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Belarusian Latin alphabet

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Title: Belarusian Latin alphabet  
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Belarusian Latin alphabet

Book written in Łacinka, published in Vilna in 1911
Biscriptal street sign in Minsk, Belarus.

The Belarusian Latin alphabet or Łacinka (, from Belarusian: лацінка (BGN/PCGN: latsinka) for the Latin script in general) is the common name of the several historical alphabets to render the Belarusian (Cyrillic) text in Latin script. It is similar to the Sorbian alphabet, incorporating features of the Polish and Czech alphabets.


  • Use 1
  • History 2
  • See also 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5


Łacinka was occasionally used in the Belarusian area mainly in the 19th century and first years of the 20th century. Belarusian was officially written only in the Latin script between 1941 and 1944, in the Nazi German-occupied Belarusian territories.

It is used occasionally in its current form by certain authors, groups and promoters in the Nasha Niva weekly, the ARCHE journal, and some of the Belarusian diaspora press on the Internet.

It is not, as such, the Romanisation system, as it imposes knowing certain accompanying orthographic conventions. For instance, the Łacinka equivalent to Cyrillic е is either e, ie or je, depending on the pronunciation and on the preceding sound. Also, there is no soft sign in Łacinka, palatalisation instead being represented by a diacritic on the preceding consonant.

Belarusian Latin alphabet
(as seen in publications, c.1990s–2000s)
Łacinka Cyrillic IPA
A a А а /a/
B b Б б /b/
C c Ц ц /ts/
Ć ć Ць ць* /tsʲ/
Č č Ч ч /tʂ/
D d Д д /d/
DZ dz Дз дз /dz/
DŹ dź Дзь дзь* /dzʲ/
DŽ dž Дж дж /dʐ/
E e Э э /ɛ/
F f Ф ф /f/
G g (Ґ ґ) /ɡ ~ ɟ/
Łacinka Cyrillic IPA
H h Г г /ɣ ~ ʝ/
CH ch Х х /x ~ ç/
I i І і* /i/, /ʲ/
J j Й й, ь* /j/
K k К к /k ~ c/
L l Ль ль* /lʲ/
Ł ł Л л /l/
M m М м /m/
N n Н н /n/
Ń ń Нь нь* /nʲ/
O o О о /ɔ/
P p П п /p/
Łacinka Cyrillic IPA
R r Р р /r/
S s С с /s/
Ś ś Сь сь* /sʲ/
Š š Ш ш /ʂ/
T t Т т /t/
U u У у /u/
Ŭ ŭ Ў ў /u̯/
V v В в /v/
Y y Ы ы /ɨ/
Z z З з /z/
Ź ź Зь зь* /zʲ/
Ž ž Ж ж /ʐ/
* Cyrillic е, ё, і, ю, я are equivalent to je, jo, ji, ju, ja initially or after a vowel,
   to e, o, i, u, a after the consonants ć, dź, l, ń, ś, ź,
   and to ie, io, i, iu, ia after other consonants.


In Medieval times (16th century), the first examples of the Latin renderings of the Belarusian (Cyrillic) text are known to occur, coming from the need to include the Old Belarusian quotes in the Polish and Latin texts. Those renderings were un-codified and, seemingly, were done by applying the Polish orthography to the Old Belarusian sounds.

In the 17th century, Belarusian Roman Catholics gradually increased their use of the Latin script, but still largely in parallel with the Cyrillic. Before the 17th century the Belarusian Roman Catholics had been using the Cyrillic script widely.

In the 18th century, the Latin script was used, in parallel with Cyrillic, in some literary works (e.g., dramatic), written in contemporary Belarusian.

а б в г д е ё ж з зь і й к л ль м н нь о п
р с сь т у ў ф х ц ць ч ш ы ь э ю я

As seen, e.g., in works of Dunin-Martsinkyevich, Kalinowski, Bahushevich, Tsyotka, the newspaper Nasha Niva, newspapers of the c.1917–1920s.

a b w h d je1 jo1 ż z ź i j k ł l m n ń o p
r s ś t u u2 f ch c ć cz sz y e ju1 ja1

As seen, e.g., in contemporary works of Yan Stankyevich, in the 5th (unofficial) edition of the Tarashkyevich's Belarusian grammar (1929).

a b w h d je1 jo1 ž z ź i j k ł l m n ń o p
r s ś t u ŭ f ch c ć č š y e ju1 ja1

As seen, e.g., in later works of Yan Stankyevich.

