In official Ukrainian language German geographical names containing letter Ö are transliterated in a way that strongly change the pronunciation.

KölnКельн [keln] (instead of logical Кьольн)

GöttingenГеттінген [getingen] (instead of logical Гьоттінген)

What is the reason of such strange transliteration and are there other examples when transliteration does not follow the pronunciation of the original language?

1 Answer 1


First reason

The Spelling of 2019 year [for example], quote:

§ 132. Букви та буквосполучення ö, ø, eu, ое

Голосні, яким на письмі відповідають букви й буквосполучення ö, ø, ое, eu, у німецькій, данській, іспанській, норвезькій, турецькій, французькій, шведській та деяких інших мовах, і фонетично подібні до них голосні передаємо українською буквою е: Ге́те, Бʼєрнсон, Ке́льн, Пасте́р, Рентге́н, Ма́льме, Вільне́в, Е́нчепінг, а після звука [j] буквою є: Рішельє́, Бʼє́рнсон.

Short: ö → е or є /je/ if a sound of [j] is before.

Second reason

They are the closest sounds.

  • German ö usually represents sounds [ø] or [œ] [1], for example we would have [kœln] [2] and [ˈɡœtɪŋən] [3].
  • Ukrainian does not have the sounds, but has an e which represent usualy [e] or [ɛ]. For compare, mentioned here о represent [ɔ] or [o] [4]. So, not that strongly.
            Front               Central                 Back
Close        i • y –––––––––––– ɨ • ʉ  ––––––––––––––  ɯ • u
                \                  \                     |
Near-close       \     ɪ • ʏ        \            • ʊ     |
                  \  ↓               \  ↓                |
Close-mid      → e • ø –––––––––––– ɘ • ɵ –––––––––––– ɤ • o ←
                    \                  \                 |
Mid                  • ø̞                ə                • o̞
                      \  ↓               \               |
Open-mid           → ɛ • œ –––––––––––– ɜ • ɞ –––––––– ʌ • ɔ ←
                        \                  \             |
Near-open              æ •                  ɐ            |
                          \                  \           |
Open                     a • ɶ –––––––––––– ä • –––––– ɑ • ɒ

– unrounded • rounded
– «arrows» show about sounds which mentioned here.
IPA vowels map

Another notices:

  • It is not normal for Ukrainian to have soft г /h/ and k /k/. This situation is same for German, or South Slavic languages which also write with е as Гетинген /getingen/ or Келн /keln/.
  • It is Muscovian style for German sounds as ё /jo/ which in free-style writing usually writed just as e. But Muscovian has different phonology, especial for vowels, for this case ë also can be as [ɵ] [5] which rounded and close enough, and their к with г /g/ can be soft.
  • Isn't ьо the right sound?
    – P. Vowk
    Commented Dec 13, 2019 at 19:27
  • @P.Vowk What do you mean? For Ukrainian itʼs just previous half-soft consonant + o. As I writed, not every consonants can be soft (for example, for Muscovian itʼs famous ц, hovewer they can sometimes write as soft, because their language mostly based on transliteration) and e is closer to ö then o. Commented Dec 13, 2019 at 21:12

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.