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Mutual Intelligibility in Slavic Language

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ruskivyetr
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 Message 1 of 63
04 March 2010 at 3:15pm | IP Logged 
To my understanding, Slavic languages are fairly similar. It is not difficult to learn one if
you know another, as they share many grammatical endings and concepts and share very
similar words. I myself can understand basic Ukrainian and Polish with my basic Russian. I
found that when I switched from Russian to Czech the endings of the accusative and
forming plurals in the nominative was exactly the same. Are Slavic languages mutually
intelligible to a certain degree? Could a Polish person have a conversation with a Russian
person or a Czech person? Could a Ukrainian have a conversation with a Slovenian or a
Slovak and have a degree of understanding? Certainly many differences between the
languages exist, but they don't seem all that different.
1 person has voted this message useful



Chung
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 Message 2 of 63
04 March 2010 at 6:33pm | IP Logged 
It depends on the combinations of Slavonic languages/dialects under consideration.

Bulgarian and Macedonian are mutually intelligible between 80% and 90%, as are Czech and Slovak.

Bosnian, Croatian, Montenegrin, and Serbian are almost fully mutually intelligible and it has been heatedly debated whether they're separate languages or variants of one Southern Slavonic dialect.

There are also certain dialects/languages such as Lachian or Torlak which are transitional between standard languages. Lachian is transitional between Czech and Polish while Torlak is transitional between BCMS/Serbo-Croatian and Bulgarian or Macedonian.

Finally there can also be asymmetric intelligibility. One of my Czech friends told me that she could understand my Bulgarian friend speaking Bulgarian slightly better than he could understand her when she spoke in Czech.

Here are some related discussions:

1) forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=90698 (about Slavonic mutual intelligibility in general)

2) forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=1716504 (about the Slavonic dialectal continuum)

3) forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=168906 (about differences between Belorussian, Russian, and Ukrainian)

4) forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=292214 (about differences between Russian and Ukrainian)

5) forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=1442908 (about differences between Czech, Polish, and Slovak)

6) forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=1250126 (about Slavs understanding standard Slavonic languages other than their native tongue)

7) forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=1238614 (about how much Czechs, Poles, Slovaks or Sorbs can understand in the Freising manuscripts of the 10th cent. AD. These manuscripts are the oldest known attestation of a distinct Slovenian language)

8) forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=182635 (about whether Slavonic languages "sound the same")

9) forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=1193720 (about whether Bulgarian vocabulary is that different from vocabulary in other Slavonic languages)

10) forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=1100108 (comparison of comparative adverbs in Slavonic languages)

11) forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=1078973 (about mutual intelligibility between BCMS/Serbo-Croatian and Macedonian))

12) forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=167620 (about which Slavonic language is most similar for native speakers of Slavonic languages)

13) forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=836625 (about the Balkan Sprachbund. This thread includes some discussion about mutual intelligibility within Southern Slavonic languages and other similarities likely brought on from areal influence)

14) answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20071116182419AAxEoeM (about general Slavonic mutual intelligibility)

15) www.antimoon.com/forum/t14167.htm (about general Slavonic mutual intelligibility)

16) www.antimoon.com/forum/t10491.htm (about mutual intelligibility of Western Slavonic languages i.e. Czech, Polish, Slovak, Sorbian)

17) forum.stirpes.net/linguistics-philology/15941-difference-bet ween-czech-slovak.html (about mutual intelligibility between Czech and Slovak)

18) www.talkpolish.info/how-similar-is-the-polish-language-to-th e-czech-language.htm (discussion about mutual intelligibility between Czech and Polish)

19) www.unilang.org/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=2949 (general discussion about mutual intelligibility with some posts dealing with combinations of Slavonic languages)

20) how-to-learn-any-language.com/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=592& PN=59 (discussion about potential sequences to learn Slavonic languages which also touches on mutual intelligibility within Slavonic languages)

21) how-to-learn-any-language.com/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=3636 &PN=0&TPN=1 (a rather impassioned discussion about whether Bosnian, Croatian, Montenegrin, and Serbian are the same or not)

22) how-to-learn-any-language.com/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=1508 9&PN=0&TPN=1 (discussion about Russian compared to other Slavonic languages)

23) how-to-learn-any-language.com/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=1166 &PN=0&TPN=1 (discussion about the Slavonic constructed language, Slovio and reactions from some native speakers of Slavonic languages)

