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Contours and consequences of the lexical divide in Ukrainian

by Halyna Koscharsky, Geoffrey Hull

When compared with its two large neighbours, Russian and Polish, the Ukrainian language presents a picture of striking internal variation. Not only are Ukrainian dialects more mutually divergent than those of Polish or of territorially more widespread Russian, but on the literary level the language has long been characterized by the existence of two variants of the standard which have never been perfectly harmonized, in spite of the efforts of nationalist writers for a century and a half. While Ukraine’s modern standard language is based on the eastern dialect of the Kyiv-Poltava-Kharkiv triangle, the literary Ukrainian cultivated by most of the diaspora communities continues to follow to a greater or lesser degree the norms of the Lviv koiné in the form it had acquired by 1944, the year that Galicia was definitively joined to the rest of Ukraine.

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