|Cyrillic letter E|
|Phonetic usage:||[e], [?]|
|The Cyrillic script|
E (? ?; italics: ? ?; also known as backwards e, from Russian ? ?, e oborótnoye, ['? ?b?'rotn?j?]) is a letter found in two Slavic languages: Russian and Belarusian. It represents the vowels [e] and [?], as the e in the word "editor". In other Slavic languages that use the Cyrillic script, the sounds are represented by Ye (? ?), which represents in Russian and Belarusian [je] in initial and postvocalic position or [e] and palatalizes the preceding consonant. This letter closely resembles and should not be confused with the Cyrillic letter Ukrainian Ye (? ?)
In Cyrillic Moldovan, which was used in the Moldovan SSR during the Soviet Union and is still used in Transnistria, the letter corresponds to ? in the Latin Romanian alphabet, and the phoneme [?]. It is also used in the Cyrillic alphabets used by Mongolian and many Uralic, Caucasian languages and Turkic languages of the former Soviet Union.
The letter ⟨?⟩ originated in the thirteenth century as a variant of ⟨?⟩, at first, according to ?or?i? in superscripted line-final position, but by the end of the century elsewhere as well. In the following centuries it continued to appear sporadically as an uncommon variant of ⟨?⟩, but not later than in the fifteenth century amongst the Eastern Slavs it began to be used to indicate initial (un-iotated) [e]. According to Yefim Karskiy, "Western Russian ustav knows ⟨?⟩, e.g. in Miscellany of the 15th c. from the Public Library (manuscr. #391) ( etc.), chronicles of 15th-16th cc., Miscellany of Pozna? (16th c.), Statut of 1588... It is difficult to say whether it has been developed here independently or it came from South Slavic manuscripts, where ⟨?⟩ occurs as early as in 13-14th cc." Although the revision of Meletius Smotrytsky's grammar published in Moscow in 1648 does not include ⟨?⟩ in its alphabet, it does consistently write (Etymologia), in contrast to in the first edition of 1619. It was by no means confined to this function in the period, however, as the prevalent spellings ?, (beside , ) for modern Russian , demonstrate.
In the specimens of the civil script presented to Peter I in 1708, forms of ⟨?⟩ were included among forms of ⟨?⟩, but the latter was deleted by Peter. The former was used in some early 18th-century Russian texts, but some authorities of the period considered it superfluous, like Mikhail Lomonosov, on the grounds that "the letter ?, having several different pronunciations, could serve in the pronoun and the interjection " and that it was inappropriate to introduce letters solely for use in loanwords. However, the inclusion of ⟨?⟩ in its modern function, in the Russian Academy's Dictionary of 1789-94, marks the point from which it can be considered as an established part of the Russian orthographical standard.
There were still some objections to the letter even as late as 1817, when M. T. Ka?enovskij was questioning whether "yet another hard ?" was necessary when the language already had "a soft ? and a hard ?".
In contemporary Russian, ⟨?⟩ is used to represent [e], [?] in initial position (? 'electricity') and postvocalic position (? 'duel'). Among such words are only a few native Russian roots: - ( 'this is', ?// 'this (m./f./n.)', 'these', ? 'thus' etc.), - (? 'what a'), ?-/?- (?/? 'that way', / 'sort of') and a few interjections like 'hey', ? 'uh, oh', ?-?-? 'uh'.
Even though Russian contains a significant number of loanwords in which [e] occurs after a hard (unpalatalised) consonant, it is still the practice to use the letter ⟨?⟩ for [e], [?]: , (tennis, sepsis). There are few traditional exceptions to that practice among common noun loanwords:
In proper nouns, however, ⟨?⟩ may occur after consonants: ?- 'Ulan-Ude' and ? 'Blair'. However, many such loanwords are spelled with ⟨?⟩: 'Blériot' (a French aviator). That is the case especially for names that entered the language centuries ago like: , 'Berlin'. The use of ⟨?⟩ is much more frequent for names from non-European languages: 'Mao Zedong'.
The letter ⟨?⟩ is also used in Russian to render initial [oe] in foreign words: thus Eure (the river in France) is written . After consonants this is transcribed as ⟨?⟩. In the 19th century, some writers used ⟨?⟩ for that sound in both positions, but that was never accepted as standard orthography. (The letter ⟨?⟩ was re-invented in the 20th century for Kildin Sami.) It is also used to represent a stressed [æ] in languages such as English, which can cause a problem of conflating [æ] with English [?] (for example, "Addison" and "Edison" would be spelled the same). However, in other positions, Russian also uses ⟨?⟩ for [æ] and ⟨?⟩ for [?].
Unlike Russian, Belarusian has many native words in which it occurs after a hard consonant. Moreover, its orthography was standardized later than that of Russian (which reached its present form at the beginning of the 20th century), on the basis of the spoken language rather than historical tradition. Consequently, ⟨?⟩ and ⟨?⟩ are written in accordance with pronunciation: ⟨?⟩ for initial [e] and after hard consonants, ⟨?⟩ for initial and postvocalic [je] and after soft consonants. That also means that ⟨?⟩ is much more frequent in Belarusian than in Russian.
In Mongolian, ? is the standard letter to represent the /?/ phoneme. It is often written doubled to represent the /e:/ phoneme. ?, however, is only used in the few Mongolian words containing it, Russian loanwords and Russian-style transcriptions of foreign names.
|Unicode name||CYRILLIC CAPITAL LETTER E||CYRILLIC SMALL LETTER E|
|UTF-8||208 173||D0 AD||209 141||D1 8D|
|Numeric character reference||Э
|Named character reference||Э||э|
|KOI8-R and KOI8-U||252||FC||220||DC|
|Code page 855||248||F8||247||F7|
|Code page 866||157||9D||237||ED|