24) how-to-learn-any-language.com/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=1642 9&PN=0&TPN=1 (discussion about pairs of Slavonic languages that are mutually intelligible)

25) how-to-learn-any-language.com/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=3264 &PN=0&TPN=1 (discussion about which other Slavonic language is most similar to Polish)

26) how-to-learn-any-language.com/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=1828 7&PN=7 (discussion about how mutually intelligible BCMS/Serbo-Croatian and Slovenian are)

27) how-to-learn-any-language.com/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=1017 9&PN=39 (discussion about Russian compared to Czech)

28) forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=1670993 (discussion about Bulgarian tenses compared to those in other languages)

Edited by Chung on 23 March 2010 at 3:05am

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ruskivyetr
Diglot
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 Message 3 of 63
04 March 2010 at 9:54pm | IP Logged 
Chung wrote:

Finally there can also be asymmetric intelligibility. One of my Czech friends told me that
she could understand my Bulgarian friend speaking Bulgarian slightly better than he could
understand her when she spoke in Czech.


This may be because Czech is inflected, and therefore syntax can vary, which causes
harder understanding for Bulgarian speakers, but an easy understanding for Czech
speakers when Bulgarians speak. Bulgarians can't recognize the endings, so a syntax that
goes VSO or SOV may confuse Bulgarians, whereas Czech's (and other Slavic language
speakers) do not have to worry about it, although the Bulgarian verbal system is a pain in
the butt.
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Chung
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 Message 4 of 63
05 March 2010 at 12:17am | IP Logged 
Another thing that could have thrown off my Bulgarian friend is that Czech has undergone a particular set of vowel shifts since the days of Old Czech or Proto-Slavonic where "a" and "u" tended to change into "e" or "i". In other words, most of the other Slavonic languages kept the "a" and "u", whereas Czechs went off on their own way thus increasing the divergence. Slovak grammar is quite similar to Czech, but otherwise it seems to be somewhat more intelligible to other Slavs in speech today largely because it hasn't undergone those sound changes as Czech had. If my Bulgarian friend had heard Slovak instead, it's likely that he would have had an easier time deciphering it than Czech.

On WordReference, I came across a discussion about the classification of Slovenian as a Southern Slavonic language (apparently some nationalist Slovenes dislike or dispute the classification because it "unfairly" associates Slovenian with languages such as BCMS/Serbo-Croatian and Bulgarian which I presume are viewed by Slovenian nationalists as tongues associated with the "uncivilized" Balkans (this smacks of snobbery))

http://forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=746470

One of the Bosnian Croats in that thread, "Athaulf" states that among Czech, Polish and Slovak, he and other speakers of BCMS/Serbo-Croatian find Slovak to be the most intelligible of those three. This supports the idea above that the development of Czech (and Polish) progressed in ways that eventually reduced intelligibility with native speakers of most other Slavonic languages.
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Vinlander
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 Message 5 of 63
05 March 2010 at 4:40am | IP Logged 
So would it be safe to say that the differences between the languages would be seen less so than in the latin languages?
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Chung
Diglot
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 Message 6 of 63
06 March 2010 at 12:16am | IP Logged 
Vinlander wrote:
So would it be safe to say that the differences between the languages would be seen less so than in the latin languages?


It depends on which differences you're talking about when comparing the Slavonic languages on one hand, and the Romance languages on the other. You can also affect the analysis by only considering specific combinations of languages.
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Siberiano
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 Message 7 of 63
14 March 2010 at 8:05pm | IP Logged 
I think it's reasonable to be always looking at the map when comparing languages. With neighbor languages, the relation is like that between Italian and Spanish. With non-neighbors it's more complicated.

Looking into Ukrainian or Belarus dictionary I don't see any difficulty. But 1 more step takes me to Polish language, with which we have a lot more difference, and you have to speak of MUTUAL UN-INTELLIGIBILITY, since there are lots of false friends, that sound exactly the same (cleared of vowel and consonant shifts), but can have the OPPOSITE meaning.

Polish zapamiatowac' (remember) => Russian запамятовать (forget), uroda (beauty) => урод (ugly), Chech c'erstvi (fresh) => чёрствый (stale).
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Aineko
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 Message 8 of 63
18 March 2010 at 1:18am | IP Logged 
Siberiano wrote:
... since there are lots of false friends...

this has been my nightmare with Russian :). so many false friends with Serbian, meaning either opposite or something completely unrelated. (some even producing quite funny situations :) )


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