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Tuesday, 16 January 2018 18:19

A HISTORY OF UKRAINE. EPISODE 26. THE LANGUAGE OF KYIVAN RUS’

Oleksandr Palii, A History of Ukraine, 16.01.2018 

 

EPISODE 25 HERE 

 

The Ukrainian language was for the first time recorded in Pravda Rouskaya (The Truth of Rus'), a collection of laws, and especially in household inscriptions and the charters of princes (the 10th until the 12th centuries). 

 

Most Ukrainian scholars believe that the Ukrainian language with its special features was formed on the basis of ancient Slavic dialects under some influence from the Scythian and Sarmatian languages at the time of the Antean tribal union, i.e. in the mid-1st millennium AD. There were no Slavs in the territory of either modern Russia or modern Belarus. 

 

Unlike princes’ charters and household inscriptions, the literature of Kyivan Rus’ was written mainly in Church Slavonic. This language was artificially created on the basis of the Thessalonian dialect of the Bulgarian language by the Slavic educators Cyril and Methodius for the purposes of Christianization of the Slavs. Church Slavonic became the lingua franca for the East Slavs and the South Slavs, a role similar to that of Latin, which was used in Western Europe for worship, writing and education. 

 

the lang ostromir

Ostromir Gospels, 1056–1057, written in Church Slavonic 

 

However, the ancient chronicles written in Church Slavonic and The Tale of Ihor’s Campaign preserved many Ukrainian words not found in Church Slavonic. Grand Prince Volodymyr II Monomakh had a good command of Church Slavonic but was unable to avoid hundreds of Ukrainian words when writing instructions for his children. 

 

The names of princes in the chronicles and charters are typically Ukrainian: Volodymyr, Vsevolod, Volodymyrko, Volodar, Vasylko, Ivanko, Volodyslav, Olena, Mykhalko, Dmytro, Danylo etc. 

 

The name of the capital itself always had the Ukrainian spelling Kyiv in the chronicles. 

 

The chronicles also contain the local Ukrainian names for August (serpen’) and December (hruden’).

 

the lang cronicle

Text from the Radziwiłł Chronicle describing the Rus’ campaign against Byzantium in 1043. 


The language spoken by the Rusyns had the following features: o-voweling, the soft ending of verbs in the third person in both singular and plural (pyshet’, imut’) and the pronunciation of the letter г as the aspirated [h] consonant. These are some of the characteristic features of the Ukrainian language. 

 

In contrast, the Russian language had being formed in the 12th to the 14th centuries as the local, largely Finno-Ugric, population was learning Church Slavonic, which had been imposed by the church and the authorities. Untill now, most rivers in Central Muscovy (Russia) and many Muscovite (Russian) cities in Central Muscovy (Russia), including Moscow, have their native Finno-Ugric names. 

 

In imperial times, Ukrainian was viewed by many people in Muscovy (Russia) as a Polonized version of Russian. This proposition is utterly unscientific, because Ukrainian features were found in the language of Kyivan Rus’ long before any Polish influence. Importantly, standard Ukrainian is based on the vernacular spoken in the Poltava and Chernihiv regions. These territories were part of Poland in 1569–1648 and over this short period of time many people there did not have to deal with the Polish authorities, to say nothing of changing the language of their ancestors. The written sources in Ukraine dating to the 16th and the 17th centuries do not record any changes in the language. Ukrainian has been able to withstand much greater, centuries-long pressures. 


Even though The Tale of Ihor’s Campaign (1187) is written in Church Slavonic, it contains many Ukrainianisms:  

 

«Комони ржуть за Сулою, — звенить слава въ Кыєвҍ; трубы трубять въ Новҍградҍ, — стоять стязи въ Путивлҍ!»
«Ни хытру, ни горазду, ни птицю горазду, суда Божіа не минути».

 

On main picture: the sign of Grand Prince Volodymyr II Monomakh

 

TO EPISODE 27

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