е, ё, и, ю, я) palatalize the previous consonant (if it can be palatalized). In some borrowings, e doesn't palatalize the preceding consonant and is read as э, that is, as [ɛ], e.g. компьютер [kɐm⁽ʲ⁾ˈp⁽ʲ⁾jutɨr], бренд [brɛnt] ‘brand (commercial term)’. – Yellow Sky May 3 at 7:48

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