Reading Lezgi – Step 3.2

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

2 Responses to “Reading Lezgi – Step 3.2”

  1. Jessica Says:

    I like how you incorporate grammar with phonetics. Great lessons!

    • learninglezgi Says:

      Thanks! Quite ironically I find myself rehashing the approach I much
      detested when trying to learn languages like Armenian from Soviet era textbooks. Spending half of
      the book on introducing letters and sounds one by one or in small groups
      irritated me immensely. Grammar points and texts were introduced on the
      basis of containing the already introduced letters and not by virtue of
      their usefulness. Still, I couldn’t think of a better way of serving Lezgi
      in palatable chunks.

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