What is the difference between Russian and Ukrainian languages? – This rather naive question is often heard from the foreigners. Sometimes it is also asked by Slavic nationalities: Poles, Bulgarians, Byelorussians and even Russians. The answer differs; it depends on the level of the dialogue. Sometimes the reply is bare, according to the protocol: Russian and Ukrainian languages have different grammar, phonetics, alphabet, history, origin and so on. Sometime we joke that almost every Ukrainian understands the Russian language, and the majority of the Russians do not understand the Ukrainian language.
We guess that the reply concerning the resemblance of the Russian and Ukrainian language should sound the following way. Two our languages, which have common basis (Old Russian languages spoken at time of Kievan Rus) ‘separated’ long ago and started to develop their own way. It is stipulated by the different ways of the Russian and Ukrainian nations’ development. The Russian nation was centrally formed around Moscow. Development of Moscovia was accompanied by the conquest and assimilation of the neighboring nations and tribes, mainly Finno-Ugric and Turkic. That is why there are many words and language structures of non-Slavic origin in the modern Russian language.
The Ukrainian nation developed the other way – the way of union of different Southern Russian Slavic ethnical groups. Ukrainian language has preserved more of its Old-Russian basis than the Russian language. The borrowed words oftener came from the languages of the Slavic neighbors. The Ukrainian language could be considered more ‘Russian’ than the modern Russian language.
Foreign students often say that the Ukrainian language is more ‘European' one, that it is closer to the languages spoken in modern Europe. There are no exact criteria to determine the European level. They speak Finnish, Hungarian and Estonian languages in Europe – they are Finno-Ugric languages. The scientists refer them not to Indo-European but Uralian languages. There are grounds for such opinions. In the Ukrainian language there are many hidden words borrowed from the different Indo-European languages. They are hidden as the Ukrainians consider these words to be the Ukrainian ones, like the word “lijko” (bed) is a derivative from the French “lіt”, or “vovna” (wool) is a derivative from the Check “vlna”. We noticed that it is much easier to translate from French or English into Ukrainian language than into the Russian language, as it is easier to build the sentences.
Obviously the interest of the foreigners to the Russian and Ukrainian language is caused by the known language problems in Ukraine. They do exist but they are not just contradictions between Russian and Ukrainian languages. There are problems with the Ukrainian language itself. In the western regions of Ukraine, which belonged to the different European countries for a long time (Austria-Hungary, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Rumania), they have their own dialects. The Ukrainians living in the eastern and central parts of the country do not always understand the people living in the western regions. Some Ukrainians living in Donbass and in the Crimea consider the Russian language to be their native and speak it only.
However, the issue of the Russian and Ukrainian language, complicated with the political and economic situation in Ukraine, has been still settled. Ukrainian language functions as the sole state language. It is used in records management in the public institutions, television and broadcasting. After the centuries of prohibitions and persecutions the Ukrainian language preserved its originality, old linguistic basis and perspectives of the further development.
By the way, the wide spread opinion about the resemblance of the Russian and Ukrainian languages is not confirmed by the research studies. There are only 62% of the common words in Russian and Ukrainian language (the difference is 38%). According to this parameter the Russian language in on the fifth position to the Ukrainian language after Polish, Check, Slovak and Belarusian languages. The grammar of the English language differs from the Dutch language by 37%, and Swedish from Norwegian by 16%.
If you are interested in Ukrainian or Russian languages we could offer to study Ukrainian and Russian by Skype.
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Ukraine for Business (UB) provide the services to the foreigners in the sphere of business and educational tourism, traveling, organization of conferences, translation and interpretation.