An Introduction to Ukrainian Dialectology

by Salvatore Del Gaudio (Author)
©2017 Monographs II, 128 Pages


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».

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Preface
  • Introductory remarks
  • 0. The Ukrainian language
  • 1. Dialectology: basic concepts
  • 1.1. Dialectology as a discipline
  • 1.2. Studies on Ukrainian dialects
  • 1.2.1. Dialectal atlases
  • 1.2.2. Dialectal dictionaries
  • 1.2.3. Handbooks on Ukrainian dialects
  • 1.3. Conceptual-terminological peculiarities of Ukrainian dialectology
  • 1.4. Research aims and value of Ukrainian dialectology
  • 1.5. Research methods in Ukrainian dialectology
  • 1.6. Transcription of Ukrainian dialects
  • 2. Classification of Ukrainian dialects
  • 2.1. A historic outline
  • 2.2. The Ukrainian dialectal territory
  • 2.3. Dialectal macro-areas
  • 2.3.1. Northern/Polissian Ukrainian dialects
  • 2.3.2. Generalized phonetic characteristics of Polissian dialects
  • 2.3.3. Eastern Polissian dialects
  • 2.3.4. Central Polissian dialects
  • 2.3.5. Western Polissian dialects
  • 2.3.6. South-western dialects
  • 2.3.7. Generalized features of South-western dialects
  • 2.4. South-eastern dialects
  • 2.4.1. Generalized features of South-eastern dialects
  • 2.5. Central Dnipro (Cherkasy – Poltava) dialects
  • 2.6. Sloboda dialects
  • 2.7. Steppe dialects
  • 3. Topical issues in Ukrainian dialectology
  • 3.1. Regional varieties, dialects and forms of mixed speech “Suržyk”
  • 3.2. Transcarpathian dialects and the question of “Rusyn”
  • 3.3. Dialectology and sociolinguistics in Ukrainian studies
  • Glossary
  • Bibliography
  • Table of maps
  • Short summary in Ukrainian (Aнотація українською мовою)


The idea of writing an introduction to Ukrainian dialectology in a widely understood European language originated in 2006 when I first began to conduct field work in Ukraine. Although at the time I was not directly working with dialects but on the related social phenomenon of Ukrainian-Russian mixed speech (“suržyk”), I realized that most reference manuals on dialectology were quite obsolete, although still informative.

Secondly, without a sound knowledge of Ukrainian, it was difficult to read existing manuals and to become familiar with Ukrainian dialectal concepts and terminology.

For several years, various reasons forced me to postpone my original plan to supply the students of Ukrainian with the first basic English account on Ukrainian dialectology. In the meantime, a series of new introductions to Ukrainian dialectology have finally been published in Ukraine. Nonetheless I hope that my introduction will still be a useful aid to foreign Ukrainianists.

I wish to thank Dawn Marley (University of Surrey, England) for having patiently proof-read my text, Rudolf Muhr (University of Graz, Austria) who was the very first person who read the manuscript, Andriy Danylenko (Pace University, New York) for the precious advice on some specific content issues, Natalija Verbyč (Institute of Ukrainian Language, Department of dialectology, Ukrainian Academy of Sciences) for having checked the dialectal facts. A final word of appreciation goes to Tilmann Reuther (University of Klagenfurt, Austria) for having always supported my publications.

Kyiv, December 2016

Introductory remarks

The reasons which led me to write an introduction to Ukrainian dialectology are multifold. The main motivation was to render available to a wide range of students of Slavic languages, and particularly of Ukrainian, an outline of Ukrainian dialectology and its dialects. The lack of introductory accounts of Ukrainian dialects in more accessible western European languages represents a great limit to all those students of Slavic languages who wish to approach the fascinating world of geographical variation of contemporary Ukrainian. All manuals on Ukrainian dialects in fact, with the exception of a limited number of short American and German contributions, are written in Ukrainian. This represents an obvious hindrance to students of Ukrainian, whose initial level does not always allow a deep understanding of the contents of these books. A basic knowledge of Ukrainian dialects is important to complete the theoretical and practical background of a Slavist, especially if studying the Eastern group of Slavic languages (Russian, Belarusian, Ukrainian).

