Ukrainian: Vladimir vs. Volodymyr

Packard

Senior Member
USA, English
I noticed recently a shift in the spelling of Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s first name in news reports.

I am guessing that either:

  1. I did not notice this shift earlier
  2. This is a simple correction of Zelenskyy’s name like the additional “y” was earlier.
  3. An effort to distance his first name from Putin’s

Any thoughts on the story behind the spelling change?
 
  • Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    So this is just journalists catching on the spelling? It is not social commentary in any way?
     

    jasio

    Senior Member
    Wikipedia (Volodymyr Zelenskyy - Wikipedia) says that he was born and "grew up as native Russian speaker" and Ukrainian is only his second language - like in case of many people from Eastern Ukraine. He also "worked mostly in Russian language productions". So it's not a surprise that he used a Russian form of his first name, Владимир (Зеленский, Владимир Александрович — Википедия). Nowadays he may prefer to use a Ukrainian form instead (Зеленський Володимир Олександрович — Вікіпедія).

    Not sure, when he started using the Ukrainian spelling of his first name (and of his father's name as well, which in those cultures is a part of the individual's name); when the English-speaking media changed the transliteration is a separate topic. Perhaps they now use more Ukrainian sources, perhaps the president's PR department puts more attention to it.

    Nothing unusual at war time, btw. For comparison you may refer to the history of the Sachsen-Coburg-Gotha dynasty, which has been ruling the UK for more than a century now - although Mr. Zelenskyy case seems to be justified much better, as he only followed his language preference.
     
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    ahvalj

    Senior Member
    From what I understand, this is purely automatic. Any Russian name is ukrainized in a Ukrainian context and vice versa, unless a special stylistic effect is implied. During totalitarianism, when passports and other documents were routinely issued in two languages, each had the name and surname written according to the respective norm, and both were considered equally official.
     

    ahvalj

    Senior Member
    In case you weren't aware, Slavic Vladimir is the "same" name as Germanic Waldemar/Voldemar. :)
    It's most probably East Germanic (Gothic etc.) in origin: in these languages ē>ī, unlike in West and North Germanic, where ē>ā, and Gothic/Vandalic/etc. names in -mir (though not *Waldamir itself) are abundantly attested (e. g. Valamir~Valamer).

    The ancient Slavs adopted this name with -měrъ (the original East Germanic and the etymological Slavic — if it did survive — variant), -mirъ and -merъ.

    The variant with Vla- is Bulgarian in origin, with Volo- is East Slavic. The original non-metathesized form was Wal-, attested in Byzantine sources (Βαλδίμερ).

    -i- is a Slavic connecting vowel (cognate to the Lithuanian -i- in Algimantas etc., though in Slavic it comes from *ī or *ei̯, as in verbs like minėti, minite with a short i vs. mьněti, mьnite with an etymological ī or *ei̯), which casually became identical with the imperative suffix, so, contrary to the popular belief, Vladimir does not mean “rule the world!”, it means “glorious through power”. Its Slavic calque is Vladislavъ.
     

    AndrasBP

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    The variant with Vla- is Bulgarian in origin, with Volo- is East Slavic.
    I've always wondered why the endeared form of Vladimir is Volodya. :)
    Do you know if the Southern and Eastern Slavic versions have always coexisted in Russian?
    Has the form "Volodimir" ever been used, in dialects perhaps?
     

    ahvalj

    Senior Member
    I've always wondered why the endeared form of Vladimir is Volodya. :)
    Do you know if the Southern and Eastern Slavic versions have always coexisted in Russian?
    Has the form "Volodimir" ever been used, in dialects perhaps?
    Volo- continues the folk East Slavic form, Vla- the solemn official Church Slavonic one, hence their modern stylistic divergence. For example, here is a coin of Vladimir the Great, a millennium old, with the name spelled Vladimirъ:

