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Ukrainian 

ukrainian

Introduction

Лacкaвo пpocимo- Welcome

Ukrainian (yкpaiнcькa мoвa) belongs to the East Slavic group of the Slavic branch of the Indo-European language family. Its closest relatives are Belarusian and Russian. According to Ethnologue, there are 31 million speakers of Ukrainian in Ukraine with another 8 or more million in Russia and in the former republics of the Soviet Union, as well as in Eastern Europe, U.S., Canada, and Latin America. The total number of speakers of Ukrainian is estimated at around 40 million people.

Prior to the 14th century, ancestors of the modern Ukrainians, Belarusians, and Russians spoke varieties of Old East Slavic – a language that was common to all three. Linguists think that it split into what are now Ukrainian, Belarusian, and Russian at the end of the 14th century.

Before the 18th century, the precursor of the modern literary Ukrainian language was a spoken language that existing side-by-side with a literary language based on Church Slavonic, a language that was quite different from the spoken one. The Ukraine Mapend of the18th century saw the publication of the first literary works written in a language based on spoken Ukrainian. This ushered in a new era in the development of the Ukrainian literary language.

After the Partitions of Poland at the end of the 18th century by PrussiaHabsburg Austria, and Russia, Western Ukraine (Galicia) was taken over by Austria, while the rest of Ukraine was progressively incorporated into the Russian Empire. The Tsarist government of Russia did not encourage the development of Ukrainian as a separate language. Ukraine was referred to as Little Russia, and the language was called Little Russian. Publications in Ukrainian were forbidden. Widespread use of Ukrainian as a written language and in education dates only from after the Bolshevik revolution of 1917 and the establishment of the Ukrainian SSR in 1922.

Status
Today, Ukrainian is the official language of the Republic of Ukraine. Approximately 83% of its 47.5 million inhabitants speak Ukrainian as their first language. During the seventy years of Soviet rule, the Ukrainian language was the primary spoken language in the Ukrainian SSR. However, it always had to compete with Russian, and the attitudes of the Soviet leadership towards its use ranged from tolerance to suppression.

In northern and central Ukraine, Russian is the language of the urban population, while in rural areas, Ukrainian is much more common. In the south and the east of Ukraine, Russian is prevalent even in rural areas, and in Crimea, Ukrainian is almost absent. In Kiev, both Russian and Ukrainian are spoken today, a shift from the recent past when the city was primarily Russian-speaking.

Since 1991, Ukraine has taken several steps towards solidifying the status of the language. The educational system has been transformed from partly to predominantly Ukrainian, although Russian is still dominant in the print media. There are, however, still many obstacles to limiting the use of Russian in government administration and commerce.

Dialects

Some linguists divide Ukrainian into three geographical dialects which differ mostly in pronunciation and vocabulary but are mutually intelligible.

  • Northern
  • Southwestern
  • Southeastern

Surzhyk (literally ‘multigrain flour or bread’) is a mixed language spoken by 15-20% of the population of Ukraine. It combines Ukrainian grammar and pronunciation with a predominantly Russian vocabulary.

Ukrainian is also spoken by large emigré groups in Canada, the U.S., Argentina, and Brazil. The first wave of these emigrés came primarily from Galicia which was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire before World War I, and then was part of Poland between the two World Wars. These communities speak the Galician dialect of Ukrainian which shows less influence of Russian than modern Ukrainian and which has many loanwords from the local languages, e.g., English in Canada and the U.S., Spanish in Argentina, and Portuguese in Brazil.

Structure

Sound system
Ukrainian shares many phonological features with other Slavic languages, particularly Russian and Belarusian.

Vowels
Ukrainian has five vowel phonemes, i.e., sounds that can distinguish word meaning..

Front Central Back
Close
i
u
Mid
e
o
Open
a

Consonants
There are 32 consonant phonemes. The language allows a variety of consonant clusters in different positiions in a word.

Bilabial Labio-
dental
Dental Post-
alveolar
Palatal Velar
Stops voiceless p t k
voiced b d g
Fricatives voiceless f s, sʲ ʃ x
voiced z, zʲ ʒ ɣ
Affricates voiceless ts, tsʲ
voiced dz., dzʲ
Nasals m n, nʲ
Laterals l, lʲ
Rhotic (trill, flap) r, rʲ
Semivowels ʋ j
  • sʲ, zʲ, tsʲ, dzʲ, nʲ, lʲ, rʲ are palatalized consonants produced with the blade of the tongue coming in contact with the hard palate.
  • ʃ = sh in shop
  • ʒ = s in vision
  • tʃ = ch in chop
  • dʒ = j in job
  • x = German pronunciation of ch in Bach
  • ɣ has no equivalent in English
  • ʋ has no equivalent in English
  • j = y in yet
  • Voiceless stopsfricatives and affricates are voiced when preceding voiced ones, e.g., [naʃ dom] ‘our house’ becomes [naʒ dom].
  • Post-alveolar and dental consonants (except /r/) can be doubled.

Stress
Stress can occur on any syllable of a word. 

Grammar
Ukrainian is a richly inflected language with a grammar that is very similar to that of other Slavic languages, especially Russian and Belarusian.

