Belarusian language

Belarusian language

Discussion
Ask a question about 'Belarusian language'
Start a new discussion about 'Belarusian language'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Encyclopedia
The Belarusian language (беларуская мова, BGN/PCGN
BGN/PCGN romanization of Belarusian
The BGN/PCGN romanization system for Belarusian is a method for romanization of Cyrillic Belarusian texts, that is, their transliteration into the Latin alphabet....

: byelaruskaya mova, Scientific
Scientific transliteration
Scientific transliteration, variously called academic, linguistic, or scholarly transliteration, is an international system for transliteration of text from the Cyrillic to the Latin alphabet...

: belaruskaja mova, łac.
Belarusian Latin alphabet
The Belarusian Latin alphabet or Łacinka is the common name of the several historical alphabets to render the Belarusian text in Latin script.-Use:...

: biełaruskaja mova), sometimes referred to as White Russian or White Ruthenian, is the language of the Belarusian
Belarusians
Belarusians ; are an East Slavic ethnic group who populate the majority of the Republic of Belarus. Introduced to the world as a new state in the early 1990s, the Republic of Belarus brought with it the notion of a re-emerging Belarusian ethnicity, drawn upon the lines of the Old Belarusian...

 people. It is an official language of Belarus
Belarus
Belarus , officially the Republic of Belarus, is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe, bordered clockwise by Russia to the northeast, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, and Lithuania and Latvia to the northwest. Its capital is Minsk; other major cities include Brest, Grodno , Gomel ,...

, along with Russian, and is spoken abroad, chiefly in Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

, Ukraine
Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

, and Poland
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

.
Prior to Belarus
Belarus
Belarus , officially the Republic of Belarus, is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe, bordered clockwise by Russia to the northeast, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, and Lithuania and Latvia to the northwest. Its capital is Minsk; other major cities include Brest, Grodno , Gomel ,...

 gaining its independence from the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 in 1992, the language was known in English as Byelorussian or Belorussian, transliterating the Russian
Russian language
Russian is a Slavic language used primarily in Russia, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. It is an unofficial but widely spoken language in Ukraine, Moldova, Latvia, Turkmenistan and Estonia and, to a lesser extent, the other countries that were once constituent republics...

 name, , or alternatively as White Russian or White Ruthenian. Following independence, it was also called Belarusian.

Belarusian is one of the East Slavic languages
East Slavic languages
The East Slavic languages constitute one of three regional subgroups of Slavic languages, currently spoken in Eastern Europe. It is the group with the largest numbers of speakers, far out-numbering the Western and Southern Slavic groups. Current East Slavic languages are Belarusian, Russian,...

, and shares many grammatical and lexical features with other members of the group. Its predecessor stage is known as Old Belarusian
Old Belarusian language
Old Belarusian was a historic East Slavic language, written and spoken at least in the 14th–17th century, and reported spoken as late as the very beginning of the 19th century, in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and later in the East Slavic territories of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, probably...

 (14th to 17th centuries), in turn descended from Old East Slavic (10th to 13th centuries).

According to the 1999 Belarus Census, the Belarusian language is declared as a "language spoken at home" by about 3,686,000 Belarusian citizens (36.7% of the population) as of 1999. About 6,984,000 (85.6%) of Belarusians
Belarusians
Belarusians ; are an East Slavic ethnic group who populate the majority of the Republic of Belarus. Introduced to the world as a new state in the early 1990s, the Republic of Belarus brought with it the notion of a re-emerging Belarusian ethnicity, drawn upon the lines of the Old Belarusian...

 declared it their "mother tongue". Other sources put the "population of the language" as 6,715,000 in Belarus and 9,081,102 in all countries.
According to a study done by the Belarusian government in 2009, 72% of Belarusians speak Russian at home, while Belarusian is used by only 11.9% of Belarusians. 29.4% of Belarusians can write, speak and read Belarusian, while only 52.5% can read and speak it. According to the research, one out of ten Belarusians does not understand Belarusian.

Phonology



Although closely related to other East Slavic languages
East Slavic languages
The East Slavic languages constitute one of three regional subgroups of Slavic languages, currently spoken in Eastern Europe. It is the group with the largest numbers of speakers, far out-numbering the Western and Southern Slavic groups. Current East Slavic languages are Belarusian, Russian,...

, Belarusian phonology is distinct in a number of ways. The phoneme
Phoneme
In a language or dialect, a phoneme is the smallest segmental unit of sound employed to form meaningful contrasts between utterances....

 inventory of the modern Belarusian language consists of 45 to 54 phonemes: 6 vowels and 39 to 48 consonants, depending on how they are counted. When the nine geminate
Gemination
In phonetics, gemination happens when a spoken consonant is pronounced for an audibly longer period of time than a short consonant. Gemination is distinct from stress and may appear independently of it....

 consonants are excluded as mere variations there are 39 consonants, and excluding rare consonants further depresses the count. The number 48 includes all consonant sounds, including variations and rare sounds, which may be semantically distinct in the modern Belarusian language.

Alphabet


The Belarusian alphabet is a variant of the Cyrillic alphabet
Cyrillic alphabet
The Cyrillic script or azbuka is an alphabetic writing system developed in the First Bulgarian Empire during the 10th century AD at the Preslav Literary School...

, which was first used as an alphabet for the Old Church Slavonic
Old Church Slavonic
Old Church Slavonic or Old Church Slavic was the first literary Slavic language, first developed by the 9th century Byzantine Greek missionaries Saints Cyril and Methodius who were credited with standardizing the language and using it for translating the Bible and other Ancient Greek...

 language. The modern Belarusian form was identified in 1918, and consists of thirty-two letters. Prior to this, Belarusian had also been written in the Belarusian Latin alphabet
Belarusian Latin alphabet
The Belarusian Latin alphabet or Łacinka is the common name of the several historical alphabets to render the Belarusian text in Latin script.-Use:...

 (Łacinka / Лацінка) and the Belarusian Arabic alphabet
Belarusian Arabic alphabet
The Belarusian Arabic alphabet was based on the Arabic script and was developed in the 16th century . It consisted of twenty-eight graphemes, including several additions to represent Belarusian sounds not found in Arabic....

