|Native speakers||30 million (2007)|
Old East Slavic
|Writing system||Cyrillic (Ukrainian alphabet)
|Official language in|
|Recognised minority language in|
|Regulated by||National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine: Institute for the Ukrainian Language, Ukrainian language-informatical fund, Potebnya Institute of Language Studies|
|Linguasphere||53-AAA-ed < 53-AAA-e
(varieties: 53-AAA-eda to 53-AAA-edq)
Ukrainian language and Ukrainians with their neighbours in the early 20th century.
Ukrainian (украї́нська мо́ва ukrayins'ka mova, pronounced [ukrɑˈjɪɲsʲkɑ ˈmɔwɑ]) is a member of the East Slavic subgroup of the Slavic languages. It is the official state language of Ukraine and the principal language of the Ukrainians. Written Ukrainian uses a variant of the Cyrillic script.
The Ukrainian language traces its origins to the Old East Slavic of the early medieval state of Kievan Rus'. From 1804 until the Russian Revolution Ukrainian was banned from schools in the Russian Empire of which Ukraine was a part at the time. It has always maintained a sufficient base in Western Ukraine where the language was never banned in its folklore songs, itinerant musicians, and prominent authors.
The standard Ukrainian language is regulated by the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine (NANU), particularly by its Institute for the Ukrainian Language, Ukrainian language-informatical fund, and Potebnya Institute of Language Studies. Ukrainian, Russian, Belarusian, and Rusyn have a high degree of mutual intelligibility. Lexically, the closest to Ukrainian is Belarusian (84% of common vocabulary), followed by Polish (70%), Serbo-Croatian (68%), Slovak (66%) and Russian (62%).
Linguistic development of the Ukrainian language 
Theories concerning the Ukrainian language's development 
A 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 Mikhail 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.
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 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 scholars[who?] see a divergence between the language of Galicia-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.
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 Yevhen Tymchenko, Vsevolod Hantsov, 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 confirmed by Yuri Shevelov's phonological studies and, although it is gaining a number of supporters among Ukrainian academics, it is not seriously regarded outside Ukraine.
Outside Ukraine, however, such nationalist-based theories that distance Ukrainian from East Slavic have found few followers among international scholars and most academics continue to place Ukrainian firmly within the East Slavic group, descended from Proto-East Slavic, with close ties to Belarusian and Russian.
Origins and developments during medieval times 
As the result of close Slavic contacts with the remnants of Scythian and Sarmatian population north of the Black Sea, lasting into the early Middle Ages, is explained the appearance of voiced fricative γ(h) in modern Ukrainian and some southern Russian dialects, that initially emerged in Scythian and the related eastern Iranian dialects from earlier common Proto-Indo-European g* and gh*.
Ukrainian traces its roots through the mid-14th century Ruthenian language, a chancellery language of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, back to the early written evidences of 10th century Rus'. Until the end of the 18th century, the written language used in Ukraine was quite different from the spoken, which is one of the key difficulties in tracing the origin of the Ukrainian language more precisely. There is little direct data on the origin of the Ukrainian language. Scholars rely on indirect methods: analysis of typical mistakes in old manuscripts, comparison of linguistic data with historical, anthropological, archaeological ones, etc. Several theories of the origin of Ukrainian language exist.
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 Old Church Slavonic, Ruthenian and Polish with the influence of the last of these three gradually increasing. 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 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).
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.
History of the Ukrainian spoken language's usage 
Rus' and Galicia-Volhynia 
During the Khazar period, the territory of Ukraine, settled at that time by Iranian (post-Scythian), Turkic (post-Hunnic, proto-Bulgarian), and Uralic (proto-Hungarian) tribes, was progressively Slavicized by several waves of migration from the Slavic north. Finally, the Varangian ruler of Novgorod, called Oleg, seized Kiev (Kyiv) and established the political entity of Rus'. Some theorists see an early Ukrainian stage in language development here; others term this era Old East Slavic or Old Ruthenian/Rus'ian. Russian theorists tend to amalgamate Rus' to the modern nation of Russia, and call this linguistic era Old Russian. Some hold that linguistic unity over Rus' was not present, but tribal diversity in language was.
The era of Rus' is the subject of some linguistic controversy, as the language of much of the literature was purely or heavily Old Slavonic. At the same time, most legal documents throughout Rus' were written in a purely Old East Slavic language (supposed to be based on the Kiev dialect of that epoch). Scholarly controversies over earlier development aside, literary records from Rus' testify to substantial divergence between Russian and Ruthenian/Rusyn forms of the Ukrainian language as early as the era of Rus'. One vehicle of this divergence (or widening divergence) was the large scale appropriation of the Old Slavonic language in the northern reaches of Rus' and of the Polish language at the territory of modern Ukraine. As evidenced by the contemporary chronicles, the ruling princes of Galich (modern Halych) and Kiev called themselves "People of Rus'" (with the exact Cyrillic spelling of the adjective from of Rus' varying among sources), which contrasts sharply with the lack of ethnic self-appellation for the area until the mid-19th century.
