Slavic languages, Influence on neighboring languages

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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

Most languages of the former Soviet Union and of some neighbouring countries (for example, Mongolian) are significantly influenced by Russian, especially in vocabulary. In the south, the Romanian, Albanian, and Hungarian languages show the influence of the neighboring Slavic nations, especially in vocabulary pertaining to urban life, agriculture, and crafts and trade — the major cultural innovations at times of limited long-range cultural contact. In each one of these languages, Slavic lexical borrowings represent at least 20% of the total vocabulary. However, Romanian has much lower influence from Slavic than Albanian or Hungarian. This is because Slavic tribes crossed and partially settled the territories inhabited by ancient Illyrians and Vlachs on their way to the Balkans.

Although also spoken in neighbouring lands, the Germanic languages show less significant Slavic influence, partly because Slavic migrations were mostly headed south rather than west. Slavic tribes did push westwards into Germanic territory, but borrowing for the most part seems to have been from Germanic to Slavic rather than the other way: for instance, the now-extinct Polabian language was heavily influenced by German, far more than any living Slavic language today. The Slavic contributions to Germanic languages remains a mute question though Max Vasmer, a specialist in Slavic etymology, has claimed that there were no Slavic loans into Proto-Germanic. The only Germanic languages that shows significant Slavic influence are Yiddish and the historical colonial dialects of German that were spoken East of the Oder–Neisse line, such as Silesian German (formerly spoken in Silesia and South of East Prussia) and the Eastern varieties of East Low German, with the exception of Low Prussian, which had a strong Baltic substratum. Modern Dutch slang, especially the Amsterdam dialect, borrowed much from Yiddish in turn. However, there are isolated Slavic loans (mostly recent) into other Germanic languages. For example, the word for "border" (in modern German Grenze, Dutch grens) was borrowed from the Common Slavic granica. English derives quark (a kind of cheese, not the subatomic particle) from the German Quark, which in turn is derived from the Slavic tvarog, which means "curd". Many German surnames, particularly in Eastern Germany and Austria, exhibit Slavic origins. Swedish also has torg (market place) from Old Russian tъrgъ or Polish targ, tolk (interpreter) from Old Slavic tlŭkŭ, and pråm (barge) from West Slavonic pramŭ.

The Czech word robot is now found in most languages worldwide, and the word pistol, probably also from Czech, is found in many Indo-European languages, including Greek (πιστόλι, pistóli).

A well-known Slavic word in almost all European languages is vodka, a borrowing from Russian водка (vodka) – which itself was borrowed from Polish wódka (lit. "little water"), from common Slavic voda ("water", cognate to the English word) with the diminutive ending "-ka". Owing to the medieval fur trade with Northern Russia, Pan-European loans from Russian include such familiar words as sable. The English word "vampire" was borrowed (perhaps via French vampire) from German Vampir, in turn derived from Serbian vampir, continuing Proto-Slavic *, although Polish scholar K. Stachowski has argued that the origin of the word is early Slavic *vąpěrь, going back to Turkic oobyr. Several European languages, including English, have borrowed the word polje (meaning "large, flat plain") directly from the former Yugoslav languages (i.e., Slovene, Croatian, and Serbian). During the heyday of the USSR in the 20th century, many more Russian words became known worldwide: da, Soviet, sputnik, perestroika, glasnost, kolkhoz, etc. Also in the English language borrowed from Russian is samovar (lit. "self-boiling") to refer to the specific Russian tea urn.

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External Links

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

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