A knowledge of territorial variation is a valuable aid to a better understanding of diachronic (historical variation and its reflection in documents of various geographic provenance) and synchronic language processes. Additionally it helps to better assess some contemporary sociolinguistic issues and various forms of language/dialectal mixture such as, for example, the Ukrainian-Russian mixed speech “suržyk”.

With the purpose of filling this theoretical and practical gap, this guidebook aims to elaborate on the existing dialectological data with some recent studies on the topic. In ← 7 | 8 the main, though, the illustrative material relies on traditional Ukrainian works and on a small number of English and German sources.

This introduction is similarly meant to facilitate the task of those scholars working in related fields who are looking for some basic facts about Ukrainian dialects. It can also be of interest to the layman who simply wishes to gain an insight into Ukrainian dialectology.

At the same time, the book could be used as a support to a reader in Slavic languages approaching this complex research field for the first time. However, this introduction is not addressed to those professional Ukrainianists who have already acquired a solid background in Ukrainian dialectology and in Ukrainian Studies.

The manual is organized into three parts. The first one, after an outline of the Ukrainian language for non-specialists, will introduce the main issues of Ukrainian dialectology.

The second part will exemplify the Ukrainian dialectal territory and the most typical features of the main dialectal areas.

The final part will introduce and briefly discuss some contemporary issues such as the relation between dialects and forms of language mix; the relation between dialectology and sociolinguistics in the Ukrainian linguistic tradition, and the question of the ‘Rusyn’ language.

A glossary of the most frequent Ukrainian dialectal terms with their English equivalents concludes the book. Illustrative materials are provided contextually. Reference works on dialectology can be found in the final bibliography. The Cyrillic titles of reference books have not been transliterated into Latin characters to enable their rapid indentification.

For the sake of clarity, we have mainly avoided the use of abbreviations as is often customary in linguistic publications. The only abbreviations concern the verbal aspect - ← 8 | 9 → imperf. stands for ‘imperfective’ and perf. for ‘perfective’; prep. means preposition; the cases: nom., gen., dat., acc., instr., loc., voc. respectively stand for nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, instrumental, locative, vocative.

Ukrainian geographical names (toponyms) have been rendered according to the scientific transliteration system, for example, the place name Kyiv (official variant)1 has been transliterated as Kyjiv.

Some ancient ethnonyms which refer to east Slavic tribes have been anglicized, e.g. Polians instead of Poljane as used in Shevelov (1979). The classification of dialects partially relies on the traditional English spelling established by Shevelov (ibid.); in the case of those dialects spoken in the area of the river Dnipro however, the denomination Dnipro dialects has been preferred to the more traditional Dnieper dialects.

The description of dialectal facts is limited to the essential features of each macro-dialectal area. This is particularly true for south-western dialects which show a higher degree of local variation. This choice is easily explained if one considers the introductory character of the present work.

It is known that dialects undergo visible changes within a few decades, especially as a consequence of standardization processes. They may be either affected by standard Ukrainian or, in specific geographical areas, by Russian or other languages (e.g. Polish, Hungarian, Belarusian etc.). For this reason, the correctness and topicality of certain dialectal data need to be proved regularly. ← 9 | 10






















← 10 | 11 →

1       Kiev is the form based on Russian but it is still widely used.


II, 128
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2018 (November)
Ukrainian Dialects Variation in Ukrainian Dialectology
Frankfurt am Main, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2017., II, 128 pp., 11 fig. col., 7 tables.

Biographical notes

Salvatore Del Gaudio (Author)

Salvatore Del Gaudio is Professor at the Chair of Comparative-Typological Linguistics and Romance Languages at the University of Kyiv, Borys Hrynčenko, Ukraine. He also cooperates with the department of Slavic Languages, Institute of Linguistics, Ukrainian Academy of Sciences. He studied foreign languages and literatures, Linguistics/Sociolinguistics in Naples and Berlin. He holds a PhD in Slavic (Ukrainian) Studies from the University of Vienna, Austria.


Title: An Introduction to Ukrainian Dialectology
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132 pages