Russian and Ukrainian Languages

Or are they dialects of one language?

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Russian and Ukrainian Languages

#1  Postby lpetrich » Mar 15, 2014 11:36 am

Are they something like the Continental Scandinavian languages? Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish. Mutually intelligible with a little bit of study, but treated as different languages because of their national-language statuses.

Mutual Intelligibility of Languages in the Slavic Family | Robert Lindsay - Academia.edu
Mutual intelligibility - Wikipedia

There are various differences, as one can tell from city names.
Russian ~ Ukrainian
Kiev Киев ~ Kyiv Київ
Kharkov Ха́рьков ~ Kharkiv Харків
Kirovograd Кировогра́д ~ Kirovohrad Кіровогра́д

Differences in both pronunciation and spelling. Russian g ~ Ukrainian h, Russian -ov ~ Ukrainian -iv. Ukrainian uses the Roman-alphabet I instead of the Russian backward N much of the time.

I don't know how much difference in grammar and vocabulary.
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Re: Russian and Ukrainian Languages

#3  Postby GabiV » Jul 17, 2014 9:48 am

It is not quite right. Actually, the Russian language is the less slavic language of all. As the county has been for a long time under the influence of Greek and Finnish. Also, Russian is a blend of all the dialects, especially the dialects of the northern Caucasian residents. All in all, if you would like to compare slavic languages it is more common to take into account Czech, Slovak, Ukrainian and Polish. They have much more similarities than Russian and Ukrainian.

After all I work as an interpretor, so I know what I'm saying :)

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Re: Russian and Ukrainian Languages

#4  Postby GabiV » Jul 17, 2014 9:52 am

Oh, and I forgot to tell you that they all have the same roots, but eventually the grammar and pronounciation became so diverse that you could hardly notice it all came out of the same word. For example:
Polish: glowa
Russian: golova
Chech: hlava

and the root language is called Old Church Slavonic
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Re: Russian and Ukrainian Languages

#5  Postby Zwaarddijk » Aug 17, 2014 1:27 pm

GabiV wrote:It is not quite right. Actually, the Russian language is the less slavic language of all. As the county has been for a long time under the influence of Greek and Finnish. Also, Russian is a blend of all the dialects, especially the dialects of the northern Caucasian residents. All in all, if you would like to compare slavic languages it is more common to take into account Czech, Slovak, Ukrainian and Polish. They have much more similarities than Russian and Ukrainian.

After all I work as an interpretor, so I know what I'm saying :)

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*Finnic, not Finnish. Also, the Greek influences are very indirect, and have affected Bulgarian just as much or even more. If you are to compare Czech, Slovak, Ukrainan and Polish, your conclusions will be very biased towards Western Slavic, which is not all that helpful. We do know Russian conserves features lost in other Slavonic languages - but so do other Slavonic languages as well.

To get a really good comparative idea of Slavonic languages, you also need to look at Slovenian, Bulgarian and the Serb-Croat-Bosnian-Macedonian dialect continuum.
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Re: Russian and Ukrainian Languages

#6  Postby lpetrich » Aug 18, 2014 4:15 pm

In short, the South Slavic languages also.

The usual division of Slavic languages is
  • East Slavic: Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian
  • West Slavic: Polish, Czech, Slovak
  • South Slavic: Serbo-Croatian, Slovenian, Old Church Slavonic, Macedonian, Bulgarian
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Re: Russian and Ukrainian Languages

#7  Postby Zwaarddijk » Aug 18, 2014 5:08 pm

lpetrich wrote:In short, the South Slavic languages also.

The usual division of Slavic languages is
  • East Slavic: Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian
  • West Slavic: Polish, Czech, Slovak
  • South Slavic: Serbo-Croatian, Slovenian, Old Church Slavonic, Macedonian, Bulgarian

Also, some minority languages that linguists consider languages of their own - the two Sorbians, Rusyn, Silesian and Kashubian.

Most objections to those being considered languages in their own right are based on nationalism.
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Re: Russian and Ukrainian Languages

#8  Postby Saim » Mar 21, 2015 9:44 am

lpetrich wrote:Are they something like the Continental Scandinavian languages? Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish. Mutually intelligible with a little bit of study, but treated as different languages because of their national-language statuses.


No, because the continuum extends into the rest of the Slavic language area, with the biggest jump between the western and southern branches because of all the Hungarians in the middle.

Although grammar and pronunciation are more similar to Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian are often lexically closer to Polish. Indeed, as far as I can tell, Poles are better at understanding these two languages than Russians are; I wouldn't discount, however, that this is very sociological reasons, Russians as speakers of an imperial language have little need to go out of their way to understand other people who've already learned Russian. Between Polish, Slovak and Ukrainian there is also a smaller language with little official recognition known as Rusyn, so there's no way to cut the continuum and say that on one side there's an "Eastern Slavic language" and on the other Western.

