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#1
Old 12-31-2004, 10:34 AM
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How close are the Ukrainian and Russian languages?

In the news coverage of the Ukriainian elections, I saw that Yanukovich, from eastern Ukraine, doesn't speak Ukrainian, only Russian. As well, some articles commented that Yanushko, from western Ukraine, was speaking some Russian in his appearences in eastern Ukraine, and said that he was open to making Russian an official language of Ukraine.

Linguistically, how close are the two languages? Can a Ukrainian speaker make himself understood to a Russian speaker, and vice-versa?

I seem to recall that during the Soviet era, the official party line was that Ukrainian wasn't a separate language at all, merely a dialect of Russian. The Ukrainian nationalists contested that hotly.

Anyone have any info?
#2
Old 12-31-2004, 12:59 PM
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i would say about the same as british english to american english. some different words to describe the same things. some times vowels will change. olena is a ukrainian name, yelena would be the russian version. grigori is a name that is spelled the same way in both languages. in russian the "g"s are hard sounds, in ukrainian the "g"s are a soft sound like an "h".

if you know one you could figure out the other fairly easily.
#3
Old 12-31-2004, 03:29 PM
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Closely related separate languages in the same branch (Slavic) and the same sub-branch (East Slavic). Think Spanish and Portuguese, or Danish and Norwegian, for useful parallels.

But also remember that there's quite a bit of interfoliation of populaces in Ukraine and nearby areas -- he may have been speaking Russian to Russian-speaking citizens of Ukraine, of which there are quite a few.

As I understand it, the two languages are distinct but partially mutually intelligible -- for which the only parallel relative to English is Lallans Scots.
#4
Old 12-31-2004, 03:45 PM
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This thread inspired a similar question - How alike are Spanish and Italian?


In the past I would have said they are completely different languages, but then an intalian coworker (possibly to play with a probable brit ignorance of such things) told me that if you can speak Italian you can get by in spain.
#5
Old 12-31-2004, 06:08 PM
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Just as a Spanish speaker can get by in Portuguese or Italian and vice-versa, with communication likely being easier if they are writing rather than speaking, so the same is with Russian, Ukrainian, and Belarussian. The languages only separated in the past 600 years or so, and are still very similar, with only a few vocabulary and pronunciation differences. Quick comparison of the first line of the Lord's prayer:

Russian:
Otche nash, sushchij na nebesakh, da svjatitsja imja tvojo.

Ukrainian:
Otche nash, shcho na nebi, nekhaj svjatit'sja imja tvoje.

Belarussian:
Ojcha nash, jaki josts' u njabjosakh, khaj s'vjatsittsja imja tvajo.

A great deal of the Ukraine is Russian-speaking, with certain regions approaching 100%, such as Crimea, which was in fact historically a part of Russia until Khrushchev decided on a whim to give it to Ukraine. Any reasonable person can see that Russian should be an official language of Ukraine -- it's just silly nationalism that's keeping it from being so.
#6
Old 12-31-2004, 06:34 PM
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Quote:
In the past I would have said they are completely different languages, but then an intalian coworker (possibly to play with a probable brit ignorance of such things) told me that if you can speak Italian you can get by in spain.
All of the Romance languages are quite close, with some being closer than others. If you ignore the "official" languages and focus on what people have traditionally actually spoken, you can think of them as a continuum with one horizontal axis running from Portugal across Spain and Catalonia through northern Italy, across to Dalmatia and on to Romania; one vertical axis running from Andalusia up through Catalonia and Occitania to France and Belgium, and another vertical axis from Sicily and Calabria up through Italy, going through Switzerland and ending up in France again. Sardinia is its own little world, and doesn't fall on this continuum. In no case are there sharp divides between languages; rather, the dialects tend to show fairly smooth gradations. Somebody from northern Spain can get by in Portuguese and vice-versa; ditto Catalan. The northern Italian dialects would probably be much easier for a Spanish speaker; southern Italian is quite different, and I don't think anybody really understands Calabrian. Our Spaniard could probably make himself understood in Provence, especially if he wrote rather than spoke, but he'd have much less success with French, and something like Walloon or Romanian would be right out. It all depends on distance between the two speakers.
#7
Old 12-31-2004, 07:26 PM
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As a fluent speaker of both Russian and Spanish, I'd say the difference between Russian and Ukrainian is roughly analogous to the difference between Spanish and Italian. But keep in mind that there is a fair amount of dialect variation in spoken Ukrainian - think of it as a continuum. In Eastern Ukraine, it will sound more like Russian, and in Western Ukraine, it will sound more like Polish.

