https://www.duolingo.com/EricNoonan2

Ukrainian intelligible with Polish or Russian? Or both (depending on the region?)

Is it true? I've heard many differing opinions, most saying that the standard language being intelligible with Polish not Russian, though Wikipedia has the opposite opinion. A very thorough linguistics paper I found gives these figures:

Polish: 60% oral intelli. with Western Ukrainian, 39% oral intell. with Standard Ukrainian 67% written intell. in general

Russian: 50% oral intelligibility, 80% written intelligibility.

So it doesn't look so good for mutual intelligibility as a whole, with the exception of written Russian and written Ukrainian, sort of like the situation with Chinese and Japanese I guess.

While Ukrainian and Belarusian are basically the same language, and same with Czech+Slovak, Bulgarian+Macedonian, and the Yugoslavian dialects, half of the Slavic languages are pretty much on their own in terms of having "brother languages". Russian is pretty much on its own, same with Polish. I also hear from a lot of sources that Slovenian is on its own among the languages of the former Yugoslavia. Oddly, that same paper also gives a very high intelligibility rate for solely written Ukrainian by Bulgarians. But even though Russians can understand written Ukrainian too, Bulgarians trying to understand written Russian don't do too well. It looks like written Ukrainian is a sort of midpoint between Russian and Bulgarian. Ah, the conundrums of dialect continuums.

2 weeks ago

7 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/2E3S
2E3S
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Polish is not comprehensible for western Ukrainian speakers per se without some training as I've found out. Some basic dialog may be established between any Slavic language, they haven't diverged a lot. Indeed, Ukrainian is helped by the language union with Polish which existed for a few centuries in the past. By the way, the intelligibility depends on a direction, so the numbers should be specified for Ukrainian->Polish and Polish->Ukrainian. I find it hard to believe that "60% oral intelli. with Western Ukrainian, 39% oral intell Standard Ukrainian", its dialects don't have such a distance.

I guess all Ukrainians understand Russian and most speak, so it's hard to say. Russians struggle with spoken Ukrainian especially at the beginning because of the heavy southern phonology (accent) and vocabulary gaps. But it took me just a couple days to adapt in Lviv, although I'm not that representative. Written normative language is much more different, but it can be read easier by a non-trained person because no phonology is involved and more time is given.

Written Bulgarian may be closer to Russian because of the influence of old Bulgarian (it was a written standard in the early Russian national state). Belarusian is somewhat intermediate between Russian and Ukrainian: eastern Belarusian dialects form a language continuum with Southern Russian dialects (the standard for both is based on central dialects), polesian dialect is more Ukrainian.

The intelligibility is not reliable and depends on too many factors, for instance a distribution of another or relative language, phonology, or even prestige (a desire to understand it at all). It's somewhat too random to make such conclusions: "Ukrainian is a sort of midpoint between Russian and Bulgarian"

1 week ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Garry_S
Garry_S
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Hello EricNoonan2! I am a native Ukrainian speaker and I can speak Russian fluently. I can also understand most of what speakers of other Slavic languages speak. But only if they speak slowly and clearly. And I can't speak other Slavic lenguages except for Russian at least so far.

2 weeks ago

https://www.duolingo.com/NazarSwit
NazarSwit
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Hi, mi parents are Ukrainian and I say you, so the Ukrainian, Polish, Russian, hungarian, bulgarian and moldavian are very similar

2 weeks ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Slim150751
Slim150751
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Hungarian? It is not the truth! It is totally different language, not similar to any other I think.

2 weeks ago

https://www.duolingo.com/relox84
relox84
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I know someone from Ukraine who told me Ukrainians and Poles had no difficulties understanding each other and could talk to each other in their respective language.

2 weeks ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Beata_Pietraga

Yes it's true. I'm from Poland. I have a family in Ukraine and Russia. Everyone speaks in their language. We understand each other :)

2 weeks ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Yevgeny56

My oldest sister speaks Ukrainian pretty fluently and had a chance to communicate with a young woman that spoke fluent Polish as part of an exercise in her son's university classroom where he teaches. She said she understood everything the young woman said in Polish. But when I or any of my siblings hear Russian spoken we're mostly lost. We can pick up a word here and there, but not much.

Our father was from western Ukraine and our mother, also Ukrainian, was from eastern Poland. Both left their homes in their early 20s (our mother was forcibly taken to Austria and our father fled his home) around 1941-42. Neither were subjected to the required learning of Russian like our aunts and cousins in Ukraine were, so we never heard a word of it when we were young. Anyone growing up in Ukraine during the Soviet era would have learned Russian in school, and would hear it spoken regularly. My cousins husband thinks all Slavic languages are similar, but you have to consider his education experience growing up.

So from the perspective of someone that speaks fluent Ukrainian (my sister), but never learned either Polish or Russian, Polish seems to be much closer to Ukrainian.

1 week ago
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