One prominent example of this north-south divergence in Rus' from around 1200, was the epic, The Tale of Igor's Campaign. Like other examples of Old Rus' literature (for example, Byliny, the Primary Chronicle), which survived only in Northern Russia (Upper Volga belt) and was probably created there.
Under Lithuania/Poland, Muscovy/Russia, and Austro-Hungary 
After the fall of Galicia–Volhynia, Ukrainians mainly fell under the rule of Lithuania, then Poland. Local autonomy of both rule and language was a marked feature of Lithuanian rule. In the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Old Slavic became the language of the chancellery and gradually evolved into the Ruthenian language. Polish rule, which came mainly later, was accompanied by a more assimilationist policy. By the 1569 Union of Lublin that formed the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, a significant part of Ukrainian territory was moved from Lithuanian rule to Polish administration, resulting in cultural Polonization and visible attempts to colonize Ukraine by the Polish nobility. Many Ukrainian nobles learned the Polish language and adopted Catholicism during that period. Lower classes were less affected because literacy was common only in the upper class and clergy. The latter were also under significant Polish pressure after the Union with the Catholic Church. Most of the educational system was gradually Polonized. In Ruthenia, the language of administrative documents gradually shifted towards Polish.
The Polish language has had heavy influences on Ukrainian (particularly in Western Ukraine). The south-western Ukrainian dialects are transitional to Polish. As the Ukrainian language developed further, some borrowings from Tatar and Turkish occurred. Ukrainian culture and language flourished in the sixteenth and first half of the 17th century, when Ukraine was part of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. Among many schools established in that time, the Kiev-Mogila Collegium (the predecessor of modern Kyiv-Mohyla Academy), founded by the Orthodox Metropolitan Peter Mogila (Petro Mohyla), was the most important. At that time languages were associated more with religions: Catholics spoke Polish language, Orthodox spoke Rusyn language.
After the Treaty of Pereyaslav, Ukrainian high culture was sent into a long period of steady decline. In the aftermath, the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy was taken over by the Russian Empire and closed down later in 19th century. Most of the remaining Ukrainian schools also switched to Polish or Russian, in the territories controlled by these respective countries, which was followed by a new wave of Polonization and Russification of the native nobility. Gradually the official language of Ukrainian provinces under Poland was changed to Polish, while the upper classes in the Russian part of Ukraine used Russian widely.
During the 19th century, a revival of Ukrainian self-identity manifested itself in the literary classes of both Russian-Empire Dnieper Ukraine and Austrian Galicia. The Brotherhood of Sts Cyril and Methodius in Kiev applied an old word for the Cossack motherland, Ukrajina, as a self-appellation for the nation of Ukrainians, and Ukrajins'ka mova for the language. Many writers published works in the Romantic tradition of Europe demonstrating that Ukrainian was not merely a language of the village, but suitable for literary pursuits.
However, in the Russian Empire expressions of Ukrainian culture and especially language were repeatedly persecuted, for fear that a self-aware Ukrainian nation would threaten the unity of the Empire. In 1804 Ukrainian as a subject and as language of instruction was banned from schools. In 1811 by the Order of the Russian government the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy was closed. The Academy that had been open since 1632 and was the first university in the eastern Europe, was now proclaimed to be outlaw. In 1847 the Brotherhood of Sts Cyril and Methodius was terminated. The same year Taras Shevchenko was arrested and exiled for ten years, and banned for political reasons from writing and painting. In 1862 Pavlo Chubynsky was exiled for seven years out of Ukraine to Arkhangelsk. The Ukrainian magazine Osnova was discontinued. In 1863, the tsarist interior minister Pyotr Valuyev proclaimed in his decree that "there never has been, is not, and never can be a separate Little Russian language". A following ban on Ukrainian books led to Alexander II's secret Ems Ukaz, which prohibited publication and importation of most Ukrainian-language books, public performances and lectures, and even the printing of Ukrainian texts accompanying musical scores. A period of leniency after 1905 was followed by another strict ban in 1914, which also affected Russian-occupied Galicia.
For much of the 19th century the Austrian authorities demonstrated some preference for Polish culture, but the Ukrainians were relatively free to partake in their own cultural pursuits in Halychyna and Bukovyna, where Ukrainian was widely used in education and in official documents. The suppression by Russia retarded the literary development of the Ukrainian language in Dnipro Ukraine, but there was a constant exchange with Halychyna, and many works were published under Austria and smuggled to the east.
By the time of the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the collapse of Austro-Hungary in 1918, the former 'Ruthenians' or 'Little Russians' were ready to openly develop a body of national literature, to institute a Ukrainian-language educational system, and to form an independent state, named Ukraine (the Ukrainian People's Republic, shortly joined by the West Ukrainian People's Republic). During this brief independent statehood the stature and use of Ukrainian greatly improved.