Nouns
Ukrainian nouns are marked for gender, number, and case. The three are fused into one ending, as is the case in all Slavic languages. Ukrainian nouns have the following grammatical categories:

  • gender: masculine, feminine, neuter;
  • four noun and adjective declensions, largely based on gender;
  • number: singular and plural;
  • case: nominativegenitivedativeaccusativeinstrumentallocative, vocative, however only a few nouns have retained the vocative forms;
  • animate and inanimate masculine nouns have different endings in the accusative case;
  • There are no indefinite or definite articles.
  • Adjectives are marked for gender and case only in the singular; in the plural they are marked only for case.
  • Adjectives and possessive and demonstrative pronouns precede the nouns they modify and agree with them in gender, number, and case.

Verbs
Ukrainian verbs agree with their subjects in person and number in the non-past, and in gender and number in the past. They are marked for the following categories:

  • Three persons: first, second, third. Like all Slavic languages, Ukrainian is a pro-drop language, i.e., personal pronouns can be dropped because the verb ending makes the person clear.
  • four conjugations;
  • two tenses: past, non-past. Present and future tenses have the same endings.
  • two aspects: imperfective and perfective. Perfective and imperfective verbs are formed from basic verb roots by adding prefixes and suffixes. Non-past conjugation of perfective verbs indicates future tense, non-past conjugation of imperfective verbs indicates present tense. Imperfective verbs form future tense with the auxiliary verb być ‘be.’
  • three moods: indicativeimperativeconditional
  • two voices: active, passive
  • Verbs of motion constitute a special subcategory of verbs. They are characterized by a complex system of directional and aspectual prefixes and suffixes.

Word order
The neutral word order in Ukrainian is Subject-Verb-Object. However, other orders are possible since inflectional endings take care of clearly marking grammatical relations and roles in the sentence. Word order is principally determined by topic (what the sentence is about, or old information) and focus (new information). Constituents with old information precede constituents with new information, or those that carry the most emphasis.

Vocabulary
Most of the modern Ukrainian lexicon is based on common Slavic roots shared by the other Slavic languages. The rest of the words were borrowed from languages it had come into contact with over the course of its history. Among them are Old Church Slavonic, GreekLatinPolishLithuanianFrench,GermanRussian, and English. Below are some common phrases and words in Ukrainian.

good morning/afternoon Добрий дeнь
Hello, greetings Вiтaю
Good bye Дo пaбaчeння
Thank you Дякyю
You are welcome Heмa зa штo
Sorry Bибaчтe
Please Бyдь лacкa
Yes Тaк
No
Man Чoлoвiк
Woman Жiнкa

Below are Ukrainian numerals 1-10.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
oдин
двa
тpи
чoтиpи
п’ять
шicть
ciм
вiciм
дeв’ять
дecять

Writing

The recorded history of the Ukrainian language began in 988, when Kievan Rus’ was converted to Christianity. Ukrainian religious material, including translations of the Bible, was written in Old Slavonic, the language used by missionaries to spread Christianity to the Slavic peoples.

Modern Ukrainian is written with an adapted version of the Cyrillic alphabet which consists of 33 letters that represent 38 phonemes, i.e., sounds that make a difference in word meaning, plus an apostrophe. It underwent several reforms in the 19th and early 20th centuries and was officially approved in 1927. It was replaced by a Soviet-approved version of the alphabet in the 1930′s. Curiously, the letter Ґ which represents the sound [ɣ] was banned from 1933 until 1990.

Ukrainian Alphabet
А а
Б б
В в
Г г
Ґ ґ
Д д
E e
Є є
Ж ж
З з
И и
I i
Ï ï
Й й
К к
Л л
М м
Н н
О о
П п
Р р
С с
Т т
У у
Ф ф
Х х
Ц ц
Ч ч
Ш ш
Щ щ
 ь
Ю ю
Я я
  • Ґ ґ  = [ɣ]
  • Щ щ  =[ʃtʃ]
  • Є є, Ï ï, Я я, Ю ю and  ь indicate palatalization of the preceding consonant. The apostrophe is used to override this rule.

Take a look at Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Ukrainian and Russian. Do you see any differences in the orthographies of the two languages?

Зaгaльнa дeклapaцia пpaв людинi
Cтaття 1.
Вci люди нapoджyютcя  вiльними i piвними y cвoïй гiднocти тa пpaвax. Вoни нaдiлeнi poзyмoм i coвicтю i пoвиннi дiяти y вiднoшeннi oдин дo oднoгo в дyci бpaтepcтвa.
Universal declaration of human rights
Article 1
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Did You Know?

Difficulty

Language Difficulty
questionHow difficult is it to learn Ukrainian?
Ukrainian is considered to be a Category II language in terms of difficulty for speakers of English.

7 Responses to Ukrainian

  1. Klaas

    Some correction in Ukrainian
    Дo пaбaчeння -> До побачення

    Heмa зa штo -> Нема за що

    Ни -> Ні

    Ukrainian is virtually absent in the eastern oblasts: it’s spoken primarily in the west and north and the centre of the country.

     
    • Irene Thompson

      Thank you for the correction. We will make the changes.

       
  2. Iaroslav

    Dear Irene,
    Thank you, this is a very interesting and informative article.

     
  3. Roman Melnychuk

    Actually, Ukrainian is really spoken as 1st language in West Ukraine and everywhere else its mixed with Russian and or surzhyk. I was in Kyiv last year and many spoke in Russian which is hard to imagine.

    I am from Lviv and I speak pure Ukrainian, and since I live in the Ukrainian diaspora I don’t use Russian at all in my Ukrainian.. example of one word I use: Pulyares which is wallet in Pure Ukrainian, where as Hamanets’ is used in Ukraine.

     
  4. Olga

    How do you mark prefix, suffix and base word?
    i forgot…
    Thanks!

     
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