Slowly but surely moving forward we approach “y and its family”, or the fossils of Russian orthography carried over to Lezgi. Let’s start.
Йй is /y/ or the first sound in ‘yet’. Because of the peculiar characteristics of Russian (and Lezgi) Cyrillic (about which we’ll talk later in this post) й occurs very rarely at the beginning of the word, and when it does it is followed by the и or уь (that’s a letter we’ll learn about later).
йирф – a kind of flat shovel
йис – year
йиф – night
йифиз – at night
Now, let’s talk about a word-final й having some very interesting properties:
a) in verbs, adding й it “moves the time backwards”:
Буба аниз фена. = Father went there.
Буба аниз фенай. = Father had gone there.
Ина са кас ава. = There is a man here.
Ина са кас авай. = There was a man here.
b) the forms with й are used in relative clauses:
ина авай кас – the man who is here (lit. here-being-man)
c) with nouns, й forms the lative cases which express the notion of moving away from something:
адак – under him/it
адакай – from under him/it (or, ‘about him’)
столдал – on the table
столдалай – from the table
Зи буба Бакуда ава – my father is in Baku
Зи биба Бакудай атанва – my father has come from Baku
You may remember that at the beginning of the word, or immediately after another the letter e actually sounds /ye/. This weird behaviour is a leftover from the Russian Cyrillic system which has separate letters for “y+vowel” combinations. e is one of those. Before we go further, stop, and ask yourself “how do you spell an actual /e/ at the beginning of the word”?
Well, here’s how:
Ээ is always an /e/. It’s used quite rarely in Lezgi, always coming at the beginning of a word:
эвел – beginning
эвела – at the beginning, at first
эгер – if, in case that
экв – light, illumination, dawn
экзамен – exam
экран – screen
эрк – a close relationship between people who can rely on each other
эски – old (of things)
эхир – end
Let’s now review the remaining letters for y+vowel combinations:
Ёё stands for /yo/ and is barely used in Lezgi. No wonder – Lezgi doesn’t have /o/ sound in native words, remember?
ёлка – new year’s tree (not that it’s connected to Lezgi culture, but it’s just about the only word starting with ё listed in dictionaries).
Юю is read /yu/
юбка – skirt
юзун – to move
юлдаш – friend, comrade
юмор – humour
уюн – trick
Яя is a bit tricky as it has two very different pronunciations. At the beginning of a word or after a vowel it is pronounced /ya/:
аял – child
яб – ear
яд – water
як – meat
ял – breath
яр – loved one; the 15-day period starting from 21 March
яран сувар – the spring festival marking the start of the new year
я on its own means ‘is/am/are’. Now, we’ve already encountered ава ‘is/am/are’ haven’t we? The point is я is used in ‘x is y’ sense, whereas ава comes to play when you talk about ‘being somewhere’:
Зун Лезги я. = I am Lezgi.
Зун ина ава. = I am here.
Now, when я comes between consonants, it’s read /ae/ like the vowel in ‘cat’:
лянет – curse
мяден – natural resource deposit
няни – evening
няс – ill-fated; ill-willed
сят – hour; watch, clock