Speakers in the Russian Empire 
In the Russian Empire Census of 1897 the following picture emerged, with Ukrainian being the second most spoken language of the Russian Empire. According to the Imperial census's terminology, the Russian language (Русскій) was subdivided into Ukrainian (Малорусскій, 'Little Russian'), what we know as Russian today (Вѣликорусскій, 'Great Russian'), and Belarusian (Бѣлорусскій, 'White Russian').
The following table shows the distribution of settlement by native language ("по родному языку") in 1897, in Russian Empire governorates (guberniyas) which had more than 100,000 Ukrainian speakers.
|Total population||Ukrainian speakers||Russian speakers||Polish speakers|
|Entire Russian Empire||125,640,021||22,380,551||55,667,469||7,931,307|
incl. Ukraine & Belarus
|Don Host Province||2,564,238||719,655||1,712,898||3,316|
|City of Odessa||403,815||37,925||198,233||17,395|
Although in the rural regions of the Ukraine provinces, 80% of the inhabitants said that Ukrainian was their native language in the Census of 1897 (for which the results are given above), in the urban regions only 32.5% of the population claimed Ukrainian as their native language. For example, in Odessa, the largest city of Ukraine at this time, only 5.6% of the population said Ukrainian was their native language. Until the 1920s the urban population in Ukraine grew faster than the number of Ukrainian speakers. This implies that there was a (relative) decline in the use of Ukrainian language. For example, in Kiev, the number of people stating that Ukrainian was their native language declined from 30.3% in 1874 to 16.6% in 1917.
Soviet era 
During the seven-decade-long Soviet era, the Ukrainian language held the formal position of the principal local language in the Ukrainian SSR. However, practice was often a different story: Ukrainian always had to compete with Russian, and the attitudes of the Soviet leadership towards Ukrainian varied from encouragement and tolerance to discouragement.
Officially, there was no state language in the Soviet Union until the very end when it was proclaimed in 1990 that Russian language is the all-Union state language and that the constituent republics had rights to declare additional state languages within their jurisdictions. Still it was implicitly understood in the hopes of minority nations that Ukrainian would be used in the Ukrainian SSR, Uzbek would be used in the Uzbek SSR, and so on. However, Russian was used in all parts of the Soviet Union and a special term, "a language of inter-ethnic communication" was coined to denote its status. In reality, Russian was in a privileged position in the USSR and was the state official language in everything but formal name—although formally all languages were held up as equal.
Soviet language policy in Ukraine may be divided into the following policy periods:
- Ukrainianization and tolerance (1921–1932)
- Persecution and Russification (1933–1957)
- Khrushchev thaw (1958–1962)
- The Shelest period: limited progress (1963–1972)
- The Shcherbytsky period: gradual suppression (1973–1989)
- Mikhail Gorbachev and perestroika (1990–1991)
Ukrainianization and tolerance 
Following the Russian Revolution, the Russian Empire was broken up. In different parts of the former empire, several nations, including Ukrainians, developed a renewed sense of national identity. In the chaotic post-revolutionary years the Ukrainian language gained some usage in government affairs. Initially, this trend continued under the Bolshevik government of the Soviet Union, which in a political struggle to retain its grip over the territory had to encourage the national movements of the former Russian Empire. While trying to ascertain and consolidate its power, the Bolshevik government was by far more concerned about many political oppositions connected to the pre-revolutionary order than about the national movements inside the former empire, where it could always find allies.
The widening use of Ukrainian further developed in the first years of Bolshevik rule into a policy called korenizatsiya. The government pursued a policy of Ukrainianization by lifting a ban on the Ukrainian language. That led to the introduction of an impressive education program which allowed the Ukrainian taught classes and raised the literacy of the Ukrainophone population. This policy was led by Education Commissar Mykola Skrypnyk and was directed to approximate the language to Russian. Newly generated academic efforts from the period of independence were co-opted by the Bolshevik government. The party and government apparatus was mostly Russian-speaking but were encouraged to learn the Ukrainian language. Simultaneously, the newly literate ethnic Ukrainians migrated to the cities, which became rapidly largely Ukrainianized – in both population and in education.
The policy even reached those regions of southern Russian SFSR where the ethnic Ukrainian population was significant, particularly the areas by the Don River and especially Kuban in the North Caucasus. Ukrainian language teachers, just graduated from expanded institutions of higher education in Soviet Ukraine, were dispatched to these regions to staff newly opened Ukrainian schools or to teach Ukrainian as a second language in Russian schools. A string of local Ukrainian-language publications were started and departments of Ukrainian studies were opened in colleges. Overall, these policies were implemented in thirty-five raions (administrative districts) in southern Russia.
