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Because the Cyrillic letter І was derived from the Greek letter Eta (Η η), the Cyrillic ⟨И⟩ had the shape of ⟨Η⟩ up to the 13th century.
The name of the Cyrillic letter І in the Early Cyrillic alphabet was ижє (iže), meaning "which".
In the Cyrillic numeral system, the Cyrillic letter І had a value of 8, corresponding to the Greek letter Eta.
In the Early Cyrillic alphabet, there was little or no distinction between the letter ⟨И⟩ and the letter ⟨І⟩, the latter of which was derived from the Greek letter Iota (Ι ι). Both remained in the alphabetical repertoire because they represented different numbers in the Cyrillic numeral system: eight and ten.
In New Church Slavonic, they co-exist with each other with no pronunciation differences. But in Ukrainian and Rusyn, the two letters have different pronunciations. Other modern orthographies for Slavic languages eliminated one of the two letters in alphabet reforms of the 19th or the 20th centuries. The Russian, Macedonian, Serbian, and Bulgarian languages use only ⟨И⟩, and Belarusian uses only ⟨І⟩.
Originally, Cyrillic ⟨И⟩ had the shape identical to the capital Greek letter Eta ⟨Η⟩. The middle stroke was later turned counterclockwise, which resulted in the modern form resembling a mirrored capital Latin letter N ⟨N⟩ and so ⟨И⟩ is used in faux Cyrillic typography. However, the style of the two letters is not fully identical: in roman fonts, ⟨И⟩ has heavier vertical strokes and serifs on all four corners, and ⟨N⟩ has a heavier diagonal stroke and lacks a serif on the bottom-right corner.
In roman and oblique fonts, the lowercase letter ⟨и⟩ has the same shape as the uppercase letter ⟨И⟩. In italic fonts, the lowercase letter ⟨И⟩ looks like the italic form of the lowercase Latin U ⟨u⟩. Both uppercase and lowercase handwritten forms of the Cyrillic letter I look like handwritten forms of the Latin letter U.
Since the 1930s, ⟨и⟩ has been the tenth letter of the Russian alphabet, and in Russian, it represents /i/, like the i in machine, except after some consonants (see below). In Russian, the letter typically denotes a preceding soft consonant and so is considered the soft counterpart to ⟨ы⟩, which represents [ɨ]. However, unlike other "soft" vowels (⟨е⟩, ⟨ё⟩, ⟨ю⟩ and ⟨я⟩), ⟨и⟩ in isolation is not preceded by the /j/ semivowel. In Russian, the letter could be combined in the digraph ⟨ио⟩ (like ⟨ьо⟩, ⟨їô⟩ and ⟨iо⟩) to represent ⟨ё⟩ before it started around 1783. Apparent confusion has remained in the transcription of some foreign words.
⟨И⟩ is pronounced [ɨ] in ⟨жи⟩ (sounds like ⟨жы⟩ [ʐɨ]), ⟨ши⟩ (sounds like ⟨шы⟩ [ʂɨ]) and ⟨ци⟩ (sounds like ⟨цы⟩ [t͡sɨ]), because in Russian, the sound [i] cannot be pronounced after "zh" ⟨ж⟩, "sh" ⟨ш⟩, and "ts" ⟨ц⟩.
In the Bulgarian Cyrillic alphabet ⟨и⟩ is the ninth letter. It represents the sound /i/ and also occurs with a grave accent, ѝ, to distinguish orthographically the conjunction ⟨и⟩ ("and") and the short form of the indirect object ⟨ѝ⟩ ("her").
In Kazakh, ⟨И⟩ is used for /əj/ and /ɪj/ in native words and for /i/ in loanwords, and ⟨І⟩ is used for /ɪ/ in native words.
The letter ⟨И⟩ is the eleventh letter of the Ukrainian alphabet and represents the sound [ɪ], a separate phoneme in Ukrainian. The Ukrainian ⟨и⟩ can be transliterated to other languages that use the Cyrillic script by either ⟨и⟩ and ⟨ы⟩ because of the lack of a uniform transliteration rule. Speakers of other Slavic languages can perceive Ukrainian [ɪ] as [i], [ɨ], or sometimes even [e] (see Ukrainian phonology for more on the pronunciation of [ɪ]). The sound [i] in Ukrainian is represented by the letter ⟨і⟩, just as in Belarusian.
In the Serbian Cyrillic alphabet, ⟨и⟩ is the tenth letter of the alphabet. In Serbian, the letter represents /i/, like the i in machine. In the Serbian Latin alphabet, the sound is represented by "I/i".
In Macedonian, ⟨и⟩ is the eleventh letter of the alphabet and represents the sound /i/.
Due to its close resemblance to the Latin capital letter N, specifically as a "flipped" or "reflected" version of it, it is sometimes used stylistically as a replacement for N. This is commonly seen in Faux Cyrillic.
Accented forms and derived letters
The vowel that is represented by ⟨и⟩ can, as is the case for almost any other Slavonic vowel, be stressed or unstressed. The stressed variant is sometimes (in special texts like dictionaries or to prevent ambiguity) graphically marked by the acute, grave, the double grave, or the circumflex accent.
Special Serbian texts also use ⟨и⟩ with a macron to represent long unstressed variant of the sound. Serbian ⟨и⟩ with a circumflex can be unstressed as well, which then represents the plural form of the genitive case to distinguish from other similar forms.
Modern Church Slavonic orthography uses the smooth breathing sign (Greek and Church Slavonic: psili, Latin: spiritus lenis) above the initial vowels (for tradition alone since there is no difference in pronunciation). It can be combined with acute or grave accents if necessary.
⟨И⟩ with a breve forms the letter ⟨й⟩ for the consonant /j/ or a similar semivowel, like the y in English "yes." The form has been used regularly in Church Slavonic since the 16th century, but it officially became a separate letter of alphabet only much later (in Russian in 1918). The original name of ⟨й⟩ was I s kratkoy ('I with the short [line]'), later I kratkoye ('short I') in Russian. It is known similarly as I kratko in Bulgarian but as Yot in Ukrainian.
Related letters and similar characters
- Η η : Greek letter Eta
- H h : Latin letter H
- Ι ι : Greek letter Iota
- I i : Latin letter I
- Й й : Cyrillic letter Short I
- І і : Cyrillic letter Dotted I
|Unicode name||CYRILLIC CAPITAL LETTER I||CYRILLIC SMALL LETTER I|
|UTF-8||208 152||D0 98||208 184||D0 B8|
|Numeric character reference||И
|Named character reference||И||и|
|KOI8-R and KOI8-U||233||E9||201||C9|
|Code page 855||184||B8||183||B7|
|Code page 866||136||88||168||A8|
- "Tuvan language, alphabet and pronunciation". omniglot.com. Retrieved 14 June 2016.
- Campbell, George L.; King, Gareth (24 July 2013). Compendium of the World's Languages. Routledge. ISBN 9781136258459. Retrieved 14 June 2016 – via Google Books.
- "Why Are Russian Letters Backwards? (Cyrillic Looks Weird) – AutoLingual". 29 October 2020.