. The Glagolitic
Glagolitic alphabet
The Glagolitic alphabet , also known as Glagolitsa, is the oldest known Slavic alphabet. The name was not coined until many centuries after its creation, and comes from the Old Slavic glagolъ "utterance" . The verb glagoliti means "to speak"...

 script had been used, sporadically, until the 11th or 12th century.

There are several systems of romanizing
Romanization
In linguistics, romanization or latinization is the representation of a written word or spoken speech with the Roman script, or a system for doing so, where the original word or language uses a different writing system . Methods of romanization include transliteration, for representing written...

 (transliterating) written Belarusian text in existence; see Romanization of Belarusian
Romanization of Belarusian
Romanization or Latinization of Belarusian is any system for transliterating written Belarusian from the Cyrillic alphabet to the Latin.Some of the standard systems for romanizing Belarusian:...

.

Grammar



Standardized Belarusian grammar
Belarusian grammar
The norms of the modern Belarusian grammar were adopted in 1959. Belarusian Grammar is mostly synthetic and partly analytic. Belarusian orthography is constructed on the phonetic principle and is mainly based on the Belarusian folk dialects of the Minsk-Vilnius region, such as they were at the...

 in its modern form was adopted in 1959, with minor amendments in 1985. It was developed from the initial form set down by Branislaw Tarashkyevich
Branislaw Tarashkyevich
Branisłaŭ Adamovič Taraškievič was a Belarusian public figure, politician, and linguist.He was the creator of the first standardization of the modern Belarusian language in the early 20th century. The standard was later Russified by the Soviet authorities...

 (first printed in Vilnius
Vilnius
Vilnius is the capital of Lithuania, and its largest city, with a population of 560,190 as of 2010. It is the seat of the Vilnius city municipality and of the Vilnius district municipality. It is also the capital of Vilnius County...

, 1918). Historically, there had existed several other alternative standardized forms of Belarusian grammar.

Belarusian grammar is mostly synthetic and partly analytic. Belarusian orthography is constructed on the phonetic principle, and is mainly based on on the Belarusian folk dialects of Minsk
Minsk
- Ecological situation :The ecological situation is monitored by Republican Center of Radioactive and Environmental Control .During 2003–2008 the overall weight of contaminants increased from 186,000 to 247,400 tons. The change of gas as industrial fuel to mazut for financial reasons has worsened...

-Vilnius
Vilnius
Vilnius is the capital of Lithuania, and its largest city, with a population of 560,190 as of 2010. It is the seat of the Vilnius city municipality and of the Vilnius district municipality. It is also the capital of Vilnius County...

 region.

Dialects


Besides the literary norm, there exist two main dialect
Dialect
The term dialect is used in two distinct ways, even by linguists. One usage refers to a variety of a language that is a characteristic of a particular group of the language's speakers. The term is applied most often to regional speech patterns, but a dialect may also be defined by other factors,...

s of the Belarusian language, the North-Eastern and the South-Western. In addition, there exist the transitional Middle Belarusian dialect group and the separate West Palyesian dialect group.

The North-Eastern and the South-Western dialects are separated by a hypothetical line Ashmyany–Minsk
Minsk
- Ecological situation :The ecological situation is monitored by Republican Center of Radioactive and Environmental Control .During 2003–2008 the overall weight of contaminants increased from 186,000 to 247,400 tons. The change of gas as industrial fuel to mazut for financial reasons has worsened...

Babruysk
Babruysk
Babruysk or Bobruysk is a city in the Mahilyow Voblast of Belarus on the Berezina river. It is a large city in Belarus with a population of approximately 227,000 people . The name Babruysk probably originates from the Belarusian word babyor , many of which used to inhabit the Berezina...

Homyel
Homyel
Gomel ; also Homiel, Homel is the administrative center of Gomel Voblast and the second-largest city in Belarus. It has a population of 482,652...

, with the area of the Middle Belarusian dialect group placed on and along this line.

The North-Eastern dialect is chiefly characterized by the "soft sounding R" and "strong akanye
Akanye
Akanye or akanje is a phonological phenomenon in Slavic languages in which speakers pronounce the sound a instead of o. The most familiar example is probably Russian akanye...

" , and the South-Western dialect is chiefly characterized by the "hard sounding R" and "moderate akanye" .

The West Palyesian dialect group
West Polesian language
The West Polesian language or dialect is spoken in Southeastern Belarus, in Northwestern Ukraine and in the bordering regions of Poland. It is also considered as one of the Slavic microlanguages, in effect a transitional language between the Ukrainian and the Belarusian.West Polesian is mostly...

 is more distinct linguistically, close to Ukrainian language
Ukrainian language
Ukrainian is a language of the East Slavic subgroup of the Slavic languages. It is the official state language of Ukraine. Written Ukrainian uses a variant of the Cyrillic alphabet....

 in many aspects, and is separated by the conventional line Pruzhany
Pruzhany
Pruzhany is a town in Brest Voblast, Belarus. Pruzhany is the center of a district in Brest Region, Belarus. Its population is about 20.000 people. The town is located at the confluence of the Mukha River and the Vets Canal, which give the start to Mukhavets River.-History:Pruzhany has been known...

–Ivatsevichy–Telekhany
Telekhany
Telekhany is a town in Ivatsevichy Raion of the Brest Oblast in Belarus. The name originates from Tatar language where it means "a tomb of Khan"...

–Luninyets–Stolin
Stolin
Stolin is a town in the Brest Voblast of Belarus. Nowadays, Stolin is the center of the largest district in Brest voblast. The population of Stolin is 12,500 people . The Belarusian-Ukrainian border is about away, so Stolin is now a border city that hosts many Ukrainians on the market days...

.

Classification and relationship to other languages


The question of whether contemporary Belarusian and Russian
Russian language
Russian is a Slavic language used primarily in Russia, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. It is an unofficial but widely spoken language in Ukraine, Moldova, Latvia, Turkmenistan and Estonia and, to a lesser extent, the other countries that were once constituent republics...

