East Slavic languages

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The East Slavic languages constitute one of three regional subgroups of Slavic languages, currently spoken in Eastern Europe. It is the group with the largest numbers of speakers, far out-numbering the Western and Southern Slavic groups. Current East Slavic languages are Belarusian, Russian, Ukrainian[1]. Rusyn is considered to be either a separate language or a dialect of Ukrainian[2].

The East Slavic languages descend from a common predecessor, the language of the medieval Kievan Rus' (9th to 13th centuries). In Tsarist Russia, from the 16th century until 1917, they continued to be considered dialects of a single language, Russian. In the Russian Empire Census of 1897, the Russian language (Russkij) was subdivided into Vjelikorusskij ("Great Russian"), Malorusskij ("Little Russian") and Bjelorusskij "White Russian". In the course of the 20th century, "Great Russian" came to be known as Russian proper, "Little Russian" as Ukrainian and "White Russian" as Belarusian.

Contents

Classification

Differentiation

Historical development and current condition assign two poles in the East Slavic languages - Ukrainian and Russian - with Belarusian as a topologically intermediate step. Traditional grouping is south-western (Belarusian and Ukrainian) vs north-eastern (Russian). Virtually the only phonological feature which unites Russian and Ukrainian is the preservation of soft /rʲ/, and even that is lost word-finally in Ukrainian. Elsewhere we find Belarusian sharing features with Ukrainian, and to a lesser extent with Russian, reflecting the early north-east/south-west division formed by the intrusion of Lithuania and Poland into the East Slavic area in the fourteenth-seventeenth centuries.

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