    CKf5shXUcAErN6d.jpg


    All forms (with Vla-/Volo- and even Vlo- and with -mirъ/-měrъ/-merъ) coexisted in texts. The (later) manuscript of the first dated Old East Slavic prose — Слово о законѣ и благодѣти… (check the radio button оригинал at the top), originally written in 1051, uses похвала кагану нашему Влодимеру / каганъ нашь Влодимеръ / кагана нашеа земли Володимера / кагану Ярославу, сыну Владимирю — that is, both Vlod- (most probably a scribal merger of Volod- and Vlad-, hardly a Polish influence), Volod- and Vlad-.
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    Is there a pronunciation difference? How many syllables? Listening to American journalists, it sounds like two syllables. Looking at the spellings, it appears to be three.
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    My hearing is not the best, but I hear “vlad-mir” when the news people say it. If you speak “vlad-mir” it falls between two and three syllables.
     

    Awwal12

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Any Russian name is ukrainized in a Ukrainian context and vice versa
    Pretty much that. Curiously, first names are also habitually translated between Russian and Georgian where applicable (Mikhail <> Mikheil, Pyotr <> Petre, Dmitriy <> Dimitri, etc.), but not between Georgian and Ukrainian.
     

    pimlicodude

    Senior Member
    British English
    It's most probably East Germanic (Gothic etc.) in origin: in these languages ē>ī, unlike in West and North Germanic, where ē>ā, and Gothic/Vandalic/etc. names in -mir (though not *Waldamir itself) are abundantly attested (e. g. Valamir~Valamer).

    The ancient Slavs adopted this name with -měrъ (the original East Germanic and the etymological Slavic — if it did survive — variant), -mirъ and -merъ.

    The variant with Vla- is Bulgarian in origin, with Volo- is East Slavic. The original non-metathesized form was Wal-, attested in Byzantine sources (Βαλδίμερ).

    -i- is a Slavic connecting vowel (cognate to the Lithuanian -i- in Algimantas etc., though in Slavic it comes from *ī or *ei̯, as in verbs like minėti, minite with a short i vs. mьněti, mьnite with an etymological ī or *ei̯), which casually became identical with the imperative suffix, so, contrary to the popular belief, Vladimir does not mean “rule the world!”, it means “glorious through power”. Its Slavic calque is Vladislavъ.
    If Vladimir is ultimately Gothic, then what about the apparent meaning of the name in Russian? Vladimir seems to mean "rule the world" or something like that (compare Vladivostock, interpreted as "Rule the East", Vladikavkaz and some others). Is this a kind of false etymology, ascribing a Slavic meaning to name that is ultimately just a foreign borrowing?
     

    Awwal12

    Senior Member
    Russian
    If Vladimir is ultimately Gothic, then what about the apparent meaning of the name in Russian?
    It has been re-analyzed, obviously, and even slightly reshaped later, as the earliest attested forms of the same name are Volodiměrŭ/Vladiměrŭ (~"the one who owns a measure"). Something which isn't unique at all (cf. Slavicized Norse names like Rogvolodŭ < *Rag(n)valðr from the chronicles, or, in Western Europe, Latinized Rollon < Hrolfr).
     

    ahvalj

    Senior Member
    This root -mir has become with time just a formal element added to various stems and producing, especially in South Slavic languages, diverse and sometimes bizarre outcomes.

    In the earliest East Slavic texts, we find the following.

    Old Novgorod dialect — Зализняк АА · 2004 · ‹Древненовгородский диалект›: 838, 204 (for unknown reasons given in their southern East Slavic forms, not in the shape they actually had in that dialect):
    Tvorimirъ
    Sutimirъ
    Vidomirъ
    Žiznomirъ
    Jaromirъ
    Solьmirъ (from *Solimirъ ? — p. 69)​
    Stanimirъ~Stanьmirъ
    Ratьmirъ (from *Ratimirъ ? — p. 69, 468) — Old Polish has Racimiar<*Ratiměrъ (p. 468)​

    Also Ostromirъ

    General older East Slavic (with some Polish) — Литвина АФ, Успенский ФБ · 2006 · ‹Выбор имени у русских князей в Х–ХVI вв. Династическая история сквозь призму антропонимики›:

