I am not referring to IPA. I am referring to examples in textbooks. For example, my Ukrainian textbook says that the letter Я is pronounced as "ja". Most native English speakers would pronounced this as it sounds in "jar", whereas the true pronunciation is closer to "ya" in my experience. This is a case where English speakers are explicitly the target audience.

This answer says that J has always had the same sound, so it can't be because of a change in sound overtime after the establishment of a convention.

  • That answer says "The letter J in English" has always had the same sound. Romanizations are not all just based on English. – herisson Nov 6 '16 at 20:22
  • @suməlic I've seen it in cases where English speakers are the target audience; question has been edited. – FracturedRetina Nov 6 '16 at 20:25
  • Even when English speakers are the main target audience of a romanization, that doesn't require that the romanization system be based solely on English. IPA isn't, and it's commonly used in resources for English speakers. Decisions like this will probably depend a lot on the language. For example, maybe the author of the Ukrainian textbook wanted to use "y" to represent a Ukrainian vowel, so that prevented them from using it for this consonant sound. – herisson Nov 6 '16 at 20:30
  • The Russian letters Ё, Ю, and Я are commonly spelled "Yo", "Yu" and "Ya" when representing Russian initials in bibliographies of scientific publications. So "Ja" is not completely standard. – Peter Shor Nov 6 '16 at 20:59
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    If an English speaker is learning a foreign lanaguage it's mostly likely to be French, German or Spanish. In none of these is J routinely pronounced as in English. The only difference is that you're starting from a Cyrillic alphabet which has more letters than the (English) Roman alphabet and doesn't have the sound English-speakers use J for. That means that it's useful if you're going to transliterate without overloading characters or using two characters to represent one. – Chris H Nov 8 '16 at 9:35

There is no formal, accepted protocol for transliterating into English.


is my preferred way of writing the last name of the well known Russian composer

Пётр Ильич Чайковский

who was not known to write his name in English.
My spelling does not do well in a Google Ngram Google Ngram
However I write it as I say it (except for the double vowel at the end).

For example, my Ukrainian textbook says that the letter Я is pronounced as "ja".

If, in fact, this textbook is intended for use by English speakers, it is in error. That has to be the explanation, based on the facts provided. "Ya" would certainly be preferred to "ja".

Romanization is not really what happens when one attempts to write non-Roman alphabet letters in English. Romanization can render "Я" as "ja", as many languages using the Roman alphabet use "j" for a sound much like the English "y".Wikipedia A better term would be anglicization. Your textbook may have used a romanization that was not applicable to English.

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  • The issue is more "Я", than either "y" or "j". The real issue is the phoneme "Я" which is pronounced "ya".. "Y" and "j" only figure in the first part of the phoneme "Я" – J. Taylor Feb 23 '17 at 21:06

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