Saturday, May 20, 2023

The Cyrillic Alphabet

I'm reposting this here since Wordpress stinks for editing. There's a quote in here which it doesn't do. I also wanted to add a video. That said:

I made a comment about how people in Europe kill each other over what religion they practise or language they speak. Slavic languages have the added factor of varying alphabets, which is interesting when you deal with the pan-Slavic crowd. They sort of have a point in that the languages are similar enough that you can be understood about the way most Scandanavians can understand each other. Then you get to the Alphabets. The former Yugoslavia was torn apart by religion and differences in Alphabets. Likewise, Polish and Ukrainian are fairly similar until you get to the Alphabet.

This is the Polish alphabet.

The Ł is pronounced like Elmer Fudd saying the letter "W". So, Wrocław is pronounced like Vroswav. In my opinion, the German transliteration of Breslaw (with a German accent) works better for non-Poles. The alphabet is a romanised version of Ukrainian/cyrillic.

Ukrainian and Russian both use the Cyrillic alphabet, but slightly different versions. There are four letters in Ukrainian missing from Russian (ґ, є, і, ї), and four letters in Russian missing from Ukrainian (ё, ъ, ы, э). Also:

One frequently cited figure is that Ukrainian and Russian share about 62% of their vocabulary. This is about the same amount of shared vocabulary that English has with Dutch, according to the same calculations. If you expand your sample by scraping internet data to compare a broader range of words than just those 200 ancient “core” words, the proportion of shared words declines. One computational model suggests that Russian and Ukrainian share about 55% of their vocabulary.

Using that higher figure of 62%, though, a Russian with no knowledge of Ukrainian (or vice versa) would understand roughly five in eight words. To understand this, have a friend cross out three out of every eight words in a newspaper and see how much of the text you can follow.

from Ukrainian and Russian: how similar are the two languages?

Anyway, the Cyrillic alphabet also was a force which prevented Russians from invading a good part of Western Europe. I mean, can most people read Cyrillic? Now, turn it around to the Roman alphabet for the average Slavic language speaker. You don't need guns to prevent a Russian invasion--Road signs work quite well.

On the other hand, these nations have different enough cultures that it require a certain amount of sensitivity toward that fact which gets into how one transliterates Kyiv (or pronounces it for that matter).


More like Kew, or the "ł" in Polish, which I learned from my Ukrainian cousin.

My "slavic" heritage is more western (Ukraine, Poland, "Czechoslovakia"{1}, etc.) with my ancestors being definitely Austro-Hungarian. This is why I was musing on this topic: way more variation in Slavic languages outside of Russia.


{1} this saves listing a bunch of former and current countries due to European cartographical changes.

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