Khrushchev thaw 
After the death of Stalin (1953), a general policy of relaxing the language policies of the past was implemented (1958 to 1963). The Nikita Khrushchev era which followed saw a policy of relatively lenient concessions to development of the languages on the local and republican level, though its results in Ukraine did not go nearly as far as those of the Soviet policy of Ukrainianization in the 1920s. Journals and encyclopedic publications advanced in the Ukrainian language during the Khrushchev era.
Yet, the 1958 school reform that allowed parents to choose the language of primary instruction for their children, unpopular among the circles of the national intelligentsia in parts of the USSR, meant that non-Russian languages would slowly give way to Russian in light of the pressures of survival and advancement. The gains of the past, already largely reversed by the Stalin era, were offset by the liberal attitude towards the requirement to study the local languages (the requirement to study Russian remained). Parents were usually free to choose the language of study of their children (except in few areas where attending the Ukrainian school might have required a long daily commute) and they often chose Russian, which reinforced the resulting Russification. In this sense, some analysts argue that it was not the "oppression" or "persecution", but rather the lack of protection against the expansion of Russian language that contributed to the relative decline of Ukrainian in 1970s and 1980s. According to this view, it was inevitable that successful careers required a good command of Russian, while knowledge of Ukrainian was not vital, so it was common for Ukrainian parents to send their children to Russian-language schools, even though Ukrainian-language schools were usually available. While in the Russian-language schools within the republic, Ukrainian was supposed to be learned as a second language at comparable level, the instruction of other subjects was in Russian and, as a result, students had a greater command of Russian than Ukrainian on graduation. Additionally, in some areas of the republic, the attitude towards teaching and learning of Ukrainian in schools was relaxed and it was, sometimes, considered a subject of secondary importance and even a waiver from studying it was sometimes given under various, ever expanding, circumstances.
The complete suppression of all expressions of separatism or Ukrainian nationalism also contributed to lessening interest in Ukrainian. Some people who persistently used Ukrainian on a daily basis were often perceived as though they were expressing sympathy towards, or even being members of, the political opposition. This, combined with advantages given by Russian fluency and usage, made Russian the primary language of choice for many Ukrainians, while Ukrainian was more of a hobby. In any event, the mild liberalization in Ukraine and elsewhere was stifled by new suppression of freedoms at the end of the Khrushchev era (1963) when a policy of gradually creeping suppression of Ukrainian was re-instituted.
The next part of the Soviet Ukrainian language policy divides into two eras: first, the Shelest period (early 1960s to early 1970s), which was relatively liberal towards the development of the Ukrainian language. The second era, the policy of Shcherbytsky (early 1970s to early 1990s), was one of gradual suppression of the Ukrainian language.
Shelest period 
The Communist Party leader Petro Shelest pursued a policy of defending Ukraine's interests within the Soviet Union. He proudly promoted the beauty of the Ukrainian language and developed plans to expand the role of Ukrainian in higher education. He was removed, however, after only a brief tenure, for being too lenient on Ukrainian nationalism.
Shcherbytsky period 
The new party boss, Volodymyr Shcherbytsky, purged the local party, was fierce in suppressing dissent, and insisted Russian be spoken at all official functions, even at local levels. His policy of Russification was lessened only slightly after 1985.
Gorbachev and perestroika 
The management of dissent by the local Ukrainian Communist Party was more fierce and thorough than in other parts of the Soviet Union. As a result, at the start of the Mikhail Gorbachev reforms, Ukraine under Shcherbytsky was slower to liberalize than Russia itself.
Although Ukrainian still remained the native language for the majority in the nation on the eve of Ukrainian independence, a significant share of ethnic Ukrainians were Russified. In Donetsk there were no Ukrainian language schools and in Kiev only a quarter of children went to Ukrainian language schools.
The Russian language was the dominant vehicle, not just of government function, but of the media, commerce, and modernity itself. This was substantially less the case for western Ukraine, which escaped the artificial famine, Great Purge, and most of Stalinism. And this region became the piedmont of a hearty, if only partial, renaissance of the Ukrainian language during independence.
Independence in the modern era 
Since 1991, Ukrainian has been the official state language in Ukraine and the state administration implemented government policies to broaden the use of Ukrainian. The educational system in Ukraine has been transformed over the first decade of independence from a system that is partly Ukrainian to one that is overwhelmingly so. The government has also mandated a progressively increased role for Ukrainian in the media and commerce. In some cases the abrupt changing of the language of instruction in institutions of secondary and higher education led to the charges of Ukrainianization, raised mostly by the Russian-speaking population. This transition however lacked most of the controversies that arose during the de-russification of the other former Soviet Republics.