a b v h d je1 jo1 ž z ź i j k ł l m n ń o p
r s ś t u ŭ f ch c ć č š y e ju1 ja1

As seen, e.g., in the newspaper Nasha Niva and journal Arche.

a b v h d je1 jo1 ž z ź i j k ł l m n ń o p
r s ś t u ŭ f ch c ć č š y e ju1 ja1
  1. Variant with "j" used at the start of words or after vowels, with "i" elsewhere.
  2. Dunin-Martsinkyevich used the u ("u" in cursive) to denote the "Short U".
  • "Soft sign" is denoted not by the separate grapheme, but, alternatively, by using the "Ll" variant preceding it, or by the acute sign over the preceding consonant.
  • The plosive sound "g" ([ɡ] and [ɡʲ]), whose representation has been absent from the standard Belarusian alphabet (see also Ge with upturn), but had been proposed for introducing by some authors (notably, Yan Stankyevich), was either not distinguished in Latin renderings at all, or, variously, denoted by the "Gg" or by the "HGhg" digraph.
  • Apostrophe is not used.

In the 19th century, some Polish and Belarusian writers of Polish cultural background used the Latin script, exclusively or occasionally, in their works written in Belarusian, notably Czaczot, Bahrym, Dunin-Marcynkiewicz, Bahuszewicz, and Hurynowicz. The Revolutionary Democrat Kalinowski used the Latin script exclusively in his newspaper Peasants’ Truth (Belarusian: Мужыцкая праўда, in Latin script: Mużyckaja prauda; six issues in 1862–1863).

Such introduction of the Latin script for the rendering of the language with far-reaching Cyrillic tradition is sometimes explained by the unfamiliarity of the 19th century writers with the history of the Belarusian language or with the language itself, or by the impossibility of either acquiring or deploying the Cyrillic type at the publishing sites those writers had been using.

The custom of using the Latin script for Belarusian text gradually ceased in the common practice, although at the beginning of the 20th century there were still several examples of exclusive or non-exclusive use of the Latin script in Belarusian printing:

  • Newspaper Nasha Dolya (1906).
  • Newspaper Nasha Niva (the issues during 10.11.1906 – 31.10.1912) — issues in both Cyrillic and Latin (in issues’ subheading: Printed weekly in Russian and in Polish letters (in Latin script: Wychodzić szto tydzień ruskimi i polskimi literami)).
  • Tsyotka’s Belarusian Violin (Belarusian: Скрыпка беларуская, Skrypka biełaruskaja), Baptism to Freedom (Belarusian: Хрэст на свабоду, Chrest na swabodu) — books of poetry.
  • Tsyotka’s First reading for Belarusian children (Belarusian: Першае чытанне для дзетак-беларусаў, Perszaje czytannie dla dzietak-biełarusaŭ) — attempt at creating a Belarusian elementary reading book.
  • Yanka Kupala’s Zither Player (Belarusian: Гусляр, Huslar; 1910) — book of poetry.
  • rev. Baliaslau Pachopka’s Belarusian Grammar (1915, publ. in 1918) — Belarusian grammar, based entirely on Latin script; claimed by Belarusian linguists, however, to be prepared unscientifically and breaking the traditions of the Belarusian language. See also Belarusian grammar.

In the 1920s in the Belarusian SSR, e.g., at the Belarusian Academic Conference (1926), some suggestions were made to consider transition of the Belarusian grammar to the Latin script (e.g., Zhylunovich, for the sake of "making the Belarusian grammar more progressive"). However, these suggestions were rejected by the Belarusian linguists (e.g., Lastowski).

In the 1920s–1939, after the partition of Belarus (1921), use of the Latin script, in evolved form, was re-introduced to Belarusian printing in Western Belarus, chiefly for political reasons. The proposed form of the Belarusian Latin alphabet and some grammar rules were introduced for the first time in the 5th (unofficial) edition of the Tarashkyevich’s grammar (Vil’nya, 1929).

Belarusian Latin alphabet
(Tarashkyevich, 1929)
A a B b C c Ć ć Č č D d E e F f G g H h
I i J j K k L l Ł ł M m N n Ń ń O o P p
R r S s Ś ś Š š T t U u Ŭ ŭ W w Y y Z z
Ź ź Ž ž

Belarusian was written in the Latin script during 1941–1944 in the German-occupied Belarusian territories, and by the Belarusian diaspora in Prague (1920s – c.1945).

