To the outside world, Russian and Ukrainian languages seem pretty much indistinguishable. Most people often assume that Ukrainian is basically a vernacular language of a sect of Russians. But is Ukrainian and Russian the same? Well, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Even though these two languages may have somewhat similar roots, they are dissimilar on multiple fronts.
Russian and Ukrainian languages come from the same group of Eastern Slavic languages. This is why the Ukrainian alphabet is almost similar to the Russian alphabet. Furthermore, the two languages share the same grammar and some lexical uniformity.
However, the discreteness in the evolution of the cultures of the Russian and Ukranian people led to obtrusive differences in their language systems. So, how are these languages different and what are the differences in culture between the two groups?
Are Ukrainians Russian?
Ukrainians are not Russian because they are not the same people. However, both are closely related to culture, linguistics, and history. Russia and Ukraine (and Belarus) emerged from the same ethnic, cultural, and political entity called Kievan Rus. Kievan Rus was a state of ethnically East Slavic people that spoke the same language.
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Linguistically, the East Slavic people were closely related. But after they morphed out of the Kievan Rus to form their own countries (present-day Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus), their languages changed and created their own national identities.
Are Russian, Ukrainian, and Belarusian the same language? When comparing Russian vs Ukrainian vs Belarusian languages, you find that Belarusian is more closely related to Ukrainian than Russian.
Generally, Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus were all Slavic nations. However, Belarus and Ukraine share closely related cultures. Furthermore, the inhabitants in both countries are the East Slavic ethnic groups, although they have a mix of Russians.
What do Ukrainians speak?
The people of Ukraine speak the Ukrainian language, whose wording is written in the Cyrillic alphabet. Ukrainian belongs to the East Slavic branch and has close relations with Russian. Furthermore, Ukrainian is almost indistinguishable from the Belarusian, Slovak, and Polish languages.
Is Ukrainian and Russian the same language?
The Ukrainian and Russian languages share a common history. However, they are not the same language. The language in Ukraine has different alphabets in comparison to the Russian language.
Both languages differ in pronunciation and vocabulary. For example, Ukrainians pronounce the letter ‘o’ as ‘o’ while the Russians pronounce the letter ‘o’ as ‘a’. You will come across similar verbal and written differences between the two.
Can a Russian understand Ukrainian?
Most Ukrainians can understand Russian because many people in Ukraine speak the Russian language. But when you delve deep into grammar and history, you find that many Russians cannot speak Ukrainian and may not even understand it.
Generally, Russian and Ukrainian stem from common roots, Old East Slavic. Modern Russians, Ukrainians, and Belarusian ancestors conversed fluently in dialects of the Old East Slavic. However, significant differences in the Russian and Ukrainian languages began to appear by the 17th century.
As the old political formations crumbled and new ones emerged, Ukrainian got mixed up with the Polish, Austrian, Hungarian, and Romanian languages. On the other hand, Russian speakers didn't borrow a lot from the surrounding cultures. Instead, the language evolved steadily and remained the same as its traditional form.
The glaring differences in language, culture, and politics led to Ukrainians wanting to remain independent from the Russian Empire. They created Ukrainisation policies to facilitate the development of the Ukrainian language. That Ukrainisation resulted in the differences between the Ukrainian and Russian languages.
When a Ukrainian speaks, there is a high chance that a Russian will not understand them. For example, the word приклад means example in Ukrainian while in Russian, it translates to a rifle butt.
How is Ukrainian different to Russian?
The Ukrainian vs Russian languages have differences on many fronts. Russian and Ukrainian languages have developed distinctly for many years, a factor that has caused many differences between the two.
When you look at the vocabulary, Ukrainian and Russian share about 60% lexical similarity. However, that does not mean the 60% vocabulary is the same between the two. Instead, it means some of the words in their vocabulary are similar in meaning and form. The differences between Ukraine and Russia languages are:
The Russian language has alphabets that are not available in the Ukrainian language and vice versa, despite both languages having 33 letters. For example, Ёё, ъ, ы, and Ээ are available in the Russian language only and not in Ukrainian. Also, Ґґ, Єє, Іі, and Її are not available in Russian.
As noted above, Russian and Ukrainian languages have different pronunciations. For example, the Russians pronounce И as ee. On the other hand, Ukrainians pronounce И like short i.
The two languages only share about 60% of the same vocabulary. Notably, the closest language to Ukrainian is Belarusian, with a lexical similarity of 84%, followed by Polish (70%) and Slovak (66%). The speakers of the aforementioned dialects will find it simpler to comprehend Ukrainian than Russian.
The glaring difference in vocabularies is evident in the naming of months in Ukrainian and Russian. For example, January in Ukrainian is січень or sichyen, while in Russian, it is январь or yanvar. February in Ukrainian is лютий or lyotiy, while in Russian it is февраль or fevral.
When it comes to grammar, the two are pretty much similar with only a few contrasts. Ukrainian has the past continuous tense in its grammar while Russian only has three tenses, including past, present, and future. However, such a minute difference can account for the creation of lots of words and phrases that won't be available in the other language.
Nouns are only available in six cases, including nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, instrumental, and prepositional. On the other hand, the nouns in the Ukrainian language have seven cases, including vocative.
How is Ukrainian similar to Russian?
Ukrainian and Russian languages are similar due to the fact that they are both are Slavic languages. However, they are not mutual intelligibility. The syntax in the two languages is the same.
Noteworthy, the morphology in the languages does not differ much. A significant difference is in the lexicon, where the lexical similarity is around 60%. Despite the apparent similarities, it is possible for a speaker of one language not to grasp a lot of what is being said in the other.
Furthermore, the pronunciation in both languages has almost the same sounds with negligible differences. However, Russian and Ukrainian have some words with the same root that they pronounce differently.
So, is Ukrainian closer to Polish or Russian? Surprisingly, the Ukrainian language is closer to Polish than Russian. However, most people from outside the region often tend to think of the Polish language as closer to European languages than Soviet ones.
Is Ukrainian and Russian the same? No, even though they are Slavic languages, they have many differences. The major ones are in grammar, pronunciation, vocabulary, nouns, and alphabets. Ukrainian is similar to Belarusian (84%), Polish (70%), and Slovak (66%). For context, the language is 60% comparable to Russian.
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