 (as well as Ukrainian
Ukrainian language
Ukrainian is a language of the East Slavic subgroup of the Slavic languages. It is the official state language of Ukraine. Written Ukrainian uses a variant of the Cyrillic alphabet....

 and Rusyn
Rusyn language
Rusyn , also known in English as Ruthenian, is an East Slavic language variety spoken by the Rusyns of Central Europe. Some linguists treat it as a distinct language and it has its own ISO 639-3 code; others treat it as a dialect of Ukrainian...

) are dialects of a single language or separate languages is not entirely decided by linguistic factors alone. This is because there is a high degree of mutual intelligibility
Mutual intelligibility
In linguistics, mutual intelligibility is recognized as a relationship between languages or dialects in which speakers of different but related languages can readily understand each other without intentional study or extraordinary effort...

. As members of the East Slavic group of languages, they are descended from a common ancestor. Although Belarusian, Russian, and Ukrainian are usually listed by linguists as separate languages, some linguistic references list them as dialects of a single language.

Within East Slavic, the Belarusian language is most closely related to Ukrainian.

Names


There are a number of names under which the Belarusian language has been known, both contemporary and historical. Some of the most dissimilar are from the Old Belarusian period.

Official, romanized

  • Belarusian (also spelled Belarusan, Belarussian, Byelarussian) – derived from the Belarusian name of the country "Belarus", officially approved for use abroad by the Belarusian authorities (ca. 1992) and promoted since then.
  • Byelorussian (also spelled Belorussian, Bielorussian ) – derived from the Russian name of the country "Byelorussia" , used officially (in the Russian language
    Russian language
    Russian is a Slavic language used primarily in Russia, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. It is an unofficial but widely spoken language in Ukraine, Moldova, Latvia, Turkmenistan and Estonia and, to a lesser extent, the other countries that were once constituent republics...

    ) in the times of the USSR, and, later, in Russia
    Russia
    Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

    .
  • White Russian, White Ruthenian (and its equivalents in other languages) – literal, a word-by-word translation of the parts of the composite word Belarusian.

Alternative

  • Great Lithuanian – proposed and used by Yan Stankyevich since the 1960s, intended to part with the "diminishing tradition of having the name related to the Muscovite tradition of calling the Belarusian lands" and to pertain to the "great tradition of Belarusian statehood".
  • Kryvian or Krivian – derived from the name of the Slavonic tribe Krivichi, one of the main tribes in the foundations of the forming of the Belarusian nation. Created and used in the 19th century by Belarusian Polish-speaking writers Jaroszewicz, Narbut, Rogalski, Jan Czeczot
    Jan Czeczot
    Jan Czeczot of Ostoja was a noble of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth of Belarusian origin, romantic poet and ethnographer. Fascinated by folk lore and traditional folk songs of the former Grand Duchy of Lithuania, confederal part of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, he recollected hundreds of...

    . Strongly promoted by Vaclau Lastouski
    Vaclau Lastouski
    Vaclaw Lastowski was a Belarusian critic, historian of literature, and politician.Was a member of Council of the Belarusian Democratic Republic. Has published many books about Belarus, recognized the right of the people of Belarus to self-determination...

    .

Vernacular

  • Simple or local – used mainly in times preceding the common recognition of the existence of the Belarusian language, and nation in general. Supposedly, the term can still be encountered up to the end of the 1930s, e.g., in Western Belarus.
  • Simple Black Ruthenian – used in the beginning of the 19th century by the Russian researcher Baranovski and attributed to contemporary vernacular Belarusian.

History


The modern Belarusian language was redeveloped on the base of the vernacular spoken remnants of the Old Belarusian language
Old Belarusian language
Old Belarusian was a historic East Slavic language, written and spoken at least in the 14th–17th century, and reported spoken as late as the very beginning of the 19th century, in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and later in the East Slavic territories of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, probably...

, surviving in the ethnic Belarusian territories in the 19th century. The end 18th century (the times of the Divisions of Commonwealth
Partitions of Poland
The Partitions of Poland or Partitions of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth took place in the second half of the 18th century and ended the existence of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, resulting in the elimination of sovereign Poland for 123 years...

) is the usual conventional borderline between the Old Belarusian language
Old Belarusian language
Old Belarusian was a historic East Slavic language, written and spoken at least in the 14th–17th century, and reported spoken as late as the very beginning of the 19th century, in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and later in the East Slavic territories of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, probably...

 and Modern Belarusian language stages of development.

By the end 18th century, the (Old) Belarusian language was still common among the smaller nobility in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (GDL)
Grand Duchy of Lithuania
The Grand Duchy of Lithuania was a European state from the 12th /13th century until 1569 and then as a constituent part of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth until 1791 when Constitution of May 3, 1791 abolished it in favor of unitary state. It was founded by the Lithuanians, one of the polytheistic...

. Jan Czeczot
Jan Czeczot
Jan Czeczot of Ostoja was a noble of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth of Belarusian origin, romantic poet and ethnographer. Fascinated by folk lore and traditional folk songs of the former Grand Duchy of Lithuania, confederal part of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, he recollected hundreds of...

 in 1840s had mentioned that even his generation’s grandfathers preferred speaking (Old) Belarusian. (According to A. N. Pypin, the Belarusian language was spoken in some areas among the smaller nobility during the 19th century.) In its vernacular form, it was the language of the smaller town dwellers and of the peasantry and it had been the language of the oral forms of the folklore. The teaching in Belarusian was conducted mainly in schools run by the Basilian order
Order of Saint Basil the Great
The Order of St. Basil the Great also known as the Basilian Order of Saint Josaphat is an monastic religious order of the Greek Catholic Churches that is present in many countries and that has its Mother House in Rome. The order received approbation on August 20, 1631...

.

