While they share the Cyrillic script and a common ancestor, is the Ukrainian language similar to Russian? Can Ukrainian understand Russian?
Contrary to what most people believe, they are not the same language. To understand the relationship between these two languages, it is important to take a look at their shared history.
Golocalise, as a company dedicated to language localization, we wanted to provide an overview of Russian and Ukrainian languages, their similarities, and differences to understand the linguistic complexities behind both. All with the aim of answering the question: Is the Ukrainian language similar to Russian?
Are Ukrainian and Russian Languages Related?
Like Russian, Ukrainian is an East Slavic language that was a part of the Indo-European family. But how similar is the Ukrainian language to Russian?
The origins can be traced back to the East Slavic language that was used until the 13th century.
The language later developed into the Ruthenian language after the fall of Kievan Rus. In modern Ukraine territory, a Kyiv version of the Church Slavonic was used.
From that point on, there was a divergence from the Russian language and a distinct development of Ukrainian.
Ukrainian borrowed from so many languages that by the 17th century, the two languages became vastly different. During the Treaty of Pereyaslav, Ukrainian translators were needed for negotiations.
There is an asymmetric intelligibility between the two languages. This means that most Ukrainian speakers can often understand Russian, but Russian speakers do not understand Ukrainian.
Is the Ukrainian Language Similar to Russian? Ukrainian and Russian Language Similarities
Since both languages evolved from the East Slavic, the two have a few similarities.
One of the biggest similarities between the two languages is their use of the Cyrillic script. Cyrillic was based on the Greek alphabet and was created in the 9th century.
Inflected Nouns, Adjectives, and Pronouns
In both languages, adjectives, pronouns, and nouns are inflected depending on their case, number, and gender.
This means that the words may look different when they are plural or singular, feminine, masculine, or neuter.
Much like Greek, Russian, and Ukrainian also have three noun genders- neuter, masculine, and feminine.
Ukrainian also has all of these six noun cases. Additionally, it also has a vocative noun case.
Is the Ukrainian Language Similar to Russian? Ukrainian and Russian Language Differences
Now that we’ve seen how the Ukrainian language is similar to Russian, let’s explore the differences between the two languages.
While both languages use the Cyrillic alphabet, there are four letters in the Ukrainian language that are not used in Russian.
Similarly, there are four letters used in the Russian language that are not used in Ukrainian.
While both languages share many similar words, many of these words are false friends. This means that the same word can mean different things in the two languages.
Pronunciation and Sounds
While the two languages may sound the same, there are many differences in pronunciation.
For example, “Г г” has a specific sound in Ukrainian which sounds like “h” in aha. In Russian, the letter is pronounced as “g” in go.
Another difference between the languages is that the Ukrainian language uses a vocative case, but Russian does not.
Russian also has two types of future tense, but Ukrainian has three.
Is the Ukrainian Language Similar to Russian? Languages Beyond the War
Language is political and is closely related to the cultural and political history of the community.
Some of these language differences are particularly noticeable now. For example, Ukrainian President Zelenskyy often switches between Russian and Ukrainian in his speeches, depending on who he is addressing.
Another example is the recent law that requires all print publications in Ukraine to only publish in the Ukrainian language.
An additional linguistic difference that can be noticed is the use of “Ukraine” instead of “the Ukraine” in English. The use of the word “the” gives the impression that Ukraine is part of a larger region.
The preference of not using “the” highlights that Ukraine emphasizes that it is independent and not a part of another region.
Is the Ukrainian Language Similar to Russian? Ukrainian and Russian Localization Services
At GoLocalise, we understand the subtle linguistic, cultural, and political differences between the two languages and offer language localization services that are accurate.
As language specialists, GoLocalise has a vast network of voiceover actors, subtitlers, and translators in Russian and Ukrainian. Connect with us today to learn more about our services and to request a free quote.