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The Ukrainian language

Ukrainian (Ukrainian: украї?нська мо?ва ukrayins'ka mova, [ukr??j?n?s?k? ?m?w?]) is a language of the East Slavic subgroup of the Slavic languages. It is the official state language of Ukraine. Written Ukrainian uses a variant of the Cyrillic alphabet.

The Ukrainian language traces its origins to the Old East Slavic of the early medieval state of Kievan Rus'. Ukrainian is a lineal descendant of the colloquial language used in Kievan Rus' (10th–13th century). 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 among the Ukrainian people (especially 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 of Ukrainian Language, Ukrainian language-informatical fund, and Potebnya Institute of Language Studies.

Linguistic development of the Ukrainian language

Theories concerning the Ukrainian language's development

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 (he referred to as Little Russian) could be explained by the influence of the Polish and Turkic 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 world-wide, 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 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 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». 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.

(from Wikipedia the free encyclopedia)