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Ruthenian language
Ruthenian literary language
руска(я) мова[1][2] / ruska(ja) mova
Native toEast Slavic regions of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth
ExtinctDeveloped into Belarusian, Ukrainian and Rusyn
Early forms
Language codes
ISO 639-3None (mis)

Ruthenian (Latin: lingua ruthenica, also see other names) is an exonymic linguonym for a closely-related group of East Slavic linguistic varieties, particularly those spoken from the 15th to 18th centuries in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and in East Slavic regions of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. Regional distribution of those varieties, both in their literary and vernacular forms, corresponded approximately to the territories of the modern states of Belarus and Ukraine. By the end of the 18th century, they gradually diverged into regional variants, which subsequently developed into the modern Belarusian and Ukrainian languages.[3][4][5][6]

In the Austrian and Austro-Hungarian Empires, the same term (German: Ruthenische sprache, Hungarian: Rutén nyelv) was employed continuously (up to 1918) as an official exonym for the entire East Slavic linguistic body within the borders of the Monarchy.[7]

Several linguistic issues are debated among linguists: various questions related to classification of literary and vernacular varieties of this language; issues related to meanings and proper uses of various endonymic (native) and exonymic (foreign) linguonyms (names of languages and linguistic varieties); questions on its relation to modern East Slavic languages, and its relation to Old East Slavic (the colloquial language used in Kyivan Rus' in the 10th through 13th centuries).[8]


A fragment from the 1588 codification of Lithuanian law, regulating the official use of the "rusky" language (рꙋскй єзыкь).[9]
A fragment from the 1588 codification of Lithuanian law, regulating the official use of the "rusky" language (рꙋскй єзыкь).[9]
Ruthenian Bible printed in 1517
Ruthenian Bible printed in 1517
Ruthenian Language Grammar, by Stepan Smal-Stotsky and Theodor Gartner
Ruthenian Language Grammar, by Stepan Smal-Stotsky and Theodor Gartner

Since the term Ruthenian language was exonymic (foreign, both in origin and nature), its use was very complex, both in historical and modern scholarly terminology.[10]

Names in contemporary use

Contemporary names, that were used for this language from the 15th to 18th centuries, can be divided into two basic linguistic categories, the first being endonyms (native names, used by native speakers as self-designations for their language), and the second exonyms (names in foreign languages).

Common endonyms:

Common exonyms:

Names in modern use

East Slavic languages in 1389. Colors represent spoken dialects. Dashed lines represent written languages: Ruthenian in green, Old East Slavic in orange.
East Slavic languages in 1389. Colors represent spoken dialects. Dashed lines represent written languages: Ruthenian in green, Old East Slavic in orange.

Modern names of this language and its varieties, that are used by scholars (mainly linguists), can also be divided in two basic categories, the first including those that are derived from endonymic (native) names, and the second encompassing those that are derived from exonymic (foreign) names.

Names derived from endonymic terms:

Names derived from exonymic terms:

Terminological dichotomy, embodied in parallel uses of various endoymic and exonymic terms, resulted in a vast variety of ambiguous, overlapping or even contrary meanings, that were applied to particular terms by different scholars. That complex situation is addressed by most English and other western scholars by preferring the exonymic Ruthenian designations.[28][29][21]


Linguistic, ethnographic, and political map of Eastern Europe by Casimir Delamarre, 1868 .mw-parser-output .legend{page-break-inside:avoid;break-inside:avoid-column}.mw-parser-output .legend-color{display:inline-block;min-width:1.25em;height:1.25em;line-height:1.25;margin:1px 0;text-align:center;border:1px solid black;background-color:transparent;color:black}.mw-parser-output .legend-text{}  Ruthenians and Ruthenian language
Linguistic, ethnographic, and political map of Eastern Europe by Casimir Delamarre, 1868
  Ruthenians and Ruthenian language

Daniel Bunčić suggested a periodization of the literary language into:[30]

  1. Early Ruthenian, dating from the separation of Lithuanian and Muscovite chancery languages (15th century) to the early 16th century
  2. High Ruthenian, from Francysk Skaryna (fl. 1517–25), to Ivan Uzhevych (Hramatyka slovenskaia, 1643, 1645)
  3. Late Ruthenian, from 1648 to the establishment of the Ukrainian and Belarusian standard languages at the end of the 18th century

