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An Introduction to Ukrainian Dialectology

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Salvatore Del Gaudio

The book intends to render available to a wide range of students of Slavic languages, and particularly of Ukrainian, an outline of Ukrainian dialectology. The author presents the fascinating world of geographical variation of contemporary Ukrainian to all students of Slavic languages. A basic knowledge of Ukrainian dialects is likewise important to complete the theoretical and practical background of a Slavist, especially if focusing on Ukrainian, Russian and Belarusian. It is also a valuable aid to a better understanding of diachronic and synchronic language processes, e.g. the Ukrainian-Russian mixed speech «suržyk».

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0. The Ukrainian language

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Standard Ukrainian3, according to the traditional subdivision of the Slavic languages, belongs to the East Slavic language group along with Russian and Belarusian. The historical criteria for a classification of East Slavic languages essentially rely on common phonetic-phonological outcomes and, to a lesser extent, on morphological ones. Modern Ukrainian and Russian languages present substantial differences in phonetics, syntax and lexis. Belarusian is ← 11 | 12 → historically and typologically closer to Ukrainian. To this classification, some scholars add Rusyn, which for others is just a western Ukrainian dialectal variety claiming the status of a language.4

Ukrainian is the only official language of the Ukrainian state which gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. The calculation of its native speakers varies according to the census and the criteria used in the sociological and sociolinguistic surveys. The number of Ukrainian native speakers fluctuates between approx. 38 million (about 73%) out of a population of 52 million Ukrainian citizens5, and 45 million native speakers as reported in the Encyclopedia of the Ukrainian Language (2004: 716). This number undoubtedly increases if one considers the large Ukrainian emigrant communities who live in a large number of countries round the world.

The 2001 census fixed the Ukrainian population at about 48.5 million inhabitants: 67.5 % of the population declared Ukrainian as mother tongue; 29.6 % Russian and 3% other languages.

According to the sociolinguistic parameters used in the survey, Ukrainian can either be classified as the second most...

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