The development of the Belarusian language in the 19th century was strongly influenced by the political conflict in the territories of the former GDL, between the Russian Imperial authorities, trying to consolidate their rule over the "joined provinces" and the Polish and Polonised nobility, trying to bring back its pre-Partitions
Partitions of Poland
The Partitions of Poland or Partitions of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth took place in the second half of the 18th century and ended the existence of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, resulting in the elimination of sovereign Poland for 123 years...

 rule (see also: Polonization in times of Partitions).

One of the important manifestations of this conflict was the struggle for the ideological control over the educational system. The Polish and Russian language were being introduced and re-introduced, while the general state of the people's education remained poor until the very end of the Russian Empire.

Summarily, the first two decades of the 19th century had seen the unprecedented prosperity of the Polish culture and language in the former GDL lands, had prepared the era of such famous "Belarusians by birth – Poles by choice," as Mickiewicz
Adam Mickiewicz
Adam Bernard Mickiewicz ) was a Polish poet, publisher and political writer of the Romantic period. One of the primary representatives of the Polish Romanticism era, a national poet of Poland, he is seen as one of Poland's Three Bards and the greatest poet in all of Polish literature...

 and Syrokomla. The era had seen the effective completion of the Polonization of the smallest nobility, the further reduction of the area of use of the contemporary Belarusian language, and the effective folklorization of the Belarusian culture.

Due both to the state of the people's education and to the strong positions of Polish and Polonized nobility, it was only since the 1880s–1890s, that the educated Belarusian element, still shunned because of "peasant origin", began to appear in the state offices.
In 1846, ethnographer Shpilevskiy prepared the Belarusian grammar (using Cyrillic alphabet) on the basis of the folk dialects of the Minsk
Minsk
- Ecological situation :The ecological situation is monitored by Republican Center of Radioactive and Environmental Control .During 2003–2008 the overall weight of contaminants increased from 186,000 to 247,400 tons. The change of gas as industrial fuel to mazut for financial reasons has worsened...

 region. However, the Russian Academy of Sciences
Russian Academy of Sciences
The Russian Academy of Sciences consists of the national academy of Russia and a network of scientific research institutes from across the Russian Federation as well as auxiliary scientific and social units like libraries, publishers and hospitals....

 refused to print his submission, on the basis that it had not been prepared in a sufficiently scientific manner.

Since the mid-1830s, the ethnographical works began to appear, and the tentative attempts to study the language were instigated (e.g., Belarusian grammar by Shpilevskiy). The Belarusian literature tradition began to re-form, basing on the folk language, initiated by the works of Vintsent Dunin-Martsinkyevich. See also: Jan Czeczot
Jan Czeczot
Jan Czeczot of Ostoja was a noble of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth of Belarusian origin, romantic poet and ethnographer. Fascinated by folk lore and traditional folk songs of the former Grand Duchy of Lithuania, confederal part of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, he recollected hundreds of...

, Jan Barszczewski
Jan Barszczewski
Jan Barszczewski was Polish and Belarusian writer, poet and editor. He wrote both in Belarusian and Polish languages....

.

In the beginning of the 1860s, both Russian and Polish parties in Belarusian lands had begun to realise that the decisive role in the upcoming conflicts
January Uprising
The January Uprising was an uprising in the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth against the Russian Empire...

 was shifting to the peasantry, overwhelmingly Belarusian. So, a large amount of propaganda appeared, targeted at the peasantry and prepared in the Belarusian language. Notably, the anti-Russian, anti-Tsarist, anti-Orthodox "Manifest" and the newspaper "Peasants' Truth" (1862–1863) by Kalinowski
Konstanty Kalinowski
Wincenty Konstanty Kalinowski , also known under his Polish and Lithuanian names of Konstanty Kalinowski or and Kostas Kalinauskas; 1838 – March 24, 1864) was a writer, journalist, lawyer and revolutionary...

, the anti-Polish, anti-Revolutionary, pro-Orthodox booklets and poems (1862).

The advent of the all-Russian "narodniki" and Belarusian national movements (end 1870s – beg. 1880s) renewed interest in the Belarusian language (see also: Homan (1884)
Homan (1884)
Homan was the first illegal newspaper in Belarusian language, began in 1884, of the radical orientation. It was printed in Minsk on the hectograph. The publications promoted the idea of autonomy of Belarusian lands.-References:...

, Bahushevich, Yefim Karskiy, Dovnar-Zapol'skiy
Mitrofan Dovnar-Zapol'skiy
Mitrofan Viktorovich Dovnar-Zapol'skiy was a historian, ethnographer, and diplomat of Belarusian origin. He hailed from the family of land-less smaller nobility and was the son of Collegiate Secretary....

, Bessonov, Pypin, Sheyn, Nosovich). The Belarusian literary tradition was renewed, too (see also: F. Bahushevich). It was in these times that F. Bahushevich made his famous appeal to Belarusians: "Do not forsake our language, lest you pass away" (Belarusian: ).

In course of the 1897 Russian Empire Census
Russian Empire Census
The Russian Imperial Census of 1897 was the first and the only census carried out in the Russian Empire . It recorded demographic data as of ....

, about 5.89 million people declared themselves speakers of the Belarusian language.
The end of the 19th century however still showed that the urban language of Belarusian towns remained either Polish or Russian and in the same census towns exceeding 50000 had Belarusian speakers of less than a tenth. This state of affairs greatly contributed to a perception that Belarusian is a "rural" and "uneducated" language.

However the census was a major breakthrough for the first steps of the Belarusian national self-conscience and identity, as it clearly showed to the Imperial authorities, and the still strong Polish minority that the population and the language was neither Polish nor Russian.

1900s-1910s


The rising influence of Socialist ideas advanced the process of emancipating of the Belarusian language still further (see also: Belarusian Socialist Assembly
Belarusian Socialist Assembly
The Belarusian Socialist Assembly, BSA was a revolutionary party in the Belarusian territory of the Russian Empire. It was established in 1902 as the Belarusian Revolutionary Party, renamed in 1903....

