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I always thought Cyrillic character "И" -> "I" while "Й" -> "Y"

If this is true, shouldn't the translitteration be "Volodimir"?

What am I missing?

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2 Answers 2

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Ukrainian и is etymologically (and phonetically) equivalent to Russian ы. This sound (and not the character) is traditionally romanised as y.

The [i] sound is (surprise) the letter i in Ukrainian. (There's also ї but that's [ji]).

Words that may be called "native" to both languages (i.e. formed before they split), like names, will often be written similarly but sound different, e.g.

пиво (beer) -> pivo (ru) | pyvo (ua)

Words that were borrowed from a common source will usually sound similar, but be written differently, e.g.

патріот (ua) | патриот (ru) -> patriot

The current trend in romanisation (and transliteration in general) is to reflect the native pronunciation whenever possible. But at different times, the tradition could be different, so you won't find perfect consistency.

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  • Transliterations like Volodymyr are not intended to convey the native pronunciation into English. It is a mechanical transliteration into the Latin alphabet using the rules for passports. These rules are certainly not intended to produce a correct translation when the Latin letters are given their English-language value. If the goal was for English speakers to pronounce it close to the native way with confidence, they would write "Volodimir" as the OP suggests.
    – David42
    Dec 6, 2022 at 20:26
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The Latin letter "y" is often pronounced like Russian "й" in English (for instance, in words like "yes", "yet", "prayer"), but in this case the Romanization follows the Polish rules, where the letter "y" is equivalent to Ukrainian "и" and Russian "ы". The same rule is used in the word "Chernobyl", for instance.

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