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Russian and Ukrainian- why not dialects?

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orion
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 Message 1 of 31
01 October 2005 at 11:53pm | IP Logged 
I am curious why Ukrainian is not considered to be a dialect of Russian (or vice versa). To me they seem much more related than say Mandarin and Cantonese, which ARE considered dialects of a common language. Russians and Ukrainians seem to understand each other easily without translation, which as far as I can tell, is not the case for Mandarin and Cantonese speakers. In my humble estimation, comparing Russian and Ukrainian is like comparing Dutch and Afrikaans.
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Hexaglot
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 Message 2 of 31
02 October 2005 at 12:17am | IP Logged 
'Dialect' and 'Languages' have far reaching political implications and the Ukraine is trying to break out of Russian influence right now and fostering the use of Ukraininan anywhere it can. They probably also have a long established litterary tradition.

For the language learner, they would be very similar and you could consider them dialects of each other in the sense that the knowledge of either one would get you an 80% discount on the other. But if you tell a Ukrainian that his language is a dialect, you might never be heard from again. (Joking of course!)
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orion
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 Message 3 of 31
02 October 2005 at 12:29am | IP Logged 
I was afraid this might be a politically charged topic! I hope everyone realizes I was speaking from a purely linguistic standpoint. I remember once when some Ukrainian and Russian visitors came to the place I was working. The Ukrainians insisted on a Ukrainian/English interpreter, even when they seemed perfectly able to understand the Russian/English interpreter.   
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Hexaglot
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 Message 4 of 31
02 October 2005 at 5:46am | IP Logged 
Well Russian was a rather dominant language in the Ukraine for quite a while, and many Ukrainians do not speak Ukrainian at all - only Russian.

The solution I have found when speaking of a dialect in the sense you meant is to say 'For the language learners, this language is as easy to learn as a dialect'.
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Arti
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 Message 5 of 31
02 October 2005 at 11:59am | IP Logged 
To tell the truth I don't understand Ukrainian sometimes especially if they speak fast, but here in Russia everyone laughs at it because words which are vulgar for Russian are absolutely normal in Ukrainian, so any news on TV can become a humour show:) But more then 70% speak Russian as well or only Russian (about 15% of Ukrainians speak Ukrainian as a mother tongue or don't speak Russian), so it's not a big problem to communicate.

And modern Russian, Ukrainian and Belorussian are dialects of ancient Russian.
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orion
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 Message 6 of 31
04 October 2005 at 5:57pm | IP Logged 
Interesting! Are there also normal Russian words that are vulgar in Ukrainian? Can a modern Russian, Ukrainian, or Byelorussian speaker read Old Church Slavonic? СПАСИБО!

Edited by orion on 04 October 2005 at 5:57pm

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andee
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 Message 7 of 31
04 October 2005 at 10:18pm | IP Logged 
One of my professors always says "A language is a dialect with an army".
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Andy E
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 Message 8 of 31
05 October 2005 at 5:37am | IP Logged 
andee wrote:
One of my professors always says "A language is a dialect with an army".


As an aside, this is an oft-quoted aphorism and Wikipedia has an interesting article on its supposed origins here.

Andy.



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