, Circle of Belarusian People's Education and Belarusian Culture, Belarusian Socialist Lot, Socialist Party "White Russia", Tsyotka, Nasha Dolya). The fundamental works of Yefim Karskiy marked a turning point in the scientific perception of Belarusian language. The ban on publishing books and papers in Belarusian was officially removed (1904-12-25). The unprecedented surge of the national feeling, especially among the workers and peasants, coming in the 20th century, esp. after the events of 1905, gave momentum to the intensive development of the Belarusian literature and press (see also: Naša niva
Naša Niva
Nasha Niva is one of the oldest Belarusian weekly newspapers founded in 1906 and re-established in 1991.The current editor-in-chief is Andrej Skurko, who succeeded Andrej Dyńko....

, Yanka Kupala
Yanka Kupala
Yanka Kupala — was the pen name of Ivan Daminikavich Lutsevich , a Belarusian poet and writer. Kupala is considered one of the greatest Belarusian-language writers of the 20th century.-Early life:...

, Yakub Kolas
Yakub Kolas
Yakub Kolas , real name Kanstantsin Mitskievich was a Belarusian writer, People's Poet of the Byelorussian SSR , and member and vice-president of the Belarusian Academy of Sciences.In his works, Yakub Kolas was known for his sympathy towards the ordinary Belarusian peasantry...

).

Grammar


During the 19th – early 20th century, there was no normative Belarusian grammar. Authors wrote as they saw fit, usually representing the particularities of different Belarusian dialects. The scientific groundwork for the introduction of a truly scientific and modern grammar of the Belarusian language was laid down by linguist Yefim Karskiy.

By the early 1910s, the continuing lack of a codified Belarusian grammar was becoming intolerably obstructive in the opinion of uniformitarian prescriptivists. Then Russian academician Shakhmatov
Aleksey Shakhmatov
Aleksey Aleksandrovich Shakhmatov was an outstanding Russian philologist credited with laying foundations for the science of textology.-Biography:...

, chair of the Russian language and literature department of St. Petersburg University, approached the board of the Belarusian newspaper Naša niva
Naša Niva
Nasha Niva is one of the oldest Belarusian weekly newspapers founded in 1906 and re-established in 1991.The current editor-in-chief is Andrej Skurko, who succeeded Andrej Dyńko....

 with a proposal that a Belarusian linguist would be trained under his supervision in order to be able to create documentation of the grammar. Initially, famous Belarusian poet Maksim Bahdanovich was to be entrusted with this work. However, Bahdanovich's poor health (tuberculosis) precluded his living in the climate of St. Petersburg, so Branislaw Tarashkyevich
Branislaw Tarashkyevich
Branisłaŭ Adamovič Taraškievič was a Belarusian public figure, politician, and linguist.He was the creator of the first standardization of the modern Belarusian language in the early 20th century. The standard was later Russified by the Soviet authorities...

, a fresh graduate of the Vilnya Liceum No.2, was selected for the task.

In the Belarusian community, great interest was vested in this enterprise. The already famous then Belarusian poet Yanka Kupala
Yanka Kupala
Yanka Kupala — was the pen name of Ivan Daminikavich Lutsevich , a Belarusian poet and writer. Kupala is considered one of the greatest Belarusian-language writers of the 20th century.-Early life:...

, in his letter to Tarashkyevich, urged him to "hurry with his much-needed work". Tarashkyevich had been working on the preparation of the grammar during 1912–1917, with help and supervision of academicians Shakhmatov
Aleksey Shakhmatov
Aleksey Aleksandrovich Shakhmatov was an outstanding Russian philologist credited with laying foundations for the science of textology.-Biography:...

 and Karskiy. Tarashkyevich had completed the work by the Fall 1917, even having to go from the tumultuous Petrograd of 1917 to relatively calm Finland in order to be able to complete it uninterrupted.

By Summer 1918, it became obvious, that there were insurmountable problems with the printing of Tarashkyevich's grammar in Petrograd – a lack of paper, type and qualified personnel. Meanwhile, Tarashkyevich's grammar had apparently been slated for adoption in the workers' and peasants' schools of Belarus that were to be set up. So, Tarashkyevich was permitted to print his book abroad. In June 1918, Tarashkyevich arrived in Vil'nya
Vilnius
Vilnius is the capital of Lithuania, and its largest city, with a population of 560,190 as of 2010. It is the seat of the Vilnius city municipality and of the Vilnius district municipality. It is also the capital of Vilnius County...

, via Finland. The Belarusian Committee petitioned for the administration to allow the book to be printed. Finally, the 1st edition of the "Belarusian grammar for schools" was printed (Vil'nya
Vilnius
Vilnius is the capital of Lithuania, and its largest city, with a population of 560,190 as of 2010. It is the seat of the Vilnius city municipality and of the Vilnius district municipality. It is also the capital of Vilnius County...

, 1918).

There existed at least two other contemporary attempts at codification of the Belarusian grammar. In 1915, rev. Balyaslaw Pachopka had prepared a Belarusian grammar using the Latin script. Belarusian linguist S. M. Nyekrashevich considered B. Pachopka's grammar unscientific and ignorant of the principles of the Belarusian language. In 1918, for an unspecified period, B. Pachopka's grammar was reportedly taught in an unidentified number of schools. Another grammar was, supposedly, jointly prepared by A. Lutskyevich and Ya. Stankyevich, and differed from Tarashkyevich's grammar somewhat in resolution of some key aspects.

1914-1917


On December 22, 1915, Hindenburg
Paul von Hindenburg
Paul Ludwig Hans Anton von Beneckendorff und von Hindenburg , known universally as Paul von Hindenburg was a Prussian-German field marshal, statesman, and politician, and served as the second President of Germany from 1925 to 1934....

 issued an order on schooling in German Army occupied territories (of contemp. Russian Empire), banning schooling in Russian and including the Belarusian language in the exclusive list of the four languages being mandatory in the respective native schooling systems (Belarusian, Lithuanian, Polish, Yiddish). School attendance was not made mandatory, though. Passports at this time were bi-lingual, in German and in one of the "native languages". Also at this time, Belarusian preparatory schools, printing houses, press organs were opened (see also: Homan (1916)).

