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In Russian there's no such thing like distinguishing between long and short vowels.

The question is - are there, nevertheless, any orthographic rules for representing long vowers in Russian. Does a double short vowel fit into the orthography ?

For instance, in Mongolian long vowels are represented as follows: ɑː <аа>, iː <ии>, uː <уу>, eː <ээ>, oː <оо>

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  • 2
    Since Russian does not differenciate between long and short vowel phonemes, there's no need to reflect that difference in spelling, it's not relevant for the speakers of Russian. No matter how you reflect that in spelling, Russian speakers won't know the difference, it's better to leave the vowel lengths undifferentiated.
    – Yellow Sky
    Jul 29, 2013 at 5:04
  • I saw that in eastern religious books printed in Russian the terms with long letters are indicated by putting a line above them. Perhaps this is the only sugnificant audience in Russia that wants to distinguish such vowels.
    – Artemix
    Jul 29, 2013 at 10:41
  • @Artemix True, diacritical marks are sometimes used in Russian to show vowel length or other phoneme qualities in contexts where it is important to make these distinctions, for example linguistic or other scientific works. But you won't usually find them in texts intended for general audience.
    – stillenat
    Jul 29, 2013 at 11:29
  • @Artemix That's interesting. Thanks. Are any of those religious books available online ? I would like to see the schema they have used for transliteration. Jul 29, 2013 at 17:17
  • @Avalokitesvara There was a time when you could see people in Indian clothes selling such books. One catched me and I just looked through the book out of courtesy. Letters with lines above them catched my eye. It was many years ago, I didn't see any such books since that time.
    – Artemix
    Jul 30, 2013 at 6:39

2 Answers 2

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Since Russian doesn't differentiate between long and short vowels, this difference will often be omitted for most foreign words.

Так, средствами русской графики, как правило, не передается различие в долготе и краткости гласных. Действительно, почти никогда не обозначается долгота немецких гласных двойными русскими при их передаче; более того, написания вроде Швериин, Рююген, Бааден, Оодер и т. п., очевидно, вызвали бы по меньшей мере удивление. Однако дело здесь было бы не столько в неправильности принципа передачи долгого гласного языка-подлинника двумя русскими гласными, сколько в новизне и неоправданном усложнении передачи. Source.

Translation:

The Russian orthographic system does not usually render the difference between short and long vowels. In fact, German long vowels are hardly ever transcribed with a double letter in Russian; furthermore, spellings like Швериин, Рююген, Бааден, Оодер etc. would obviously be surprising. However, it wouldn't be for the reason of unacceptability of using a double vowel in Russian to represent a long vowel, but rather it would defy custom and unnecessarily complicate the spelling.

However, double letters are sometimes used in Russian to transcribe long vowels of some languages. One example is Finnish.

для обозначения долгих гласных финского языка употребляются во всех позициях последовательно два русских буквенных знака.

Translation:

Two sequential Russian letters are used to represent long Finnish vowels in all positions

For example:

Aavasaksa=Аавасакса, Koillismaa=Койллисмаа

I think the rule of thumb would be: use a single vowel in Russian regardless of whether the vowel is long or short in the original, unless there is a tradition in Russian orthography of using double vowels for this particular language.

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  • Well-known exceptions: Гаага = (Den) Haag; Саарбрюккен (and the Саар region itself).
    – Netch
    Sep 25, 2013 at 19:43
  • A further example: Aachen -> Ахен. Oct 8, 2017 at 23:21
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This depends on whether the piece in question create one or two syllables.

If there are two syllables (i.e. vowel hiatus), the vowel should be doubled (note that the second vowel letter should be non-iotized, so no юю, but should be юу or уу).

If there is only one syllable (i.e., long vowel proper), the vowel length should not be indicated.

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  • A good point, but the question is about vowel length, not about syllabic distribution of vowels. Long vowels of some languages are traditionally indicated in Russian (although they might not be pronounced as long).
    – stillenat
    Jul 29, 2013 at 7:58
  • @stillenat If you talk about Finnish or Estonian, they have hiatus rather than long vowels proper.
    – Anixx
    Jul 29, 2013 at 7:59
  • No, i don't think so. Do you know of any source that can support your opinion? I think, in the word Aavasaksa, aa is one syllable, not two.
    – stillenat
    Jul 29, 2013 at 8:07
  • @stillenat I never thought of it, but I read Finnish words with doubled vowels not as long ones, but separating them like in words "двууглекислый" or "ООН".
    – Artemix
    Jul 29, 2013 at 10:37
  • @Artemix Yes, I don't think there are a lot of Russian people who know how to read Finnish words correctly anyway so you can hear these words pronounced with hiatus from a Russian speaker. But for a native Finn, aa/oo/.. represent long vowels.
    – stillenat
    Jul 29, 2013 at 11:36

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