George Shevelov gives a chronology for Ukrainian based on the character of contemporary written sources, ultimately reflecting socio-historical developments: Proto-Ukrainian, up to the mid-11th century, Old Ukrainian, to the 14th c., Early Middle Ukrainian, to the mid-16th c., Middle Ukrainian, to the early 18th c., Late Middle Ukrainian, rest of the 18th c., and Modern Ukrainian.[31]

See also


  1. ^ Ж. Некрашевич-Короткая. Лингвонимы восточнославянского культурного региона (историчесикий обзор) [Lingvonyms of the East Slavic Cultural Region (Historical Review)] (in Russian) // Исследование славянских языков и литератур в высшей школе: достижения и перспективы: Информационные материалы и тезисы докладов международной научной конференции [Research on Slavic Languages and Literature in Higher Education: Achievements and Prospects: Information and Abstracts of the International Scientific Conference]/ Под ред. В. П. Гудкова, А. Г. Машковой, С. С. Скорвида. — М., 2003. — С. 150 — 317 с.
  2. ^ Начальный этап формирования русского национального языка [The initial stage of the formation of the Russian national language], Ленинград 1962, p. 221
  3. ^ Frick 1985, p. 25-52.
  4. ^ Pugh 1985, p. 53-60.
  5. ^ a b Bunčić 2015, p. 276-289.
  6. ^ Moser 2017, p. 119-135.
  7. ^ Moser 2018, p. 87-104.
  8. ^ "Ukrainian Language".
  9. ^ "Statut Velikogo knyazhestva Litovskogo" Статут Великого княжества Литовского [Statute of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (Section 4 Article 1)]. История Беларуси IX-XVIII веков. Первоисточники.. 1588. Archived from the original on 2018-06-29. Retrieved 2019-10-25. А писаръ земъский маеть по-руску литерами и словы рускими вси листы, выписы и позвы писати, а не иншимъ езыкомъ и словы.
  10. ^ Verkholantsev 2008, p. 1-17.
  11. ^ Мозер 2002, p. 221-260.
  12. ^ a b Danylenko 2006a, p. 80-115.
  13. ^ Danylenko 2006b, p. 97–121.
  14. ^ Verkholantsev 2008, p. 1.
  15. ^ Danylenko 2006b, p. 98-100, 103-104.
  16. ^ Danylenko 2006b, p. 100, 102.
  17. ^ Waring 1980, p. 129-147.
  18. ^ Cited in Улащик Н. Введение в белорусско-литовское летописание. — М., 1980.
  19. ^ Elana Goldberg Shohamy and Monica Barni, Linguistic Landscape in the City (Multilingual Matters, 2010: ISBN 1847692974), p. 139: "[The Grand Duchy of Lithuania] adopted as its official language the literary version of Ruthenian, written in Cyrillic and also known as Chancery Slavonic"; Virgil Krapauskas, Nationalism and Historiography: The Case of Nineteenth-Century Lithuanian Historicism (East European Monographs, 2000: ISBN 0880334576), p. 26: "By the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries Chancery Slavonic dominated the written state language in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania"; Timothy Snyder, The Reconstruction Of Nations: Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, 1569-1999 (Yale University Press, 2004: ISBN 030010586X), p. 18: "Local recensions of Church Slavonic, introduced by Orthodox churchmen from more southerly lands, provided the basis for Chancery Slavonic, the court language of the Grand Duchy."
  20. ^ Danylenko 2006a, p. 82-83.
  21. ^ a b Danylenko 2006b, p. 101-102.
  22. ^ Shevelov 1979, p. 577.
  23. ^ Pugh 1996, p. 31.
  24. ^ Borzecki 1996, p. 23.
  25. ^ Borzecki 1996, p. 40.
  26. ^ Brock 1972, p. 166-171.
  27. ^ Struminskyj 1984, p. 33.
  28. ^ Leeming 1974, p. 126.
  29. ^ Danylenko 2006a, p. 82-83, 110.
  30. ^ Bunčić 2015, p. 277.
  31. ^ Shevelov 1979, p. 40–41, 54-55.