Friday, July 8, 2022

Lviv in Context (4): Language

Indo-European is understood to be the root language of almost all the languages spoken by Europeans today. It developed into ten major branches. Those important to understand the linguistic context of Lviv, our microcosm, include Balto-Slavic, Germanic, Hellenic, and Italic.

Balto-Slavic eventually branched into Baltic and Slavic languages. 

Slavic developed in three directions: East, West, and South. Old East Slavic was the language spoken by Daniel of Halych, founder of Lviv in the mid-1200s, and by his descendants into the 1300s. Later it evolved into today’s Ukrainian, Belarusian, and Russian.

West Slavic evolved into Czech, Slovak, and Polish. Due to historical circumstances, today’s Ukrainian and Belarusian contain some Polish elements. This blending of Polish elements into the language of Lviv started in earnest in 1349 when Lviv was incorporated into the Kingdom of Poland. 

South Slavic evolved into Slovene, Serbo-Croatian, Bulgarian, Macedonian, and first Old and then New Church Slavonic. The liturgical books used in Lviv, beginning with Daniel, were written in Old Church Slavonic. 

The Germanic branch of Indo-European evolved into three languages that impacted Lviv: German, Yiddish, and English. Ashkenazic Jews brought Yiddish with them from the founding of the city. With Lviv’s 1772 inclusion in the Austrian empire, German became the language of government. Since Ukrainian independence in 1990, English has grown in significance as a second language among people of Lviv who have grown up since that time. 

The influence of Hellenic on Lviv came from the Byzantine imperial capital of Constantinople in the form of Greek. 

From the Italic branch came the Latin of the Roman Empire. It evolved into today’s Romance languages: Spanish, French, Italian and, on modern Ukraine’s southern border, Romanian. 

In southwestern Ukraine, as in the city of Uzhhorod, there are people who speak Hungarian. Hungarian, rather than being a modern expression of Indo-European, is part of the Uralic family of languages which also includes Finnish and Estonian.

Copyright © 2022 by Steven Farsaci.
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