Ukrainian language

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Ukrainian ( українська мова )

Spoken in

Ukraine , Russia , Moldova , Canada , USA , Kazakhstan , Belarus , Romania , Poland , Israel , Slovakia
speaker 45 million (estimated)
Official status
Official language in UkraineUkraine Ukraine

TransnistriaTransnistria Transnistria ( Republic of Moldova ) Bosnia and Herzegovina ( regional ) Croatia ( regional ) Moldova ( regional ) Poland ( regional ) Romania ( regional ) Serbia ( regional ) Slovakia ( regional ) Czech Republic ( regional ) Hungary ( regional ) Belarus ( regional )
Bosnia and HerzegovinaBosnia and Herzegovina 
Moldova RepublicRepublic of Moldova 
Czech RepublicCzech Republic 

Language codes
ISO 639 -1


ISO 639 -2


ISO 639-3


Ukrainian (in Ukrainian українська мова Ukrajinska Mowa , scientific transliteration ukrajins'ka mova , formerly also called Ruthenian ) is a language from the East Slavic subgroup of the Slavic branch of the Indo-European languages .

The Ukrainian language is the only official language of Ukraine and is spoken there by around 32 million people as their mother tongue . There are also Ukrainians and non-Ukrainians who use it as a second language. Ukrainian is the Slavic language with the third highest number of speakers after Russian and Polish .

Ukrainian is written using a variant of the Cyrillic alphabet .


Ukrainian belongs to the East Slavic language group together with Russian and Belarusian .

The name " Rus " for the original settlement area of ​​the Eastern Slavs later sometimes led to confusion, where it was equated with Russia or historically incorrectly called that. For example, the older terms “Greater Russian” for Russian and “Little Russian” (or Ruthenian) for Ukrainian were used, which, together with Belarusian and assuming a kind of common “Russian” umbrella language, continued among many linguists until the 1960s Years as dialects were understood.

In the oldest epoch (around the 14th century) all Eastern Slavs had a common written language ( Old East Slavic ), in the middle (around 15th to 18th century) the ancestors of today's Ukrainians and Belarusians shared the Ruthenian language .

Distribution (percentage of speakers) of the Ukrainian language in the governorates of the Russian Empire according to official statistics from 1897
Percentage of native Ukrainian speakers in Ukraine according to the 2001 official statistics

Towards the end of the 18th century, alongside the Church Slavonic, which had been in use until then , a written Ukrainian language and literature derived from the vernacular developed . In the 19th century the Ukrainian culture and with it its literary language experienced a heyday; the development concentrated less on political and more on scientific topics. Writers like Gogol preferred Russian.

Nevertheless, in 1876, for fear of separatist efforts by Tsar Alexander II in Bad Ems, at the instigation of the Tsarist censorship authority, a far-reaching ban on Ukrainian-language publications was pronounced ( Ems Decree ). Until 1906 Ukrainian scientific publications , readings , exhibitions and concerts were subject to this dictation. The most important Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko (1814–1861) was exiled in Kazakhstan for his texts and poems .

After this ban, the entire literary and scientific life was concentrated in the Austro-Hungarian crown land of Galicia , mainly in the capital Lemberg . Eastern Ukrainian writers also printed their works in Galicia, which encouraged the development of a uniform written language. The common name in Austria-Hungary for Ukrainian was "Ruthenian". It was also the school and official language in Galicia and Bukovina .

In Carpathian Ukraine and on the territory of Hungary and later Slovakia there were efforts to develop a separate written language as early as the 19th century, which was based on the local Ukrainian dialects, but differed from the standard Ukrainian language. These efforts increased again from the end of the 1980s, their result being the codification of the Carpathian-Russian language based on the dialect of Zemplin . The Yugoslav-Russian language in Vojvodina , which because of its similarities with Slovak, can be regarded as a transitional dialect between the East Slavic and West Slavic language families, is more different.

With the establishment of a Ukrainian People's Republic in 1918, Ukrainian became the state language for the first time, and later also in the Ukrainian Soviet Republic . During the Soviet era, Ukrainian was not forbidden, but Russian as the lingua franca dominated all scientific and literary works as well as the media . That is why the colloquial language is still subject to strong Russian influences. This is particularly noticeable when a comparison is made with the vocabulary of the strong Ukrainian diaspora in Canada : there are significantly fewer terms of Russian origin, while “Canadian-Ukrainian” words are rarely used in native-Ukrainian parlance or are out of date in colloquial language and look exotic.

With Ukraine's independence in 1991, Ukrainian became the only official language of the new state, although Russian still plays an extremely important role in Ukraine . There were fierce debates about this, as on the one hand a significant part of the population in Ukraine are Russians, on the other hand many Ukrainians, especially in the east of the country, speak only Russian. Surschyk is a mixed form of Ukrainian and Russian that is widespread throughout the country (and has been falling since independence) and is only used orally .