With time, most residents, including ethnic Russians, people of mixed origin, and Russian-speaking Ukrainians started to self-identify as Ukrainian nationals, even those who remained Russophone. The Russian language however still dominates the print media in most of Ukraine and private radio and TV broadcasting in the eastern, southern, and to a lesser degree central regions. The state-controlled broadcast media have become exclusively Ukrainian. There are few obstacles to the usage of Russian in commerce and it is still occasionally used in government affairs.
In the 2001 census, 67.5% of the country population named Ukrainian as their native language (a 2.8% increase from 1989), while 29.6% named Russian (a 3.2% decrease). It should be noted, though, that for many Ukrainians (of various ethnic descent), the term native language may not necessarily associate with the language they use more frequently. The overwhelming majority of ethnic Ukrainians consider the Ukrainian language native, including those who often speak Russian. According to the official 2001 census data approximately 75% of Kiev's population responded "Ukrainian" to the native language (ridna mova) census question, and roughly 25% responded "Russian". On the other hand, when the question "What language do you use in everyday life?" was asked in the sociological survey, the Kievans' answers were distributed as follows: "mostly Russian": 52%, "both Russian and Ukrainian in equal measure": 32%, "mostly Ukrainian": 14%, "exclusively Ukrainian": 4.3%. Ethnic minorities, such as Romanians, Tatars and Jews usually use Russian as their lingua franca. But there are tendencies within these minority groups to use Ukrainian. The Jewish writer Olexander Beyderman from the mainly Russian speaking city of Odessa is now writing most of his dramas in Ukrainian. The emotional relationship regarding Ukrainian is changing in southern and eastern areas.
Opposition to expansion of Ukrainian-language teaching is a matter of contention in eastern regions closer to Russia – in May 2008, the Donetsk city council prohibited the creation of any new Ukrainian schools in the city in which 80% of them are Russian-language schools.
Literature and the Ukrainian literary language 
The literary Ukrainian language, which was preceded by Old East Slavic literature, may be subdivided into three stages: old Ukrainian (12th to 14th centuries), middle Ukrainian (14th to 18th centuries), and modern Ukrainian (end of the 18th century to the present). Much literature was written in the periods of the old and middle Ukrainian language, including legal acts, polemical articles, science treatises and fiction of all sorts.
Influential literary figures in the development of modern Ukrainian literature include the philosopher Hryhorii Skovoroda, Ivan Kotlyarevsky, Mykola Kostomarov, Mykhailo Kotsiubynsky, Taras Shevchenko, Ivan Franko, and Lesia Ukrainka. The earliest literary work in the modern Ukrainian language was recorded in 1798 when Ivan Kotlyarevsky, a playwright from Poltava in southeastern Ukraine, published his epic poem, Eneyida, a burlesque in Ukrainian, based on Virgil's Aeneid. His book was published in vernacular Ukrainian in a satirical way to avoid being censored, and is the earliest known Ukrainian published book to survive through Imperial and, later, Soviet policies on the Ukrainian language.
Kotlyarevsky's work and that of another early writer using the Ukrainian vernacular language, Petro Artemovsky, used the southeastern dialect spoken in the Poltava, Kharkiv and southern Kieven regions of the Russian Empire. This dialect would serve as the basis of the Ukrainian literary language when it was developed by Taras Shevchenko and Panteleimon Kulish in the mid 19th century. In order to raise its status from that of a dialect to that of a language, various elements from folklore and traditional styles were added to it.
The Ukrainian literary language developed further when the Russian state banned the use of the Ukrainian language, prompting many of its writers to move to the western Ukrainian region of Galicia which was under more liberal Austrian rule; after the 1860s the majority of Ukrainian literary works were published in Austrian Galicia. During this period Galician influences were adopted in the Ukrainian literary language, particularly with respect to vocabulary involving law, government, technology, science, and administration.
Current usage 
The use of the Ukrainian language is increasing after a long period of decline. Although there are almost fifty million ethnic Ukrainians worldwide, including 37.5 million in Ukraine (77.8% of the total population), the Ukrainian language is prevalent only in western and central Ukraine. In Kiev, both Ukrainian and Russian are spoken, a notable shift from the recent past when the city was primarily Russian speaking. The shift is believed to be caused, largely, by an influx of the rural population and migrants from the western regions of Ukraine but also by some Kievans' turning to use the language they speak at home more widely in everyday matters. Public signs and announcements in Kiev are in Ukrainian. In southern and eastern Ukraine, Russian is the prevalent language of the urban population. According to the Ukrainian Census of 2001, 87.8% people living in Ukraine communicate in Ukrainian.
Use of the Ukrainian language in Ukraine can be expected to increase, as the rural population migrates into the cities. In eastern and southern Ukraine, the rural Ukrainophones continue to prefer Russian. Interest in Ukrainian literature is growing rapidly, compensating for the periods when its development was hindered by either policies of direct suppression or lack of the state support.