1917-1920


After the 1917 February Revolution in Russia, the Belarusian language became an important factor in the political activities in the Belarusian lands (see also: Central Council of Belarusian Organisations, Great Belarusian Council, I All-Belarusian Congress, Belnatskom). In the Belarusian People's Republic, Belarusian was used as its only official language (decreed by Belarusian People's Secretariat, 1918-04-28). Subsequently, in the Belarusian SSR, Belarusian was decreed to be one of the four (Belarusian, Polish, Russian, Yiddish) official languages (decreed by Central Executive Committee of BSSR, February 1921).


Soviet Belarus


In BSSR, the Tarashkyevich’s grammar had been officially accepted for use in state schooling after its re-publishing in the unchanged form by Yazep Lyosik under the name Ya. Lyosik. Practical grammar. P[art]. I (1922). This grammar had been re-published once again, unchanged, by the Belarusian State Publishing House under the name Ya. Lyosik. Belarusian language. Grammar. Ed. I. 1923 (1923).

In 1925, Yazep Lyosik introduced two new chapters to the grammar, addressing the orthography of combined words and partly modifying the orthography of assimilated words. Hence, Belarusian grammar had been popularized and taught in the educational system in that form. The ambiguous and insufficient development of several components of Tarashkyevich’s grammar was perceived to be cause of some problems in practical usage, and this led to discontent with the grammar.

In 1924–1925, Yazep Lyosik and Anton Lyosik prepared and published their project of orthographic reform, proposing a number of radical changes. A fully phonetic orthography was introduced. One of the most distinctive changes brought in was the principle of akanye
Akanye
Akanye or akanje is a phonological phenomenon in Slavic languages in which speakers pronounce the sound a instead of o. The most familiar example is probably Russian akanye...

 (Belarusian: ), wherein unstressed "o", pronounced in both Russian and Belarusian as [a], is written as "а". Consequently, words like [malaˈko] are pronounced the same in both languages but written as in Russian and in Belarusian.

The Belarusian Academic Conference on Reform of the Orthography and Alphabet was called in 1926. After discussions on the project the Conference had made resolutions on some of the problems. However, a project run by the Lyosik brothers hadn’t addressed all of the problematic issues, so the Conference was not able to address all of those either.

At the outcome of the conference, the Orthographic Commission was created to prepare the project of the actual reform. This was instigated on 1927-10-01, headed by S. Nyekrashevich, with the following principal guidelines of its work adopted:
  • To consider the resolutions of the Belarusian Academical Conference (1926) non-mandatory, although highly competent material.
  • To simplify Tarashkyevich’s grammar where it was ambiguous or difficult in use, to amend it where it was insufficiently developed (e.g., orthography of the assimilated words), and to create new rules if absent (orthography of the proper names and geographical names).


During its work in 1927-1929, the Commission had actually prepared the project of the reform of the orthography. The resulting project had included both completely new rules and existing rules in unchanged and changed forms, with those changed being, variously, the outcome of the work of the Commission itself, or the resolutions of Belarusian Academical Conference (1926), re-approved by the Commission.

Notably, the use of the Ь (soft sign) before the combinations "consonant+iotified vowel" ("softened consonants"), which had been denounced as highly redundant before (e.g., in the proceedings of the Belarusian Academic Conference (1926)), had been cancelled. However, the complete resolution of the highly important issue of the orthography of the un-stressed Е (IE) had not been achieved.

Both the resolutions of the Belarusian Academic Conference (1926) and the project of the Orthographic Commission (1930) caused much disagreement in the Belarusian academic environment. Several elements of the project were to be put under appeal in the "higher (political) bodies of power."

West Belarus


In West Belarus
West Belarus
West Belarus is the name used in reference to the territory of modern Belarus which belonged to the Second Polish Republic between 1919 and 1939. The area of West Belarus was annexed into the Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic following staged elections soon after the Nazi-Soviet Invasion of...

, under Polish rule, the Belarusian language was at a disadvantage. Schooling in the Belarusian language was obstructed, and printing in Belarusian experienced political oppression.

The prestige of the Belarusian language in the Western Belarus of the period hinged significantly on the image of the BSSR being the "true Belarusian home". This image, however, was strongly disrupted by the "purges" of "national-democrats" in BSSR
Soviet repressions in Belarus
Soviet repressions in Belarus refers to cases of ungrounded criminal persecution of people in Belarus under Communist rule. This includes persecution of people for the alleged counter-revolutionary activity, as well as deportations of people to other regions of the USSR based on their social,...

 (1929–1930) and by the following grammar reform (1933).

Tarashkyevich's grammar was re-published five times in Western Belarus. However, the 5th edition (1929) (re-printed verbatim in Belarus in 1991 and often referenced to) was the version diverting from the previously published, which Tarashkyevich had prepared disregarding the Belarusian Academic Conference (1926) resolutions.

Soviet Belarus


In 1929–1930, the Communist authorities of Soviet Belarus made a series of drastic crackdowns against the supposed "national-democratic counter-revolution" (informally "nats-dems" (Belarusian: )). Effectively, entire generations of Socialist Belarusian national activists in the first quarter of the 20th century had been wiped out from political, scientific, and social existence. Only the most famous cult figures (e.g. Yanka Kupala
Yanka Kupala
Yanka Kupala — was the pen name of Ivan Daminikavich Lutsevich , a Belarusian poet and writer. Kupala is considered one of the greatest Belarusian-language writers of the 20th century.-Early life:...

) were spared.

However, a new power group in Belarusian science quickly formed during power shifts, under the virtual leadership of the Head of the Philosophy Institute of the Belarusian Academy of Sciences, academician S. Ya. Vol’fson . The book published under his editorship Science in Service of Nats-Dems’ Counter-Revolution (1931), represented the new spirit of the political life in Soviet Belarus.
1933 reform of Belarusian grammar

The Reform of Belarusian Grammar (1933) had been brought out quite unexpectedly, supposedly, [Stank 1936] with the project published in the central newspaper of the Belarusian Communist Party "Zviazda
Zviazda
Zviazda is a state-owned daily newspaper in Belarus.It was founded in 1917 as an organ of the Minsk Committee of RSDLP.Zviazda has been twice closed down by the Russian Provisional Government but continued being published under different names...

