What is the difference between Old Slavic little yus ѧ and little iotified yus ѩ, and what does "iotation" mean in this context?

Relating to the difference between ѧ and ѩ, is the earliest form of the word "five" spelt пѧть or пѩть? If the earliest form is пѩть, why is this word written with ѩ while имѧ is written with ѧ?

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    Assuming the intent of the question asker, I've rewritten it to sound more like one question with two related parts, rather than a number of disjointed questions.
    – jogloran
    Apr 2, 2021 at 22:56

1 Answer 1


In the Old Church Slavonic language (OCS), the little yus Ѧ represented a nasalized front vowel, possibly [ɛ̃], and is traditionally transliterated as <ę>, while the little iotified yus Ѩ, as it is clearly seen from its name, is [j] + Ѧ, that is [jɛ̃], <ję> and is a ligature of I and Ѧ. The little iotified yus Ѩ was written in the beginning of words and after vowels where it was read as [jɛ̃] (e.g. ѩти [jɛ̃ti] “to take”, imperfective), or after consonants where it was read as [ɛ̃] together with showing that the previous consonant is palatal, but in this last case Ѧ was more typical, e.g. възѧти (vъzęti) [vŭzʲɛ̃ti] “to take”, perfective.

As for the OCS word for “five”, it was пѧть (pętь) [pɛ̃tĭ], derived from the Proto-Indo-European *pénkʷe. That word had neither [j] nor palatal [*pʲ] which didn't exist at all in OCS. That is why the spelling пѩть is highly divergent and weird, it can be explained either as a typo or as a highly idiosyncratic local and late variant. Even the modern Russian Church Slavonic has it with Ѧ, cf. Genesis 1:23:

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The little iotified yus Ѩ is not typical after consonants.

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    @fedor - You'd do a great favor for our community by providing links to the sources of you examples with Ѩ.
    – Yellow Sky
    Apr 2, 2021 at 10:36
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    @fedor - Here is a screenshot from a scan of the real paper Vasmer's Etymological dictionary, vol. 3, 1987, p. 30, the entry for мясо where the OCS form is given as мѧсо. Here is a screenshot from the paper Vasmer's entry for тысяча, and again in fact it's Ѧ there, not Ѩ (vol. 4, 1987, p. 133). Unfortunately, your source is not trustworthy.
    – Yellow Sky
    Apr 2, 2021 at 10:57
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    @fedor - A screenshot from the paper Vasmer's entry for пять, and again it's пѧть there, with ѧ (vol. 3, 1987, p. 426).
    – Yellow Sky
    Apr 2, 2021 at 11:16
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    Here's a screenshot from the original German language edition of Vasmer, 1955, vol. 2, p. 479, entry for пять. In this edition the OCS forms are transliterated, here we have pętь, again no j, no palatalisation of p. And in addition, a screenshot from Rick Derksen's Etymological Dictionary of the Slavic Inherited Lexicon, Brill Academic Pub., 2008, p. 400, again pętь. Haven't screenshots from so many dictionaries persuaded you yet? On your side there're just links to an obscure textual site.
    – Yellow Sky
    Apr 2, 2021 at 12:07
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    @fedor - My last argument that those textual Vasmer sites have a mistake, Ѩ instead of Ѧ, which they copy from one another is this site which states its etymologies are taken from the 1986-1987 edition of Vasmer. You saw my screenshots from that edition on paper, it has Ѧ in those words. But see what they say for пять — they have it as пѩть which is not what the actual book has. Maybe they have typesetting problems, I don't know, but there's no evidence of пѩть other than those sites.
    – Yellow Sky
    Apr 3, 2021 at 9:12

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