Changing of the yat-vowel

This is a sound change related to a vowel which has existed in the old language, but has not remained in the modern one- ѣ.

In the modern literary language it is replaced either with я or е. This occurs in the northern east speeches, while in the western dialects appears only e and in some south-east speeches- only я.

The rule in the modern literary language is: to appear я in the place of the old vowel ѣ there must be two conditions (at the same time:)

  1. The old vowel must  be stressed
  2. The old vowel must be in front of hard syllable or in an ultimate one.- Syllable is hard when there is a back or mid vowel- а, ъ, о, у. It is soft when the vowel is front- е, и.

Examples: л ‘ято-л’етни зв‘яр-зверове


  1. One pronounce and write e instead of я in words which have come from the western speeches or from Russian: човек, век, съсед, дело, употреба и др.
  2. One pronounce and write e instead of я when after the old vowel occurred sound ж, ч, ш : снежна, пречка, грешка.
  3. One pronounce and write я instead of e in the verb forms of Aorist and Imperfect in 1st ans 2nd p. plural: търпяхме, търпяхте.

Selected and translated from

Граматика за всички, Борис Кръстев, София 1995

9 thoughts on “Changing of the yat-vowel

  1. хм, връщаш ме години назад…
    какъв бе случаят със „свят – светска/о“ ?

  2. It was visually quite fun to see so many yats parading in sentences such as:

    Азъ сѣдѣлъ съмъ.

    Не дѣй писа!

    and words such as врѣме, дѣте, двѣтѣ, рѫцѣ etc., all taken from W. R. Morfill’s Simplified Grammar of the Bulgarian Language (1897), which I happened to get a .PDF copy of not long ago.

    The very little I knew about this topic, however, I’d learnt from

    Obrigado pela leitura. 🙂

  3. Val, I suppose it is because the adjectives of this root en on -ь: свѣтъ- свѣтьлъ and therefore, probably, свѣтьски . Which leads me to the thought that old Bulgarian vowel system and positions should also be regarded. So, front vowels are also: ь, ѧ, ѣ.

    Psi, shouldn’t it be Не дѣи писати?

  4. Yes, I suppose that is the case. I guess it also applies to „цвят – цветна/о“, „бяс – бясна/о“. 🙂

  5. Aham, the suffix is -ьнъ. In masculine the final er-vowel is in week position and is dropped, thus, the little er , which is in strong position, gets vocalized in „e“. In the other genders and numbers the little er in in week position and thus the language drops it. That’s why: бяс-бесен-бясна-бясно-бесни {because of the „и“}.

    😉 Колко яко.

  6. The full section reads as follows:

    The negative imperative can also be expressed by the use of the auxiliary дѣй, which here corresponds exactly to the English auxiliary ‘do;’ as,—

    Не дѣй писа (sing.)
    Не дѣй писа
    ‘Do not write’

    instead of the forms пиши and пишете: писа is here the verbal root.

  7. Aah,,yes… in some regions it can be heard with an accent on the last syllable: it’s actually a descendant of the infinitive, but with dropped final -ti 😉

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