" on 1933-06-28 and the decree of the Council of People’s Commissaries (Council of Ministers) of BSSR issued on 1933-08-28, to gain the status of law on 1933-09-16.

There had been some post-factum speculations, too, that the 1930 project of the reform (as prepared by the people no longer politically "clean"), had been given for the "purification" to the "nats-dems" competition in the Academy of Sciences, which would explain the "block" nature of the differences between the 1930 and 1933 versions. Peculiarly, Yan Stankyevich in his notable critique of the reform [Stank 1936] didn’t mention the project prepared by 1930, dating the project of the reform to 1932.

The reform resulted in the grammar officially used, with further amendments, in Byelorussian SSR
Byelorussian SSR
The Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic was one of fifteen constituent republics of the Soviet Union. It was one of the four original founding members of the Soviet Union in 1922, together with the Ukrainian SSR, the Transcaucasian SFSR and the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic...

 and modern Belarus
Belarus
Belarus , officially the Republic of Belarus, is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe, bordered clockwise by Russia to the northeast, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, and Lithuania and Latvia to the northwest. Its capital is Minsk; other major cities include Brest, Grodno , Gomel ,...

. Sometimes this grammar is called official grammar of Belarusian language, to distinguish it from the pre-reform grammar, known as classic grammar or Taraškievica
Taraškievica
Taraškievica or Belarusian Classical Orthography is a variant of the orthography of the Belarusian language, based on the literary norm of the modern Belarusian language, the first normalization of which was made by Branisłaŭ Taraškievič in 1918, and was in official use in Belarus until the...

 (Tarashkevitsa). It is also known as narkamauka, after the word narkamat, a Belarusian abbreviation for People's Commissariat (ministry). The latter term bears a derogatory connotation.

The officially announced causes for the reform were:
  • The pre-1933 grammar was maintaining artificial barriers between the Russian and Belarusian languages.
  • The reform was to cancel the influences of the Polonisation corrupting the Belarusian language.
  • The reform was to remove the archaisms, neologisms and vulgarisms, supposedly introduced by the "national-democrats."
  • The reform was to simplify the grammar of the Belarusian language.


The reform had been accompanied by the fervent press campaign directed against the "nats-dems not yet giving up."

The decree had been named On Changing and Simplifying the Belarusian Orthography , but the bulk of the changes had been introduced into the grammar. Yan Stankyevich in his critique of the reform talked about 25 changes, with 1 of them being strictly orthographic, and 24 relating to both orthography and grammar. [Stank 1936]

It is worth noticing, that many of the changes in the orthography proper ("stronger principle of AH-ing," "no redundant soft sign," "uniform ’’nye’’ and ’’byez’’") had been, in fact, just implementations of the earlier propositions of the by then repressed persons (e.g., Yazep Lyosik, Lastowski, Nyekrashevich, 1930 project). [BAC 1926][Nyekr 1930][Padluzhny 2004]

The morphological principle in the orthography had been strengthened, which also had been proposed in 1920s. [BAC 1926]

The "removal of the influences of the Polonisation" had been represented, effectively, by the:
  • Reducing the use of the "consonant+non-iotified vowel" in assimilated Latinisms in favor of "consonant+iotified vowel," leaving only Д, Т, Р unexceptionally "hard."
  • Changing the method of representation of the sound "L" in the Latinisms to another variant of the Belarusian sound Л (of 4 variants existing), rendered with succeeding non-iotified vowels instead of iotified.
  • Introducing the new preferences of use of the letters Ф over Т for fita, and В over Б for beta, in Hellenisms. [Stank 1936]


The "removing of the artificial barriers between the Russian and Belarusian languages" (virtually the often-quoted "Russification of the Belarusian language," which may well happen to be a term coined by Yan Stankyevich) had, according to Stankyevich, moved the normative Belarusian morphology and syntax closer to their Russian counterparts, often removing from the use the indigenous features of the Belarusian language. [Stank 1936]

Stankyevich also observed that some components of the reform had moved the Belarusian grammar to the grammars of other Slavonic languages, which would hardly be its goal. [Stank 1936]

West Belarus


In West Belarus
West Belarus
West Belarus is the name used in reference to the territory of modern Belarus which belonged to the Second Polish Republic between 1919 and 1939. The area of West Belarus was annexed into the Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic following staged elections soon after the Nazi-Soviet Invasion of...

, there had been some voices raised against the reform, chiefly by the non-Communist/non-Socialist wing of the Belarusian national scene. Yan Stankyevich named Belarusian Scientific Society, Belarusian National Committee, Society of the friends of Belarusian linguistics in the Wilno University. [Stank 1936] Certain political and scientific groups and figures went on with using the pre-reform orthography and grammar, however, thus multiplying and differing versions.

However, the reformed grammar and orthography had been used, too, e.g., during the process of S. Prytytski (1936).

Second World War


In times of Occupation of Belarus by Nazi Germany‎ (1941–1944), the Belarusian collaborationists influenced the newspapers and the schools to use the Belarusian language. This variant did not use any of the post-1933 changes in vocabulary, orthography and grammar. Much publishing in Belarusian Latin script
Belarusian Latin alphabet
The Belarusian Latin alphabet or Łacinka is the common name of the several historical alphabets to render the Belarusian text in Latin script.-Use:...

 was done. In general, in the publications of the Soviet partisan movement
Soviet partisans
The Soviet partisans were members of a resistance movement which fought a guerrilla war against the Axis occupation of the Soviet Union during World War II....

 in Belarus, the normative 1934 grammar was used.

Post Second World War


After the Second World War, several major factors influenced the development of the Belarusian language. The most important was the implementation of "rapprochement and unification of Soviet people
Russification
Russification is an adoption of the Russian language or some other Russian attributes by non-Russian communities...

