Russian/Ukrainian: Differences

Discussion in 'Other Slavic Languages' started by Mirko_87, Nov 12, 2006.

  1. Mirko_87 Member

    Español, Chile
    What are the main differences between both?
    I've seen that ukrainian language has a lot of different words....

    Ukrainian is more similiar to Polish or Russian?
  2. eli-milqo Member

    Hello my friend!

    for Grammar...Ukrainian is more similar to Russian .
    but talking about vocabulary...most likely you can use two words for the same meaning one of them is more like Russian and the other like Polish for example :

    in Ukrainian to say "tray" you can say "pidnos" like the Russian "podnos" and you can say "tacja" like the polish "taca" and there are too many cases like this one.

    and some times it has vocabulary that don't exist in current russian or polish, or they exist but they have different or similar meanings but not the same meaning as in Ukrainian.
    I hope I answered.:)
  3. übermönch

    übermönch Senior Member

    Warum wohne ich bloß in so einem KAFF?
    World - 1.German, 2.Russian, 3.English
    Much of it's grammatical and basic vocabulary (like question words) is closer to Polish, the grammar itself and it's orthograhy is, with little exceptions corresponding to Russian, though it has quiet some own innovations. The practical vocabulary differs depending on the place. In west of the dniepr river they rather use voc. of Western Slavic languages, in the East similar to Eastern ones, in the South you might even encounter Romanian, Turkish and Hungarian words; but everywhere it's a mix of all those with quite some own ones. The official language is the variant spoken in Kiev, in the very centre of Ukraine; There are some neologisms in it to avoid Pol. or Rus. voc.
    Knowing Russian and very basic Ukrainian, I can understand it as long as it doesn't concern some complicated topic; Speakers usually modify their language depending on wether you're Polish or Russian to be better understood. What else? yeah, Belorusian is very similar to Ukrainian in many regards :)

    Yes, the differences to Russian - first of all, Ukraian azbuka is somewhat different:
    и-ы (the Ukrainian sound is not really the same; it's something between R. и and ы)
    г doesn't exist in Russian, something similar to the English h.

    Then, Ukrainian, unlike Russian, may have soft soft sibilant constants:
    чь, ць, шь etc.

    The hard л in Russian is sometimes replaced with a в in corresponding cases in Ukrainian:
    -ов Ukr.
    -ол Rus.
    is the suffix in past tense with masculinum subjects. In that regard Ukrainian is between Ru. and Pl.- In polish there is no hard ł any longer, it's allways read as w; лампа (lampa) in Ukrainian and Russian is łampa (wampa) in Polish.

    The Russian hard р sometimes corresponds to Ukrainian hard л.
    рыцарь - Rus.
    лицарь - Ukr.
    both meaning knight

    The speech intonation is much stronger in Ukrainian. It's comparable with the situation in Am. and Br. English, where Ukrainian is the latter. be continued :)
  4. GyörgyMS Member

    A question to all with a very good competence in Russian and Polish:

    What about your passive competence (listening and reading comprehension) in Ukrainian and Belarusian? Would it make sense for you to learn these languages or would be a waste of time since you already understand almost everything?
  5. Thomas1

    Thomas1 Senior Member

    polszczyzna warszawska
    I have never had much contact with Belarussian nor Ukrainian; my contact with them is rather limited and the one I have is only in the written form (not specialistic texts). What I noted is that the two languages are more understandable to me than Russian (although, I've learnt it). The vocabulary is more "Polish-friendly" and I can make out the whole meaning quicklier than in the case of the same text written in Russian. This, however, doesn't mean that there're no words that I don't understand because there are many of them. I didn't pay much attention to grammar since it is similar enough to my mother tongue's that I can do without delving into nuances and simply nothing has drawn my attention so far.

    As an answer to your question about the sense of learning either of them I can honestly say that I wouldn't cross out learning a language, at the very start, just beceause it is close enough to my mother tongue that I can understand it--the thing is not about this when it comes to learning a language---at least in my case. Moreover, I am also of opinion that if I learn something new it's never a waste of time.

  6. GyörgyMS Member

    Thanks for your reply.