- Northern (Polissian) dialects:
- (3) Eastern Polissian is spoken in Chernihiv (excluding the southeastern districts), in the northern part of Sumy, and in the southeastern portion of the Kiev Oblast as well as in the adjacent areas of Russia, which include the southwestern part of the Bryansk Oblast (the area around Starodub), as well as in some places in the Kursk, Voronezh and Belgorod Oblasts. No linguistic border can be defined. The vocabulary approaches Russian as the language approaches the Russian Federation. Both Ukrainian and Russian grammar sets can be applied to this dialect.
- (2) Central Polissian is spoken in the northwestern part of the Kiev Oblast, in the northern part of Zhytomyr and the northeastern part of the Rivne Oblast.
- (1) West Polissian is spoken in the northern part of the Volyn Oblast, the northwestern part of the Rivne Oblast as well as in the adjacent districts of the Brest Voblast in Belarus. The dialect spoken in Belarus uses Belarusian grammar, and thus is considered by some to be a dialect of Belarusian.
- Southeastern dialects:
- (4) Middle Dnieprian is the basis of the Standard Literary Ukrainian. It is spoken in the central part of Ukraine, primarily in the southern and eastern part of the Kiev Oblast). In addition, the dialects spoken in Cherkasy, Poltava and Kiev regions are considered to be close to "standard" Ukrainian.
- (5) Slobodan is spoken in Kharkiv, Sumy, Luhansk, and the northern part of Donetsk, as well as in the Voronezh and Belgorod regions of Russia. This dialect is formed from a gradual mixture of Russian and Ukrainian, with progressively more Russian in the northern and eastern parts of the region. Thus, there is no linguistic border between Russian and Ukrainian, and, thus, both grammar sets can be applied.
- A (6) Steppe dialect is spoken in southern and southeastern Ukraine. This dialect was originally the main language of the Zaporozhian Cossacks.
- A Kuban dialect related to or based on the Steppe dialect is often referred to as Balachka and is spoken by the Kuban Cossacks in the Kuban region in Russia by the descendants of the Zaporozhian Cossacks, who settled in that area in the late 18th century. It was formed from gradual mixture of Russian into Ukrainian. This dialect features the use of some Russian vocabulary along with some Russian grammar. There are 3 main variants which have been grouped together according to location.
- Southwestern dialects:
- (13) Boyko is spoken by the Boyko people on the northern side of the Carpathian Mountains in the Lviv and Ivano-Frankivsk Oblasts. It can also be heard across the border in the Subcarpathian Voivodeship of Poland.
- (12) Hutsul is spoken by the Hutsul people on the northern slopes of the Carpathian Mountains, in the extreme southern parts of the Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast, as well as in parts of the Chernivtsi and Transcarpathian Oblasts.
- Lemko is spoken by the Lemko people, whose homeland rests outside the borders of Ukraine in the Prešov Region of Slovakia along the southern side of the Carpathian Mountains, and in the southeast of modern Poland, along the northern sides of the Carpathians.
- (8) Podillian is spoken in the southern parts of the Vinnytsia and Khmelnytskyi Oblasts, in the northern part of the Odessa Oblast, and in the adjacent districts of the Cherkasy Oblast, the Kirovohrad Oblast and the Mykolaiv Oblast.
- (7) Volynian is spoken in Rivne and Volyn, as well as in parts of Zhytomyr and Ternopil. It is also used in Chełm in Poland.
- (11) Pokuttia (Bukovynian) is spoken in the Chernivtsi Oblast of Ukraine. This dialect has some distinct volcabulary borrowed from Romanian.
- (9) Upper Dniestrian is considered to be the main Galician dialect, spoken in the Lviv, Ternopil and Ivano-Frankivsk Oblasts. Its distinguishing characteristics are the influence of Polish and the German vocabulary, which is reminiscent of the Austro-Hungarian rule. Some of the distinct words used in this dialect can be found here.
- (10) Upper Sannian is spoken in the border area between Ukraine and Poland in the San river valley.
- The Rusyn language is considered by Ukrainian linguists to be also a dialect of Ukrainian:
- Dolinian Rusyn or Subcarpathian Rusyn is spoken in the Transcarpathian Oblast.
- Pannonian or Bačka Rusyn is spoken in northwestern Serbia and eastern Croatia. Rusin language of the Bačka dialect is one of the official languages of the Serbian Autonomous Province of Vojvodina.
- Pryashiv Rusyn is the Rusyn spoken in the Prešov (in Ukrainian: Pryashiv) region of Slovakia, as well as by some émigré communities, primarily in the United States of America.
Ukrainian is also spoken by a large émigré population, particularly in Canada (see Canadian Ukrainian), United States and several countries of South America like Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay. The founders of this population primarily emigrated from Galicia, which used to be part of Austro-Hungary before World War I, and belonged to Poland between the World Wars. The language spoken by most of them is the Galician dialect of Ukrainian from the first half of the 20th century. Compared with modern Ukrainian, the vocabulary of Ukrainians outside Ukraine reflects less influence of Russian, but often contains many loan words from the local language.