Because of this historical development, the language is still a highly political topic for many Ukrainians today, and one that is repeatedly and vehemently discussed. A period of Ukrainization has set in since independence , but in 2012 the Russian language was restored to official status in 13 of the country's 27 regions.


Today's Ukrainian alphabet with scientific transliteration and German transcription:

Large (HTML entity ) Small (HTML entity ) scientific
А (& # 1040;) а (& # 1072;) A a A a
Б (& # 1041;) б (& # 1073;) B b B b
В (& # 1042;) в (& # 1074;) V v W w
Г (& # 1043;) г (& # 1075;) H h H h
Ґ (& # 1168;) ґ (& # 1169;) G g G g
Д (& # 1044;) д (& # 1076;) D d D d
Е (& # 1045;) е (& # 1077;) E e E e
Є (& # 1028;) є (& # 1108;) Ever ever Ever ever
Ж (& # 1046;) ж (& # 1078;) Ž ž Sch (Zh) sch (zh)
З (& # 1047;) з (& # 1079;) Z z S s
И (& # 1048;) и (& # 1080;) Y y Y y
І (& # 1030;) і (& # 1110;) I i I i
Ї (& # 1031;) ї (& # 1111;) Ji ji Ji ji
Й (& # 1049;) й (& # 1081;) J j J j
К (& # 1050;) к (& # 1082;) K k K k (instead of ks also x)
Л (& # 1051;) л (& # 1083;) L l L l
М (& # 1052;) м (& # 1084;) M m M m
Н (& # 1053;) н (& # 1085;) N n N n
О (& # 1054;) о (& # 1086;) O o O o
П (& # 1055;) п (& # 1087;) P p P p
Р (& # 1056;) р (& # 1088;) R r R r
С (& # 1057;) с (& # 1089;) S s S s (also ss between vowels)
Т (& # 1058;) т (& # 1090;) T t T t
У (& # 1059;) у (& # 1091;) U u U u
Ф (& # 1060;) ф (& # 1092;) F f F f
Х (& # 1061;) х (& # 1093;) Ch ch Ch ch
Ц (& # 1062;) ц (& # 1094;) C c Z z
Ч (& # 1063;) ч (& # 1095;) Č č Tsch Tsch
Ш (& # 1064;) ш (& # 1096;) Š š Sh sh
Щ (& # 1065;) щ (& # 1097;) Šč šč Shch shch (shch shch)
ь (& # 1100;) 'or j 1 (soft sign) (-) or j
Ю (& # 1070;) ю (& # 1102;) Ju ju Ju ju
Я (& # 1071;) я (& # 1103;) Yes / Yes Yes / Yes
' '(Apostrophe) 2 (-)

1 only after consonants; a capital letter does not exist; palatates the preceding consonant; "J" before "o", otherwise (in the final and before consonants) "'"; in the transcription “j” before “o”, otherwise not reproduced
2 only between consonants and “j” + vowel; usually not reproduced in the transcription

Vocabulary and pronunciation

Due to the relatively late differentiation of the individual Slavic languages ​​from their common origin, Ur-Slavic, the common vocabulary is comparatively large, it is around two thirds. Ukrainian differs slightly more from Russian than Belarusian in terms of vocabulary , sound formation and sentence structure . Lexically , the Ukrainian language is close to Belarusian (84% common lexicons), then Polish (70%), Slovak (68%) and Russian (62%).

In direct comparison with the Russian language , JB Rudnyckyj mentions the following sound shifts (the first word Russian and the second Ukrainian):

  • Itazism : the vowels e and o become i in closed syllables
    E.g. Львов (Lwow - Lemberg) - Львів ( Lviv ), кошка (koschka - cat) - кішка (kiška (kischka))
  • Ikavism : the "jat" sound ever becomes i
    Example: месяц (mjesjaz - month, moon) - місяць (misjaz '), медь (Mjed' - copper) - мідь (mid ')
  • hard consonants before the e
    Example: весна (vjesná (wjesna) - spring) - весна (vesna (wesna)), перед (pjered - before) - перед (pered)
  • Fusion of the Old Slavic sounds i and ы to и
    e.g .: пиво (pívo (piwo) - beer) - пиво (pyvo (pywo)), нитка (nítka - yarn) - нитка (nytka)
  • Development of the g sound to h
    Example: голова (galavá (golowa)) - head - голова (holova (holowa)), горло (górlo throat, neck) - горло (horlo)
  • the vocalization of the l sound, written в
    e.g .: пил (pil - he drank) - пив (pyv (pyw)), брал (bral - he took) - брав (brav (braw)), волк (folk (wolk) - wolf) - вовк (vovk (wowk)).