    May be my formulation was a bit misleading. Learning languages of course never is a waste of time. What I meant was if it makes sense to learn Ukrainian or Belarussian to develop a passive competence knowing Polish and Russian. Is there so much new (grammar, vocabulary) in Ukrainian and Belarussian that makes it necessary for someone with a very high competence (i.e. almost native speaker) to learn the two other languages?
  7. Mirko_87 Member

    Español, Chile
    Thanks to All Answers :)

    Greetings from Chile
  8. Anatoli Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Native: русский (Russian), home country: English
    Hi übermönch, your post shows that you have good observation and you were exposed to both languages but sorry, it also shows that you are just learning both. The matching pairs you provided show how letters are transliterated differently in both languages but unfortunately the words that contain these sounds are most commonly pronounced differently in both languages, for example

    You are correct in saying that Ukrainian "i" is pronounced as Russian "и" but a very large number of Slavic words that have "и" in Russian will have "и" in Ukrainian, that is they will be spelled the same way but pronounced differently:
    гриб, скрип, три, etc. Using Russian pronunciation guide the become: [hрыб] [скрып], [тры]

    The same is often true about letter "е" - same spelling but different pronunciation for words similar in Russian and Ukrainian:
    небо, земля, etc. Using Russian pronunciation guide they become:[нэбо] [зэмля]

    You probably need to provide the alternative pronunciation guide to explain your point.

    Incorrect about Ч. It is always soft in Russian, the Ukrainian one is always hard.

    Not sure what you mean. The Ukrainian sound is very similar to the Russian.

    It's probably the only case (maybe one more) where it's true.

    Letter "г" in Russian represents the hard "g" sound as in "give". The same letter serves what you are saying about Ukrainian.
  9. Etcetera

    Etcetera Senior Member

    St Petersburg, Russia
    Russian, Russia (St Petersburg)
    In my opinion, Ukrainian is closer to Polish.
    As a native speaker of Russian, I've always been able to understand Ukrainian to an extent, but after I began to learn Polish, I discovered that my comprehension of Ukrainian has increased.
  10. Anatoli Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Native: русский (Russian), home country: English
    In my opinion Ukrainian is somewhat like a bridge between Russian and Ukrainian as it has a large vocabulary similar to either Polish or Russian. Pronunciation of Polish/Ukrainian/Russian is quite distinct from each other, so it's hard to say which one is closer to which, so is the grammar, however Polish has more features that make it quite different from any Eastern Slavic language.

    Kim/Kto jesteś? (Polish) (?)
    Ти хто? (Ukrainian)
    Ты кто? (Russian)

    Jestem studentem. (Polish)
    Я студент. (Ukrainian)
    Я студент. (Russian)

    Chciałbym coś zjeść. (Polish)
    Я хотiв бы (хотiлось би) щось з'їсти. (Ukrainian)
    Я хотел бы (хотелось бы) что-нибудь съесть. (Russian)

    Kiedy będzie gotowe? (Polish)
    Коли буде готово? (Ukrainian)
    Когда будет готово? (Russian)

    Prosze mi przynieść butelkę białego wina. (Polish)
    Прошу (будь ласка принесить) принести менi пляшку бiлого вина. (Ukrainian)
    Прошу (пожалуйста) принести мне бутылку белого вина. (Russian)

    Polish and Russian have more palatalised consonants in common, although Polish palatalisation is different from Russian: siła - сила (cf Ukrainian hard "сила"), although Ukrainian has a lot of palatalisation as well.

    Polish G matches in pronunciation to Russian hard Г. Ukrainian has
    Г (H) instead.

    Polish nasal sounds, sibilants ź, ś, dź, ć and letter combination RZ make it sound quite distinct from any Slavic language.
    dźień (Polish)
    день (Ukrainian) [d]
    день (Russian) [d']

    rzeka (Polish) [zh]
    река (Ukrainian) [r]
    река (Russian) [r']

    Devoicing consonants in Polish is very similar to Russian but very different from Ukrainian:

    ząb [zomp] (Polish)
    зуб [zub] (Ukrainian)
    зуб [zup] (Russian)

    But Polish goes even further in devoicing consonants than other languages:
    twój [tfuj] (Polish)
    твiй [tvij] (Ukrainian)
    твой [tvoj] (Russian)

    I like analysing languages on concrete examples, my point is there are a lot of similarities and differences.
  11. übermönch

    übermönch Senior Member

    Warum wohne ich bloß in so einem KAFF?
    World - 1.German, 2.Russian, 3.English
    Well, I've been comparing Ukrainian to Russian and, as good as I could, tried to explain the different letter values.
    f.e. If I'd compare Dutch to English I'd point out that
    the Dutch G = Scottish English CH
    The other German languages and the fact that it evolved from a normal G don't play a role here.
    The dutch word for the colour green is [xɹɶn], written groen, but the way people read it in other Ger. languages doesn't change anything about the value of the Dutch letter G.