Both language pairs are close enough to each other that a speaker of either half of the pair will be able to get the gist of most conversations, but there are enough basic words that are really, really different that I'd hesitate to call Ukrainian a dialect of Russian.
#8
Old 01-01-2005, 08:33 AM
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the spanish/portuguese analogy makes me smile. i have coworkers who claim that pedro speaks a funny portuguese and carlos speaks a funny spanish. it is a good analogy.
#9
Old 01-01-2005, 09:18 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Eva Luna
As a fluent speaker of both Russian and Spanish, I'd say the difference between Russian and Ukrainian is roughly analogous to the difference between Spanish and Italian. But keep in mind that there is a fair amount of dialect variation in spoken Ukrainian - think of it as a continuum. In Eastern Ukraine, it will sound more like Russian, and in Western Ukraine, it will sound more like Polish.
A colleague of mine whose mother is the daughter of Ukrainian immigrants to Canada told me something interesting recently. She said that her mother and aunt were raised speaking Ukrainian (as well as English), but they only spoke it within the immediate family, and did not have any contact with family members who remained in Ukraine. Although they can still converse with each other in their parents' language, they are now not able to communicate with any other Ukrainian speakers who they happen to meet. Their assumption is that the language in the mother country has changed so much in the past two-thirds of a century that their own (older) dialect is no longer mutually comprehensible with modern Ukrainian. Is that possible, or could it be just that they are only meeting speakers from a distant part of Ukraine with a very different dialect?

I don't know what part of Ukraine their parents were from.
#10
Old 01-01-2005, 10:11 AM
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Originally Posted by ruadh
A colleague of mine whose mother is the daughter of Ukrainian immigrants to Canada told me something interesting recently. She said that her mother and aunt were raised speaking Ukrainian (as well as English), but they only spoke it within the immediate family, and did not have any contact with family members who remained in Ukraine. Although they can still converse with each other in their parents' language, they are now not able to communicate with any other Ukrainian speakers who they happen to meet. Their assumption is that the language in the mother country has changed so much in the past two-thirds of a century that their own (older) dialect is no longer mutually comprehensible with modern Ukrainian. Is that possible, or could it be just that they are only meeting speakers from a distant part of Ukraine with a very different dialect?

I don't know what part of Ukraine their parents were from.
I'd say anything is possible, but for them not to understand modern Ukrainian at all would be a bit of a stretch. On the other hand, keep in mind that there has been a LOT of mixing of language groups in that neck of the woods over the past 100 years or so; if you look at the 1897 All-Russian Census for Vilnius, now the capital of Lithuania, you will finmd that there were more people there who identified as Polish than as Lithuanian (the Lithuanians were more rural). And there has been a lot of borrowing of words back and forth between languages.

I knew a guy who was half-Polish, half-Lithuanian but born in the U.S., and spoke both languages as a child with the appropriate relatives. But the Polish relatives were apparently from an area with a lot of Lithuanians, because when they spoke with more mainstream Poles, the other Poles would complain that they were really speaking Lithuanian. And I had a half-Russian, half-Ukrainian roommate who grew up in Ukraine when I studied in Russia, and especially when she was tired, sometimes she'd forget what language she was speaking and start throwing in a lot of Ukrainian.

Also keep in mind that even if Ukrainians speak Ukrainian at home (and a fair number of them don't, as mentioned above), they may be attending Russian-language schools, and vice versa.
#11
Old 01-01-2005, 10:20 AM
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Originally Posted by yBeayf
... and I don't think anybody really understands Calabrian....
Including the Calabrians. Hence omerta -- it's easier to make assumptions than it is to try to figure out what the hey the other guy's saying!