    Boremir
    Vladimir~Vladimer~Volodimir~Volodimer
    Vsevolodimer
    Zvenimir
    Kazimir
    Stanimir
    Tvorimir
    Xotemir
    Jaromir

    Thus:
    (1) the absolutely prevailing form on the East Slavic ground is -mirъ,
    (2) the meanings are quite diverse and often not explicable from “world, peace”, e. g. Ostromirъ “Sharp-world/peace?”, Vidomirъ “Aspect-world/peace?”, Žiznomirъ “Life-world/peace?”, Ratьmirъ “Army-world/peace?”, Zvenimir “Ringing-world/peace?”. In all these cases the meaning “glorious, famous” is preferable, especially since parallel names in -slavъ exist for some (Jaromirъ — Jaroslavъ, Stanimirъ — Stanislavъ, Vladimirъ — Vladislavъ, Zvenimir — Zvenislava [woman]).​

    Across Slavic, mirъ “peace, world” coexists with *měrъ ‘the same’ (‹Этимологический словарь славянских языков…› — ‹Выпуск 19 (męs(’)arь-morzakъ)› · 1992 · ОН Трубачёв: 55–57): dialectal Serbo-Croatian mijer, Old Czech mier, Slovak mier. So, one may have explained the alternation -mirъ~-měrъ in these names from the purely Slavic material if not the third variant, -merъ, which cannot be etymologically related (as i and ě come from an i-diphthong, which cannot have produced e in the Slavic languages of the turn of the 1st and 2nd millennia).

    In Germanic, we find the adjective *mēraz “great, excellent; famous”. Its o-grade counterpart exists in Celtic (*māros, with similar compounds: Iantumaros) and perhaps in Greek (ἐγχεσίμωρος “famous for his spear” ? — Beekes RSP · 2010 · ‹Etymological dictionary of Greek›: 372). In Slavic, it should have corresponded to -měrъ and -marъ, the latter unattested, and then both -mirъ and -merъ hang in the air.

    So, the most probable explanation appears to me as follows. Indo-European languages once possessed personal names with the second element *-mēros or -mōros meaning something like “famous for”. These survived to historical times in Gaulish and especially in Germanic. Slavic probably lost them at some point or preserved as opaque historical remnants that speakers tried to re-analyze. The East Germanic dominance in the pre-Hunnic times (Oium) made the Slavs acquainted with names in *-mēr->*-mīr- (e. g. perhaps Filimer; the shift ē>ī was occurring in East Germanic precisely in those centuries and is well attested in names and as scribal errors) that were loaned in both phonetic variants, with *ē>ě and *ī>i. -Merъ probably reflects the Greek pronunciation of these Germanic names borrowed somewhat later, when Slavs settled in what is now Bulgaria (Thracian Goths).

    P. S. Vladikavkaz and Vladivostok are artificial 19th century names given after that folk interpretation of Vladimir as “rule the world”.
     
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    ahvalj

    Senior Member
    By the way, y [ɪ] is the result of the Ukrainian merger of the older i and y, so Volodymyr comes from the Old East Slavic Volodimirъ. That was a chain reaction as a new i developed from ě>ie (lěto>lʲito) and from an older e lengthened before the disappearing yer (šestь>šʲistʲ).
     

    DarkChild

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    I've always wondered why the endeared form of Vladimir is Volodya. :)
    Do you know if the Southern and Eastern Slavic versions have always coexisted in Russian?
    Has the form "Volodimir" ever been used, in dialects perhaps?
    This is nothing unusual. There are many such words that coexist in Russian:

    grad - gorod
    glava - golova

    etc.
     

    pimlicodude

    Senior Member
    British English
    This is nothing unusual. There are many such words that coexist in Russian:

    grad - gorod
    glava - golova

    etc.
    yes - the firms with "o" being the Old Russian or Old East Slavic forms. The forms with "a" being Old Church Slavonic (= essentially Old Bulgarian or the Russian form adapted from it).
     
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