    my bad :eek: Though isn't it that the rule that no softness sign can follow a sibilant constants doesn't work for Ukrainian? Or is it simply limited to ч?
    It is. But it is not the same. The phonetic value of Рус. ы is [ɨ], while Укр. и corresponds to [ɪ] which is something between and [ɨ].
    But it's so odd. There must be others.
    There's a whole thread on this very topic somewhere in the dephts of the Slavic forum :) Ukrainian has another letter for the "hard" g,"ґ"; Ukr. "г" on the other hand corresponds to "h".
  12. TheGermanRussian

    TheGermanRussian New Member

    United States, English

    Извините! Я плохо говорю по-русски.. so I'll just type this in English?

    Very quick question: Is there a very significant difference between Russian and Ukrainian languages?

    My boyfriend's mother is coming to visit in the next couple weeks and I was trying to brush up on some Russian (half Russian, yet I don't speak it.. pitiful?) so I could talk to her a bit in her own language.. and that's when I remembered she speaks Ukrainian :(..

    Большое спасибо!
  13. papillon Senior Member

    Barcelona, Spain
    Russian (Ukraine)
    Hi TGR, :)
    in the grand scheme of things, the two languages are fairly close - both belonging, together with Belarusian, to the Eastern branch of Slavic languages. On the other hand, they differ enough to make mutual oral intelligibility quite difficult (in some cases < 60% !) for someone who hadn't been previously exposed to the other language.

    Still, I think your Russian will serve you well. ;) For obvious reasons, most older generation Ukrainians are bilingual, or at least able to understand Russian quite well.

    Good luck!
  14. TheGermanRussian

    TheGermanRussian New Member

    United States, English
    Thanks Papillon! I guess now I just have to worry if she'll like me or not :confused:? Too bad cultural etiquette can't be so easily translated as phrases.

    ~Thanks again for your time!
  15. Etcetera

    Etcetera Senior Member

    St Petersburg, Russia
    Russian, Russia (St Petersburg)
    As well as many young people.
    My Ukrainian friends all speak excellent Russian and even prefer it to Ukrainian.
  16. Crescent

    Crescent Senior Member

    Russian, (Ukraine)
    I have to say that I believe it really depends on the area or the town in Ukraine, as to whether or not young people or the older generation can speak Russian. For example, in my home town - Харьков - it is almost the official language and everyone - from ordinary people in the street, to продовцы в киоски, even the cats and dogs! :p - speaks it perfectly, and in fact some of them even struggle at times to remember certain words or phrases in Ukrainian!
    However, in small villages and towns, it is quite possible that the population converses mostly in Ukrainian, knowing little Russian, as is the case with my maternal grandparents. :)

    TheGermanRussian - I'm sure your boyfriend's grandma will know what you're saying, as Russian and Ukrainian (as Papillon and Etcetera hace already said) are not that different. But the best of luck to you, anyway! :) :)
  17. Etcetera

    Etcetera Senior Member

    St Petersburg, Russia
    Russian, Russia (St Petersburg)
    Most of my friends live in Kiev, one lives in Kamenets-Podolsky.
    On my last visit to Ukraine (Odessa), when I expressed surprised at everyone's speaking Russian and only Russian, I was told that in Odessa the main language was Russian, but in Kiev most people spoke Ukrainian. But here are my friends, students of Kiev University (Faculty of Philology, English department), and they prefer to speak Russian.
  18. Niedowiérni New Member

    OK but:

    How are you?
    Jak się masz? POL
    Як ся маєш? UKR
    Как дела? RUS

    Good night!
    Dobranoc! POL
    Добраніч! UKR
    Спокойной ночи! RUS

    Mum! (vocative case)
    Mamo! POL
    Мамо! UKR
    Мамa! (=nomin.) RUS

    And many more... In vocabulary in WestUkrainian more simmilary to Polish, in East to Russian.
  19. papillon Senior Member

    Barcelona, Spain
    Russian (Ukraine)
    Absolutely! :)
    Still, as you cross the wonderful river Dniepr (а ведь не всякая птица долетит до середины Днепра) and move deeper into the Western Ukraine territory - I am thinking L'viv, Ternopil', Ivano-Frankivsk you find a very different situation, where Russian is no longer preferred, though probably still understood, or even spoken, if need be.

    Since the thread originator specified that the mother-in-law-to-be (;) ) actually speaks Ukrainian, I assumed that she might actually be from that side of of the country...

