The Ukrainian alphabet is the set of letters used to write Ukrainian, the official language of Ukraine. It is one of the national variations of the Cyrillic script.
The modern Ukrainian alphabet consists of 33 letters. Twenty letters represent consonants (б, г, ґ, д, ж, з, к, л, м, н, п, р, с, т, ф, х, ц, ч, ш, щ), ten vowels (а, е, є, и, і, ї, о, у, ю, я), and two semivowels (й/yot, and в). The soft sign ь has no meaning when written by itself, but when written after a consonant, it indicates that the consonant is soft (palatalized).
The apostrophe is used in Ukrainian to negate palatalization in places that it would be applied by normal orthographic rules. It also appears after labial consonants in some words, such as ім’я́ “name”. And it is retained in transliterations from the Latin alphabet: Кот-д’Івуар (Côte d’Ivoire) and О’Тул (O’Toole).
There are other exceptions to the phonemic principle in the alphabet. Some letters represent two phonemes: щ /ʃt͡ʃ/, ї /ji/ or /jɪ/, and є /jɛ/, ю /ju/, я /jɑ/ when they do not palatalize a preceding consonant. The digraphs дз and дж are normally used to represent single affricates /d͡z/ and /d͡ʒ/.
Three of the letters, Ґ, Є and Ї, are unique to Ukrainian. Under Soviet rule, the letter Ґ was officially excluded from the alphabet, as part of an attempt by the Soviet authorities to bring Ukrainian closer to Russian. It has, however, been reintroduced into current standard Ukrainian.
Ukrainian orthography (the rules of writing) is based on the phonemic principle, with one letter generally corresponding to one phoneme.
There are three different names for the alphabet in Ukrainian:
- АЛФАВІТ (pronounced ALFAVIT), which is the equivalent of the English “alphabet”, and reflects the first two letters of the Greek alphabet (alpha, beta)
- АБЕТКА (pronounced ABETKA), reflecting the first two letters of the modern Ukrainian alphabet
- АЗБУКА (pronounced AZBUKA), reflecting the first two letters of the Old Church Slavonic alphabet (az, buky). This name is no longer in use in the standard language.