Ukrainian diaspora 
Most of the countries where it is spoken are ex-USSR where many Ukrainians have migrated. Canada and the United States are also home to a large Ukrainian population. Broken up by country (to the nearest thousand):
- Russia 1,129,838 (according to the 2010 census);
- Canada 200,525 (67,665 spoken at home in 2001, 148,000 spoken as "mother tongue" in 2006)
Language structure 
Old East Slavic (and Russian) o in closed syllables, that is, ending in a consonant, in many cases corresponds to a Ukrainian i, as in pod->pid (під, 'under'). Thus, in the declension of nouns, the o can re-appear as it is no longer located in a closed syllable, such as rik (рік, 'year') (nom): rotsi (loc) (році).
Ukrainian case endings are somewhat different from Old East Slavic, and the vocabulary includes a large overlay of Polish terminology. Russian na pervom etaže 'on the first floor' is in the locative (prepositional) case. The Ukrainian corresponding expression is na peršomu poversi (на першому поверсі). -omu is the standard locative (prepositional) ending, but variants in -im are common in dialect and poetry, and allowed by the standards bodies. The kh of Ukrainian poverkh (поверх) has mutated into s under the influence of the soft vowel i (k is similarly mutable into c in final positions). Ukrainian is the only modern East Slavic language which preserves the vocative case.
The Ukrainian language has six vowels, /ɑ/, /ɛ/, /ɪ/, /i/, /ɔ/, /u/, and two approximants /j/, /w/.
The letter г represents different consonants in Old East Slavic and Ukrainian. Ukrainian г /ɦ/, often transliterated as Latin h, is the voiced equivalent of Old East Slavic х /x/. The Russian (and Old East Slavic) letter г denotes /ɡ/. Russian-speakers from Ukraine and Southern Russia often use the soft Ukrainian г, in place of the hard Old East Slavic one. The Ukrainian alphabet has the additional letter ґ, for representing /ɡ/, which appears in some Ukrainian words such as gryndžoly (ґринджоли, 'sleigh') and gudzyk (ґудзик, 'button'). However, the letter ґ appears almost exclusively in loan words, and is usually simply written г due to the relative unavailability of the letter. For example, loanwords from English on public signs usually use г for both English "g" and "h". This sound is still more rare in Ukrainian than in Czech or Slovak.
Another phonetic divergence between the two languages is the pronunciation of "v", the Cyrillic в. While in standard Russian it represents /v/, in many Ukrainian dialects it denotes /w/ (following a vowel and preceding a consonant (cluster), either within a word or at a word boundary, it denotes the allophone [u̯], and like the off-glide of in the English words "flow" and "cow", it forms a diphthong with the preceding vowel). Native Russian-speakers will pronounce the Ukrainian в as /v/, whereas Ukrainians will often use /w/, which is one way to tell the two groups apart. As with г above, Ukrainians use в to spell both English "v" and "w"; Russians tend to instead opt for using у for "w".
Unlike Russian and most other modern Slavic languages, Ukrainian does not have final devoicing.
|А а||Б б||В в||Г г||Ґ ґ||Д д||Е е||Є є||Ж ж||З з||И и|
|І і||Ї ї||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 ь||Ю ю||Я я|
Ukrainian is written in a version of Cyrillic, consisting of 33 letters, representing 38 phonemes; an apostrophe is also used. Ukrainian orthography is based on the phonemic principle, with one letter generally corresponding to one phoneme, although there are a number of exceptions. The orthography also has cases where the semantic, historical, and morphological principles are applied.
The modern Ukrainian alphabet is the result of a number of proposed alphabetic reforms from the 19th and early 20th centuries, in Ukraine under the Russian Empire, in Austrian Galicia, and later in Soviet Ukraine. A unified Ukrainian alphabet (the Skrypnykivka, after Mykola Skrypnyk) was officially established at a 1927 international Orthographic Conference in Kharkiv, during the period of Ukrainization in Soviet Ukraine. But the policy was reversed in the 1930s, and the Soviet Ukrainian orthography diverged from that used by the diaspora. The Ukrainian letter ge ґ was banned in the Soviet Union from 1933 until the period of Glasnost in 1990.
The letter щ represents two consonants [ʃt͡ʃ]. The combination of [j] with some of the vowels is also represented by a single letter ([jɑ] = я, [jɛ] = є, [ji] or [jı̽] = ї, [ju] = ю), while [jo] = йо and the rare regional [jɪ] = йи are written using two letters. These iotated vowel letters and a special soft sign change a preceding consonant from hard to soft. An apostrophe is used to indicate the hardness of the sound in the cases when normally the vowel would change the consonant to soft; in other words, it functions like the yer in the Russian alphabet.
A consonant letter is doubled to indicate that the sound is doubled, or long.
