East Slavic languages

From Academic Kids

The East Slavic languages constitute one of three regional subgroups of Slavic languages, currently spoken in Eastern Europe. It is the group with the largest numbers of speakers, far out-numbering the Western and Southern Slavic groups. Current East Slavic languages are Belarusian, Russian, Ukrainian, and Rusyn (a small language spoken in Eastern Slovakia, South Eastern Poland, Eastern Hungary and South Western Ukraine and regarded by many as a Ukrainian dialect).

Classification:


Contents

Current status

All these languages are nowadays considered to be separate languages in their own right, though in the 19th century it was usual to call Ukrainian ("Little Russian") and Belarusian ("White Russian") dialects of one common "Russian" language (the most prestigious dialect of which was called "Great Russian"). Despite the vast territory occupied by the East Slavs, their languages are astonishingly similar to one another, with transitional dialects in border regions.

All these languages use the Cyrillic alphabet, but with particular modifications.

History

When the common Old East Slavic language became separated from the ancient Slavic tongue common to all Slavs is difficult to ascertain (6th11th century).

The history of the East Slavic languages is a very 'hot' subject (see the discussion on this article), because it is interpreted from various political perspectives by the East Slavs "like all mortals, wishing to have an origin as ancient as possible" ("sicut ceteri mortalium, originem suam quam vetustissimam ostendere cupientes"), as Aeneas Sylvius observed in his Historia Bohemica in 1458.

Therefore, a crucial differentiation has to be made between the history of the East Slavic dialects and that of the literary languages employed by the Eastern Slavs. Although most ancient texts betray the dialect their author(s) and/or scribe(s) spoke, it is also clearly visible that they tried to write in a language different from their dialects and to avoid those mistakes that enable us nowadays to locate them.

In both cases one has to keep in mind that the history of the East Slavic languages is of course a history of written texts. We do not know how the writers of the preserved texts would have spoken in every-day life, let alone how an illiterate East Slavic peasant spoke to his family.

History of the literary languages

History of the East Slavic literary languages
History of Ukrainian History of Belarusian History of Russian
Preliterary period
(c. until 9th c.)
East Slavic dialects of the Proto-Slavic language
Old period
(c. 9th to 14th c.)
Old East Slavic
Middle period
(c. 15th to 18th c.)
Ruthenian Old Russian
Modern period
(c. from 18th/19th c.)
(Contemporary)
Ukrainian
(Contemporary)
Belarusian
(Contemporary)
Russian

What follows is a short overview over the Old and Middle periods. For more detail see Old East Slavic language, Ruthenian language, and History of the Russian language.

After the conversion of the East Slavic region to Christianity the people used service books borrowed from Bulgaria, which were written in "Old Bulgarian" or Old Church Slavonic. They continued to use this language, or rather a variant thereof, usually called (Middle) Church Slavonic, not only in liturgy, but also generally as the language of learning and written communication. This left a large imprint even on the rare secular texts.

Throughout the Middle Ages (and in some way up to the present day) there existed a duality between the Church Slavonic language used as some kind of 'higher' register (not only) in religious texts and the popular tongue used as a 'lower' register for secular texts. It has been suggested to describe this situation as diglossia, although there do exist mixed texts where it is sometimes very hard to determine why a given author used a popular or a Church Slavonic form in a given context.

History of the dialects

History of the East Slavic dialect groups
History of Ukrainian History of Belarusian History of Russian
Preliterary East Slavic dialects of the Proto-Slavic language Nov-
go-
rod?
11th c. Halych/
Podolia
Kiev/
Polesie
Polatsk/
Ryazan
Novgorod/
Suzdal
Since 16th c. Ukrainian Belarusian Russian
SW SE N SW C NE S C N
Dialect classification and periodization according to Yury Šerech [= Shevelov], Problems in the formation of Belorussian, New York 1953 (= Word: Journal of the Linguistic Circle of New York, vol. 9, supplement, monograph no. 2), p. 93.

The first divergence among the Old East Slavic texts is evident during the 12th century, during the era of Kievan Rus', i.e. some texts can be linguistically located to areas that are now in Russia, Ukraine or Belarus. This leads many Russian scholars to speak of the existence of a separate Russian language as early as the 12th century.

Mutual Influences

See also

cs:Vychodoslovansk jazyky de:Ostslawische Sprachen et:Idaslaavi keeled no:stslaviske sprk pl:Języki wschodniosłowiańskie

Navigation

Academic Kids Menu

  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Art)
    • Architecture (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Architecture)
    • Cultures (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Cultures)
    • Music (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Music)
    • Musical Instruments (http://academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/List_of_musical_instruments)
  • Biographies (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Biographies)
  • Clipart (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Clipart)
  • Geography (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Geography)
    • Countries of the World (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Countries)
    • Maps (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Maps)
    • Flags (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Flags)
    • Continents (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Continents)
  • History (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/History)
    • Ancient Civilizations (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Ancient_Civilizations)
    • Industrial Revolution (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Industrial_Revolution)
    • Middle Ages (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Middle_Ages)
    • Prehistory (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Prehistory)
    • Renaissance (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Renaissance)
    • Timelines (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Timelines)
    • United States (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/United_States)
    • Wars (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Wars)
    • World History (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/History_of_the_world)
  • Human Body (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Human_Body)
  • Mathematics (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Mathematics)
  • Reference (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Reference)
  • Science (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Science)
    • Animals (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Animals)
    • Aviation (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Aviation)
    • Dinosaurs (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Dinosaurs)
    • Earth (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Earth)
    • Inventions (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Inventions)
    • Physical Science (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Physical_Science)
    • Plants (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Plants)
    • Scientists (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Scientists)
  • Social Studies (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Social_Studies)
    • Anthropology (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Anthropology)
    • Economics (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Economics)
    • Government (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Government)
    • Religion (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Religion)
    • Holidays (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Holidays)
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Solar_System)
    • Planets (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Planets)
  • Sports (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Sports)
  • Timelines (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Timelines)
  • Weather (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Weather)
  • US States (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/US_States)

Information

  • Home Page (http://academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php)
  • Contact Us (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Contactus)

  • Clip Art (http://classroomclipart.com)
Toolbox
Personal tools