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Let me explain my question.

There are numerous instances of double consonant letters in Russian. More specifically, I mean double consonants in loanwords. Sometimes they denote a geminated (long) consonantal sound. Like in масса, касса, брутто, ванна — you pronounce the long sound [мас:а], [кас:а], [брут:а], [ван:а]. Other case is that you write a double consonant but pronounce it as a simple, non-geminated phoneme. Examples: баллон [балон], аккорд [акорт] and so on. In both cases, the combination of two identical consonant letters in a row denotes a single sound.

For comparison, combinations like НЬ, ЛЬ also denote one single sound. E.g. коньки = [кан'ки], мальчик = [мал'ч'ик].

When dividing words between lines, you cannot split it as кон-ьки, мал-ьчик. On the other hand, you MUST split as follows: мас-са, кас-са, бал-лон, клас-сный, програм-мка.

  1. В словах с двойными согласными одну букву оставляют на строке, вторую переносят на другую строку: Ан-на, суб-бота.

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I wonder: is there an explanation for this rule? Seems to be very illogical.

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    The rule is not specific to loan words, is it? Дрож-жи, Рос-сия.
    – il--ya
    Dec 24, 2021 at 12:02
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    Isn't it similar in English? Compare cot-ton, les-son, mean-ness; also you don't separate "h" in "th/sh", e.g. anth-rax not ant-hrax, which is somewhat analogous to ь.
    – il--ya
    Dec 24, 2021 at 12:26

2 Answers 2

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The general logic behind word division rules is that division shouldn't make the word harder to read. For this reason, the symbols that change sounds (as in your example with "ь") get bundled in with the symbols they affect. The case of doubled consonants is reversed - as you noted, these indicate a constant sound, and as such create a natural division point.

Note that this rule is overridden in cases where it conflicts with other rules. For example, when the doubled consonant is at the beginning of the root of the word ("поссорить" can be divided as "по-ссорить", but not "пос-сорить", because the root is in fact "ссор").

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  • I wonder how I should hyphenate рассорить? Jan 3, 2022 at 18:07
  • I think рас-сорить since рас is a prefix and you don't want to separate a single letter. The second с in the root got swallowed to avoid triple с, but it's gone from the root, not from the prefix. Jan 30, 2022 at 21:48
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I think the simple answer is that doubling consonant sounds (by unexperienced readers) in both geminate and non-geminate words would not cause any misunderstanding in Russian. So reading "суббота" as "суб бота" or "касса" as "кас са" is good enough. On the other hand, reading "касса" as "ка са" is likely to cause misunderstanding.

At the same time, it's beneficial to have a simple rule that's easy to teach and apply. And it's certainly easier to read when there's some unambiguous rule that's uniformly applied, making it easier for our brains to adapt.

As for letters ь and ъ, they cannot be read on their own, so it doesn't make any sense to start a line with them. It's like starting a line with apostrophe or some diacritical mark. This is very different from doubled consonants, so it's not logical to compare them.

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