The phonemes [d͡z] and [d͡ʒ] do not have dedicated letters in the alphabet and are rendered with the digraphs дз and дж, respectively. [d͡z] is pronounced close to English dz in adze, [d͡ʒ] is close to g in huge.
Number of words in Ukrainian 
The Dictionary of Ukrainian Language in 11 volumes contains 135,000 entries. Lexical card-catalogue of Ukrainian Institute of Language Studies has 2.5 million cards.
Classification and relationship to other languages 
The question of whether contemporary Ukrainian and Russian (as well as Belarusian and Rusyn) are dialects of a single language or separate languages is not entirely decided by linguistic factors alone because there is a high degree of mutual intelligibility. As members of the East Slavic group of languages, they are descended from a common ancestor. Although Ukrainian, Russian, and Belarusian are usually listed by linguists as separate languages, some linguistic references list them as dialects of a single language.
Within East Slavic, the Ukrainian language is most closely related to Belarusian.
It is accepted that before the 18th century the precursor to the modern literary Ukrainian language was a vernacular language used mostly by peasants and petits bourgeois as no traces of earlier literary works could be found. It existed along with Church Slavonic, a literary language of religion that evolved from the Old Slavonic and which was the language usually used in writing and communication.
Differences between Ukrainian and other Slavic languages 
The Ukrainian language has the following similarities and differences with other Slavic languages:
- Like all Slavic languages with the exception of Russian, Slovak and Slovene, the Ukrainian language has preserved the Common Slavic vocative case. When addressing one's sister (sestra) she is referred to as sestro. In the Russian language the vocative case has been almost entirely replaced by the nominative (except for a handful of vestigial forms, e.g. Bozhe and Gospodi "Lord!").
- The Ukrainian language, in common with all Slavic languages other than Russian, Slovak and Slovene has retained the Common Slavic dative & locative endings -ce, -ze, and -se in the female declension. For example, "hand" (ruka) becomes ruci. In Russian, dative and locative of (ruka) would be ruke.
- The Ukrainian language, in common with Serbo-Croatian and Slovene, has developed the ending -mo for first-person plurals in verbs (khodymo for "we walk"). In all cases, it came from lengthening the Common Slavic -mŭ.
- The Ukrainian language, in common with Russian and Belarusian, has changed the Common Slavic word beginning ye- into o, such as in the words ozero (lake) and odyn (one).
- The Ukrainian language, in common with Czech, Slovak, Upper Sorbian, Belarusian and southern Russian dialects has changed the Common Slavic "g" into an "h" sound (for example, noha – leg).
- The Ukrainian language, in common with some northern Russian and Croatian dialects, has transformed the Common Slavic yě into i (for example, lis – forest).
- The Ukrainian language, in common with Russian, Belarusian, Bulgarian, Croatian, Macedonian, Slovene and Serbian has simplified the Common Slavic tl and dl into l (for example, mela – she swept").
See also 
- Linguistic discrimination
- Russification of Ukraine
- Swadesh list of Slavic languages
- Chronology of Ukrainian language bans
- Nationalencyklopedin "Världens 100 största språk 2007" The World's 100 Largest Languages in 2007
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- Contested Tongues: Language Politics and Cultural Correction in Ukraine by Laada Bilaniuk, Cornell Univ. Press, 2006, ISBN 978-0-8014-7279-4 (page 78)
- Alexander M. Schenker. 1993. "Proto-Slavonic," The Slavonic Languages. (Routledge). Pp. 60–121. Pg. 60: "[The] distinction between dialect and language being blurred, there can be no unanimity on this issue in all instances..."
C.F. Voegelin and F.M. Voegelin. 1977. Classification and Index of the World's Languages (Elsevier). Pg. 311, "In terms of immediate mutual intelligibility, the East Slavic zone is a single language."
Bernard Comrie. 1981. The Languages of the Soviet Union (Cambridge). Pg. 145-146: "The three East Slavonic languages are very close to one another, with very high rates of mutual intelligibility...The separation of Russian, Ukrainian, and Belorussian as distinct languages is relatively recent...Many Ukrainians in fact speak a mixture of Ukrainian and Russian, finding it difficult to keep the two languages apart..."
The Swedish linguist Alfred Jensen wrote in 1916 that the difference between the Russian and Ukrainian languages was significant and that it could be compared to the difference between Swedish and Danish. Jensen, Alfred. Slaverna och världskriget. Reseminnen och intryck från Karpaterna till Balkan 1915–16.. Albert Bonniers förlag, Stockholm, 1916, p. 145.
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|Ukrainian language edition of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia|
|Wikibooks has a book on the topic of: Ukrainian|
- Media related to Ukrainian language at Wikimedia Commons
- Dialects of Ukrainian Language / Narzecza Języka Ukraińskiego by Wł. Kuraszkiewicz (Polish)
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