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For the convergence of certain vowels in Greek language, see iotacism.

Iotation is a form of palatalization which occurs in Slavic languages. In most of them, iotated consonants are called soft consonants and the process of iotation is called softening.

English
singular
Serbian
singular
Serbian
mass collective
branch /ɡrana/ /ɡranʲe/
leaf /list/ /liʃtʲe/
stone /kamen/ /kamenʲe/

It occurs by the mixing of a consonant with the palatal approximant /j/, which is in the Greek alphabet represented by iota (ι), hence the name. For example, ni in English onion has the sound of iotated n. The example on the right shows how the Serbian language uses iotation to express the mass collective of a certain class of words.

An iotated consonant is represented in IPA with superscript j after it and in X-SAMPA with apostrophe after it, so the pronunciation of iotated n could be represented as [nʲ] or [n'].

As it was invented for the writing of Slavic languages, the Cyrillic alphabet has relatively complex ways for representing iotation, devoting an entire class of letters to deal with the issue; there are letters which represent iotified consonants as well as letters which iotify adjacent consonants or prevent their iotation. Their exact use depends on language; see Cyrillic alphabet as used in Slavic languages.

The adjective for a phone which undergoes iotation is iotated and for a letter formed as ligature of the Early Cyrillic I (І) and another letter, which is used to represent iotation, is iotified.

Iotified Cyrillic letters

In the Cyrillic alphabet, some letter forms are iotified, that is, formed as a ligature of Early Cyrillic I (І) and a vowel.

Normal Iotified Comment
Name Shape Sound Name Shape Sound
A А /a/ Iotified A /ja/ Now supplanted by Ya (Я). Often substituted and confused with Ѧ in East Slavic texts.
E Е /e/ Iotified E Ѥ /je/ No longer used
Uk Ѹ /u/ Iotified Uk Ю /ju/ Uk is an archaic form of U (У)
Little Yus Ѧ /ẽ/ Iotified Little Yus Ѩ /jẽ/ No longer used
Big Yus Ѫ /ɛ̃/ Iotified Big Yus Ѭ /jõ/ No longer used
I І /i/ Ji И /ji/ Iotified distinction lost in modern pronunciation

In old inscriptions, other iotified letters, even consonants, could be found, but these are not parts of a regular alphabet:

Normal Iotified Comment
Name Shape Sound Name Shape Sound
Yat Ѣ /ě/ Iotified Yat /jě/ iotified form is very rare even in manuscripts

There are more letters which serve the same function, but their glyphs are not made in the same way.

Normal Iotified Comment
Name Shape Sound Name Shape Sound
A А /a/ Ya Я /ja/ Used in Bulgarian and Russian
E Э /e/ Ye Е /je/ Used in Belarusian and Russian
E Е Ye Є Used in Ukrainian
I І /i/ Yi Ї /ji/ Used in Ukrainian
O О /o/ Yo Ё /jo/ Used in Belarusian and Russian
O О /o/ Broad On Ѻ /jo/ Used in older texts.
O О /o/ Omega Ѡ /jo/ Used in older texts.

Cyrillic letters for iotated sounds

Name Shape Sound
Dje Ђ ђ /dʲ/
Lje Љ љ /lʲ/
Nje Њ њ /nʲ/
Tje Ћ ћ /tʲ/

When Vuk Karadžić reformed the Serbian language, he created new letters which represent iotated consonants. This was possible because in Serbian and Macedonian only a few consonants can be iotated. Though it might seem logical, the letters themselves are not called "iotated letters" or by any similar name.

See also

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