Here I'll give some examples, I will transliterate Russian and Ukrainian according to Polish spelling rules to make the comparison more clear.

Russian; Polish; Ukrainian
ли (li); czy; чи (czy)
This is the interrogative particle, used to form questions. This represents a fairly large difference between Ukrainian and Polish and Russian because czy goes at the beginning of the sentence and li is a clitic (a kind of halfway point between a separate word and a suffix) that gets attached to the ends of verbs.

Then there are important verbs like pytać/питати (pytaty), which in Polish, Ukrainian and many other Slavic languages means "to ask", but in Russian means "to nourish". The names of the month are also closer to Polish because Russian uses Latin month names similar to those of English whereas Polish and Ukrainian preserve the traditional Slavic names.

Keep in mind that the pronunciation of etymological "g" as a voiced h sound is also found in Czech and Slovak, not just in Ukrainian and Belarusian.

lpetrich wrote:In short, the South Slavic languages also.

The usual division of Slavic languages is
  • East Slavic: Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian
  • West Slavic: Polish, Czech, Slovak
  • South Slavic: Serbo-Croatian, Slovenian, Old Church Slavonic, Macedonian, Bulgarian


It's a bit more complicated than that, as Zwaarddijk has already pointed out.

[*]East Slavic
[**]Russian: Russian
[**]Ruthenian: Ukrainian, Belarusian, Rusyn
[*]West Slavic
[**]Czechoslovak: Czech, Slovak
[**]Lechitic: Polish, Silesian, Cashubian
[**]Sorbian: Upper Sorbian, Lower Sorbian
[*]South Slavic
[**]Western: Slovene, Kajkavian Croat, Čakavian Croat, Serbo-Croatian
[**]Torlak (transitional): varieties of southeastern Serbia
[**]Eastern: Macedonian, Bulgarian
Last edited by Saim on Mar 21, 2015 11:54 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Russian and Ukrainian Languages

#9  Postby Zwaarddijk » Mar 21, 2015 10:30 am

Saim wrote:
lpetrich wrote:Are they something like the Continental Scandinavian languages? Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish. Mutually intelligible with a little bit of study, but treated as different languages because of their national-language statuses.


No, because the continuum extends into the rest of the Slavic language area, with the biggest jump between the western and southern branches because of all the Hungarians in the middle.

Although grammar and pronunciation are more similar to Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian are often lexically closer to Polish. Indeed, as far as I can tell, Poles are better at understanding these two languages than Russians are; I wouldn't discount, however, that this is very sociological reasons, Russians as speakers of an imperial language have little need to go out of their way to understand other people who've already learned Russian.

It is my impression, however, that Russians do tend to understand Polish, whereas Poles tend not to understand Russian. I suspect the latter is due to Poles wanting to project a dislike for Russia, however (much like Norwegians refuse to understand my Swedish until they realize I'm not from Sweden, but one of the harmless Swedes from Finland, and therefore it's okay to understand me and suddenly there's no problem at all.)
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Re: Russian and Ukrainian Languages

#10  Postby Saim » Mar 22, 2015 12:17 am



I just noticed this now, but I should've said it sooner: Robert Lindsay is a quack and a proponent of scientific racism. He tries to classify the different human "races" on his blog and also refers to alleged scientific studies on mutual intelligibility that don't exist, his percentages are not derived from any serious methodology. Don't refer to his work.

Zwaardijk; it's really hard to quantify because there is at least some mutual intelligibility between any two Slavic languages and the level of it is conditioned by factors such as intelligence, education, language ideology, register and actual wilingness to communicate. Then there's also the issue of whether "understanding" means understanding when someone speaks directly to you and when to people are speaking to each other.

My experience has been that Russian-speaker understand little Polish without prior study or exposure. I remember when I was on a Polish summer course in Wroclaw there were some Russians in the lower groups (A1, A2) who seemed to not understand some very basic questions that I made towards the beginning of the course. Russian is also more widely studied in Poland than Polish is in Russia - although you're right that there is a widespread feeling of Russophobia in Poland that may make some Poles intentionally "not understand" things they actually do, whereas in Russia people probably don't think about Poland enough to hate it.

I have a similar anecdote to your Norwegian one regarding Catalan; I remember once I was waiting in line to hand in some papers regarding my student visa. I struck up a conversation with the girl next to me and she understood everything perfectly until suddenly she asked:

-"Are you speaking Portuguese/do you speak Portuguese?" (unlike in English this phrase is ambiguous)
-"Uh... well, yeah" (I thought she was asking about whether I knew Portuguese, not whether I was speaking it at that precise moment)
-"Yeah, I can tell..."
-"I mean, I know Portuguese, but right now I'm speaking Catalan"
-"Catalan's hard to understand"
-"But you've understood everything I've said so far"
-"Sorry?"
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