Slavic languages, Branches

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Summary

The Slavic languages (also called Slavonic languages), a group of closely related languages of the Slavic peoples and a subgroup of Indo-European languages, have speakers in most of Eastern Europe, much of the Balkans, parts of Central Europe, and the northern part of Asia.

Details

Scholars traditionally divide Slavic languages on the basis of geographical and genealogical principle into three main branches, some of which feature subbranches:

    • Czech–Slovak
    • Eastern group
    • Western group
a. The standard linguistic sources about the Slavic languages describe Silesian as a dialect of Polish. However, many Silesians consider themselves a separate ethnicity and have been advocating for national and international recognition of a Silesian language. Also, the standard linguistic organisations describe Silesian as a language. Ongoing debate over the granting for the Silesian of the status of a regional language in Poland.

Some linguists speculate that a North Slavic branch has existed as well. The Old Novgorod dialect may have reflected some idiosyncrasies of this group. On the other hand, the term "North Slavic" is also used sometimes to combine the West and East Slavic languages into one group, in opposition to the South Slavic languages, due to traits the West and East Slavic branches share with each other that they do not with the South Slavic languages.

The most obvious differences between the West and East Slavic branches are in the orthography of the standard languages: West Slavic languages are written in the Latin script, and have had more western European influence due to their speakers being historically Roman Catholic, whereas the East Slavic languages are written in Cyrillic and, with Eastern Orthodox or Uniate faithful, have had more Greek influence. East Slavic languages such as Russian have, however, during and after Peter the Great's Europeanization campaign, absorbed many words of Latin, French, German, and Italian origin, somewhat reducing this difference in influence. Although the South Slavic group has traits that distinguish it from the West or East Slavic branches, within itself it displays much the same variations: Bulgarian, for example, has some East Slavic traits (Cyrillic alphabet, Russian loanwords, and Greek influence) and Croatian many West Slavic ones (Latin alphabet, overall central European influence like Czech), despite both being South Slavic.

The tripartite division of the Slavic languages does not take into account the spoken dialects of each language. Of these, certain so-called transitional dialects and hybrid dialects often bridge the gaps between different languages, showing similarities that do not stand out when comparing Slavic literary (i.e. standard) languages. For example, Slovak (West Slavic) and Ukrainian (East Slavic) are bridged by the Rusyn of Eastern Slovakia and western Ukraine. Similarly, Polish shares transitional features with both western Ukrainian and Belarusian dialects. The Croatian Kajkavian dialect is more similar to Slovene than to the standard Croatian language.

Although the Slavic languages diverged from a common proto-language later than any other group of the Indo-European language family, enough differences exist between the various Slavic dialects and languages to make communication between speakers of different Slavic languages difficult. Within the individual Slavic languages, dialects may vary to a lesser degree, as those of Russian, or to a much greater degree, as those of Slovene.

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External Links

  • WikipediaSlavic Script ConverterSlavic dictionaries on Slavic NetSlavistik-PortalSwadesh lists of Slavic basic vocabulary words

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