руский языкъ ruskij jazykŭ
|Native to||Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth (language of administration of Grand Duchy of Lithuania until 1699)|
|Extinct||developed into Belarusian, Ukrainian and Rusyn.|
Ruthenian, or Old Ruthenian (see other names), is a term used for the varieties of Eastern Slavonic spoken in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and later in the East Slavic territories of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. The written form is also called Chancery Slavonic.
Scholars do not agree whether Ruthenian was a separate language or a Western dialect(s) of Old East Slavic, but it is agreed that Ruthenian has a close genetic relationship with it. Old East Slavic was the colloquial language used in Kievan Rus' (10th – 13th centuries). Ruthenian can be seen as a predecessor of modern Belarusian, Rusyn and Ukrainian. Indeed all these languages, from Old East Slavic to Rusyn, have been labelled as Ruthenian (Ukrainian: Рутенська мова, русинська мова).
In modern texts, the language in question is sometimes called "Old Belarusian" or starabiełaruskaja mova (Belarusian: “Старабеларуская мова”) and "Old Ukrainian" or staroukrajinska mova (Ukrainian: “Староукраїнська мова”). As Ruthenian was always in a kind of diglossic opposition to Church Slavonic, this vernacular language was and still is often called prosta(ja) mova (Cyrillic проста(я) мова), literally "simple language".
- Names in contemporary use
- Ruthenian (Old Belarusian: руски езыкъ) — by the contemporaries, but, generally, not in contemporary Russia.
- (variant) Simple Ruthenian or simple talk (Old Belarusian: простый руский (язык) or простая молва) — publisher Grigoriy Khodkevich (16th century).
- Lithuanian (Russian: Литовский язык) — possibly, exclusive reference to it in the contemporary Russia. Also by Zizaniy (end of the 16th century), Pamva Berynda (1653).
- Names in modern use
- (Old) Ruthenian — modern collective name, covering both Old Belarusian and Old Ukrainian languages, predominantly used by the 20th-century Lithuanian, also many Polish and English researchers.
- (Old) West Russian, language or dialect (Russian: (Древний) западнорусский язык, Russian: (Древнее) западнорусское наречие) — chiefly by the supporters of the concept of the Proto-Russian phase, esp. since the end of the 19th century, e.g., by Karskiy, Shakhmatov. Russian Wikipedia uses the term West Russian written language (Западнорусский письменный язык).
- (Old) Belarusian (language) — rarely in contemporary Russia. Also Kryzhanich. The denotation Belarusian (language) (Russian: белорусский (язык)) when referring both to the 19th-century language and to the Medieval language had been used in works of the 19th-century Russian researchers Fyodor Buslayev, Ogonovskiy, Zhitetskiy, Sobolevskiy, Nedeshev, Vladimirov and Belarusian nationalists, such as Karskiy.
- Lithuanian-Russian (Russian: литовско-русский) — by 19th-century Russian researchers Keppen, archbishop Filaret, Sakharov, Karatayev.
- Lithuanian-Slavonic (Russian: литово-славянский) — by 19th-century Russian researcher Baranovskiy.
- Russian-Polish or even Polish dialect — Shtritter, Polish researcher Samuel Bogumił Linde, Polish writer Wisniewski. Notably, the definition had been used even when referencing to Skaryna’s translation of Bible.
- Old Ukrainian or staroukrajinska mova (Ukrainian: “Староукраїнська мова”).
- Chancery Slavonic (see above).
Note that ISO/DIS 639-3 and SIL currently assigns the code rue for the language which is documented with native name "русин (rusyn)", that they simply named "Ruthenian" in English (and "ruthène" in French) instead "modern Ruthenian" (and "ruthène moderne" in French) : this code is now designated as the Rusyn language.
Divergence between literary Ruthenian and literary Russian
As Eastern Europe gradually freed itself from the "Tatar yoke" in the 14th century, there were four princes that adopted the title of Grand Duke. Two of them started to collect the East Slavic territories: one in Moscow and one in Halych. These activities resulted in two separate mainly East Slavic states, the Grand Duchy of Moscow, which eventually evolved into the Russian Empire, and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which covered roughly the territories of modern Belarus, Ukraine, Lithuania, and western Russia, and later united with Poland to form the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Linguistically, both states continued to use the regional varieties of the literary language of Kievan Rus', but due to the immense Polish influence in the west and to the Church Slavonic influence in the east, they gradually developed into two distinct literary languages: Ruthenian in Lithuania and the Commonwealth, and (Old) Russian in Muscovy. Both were usually called Ruskij (of Rus’) or Slovenskij (Slavonic); only when a differentiation between the literary language of Muscovy and the one of Lithuania was needed was the former called Moskovskij 'Muscovite' (and, rarely, the latter Lytvynskij 'Lithuanian').
This linguistic divergence is confirmed by the need for translators during the mid-17th-century negotiations for the Treaty of Pereyaslav, between Bohdan Khmelnytsky, ruler of the Zaporozhian Host, and the Russian state.
Continuing Polish influence
Since the Union of Lublin in 1569, the southern territories of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania came under direct administration by the Polish Crown, whereas the north retained some autonomy. It is possible that this resulted in differences concerning the status of Ruthenian as an official language and the intensity of Polish influence on Ruthenian. However, in both parts of the Commonwealth inhabited by Eastern Slavs, Ruthenian remained a lingua franca, and in both parts it was gradually replaced by Polish as a language of literature, religious polemic, and official documents.
New national languages
With the beginning of romanticism at the turn of the 19th century, literary Belarusian and literary Ukrainian appeared, descendant from the popular spoken dialects and little-influenced by literary Ruthenian. Meanwhile, Russian retained a layer of Church Slavonic "high vocabulary", so that nowadays the most striking lexical differences between Russian on the one hand and Belarusian and Ukrainian on the other are the much greater share of Slavonicisms in the former and of Polonisms in the latter.
The interruption of the literary tradition was especially drastic in Belarusian: In the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Polish had largely replaced Ruthenian as the language of administration and literature. After that Belarusian only survived as a rural spoken language with almost no written tradition until the mid-19th century.
In contrast to the Belarusians and Eastern Ukrainians, the Western Ukrainians who came to live in Austria-Hungary retained not only the name Ruthenian but also much more of the Church Slavonic and Polish elements of Ruthenian. For disambiguation, in English these Ukrainians are usually called by the native form of their name, Rusyns.
- e.g., Elana Goldberg Shohamy and Monica Barni, Linguistic Landscape in the City (Multilingual Matters, 2010: ISBN 1847692974), p. 139: "[The Grand Duchy of Lithuania] adopted as its official language the literary version of Ruthenian, written in Cyrillic and also known as Chancery Slavonic"; Virgil Krapauskas, Nationalism and Historiography: The Case of Nineteenth-Century Lithuanian Historicism (East European Monographs, 2000: ISBN 0880334576), p. 26: "By the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries Chancery Slavonic dominated the written state language in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania"; Timothy Snyder, The Reconstruction Of Nations: Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, 1569-1999 (Yale University Press, 2004: ISBN 030010586X), p. 18: "Local recensions of Church Slavonic, introduced by Orthodox churchmen from more southerly lands, provided the basis for Chancery Slavonic, the court language of the Grand Duchy."
- Ukrainian language, Encyclopædia Britannica
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