Seriously, I gather that there is a distinct series of dialectal transitions across southern Europe: Portuguese and Gallego are pretty nearly thoroughly intercomprehensible, likewise Gallego and Leonese Spanish, Leonese and Castilian, Castilian and Valencian, Valencian and Catalan, Catalan and Aquitainian Occitan, Aquitanian and Provencal Occitan, Provencal and Valdostano, Valdostano and Piedmontese Italian, and so on down the Italian peninsula. But go two or three skips on that sequence, and the mutual intercomprehensibility drops dramatically -- you can get a vague idea of what's being discussed, but not follow the details of content well.
#12
Old 01-01-2005, 11:45 AM
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My maternal grandparents came from what is now Western Ukraine to escape Romanov brutality in the early part of the last century. They spoke Yiddish at home and Polish out of the home. Maybe their dialect of Polish was really Ukrainian. Interesting.

Haj
#13
Old 12-07-2013, 10:22 PM
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Originally Posted by rocking chair View Post
i would say about the same as british english to american english. some different words to describe the same things. some times vowels will change. olena is a ukrainian name, yelena would be the russian version. grigori is a name that is spelled the same way in both languages. in russian the "g"s are hard sounds, in ukrainian the "g"s are a soft sound like an "h".

if you know one you could figure out the other fairly easily.
I am a native Russian speaker and let me tell you, Russian and Ukrainian are different enough to be 2 separate languages. Most of the time in order for me to understand Ukrainian I have to run it through an online translator. Sure there are some similarities as both languages belong to an East Slavic branch, but the languages in my opinion are not mutually intelligible. You may be fooled sometimes by speakers from Eastern Ukraine who speak a mix of Russian and Ukrainian and call it Ukrainian. You can't compare British English and American English to Russian and Ukrainian.

Last edited by aprok; 12-07-2013 at 10:23 PM.
#14
Old 12-07-2013, 10:37 PM
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Native Russian speaker here - I haven't really read/heard Ukrainian in a long time, so I went to Wikipedia and pulled a couple of random Ukrainian articles:

http://uk.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%94%...%96%D1%8F_Tool

Ok - I can understand it. Kinda. There are a few words I don't know but are clear from context, there are some that I have no idea what they are - ("шанувальникам"???). Apparenly month names in Ukrainian are completely different from Russian.

http://uk.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%9F%...B8%D0%BA%D0%B8

Can understand the gist, but there are more words here that I get from context and not from the word itself.

Russian and Ukrainian are really two separate languages, but can be somewhat mutually understood by respective speakers. Kinda like Romanian and Italian, or Spanish and Portuguese, as I have been told by speakers of those languages.

On edit: the word "zombie" in Russian and Ukrainian is the same.

Last edited by Terr; 12-07-2013 at 10:40 PM.
#15
Old 12-07-2013, 11:07 PM
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I was working (in English) with a Polish speaker and a Russian speaker. The Polish speaker was translating for the Russian speaker.

Oh. I said. I didn't know you spoke Russian.

He said....

"In Warsaw and Moscow they speak different languages. But in the courntry on the border it's just one language."

Last edited by Melbourne; 12-07-2013 at 11:08 PM.
#16
Old 12-08-2013, 01:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Terr View Post
Ok - I can understand it. Kinda. There are a few words I don't know but are clear from context, there are some that I have no idea what they are - ("шанувальникам"???). Apparenly month names in Ukrainian are completely different from Russian.
I guess it depends on an article. Try this one: http://day.kiev.ua/uk/article/ek...-iz-poziciieyu

and see if you can understand it
#17
Old 12-08-2013, 01:28 PM
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Originally Posted by aprok View Post
I guess it depends on an article. Try this one: http://day.kiev.ua/uk/article/ek...-iz-poziciieyu

and see if you can understand it
It's tougher. Lots of words I don't understand.
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