" policy which resulted in Russian language by 1980s effectively and officially assuming the role of principal mean of communication, with Belarusian relegated to a secondary role. The post-war growth of circulation of publishing in Belarusian in BSSR drastically lagged behind those in Russian. The use of Belarusian as main language of education was gradually limited to rural schools and humanitarian faculties. While officially much lauded, the language was popularly imaged as "uncultured, rural language of rural people".

That was the source of concern for the nationally minded and caused, e.g., the series of publications by Barys Sachanka in 1957–1961 and the text named "Letter to Russian friend" by Alyaksyey Kawka (1979). Interestingly, the contemporary BSSR Communist party leader Kirill Mazurov
Kirill Mazurov
Kirill Trofimovich Mazurov was a Belarusian Soviet politician.-Political career:...

 made some tentative moves to strengthen the role of Belarusian language in the 2nd half 1950s. However, the support of the Belarusian could also be easily considered "too strong" and even identified with the support of "Belarusian nationalists and fascists".

After the beginning of Perestroika and relaxing of the political control in end 1980s, the new campaign in support of the Belarusian language was mounted in BSSR, expressed in "Letter of 58" and other publications, producing certain level of popular support and resulting in the BSSR Supreme Soviet ratifying the "Law on languages" ("Закон аб мовах"; January 26, 1990) mandating the strengthening of the role of Belarusian in the state and civic structures.

1959 reform of grammar


The discussion on problems of the Belarusian orthography and on the further development of language was held from 1935–1941. From 1949–1957 this continued, although it was deemed there was a need to amend some unwarranted changes to the 1933 reform. The Orthography Commission, headed by Yakub Kolas
Yakub Kolas
Yakub Kolas , real name Kanstantsin Mitskievich was a Belarusian writer, People's Poet of the Byelorussian SSR , and member and vice-president of the Belarusian Academy of Sciences.In his works, Yakub Kolas was known for his sympathy towards the ordinary Belarusian peasantry...

, set up the project in about 1951, but it was approved only in 1957, and the normative rules were published in 1959. This grammar had been accepted as normative for the Belarusian language since then, receiving minor practical changes in the 1985 edition.

A project to correct parts of the 1959 grammar was conducted from 2006–2007.

Post 1991


After Belarusian independence, the Belarusian language gained in prestige and popular interest. However, the implementation of the 1992–1994 "Law on languages" was conducted in such a way that it provoked public protests and was dubbed "Landslide Belarusization" and "undemocratic" by those opposing it in 1992–1994. In a controversial referendum held on 14 May 1995 the Belarusian language lost its exclusive status as the only state language. The state support of Belarusian language and culture in general has dwindled since then.

Taraškievica or Klasyčny pravapis (Classical orthography)


There exists an alternative literary norm of the Belarusian language, named Taraškievica (Tarashkevica). The promoters and users of it prevalently refer to it as Klasyčny pravapis (Classic orthography).

Computer representation


Belarusian is represented by the ISO 639
ISO 639
ISO 639 is a set of standards by the International Organization for Standardization that is concerned with representation of names for language and language groups....

 code be or bel, or more specifically by IETF language tags be-1959acad (so-called "Academic" ["governmental"] variant of Belarusian as codified in 1959) or be-tarask (Belarusian in Taraskievica orthography).http://www.iana.org/assignments/language-subtag-registry

See also

  • Belarusian orthography reform of 1933
    Belarusian orthography reform of 1933
    The orthography of the Belarusian language was reformed in 1933 under Soviet rule.-Differences between the old and the new orthography:#Change in front of letters of assimilative softness: песня, свет, instead of песьня, сьвет....

  • Old Ruthenian language
    Old Ruthenian language
    The name Old Ruthenian language has been applied to different things.* Old East Slavic language was the language of Kievan Rus', spoken from the 9th to 14th centuries...

  • East Slavic languages
    East Slavic languages
    The East Slavic languages constitute one of three regional subgroups of Slavic languages, currently spoken in Eastern Europe. It is the group with the largest numbers of speakers, far out-numbering the Western and Southern Slavic groups. Current East Slavic languages are Belarusian, Russian,...

  • Kievan Rus'
    Kievan Rus'
    Kievan Rus was a medieval polity in Eastern Europe, from the late 9th to the mid 13th century, when it disintegrated under the pressure of the Mongol invasion of 1237–1240....

  • Ruthenia
    Ruthenia
    Ruthenia is the Latin word used onwards from the 13th century, describing lands of the Ancient Rus in European manuscripts. Its geographic and culturo-ethnic name at that time was applied to the parts of Eastern Europe. Essentially, the word is a false Latin rendering of the ancient place name Rus...

  • Narkamauka
    Narkamauka
    Narkamawka or Narkamauka is a colloquial name for the reformed and currently normative Belarusian grammar. Evolved from the Belarusian narkam , abbreviated early Soviet name for the Minister, people's commissar ....

  • Trasianka
    Trasianka
    Trasianka or trasyanka is a Belarusian–Russian mixed language. It can also be described as a kind of interlanguage. It is often labeled "pidgin" or even "creole", which is not correct by any widespread definition of pidgin or creole language. The motivation for labelling Trasianka as...

    , a blend of Russian and Belarusian languages spoken by many in Belarus
  • Swadesh list of Belarusian words
    Swadesh list of Slavic languages
    Once it split off from Proto-Indo-European, the proto-Slavic period probably encompassed a period of stability lasting 2000 years. Following this period of stability, a small period of time—only several centuries—of rapid change occurred before the breakup of Slavic linguistic unity...


Further reading

  • Mayo P. (1993). "Belorussian." In Comrie B. & Corbett G. (eds.) The Slavonic languages. London & New York: Routledge. p. 887–946. ISBN 978-0415047555
  • McMillin A. (1980). "Belorussian." In Schenker A. & Stankiewicz E. (eds.) The Slavic literary languages, formation and development. New Haven: Yale Concilium on International and Area Studies. p. 105–117. ISBN 978-0936586007
  • Wexler P. (1977). A historical phonology of the Belorussian language. Heidelberg: C. Winter. ISBN 978-3533025757

External links