    In the meantime, Kharkov, Odessa and many other places remain predominantly Russian-speaking.
  20. Ptak Senior Member

  21. übermönch

    übermönch Senior Member

    Warum wohne ich bloß in so einem KAFF?
    World - 1.German, 2.Russian, 3.English
    Ptak actually has a very nice point there, proving what eli-miqlo had said at the very beginning!

    just a few more examples of alternate Rus. phrazes:
  22. palomnik Senior Member

    To confirm Etcetera's comments, I've never had any trouble getting around in Ukraine using Russian, even when I was out on the farm.

    Whether there might be a cultural prejudice against it these days is another question, though.
  23. MarX Banned

    Indonesian, Indonesia
    My Russian friends told me they had a hard time understanding Ukrainian.
    They also said that there's Russian spoken with Ukrainian accent. They found it funny, but they were able to understand it.

    I guess it's useful to remind oneself that Russian is a fairly uniform language, thus Russians in general are probably not used to differences, even if they were relatively slight.

    Note that he lives in Barcelona. So he probably has a certain knowledge of Catalan, and thus finds it even easier to understand Italian.
    I suppose his comment is comparable to someone who's native language is Russian with some knowledge of Belarusian, saying his opinion about Ukrainian's intelligibility. :)
  24. Ptak Senior Member

    It would be extremely strange if a Russian could not understand Russian language spoken with Ukrainian accent. It would be much more strange than if some AmE native could not understand a Brit.
    Russian spoken with Ukrainian accent is such a widespread thing that often you even fail to realize you are listening to a speach with an accent.
    Actually, very often Ukrainians speaking Russian sound just like Russians "from a village" or something.
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2009
  25. volodymyr New Member

    Kyiv, Ukraine
    I was reading this thread, and decided to contribute as I am ukrainian :)

    Although it seems like languages are simular in writing, it sounds different, for example,

    (eng) I am student

    (rus) Я студент


    (ukr) Я студент

    Sounds differently. Closely, but yet differently.

    There is also a difference in speed of speech. A typical ukranian speaks fast in both language, while, for example, if I hear russian spoken in Moscow - it seems quite slow for me, and I can recognize this "moscow accent" anywhere I hear it. It is not just slow, it feels like affectedness.

    A typical example is like to compare French French (ukrainian - fast, dynamic) and Swiss French (russian - slow, a lot of long sounds).

    Most of the Soviet Union generation people (born before 1991) speak Russian, however the younger generation don't. My niece is speaking ukranian everywhere - in kindergarden, in school, etc.
  26. peppermints90 New Member

    English, Russian
    I am learning russian and speak it an intermediate level. When reading Ukrainian I can understand lots of words. Both languages share about roughly about 70% vocabulary. Take a look at this text. the words in red are similar
    Все люди рождаются свободными и равными в своем достоинстве и правах. Они наделены разумом и совестью и должны поступать в отношении друг друга в духе братства.

    Всі люди народжуються вільними і рівними у своїй гідності та правах. Вони наділені розумом і совістю і повинні діяти у відношенні один до одного в дусі братерства

    All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood
  27. oveka Senior Member

    Ukraine, Ukrainian
    Vocabulary Ukrainian language by 38% different from Russian, 32% of Slovak, 30% of Polish and 16% of Belarusian

    Кобеняка наопаш, похуткував годованець манівцями тлумлячи розпуку.

    Translate a:
  28. UkrainianPolyglot Member

    Ukrainian native, but English better
    Ukrainian is definitely closely related to Russian, much more so than to any other language (except Belarusian) despite what some nationalists might claim. But it does have many innovations which are unique and also lots of features and words borrowed from Polish due to hundreds of years of occupation and intermingling with Poles. Ukrainian has much less palatalization than Russian and Polish, therefore making it sound closer to Bulgarian and Serbo-Croatian despite not being nearly as closely related to them as to Russian and Polish.
  29. oveka Senior Member

    Ukraine, Ukrainian
    If such similar language, why the Russians in Ukraine can not chat Ukrainian.
  30. UkrainianPolyglot Member

    Ukrainian native, but English better
    Because they have no need to. Russian has been the dominant and prestigious language in Ukraine for a very long time. Ukrainian has been viewed as a peasant dialect and not something worth learning.
  31. oveka Senior Member