After the Second World War, Belarusian was occasionally written in the Latin script by the Belarusian diaspora in non-Soviet Europe and the Americas (notably in West Germany and the USA). In 1962, Yan Stankyevich proposed a completely different form of the Belarusian Latin alphabet.

Belarusian Latin alphabet
(Stankyevich, 1962)
O o A a E e B b C c Ć ć Č č D d F f G g
H h Ch ch I i J j K k L l Ł ł M m N n Ń ń
P p R r Ś ś Š š T t V v U u Ŭ ŭ Dz dz Dź dź
Dž dž Z z Ź ź Ž ž

Note: all proper names and place names in this article are rendered in BGN/PCGN, direct quotes excluded.

See also


  • Ad. Stankiewič. Biełaruskaja mowa ŭ škołach Biełarusi – Wilnia : Wydawiectwa „Biełaruskaje krynicy“. Bieł. Druk. Im. Fr. Skaryny ŭ Wilni Ludwisarskaja 1, 1928 ; Менск : Беларускае коопэрацыйна-выдавецкае таварыства ″Адраджэньне″, 1993 [факсімільн.]
  • Б. Тарашкевіч. Беларуская граматыка для школ. – Вільня : Беларуская друкарня ім. Фр. Скарыны, 1929 ; Мн. : «Народная асвета», 1991 [факсімільн.]. – Выданьне пятае пераробленае і пашыранае.
  • Да рэформы беларускай азбукі. // Працы акадэмічнае канферэнцыі па рэформе беларускага правапісу і азбукі. – Мн. : [б. м.], 1927.
  • Дунін-Марцінкевіч В. Творы / [Уклад., прадм. і камент. Я. Янушкевіча]. – Мн. : Маст. літ., 1984.
  • К. Калиновский: Из печатного и рукописного наследия/Ин-т истории партии при ЦК КП Белоруссии – фил. Ин-та марксизма-ленинизма при ЦК КПСС. – Мн.: Беларусь, 1988. ISBN 5-338-00024-5
  • Сцяпан Некрашэвіч. Садаклад па рэформе беларускага правапісу на акадэмічнай канферэнцыі 1926 г. // Выбраныя навуковыя працы акадэміка С. Н. Некрашэвіча: Да 120-годдзя з дня нараджэння / НАН Беларусі; Ін-т мовазнаўства імя Я. Коласа; Навук. рэд. А. І. Падлужны. – Мн. : 2004. ISBN 985-08-0580-3
  • Як правільна гаварыць і пісаць пабеларуску. Беларускія корэспондэнцыйныя курсы ў Празе. – Прага : Dr. Jan Ermačenko, Běloruské vydavatelství, 1941 ; Менск : Беларускае коопэрацыйна-выдавецкае таварыства ″Адраджэньне″, 1992 [факсімільн.]. – Міжнародная асацыяцыя беларусістаў, 1992. – Беларускае таварыства архівістаў, 1992.
  • Ян Станкевіч. Б. Тарашкевіч: Беларуская граматыка для школ. Выданьне пятае пераробленае і пашыранае. Вільня. 1929 г., бал. 132 + IV [1930–1931] // Ян Станкевіч. Збор твораў у двух тамах. Т. 1. – Мн.: Энцыклапедыкс, 2002. ISBN 985-6599-46-6
  • Ян Станкевіч. Беларуская Акадэмічная Конфэрэнцыя 14.—21.XI.1926 і яе працы дзеля рэформы беларускае абэцэды й правапісу (агульны агляд) [1927] // Ян Станкевіч. Збор твораў у двух тамах. Т. 1. – Мн.: Энцыклапедыкс, 2002. ISBN 985-6599-46-6
  • Ян Станкевіч. Як правільна гаварыць і пісаць пабеларуску (Пастановы Зборкаў Чысьціні Беларускае Мовы) [Вільня, 1937] // Ян Станкевіч. Збор твораў у двух тамах. Т. 1. – Мн.: Энцыклапедыкс, 2002. ISBN 985-6599-46-6
  • Ян Станкевіч. Які мае быць парадак літараў беларускае абэцады [1962] // Ян Станкевіч. Збор твораў у двух тамах. Т. 2. – Мн.: Энцыклапедыкс, 2002. ISBN 985-6599-46-6

External links

  • Essay on "Łacinka"
  • English-language introduction to a web site previously dedicated to "Łacinka" and totally written in "Łacinka"
  • "Łacinka" Wiki (Belarusian)
  • 6 layouts for belarusian latin (OS Windows + MacOS)
  • Online romanizer for Belarusian texts and websites
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