Linguistic development of the Ukrainian language
Theories concerning the development of the Ukrainian language
The first theory of the origin of Ukrainian language was suggested in Imperial Russia in the middle of the 18th century by Mikhail Lomonosov. This theory posits the existence of a common language spoken by all East Slavic people in the time of the Rus'. According to Lomonosov, the differences that subsequently developed between Great Russian and Ukrainian (which he referred to as Little Russian) could be explained by the influence of the Polish and Slovak languages on Ukrainian and the influence of Uralic languages on Russian from the 13th to the 17th centuries.
Another point of view developed during the 19th and 20th centuries by linguists of Imperial Russia and the Soviet Union. Like Lomonosov, they assumed the existence of a common language spoken by East Slavs in the past. But unlike Lomonosov's hypothesis, this theory does not view "Polonization" or any other external influence as the main driving force that led to the formation of three different languages (Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian) from the common Old East Slavic language. This general point of view is the most accepted amongst academics worldwide, particularly outside Ukraine. The supporters of this theory disagree, however, about the time when the different languages were formed.
Soviet scholars set the divergence between Ukrainian and Russian only at later time periods (14th through 16th centuries). According to this view, Old East Slavic diverged into Belarusian and Ukrainian to the west (collectively, the Ruthenian language of the 15th to 18th centuries), and Old Russian to the north-east, after the political boundaries of the Kievan Rus' were redrawn in the 14th century. During the time of the incorporation of Ruthenia (Ukraine and Belarus) into the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, Ukrainian and Belarusian diverged into identifiably separate languages.
Some scholarsGalicia-Volhynia and the language of Novgorod-Suzdal by the 12th century, assuming that before the 12th century, the two languages were practically indistinguishable. This point of view is, however, at variance with some historical data. In fact, several East Slavic tribes, such as Polans, Drevlyans, Severians, Dulebes (that later likely became Volhynians and Buzhans), White Croats, Tiverians and Ulichs lived on the territory of today's Ukraine long before the 12th century. Notably, some Ukrainian features were recognizable in the southern dialects of Old East Slavic as far back as the language can be documented.
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Some researchers, while admitting the differences between the dialects spoken by East Slavic tribes in the 10th and 11th centuries, still consider them as "regional manifestations of a common language" (see, for instance, the article by
Vasyl Nimchuk). In contrast, Ahatanhel Krymsky and Alexei Shakhmatov assumed the existence of the common spoken language of Eastern Slavs only in prehistoric times. According to their point of view, the diversification of the Old East Slavic language took place in the 8th or early 9th century.
Ukrainian linguist Stepan Smal-Stotsky went even further, denying the existence of a common Old East Slavic language at any time in the past. Similar points of view were shared by
Olena Kurylo, Ivan Ohienko and others. According to this theory, the dialects of East Slavic tribes evolved gradually from the common Proto-Slavic language without any intermediate stages during the 6th through 9th centuries. The Ukrainian language was formed by convergence of tribal dialects, mostly due to an intensive migration of the population within the territory of today's Ukraine in later historical periods. This point of view was also supported by George Shevelov's phonological studies.
Origins and developments during medieval times
As the result of close Slavic contacts with the remnants of the Scythian and Sarmatian population north of the Black Sea, lasting into the early Middle Ages, the appearance of voiced fricative γ(h) in modern Ukrainian and some southern Russian dialects is explained, that initially emerged in Scythian and the related eastern Iranian dialects from earlier common Proto-Indo-European *g and *gʰ.
During the 13th century, when German settlers were invited to Ukraine by the princes of Galicia-Vollhynia, German words began to appear in the language spoken in Ukraine. Their influence would continue under Poland not only through German colonists but also through the Yiddish-speaking Jews. Often such words involve trade or handicrafts. Examples of words of German or Yiddish origin spoken in Ukraine include dakh (roof), rura (pipe), rynok (market), kushnir (furrier), and majster (master or craftsman).
Developments under Poland and Lithuania
In the 13th century, eastern parts of Rus' (including Moscow) came under Tatar yoke until their unification under the Tsardom of Muscovy, whereas the south-western areas (including Kiev) were incorporated into the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. For the following four centuries, the language of the two regions evolved in relative isolation from each other. Direct written evidence of the existence of the Ukrainian language dates to the late 16th century. By the 16th century, a peculiar official language was formed: a mixture of the liturgical standardised language of Old Church Slavonic, Ruthenian and Polish, with the influence of the last of these three gradually increasing, considering that the nobility and rural large-landowning class, known as the szlactha, was largely Polish-speaking. Documents soon took on many Polish characteristics superimposed on Ruthenian phonetics. Polish rule and education also involved significant exposure to the Latin language. Much of the influence of Poland on the development of the Ukrainian language has been attributed to this period and is reflected in multiple words and constructions used in everyday Ukrainian speech that were taken from Polish or Latin. Examples of Polish words adopted from this period include zavzhdy (always; taken from old Polish word zawżdy) and obitsiaty (to promise; taken from Polish obiecać) and from Latin (via Polish) raptom (suddenly) and meta (aim or goal).
Significant contact with Tatars and Turks resulted in many Turkic words, particularly those involving military matters and steppe industry, being adopted into the Ukrainian language. Examples include torba (bag) and tyutyun (tobacco).
Due to heavy borrowings from Polish, German, Czech and Latin, early modern vernacular Ukrainian (prosta mova, "simple speech") had more lexical similarity with West Slavic languages than with Russian or Church Slavonic. By the mid-17th century, the linguistic divergence between the Ukrainian and Russian languages was so acute that there was a need for translators during negotiations for the Treaty of Pereyaslav, between Bohdan Khmelnytsky, head of the Zaporozhian Host, and the Russian state.