    Ukraine, Ukrainian
    32.5 millions chat in rural dialect! What is rural dialect??
  32. ahvalj

    ahvalj Senior Member

  33. UkrainianPolyglot Member

    Ukrainian native, but English better
    I think that's an inaccurate figure. I grew up in Ternopil Oblast and when I traveled to oblasts as close as Zhytomyr I hardly could consider their speech pure Ukrainian. And it gets more Russian the more east you go. They use lots of Russian words and also change the o to a in unstressed positions. When I was in Kiev only 1/10 of people spoke Ukrainian, and half of the time they were from Western Ukraine. In Odessa Ukrainian was completely unheard of, I remember as a kid I went there for a vacation and I had to speak Russian because no one understood Ukrainian.
  34. sealofhonesty New Member

    Russian, Ukrainian
    Seems you have dismissed comma before тлумлячи.
    Also this sentence doesn't make any sense for me - most of these words are rarely used both in classic literature and modern texts, so it is hard to understand them without context for the person that is not familiar with particular regional dialect of origin from her/his childhood.
  35. oveka Senior Member

    Ukraine, Ukrainian
    No comma before тлумлячи.
    Марія, ледь стримуючи радість, йшла собі стежкою.
  36. angea Senior Member

    I never knew racist posts were allowed.
  37. ahvalj

    ahvalj Senior Member

    The Ukrainian accent *is* perceived this way by the Russians.
  38. angea Senior Member

    No one mentions, for some strange reason, the fact that Ukrainian language is phonetic, meanwhile Russian is morphemic. In Ukrainian language, all words are pronounced exactly as they are written, in Russian, when you speak, you substitute "a" for a written "o", devitalisation of the last consonant of the word, d-t, g-k and so on, while in Ukrainian language consonants stayed voiced. Also, I have never met a Russian who could understand Ukrainian language.
  39. ahvalj

    ahvalj Senior Member

    In linguistics, there is no such thing as "phonetic language". One may speak of phonetic orthography, however.
  40. ahvalj

    ahvalj Senior Member

    I should probably add that this isn't an attitude specific to Ukrainian: Russians from the northern and central areas perceive this way any East Slavic varieties possessing the sounds h/ǥ and sing-song intonations, be it Ukrainian, Belarusian or, actually, southern Russian. Very many people won't even be able to tell the difference between these accents.
  41. ahvalj

    ahvalj Senior Member

    To explain this, we can look at the map from 1915 of East Slavic dialects in Europe:

    The greatest part of the linguistic area that was then called "Great Russian" and now is called "Russian" or "Russian proper" was occupied either by North Russian dialects (brown) or by a narrow strip of Middle Russian (hatched brown). The entire self-identification of Russians is associated with those lands: the concept of the "Russian North", while being an obvious middle 19th century calque of the German concept of the "Germanic North", has nevertheless fallen on fertile soil — there is a lot of sentiments in Russia to those areas and an associated sense of genuineness, whereas the lands occupied by the Southern dialects (red), while the richest, never gained any attention in the nation's consciousness, except maybe Cossack lands in the extreme south, but those were regarded as a separate sub-ethnic group with obvious Ukrainian connections anyway.

    Even the comic effect associated with the southern (h-sounding) and the northern (o-sounding) accents is totally different: the perception of the h-accent is outlined above, whereas the o-accent (while endlessly more rare nowadays) is regarded as something domestic and cozy (Однажды осенью, обходя окрестности Онежского озера, отец Онуфрий обнаружил отроковицу Ольгу…). As an illustration of this domestic effect, one can compare the overall style of the popular modern Internet cartoonist Vasya Lozhkin (вася...a=X&ei=8-a0VL25B4L_ygPtwoGQCQ&ved=0CAYQ_AUoAQ) with his cartoon about the North (
  42. ahvalj

    ahvalj Senior Member

    I'd like to clarify what's going on the last days. I agree that the attitude of most Russians towards the Ukrainian type of accent is quite arrogant. I agree that it may be interpreted unfavorably, though the word "racism" (as I imagine it) mostly describes other things. But we are discussing the facts of life, which nobody can change, like weather. One may like them or not, but if a forum member wants to discuss the real, and not castrated and politically correct views of real speakers, he can't avoid touching these things.

    Update. Please, pay attention that neither me, nor Ptak didn't express our personal attitude: we both just stated what we feel was the long-term perception of the majority of the Russian population. The posts you disagree with are just observations, not personal "wrong" or "unacceptable" opinions of two forum members.

    Update 2. Another thing is that this arrogant attitude concerns the h-accent in Russian, not the Ukrainian language (which many Russians find attractive in its own way), or the Ukrainians as a nation, or the millions of Ukrainians living in Russia and lacking any traces of such an accent.
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2015

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