An example of differences in vocabulary is the verb "marry":

  • Ukrainian: одружуватися (odruschuwatysja) (for both sexes; root дружба (Druzhba) - friendship, also дружина (Druzhyna) - wife)
  • Russian: жениться (Schenit'sja) (for the man; root word жена (Schena) - woman), выходить замуж (Wychodit Samusch) (for the woman; literally: step behind the man)


See main article: Ukrainian grammar .

The Ukrainian language distinguishes seven cases (відмінки, Widminky):

  • Nominative (називний відмінок, Nasywnyj widminok)
  • Genitive (родовий відмінок, Rodowyj widminok)
  • Dative (давальний відмінок, Dawalnyj widminok)
  • Accusative (знахідний відмінок, Snachidnyj widminok)
  • Instrumental (орудний відмінок, Orudnyj widminok)
  • Locative (місцевий відмінок, Miszewyj widminok), corresponds to the Russian prepositive
  • Vokativ (кличний відмінок, Klytschnyj widminok), pure form of address

When it comes to the inflection of nouns, a distinction is made between so-called declension classes (відміна, widmina), whereby these determine the inflection in addition to the gender . In addition, within some declination classes, a distinction is made between groups that are characterized by the type of their endings (hard, soft, mixed).

A peculiarity of Ukrainian adjectives is the formation of forms that mark an emotional attitude towards people and objects; this can be reducing, caressing, enlarging or coarse. For example, the adjective “beautiful” (гарний, harnyj) is “pampered” by the form гарненький (harnenkyj) (see diminutive for nouns). The adjectives are also declined in two groups (hard and soft).

While in Ukrainian only three time categories (past, present, future) of the verb are differentiated, as in other Slavic languages the aspect plays a major role. So almost every verb exists in pairs in the unfinished and completed aspect. These pairs of aspects are mostly identical in their lexical meaning. The respective imperfect verb form expresses an unfinished, in time not limited action in the past, present or future. The perfect verb form, on the other hand, only occurs in the past and present tense , with the present tense expressing the grammatical future. This peculiarity of the verb can take on many different functions and features that are difficult to convey to the non-native speaker; the difference in meaning can sometimes only be understood from context.

Language example

Universal Declaration of Human Rights , Article 1:

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.

Ukrainian transliteration

Vsi ljudy narodžujut'sja vil'nymy i rivnymy u svojij hidnosti ta pravach. Vony nadileni rozumom i sovistju i povynni dijaty u vidnošenni odyn do odnoho v dusi braterstva.

German transcription

Wsi ljudy narodschujut'sja wilnymy i rivnymy i svojij hidnosti ta prawach. Wony nadileni rosumom i sowisstju i powynni dijaty u widnoschenni odyn do odnoho w dussi braterstwa.

German translation

All people are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should meet one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

For so-called "false friends" between German and Ukrainian, see list of false friends "Slavic"


  • Svetlana Amir-Babenko, Franz Pfliegl: Practical short grammar of the Ukrainian language. Buske, Hamburg 2005, ISBN 3-87548-371-5 .
  • Svetlana Amir-Babenko: Textbook of the Ukrainian language. Buske, Hamburg 2007, ISBN 978-3-87548-479-3 .
  • Ludmila Schubert: Ukrainian for beginners and advanced learners. 2. revised Edition, Harrassowitz Verlag, Wiesbaden 2008, ISBN 978-3-447-05766-0 .


  1. Ukrainian. in the language database of the Research Association for Eastern and South Eastern Europe (forost)
  2. a b c d e (regional) List of declarations made with respect to treaty No. 148 (Status as of: 21/9/2011) // Council of Europe
  3. European Charter for Regional or MinorityLanguages , p. 2 (PDF; 1 MB); Retrieved December 6, 2015
  4. HOTARARE no. 1.206 din 27 noiembrie 2001 pentru aprobarea Normelor de aplicare a dispozitiilor privitoare la dreptul cetatenilor apartinand unei minoritati nationale de a folosi limba materna în administratia publica locala, cuprinse în Legea administratiei publice locale no. 215/2001 , accessed December 6, 2015 (Romanian)
  5. У Словаччині збільшиться кількість населених пунктів, де офіційно вживатиметься мова нацменшин  - Karpatnews
  6. Ethnologue: Statistics SIL International
  7. Rudnyćkyj, Textbook of the Ukrainian Language, 3rd verb. Ed., Leipzig 1943, p. XIII.
  8. Мови Європи: відстані між мовами за словниковим складом ( Memento of February 8, 2012 in the Internet Archive )

Web links

Wiktionary: Ukrainian  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Ukrainian language  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Commons : Ukrainian pronunciation  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files