Conflicts over language stretch far beyond Russia and Ukraine

By Stanley Dubinsky, Anyssa Murphy, Harvey Starr Michael Gavin

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As a result, until the 1991 collapse of Yugoslavia, the people who described themselves as Bosnians, Serbs and Croats called the language they all spoke and understood “Serbo-Croatian.”

After 1991, though, the collapse of the Soviet Union removed the external threat of Soviet intervention that had held Yugoslavia together during the Cold War. Ethnic hostilities held over from World War II, especially between Serbs and Croatians, reemerged. That led both to armed conflict and to each group’s calling the language they spoke by that group’s own name – even though it was no different from the Serbo-Croatian they had spoken before.

When I was in college the Yugoslavia breakup happened. Serbs say their language is 'Serbian' which is really “Serbo-Croatian." with the Cyrillic alphabet. Croats call theirs 'Croatian' but they use the Roman alphabet instead. People of both ethnicities insist on that. And if I recall, Bosnians say the same, calling it 'Bosniak' but with what alphabet IDK.

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"Indian troops occupied northern Sri Lanka in an effort to protect Tamil speakers"

That was India's Vietnam, and India lost the appetite for military intervention in neighboring countries after that fiasco.

"Other examples of mutually intelligible dialects being counted as languages include Hindi and Urdu of India and Pakistan"

Yet another example of Westerners trying to understand things they know nothing about and making a mess of it. Hindi and Urdu are mutually intelligible when spoken, however, their scripts are totally different. Urdu script is derived from Farsi and Arabic whereas Hindi script is Devanagari, derived from the ancient Brahmi script which was used for Sanskrit.

Urdu has a lot more words of Farsi than Hindi, and the Hindi spoken in India today is a corrupted amalgam of the ancient Prakrit and Sanskrit languages as well as loanwords from Farsi. Since their scripts are totally different, they count as different languages instead of 'dialects' as the authors claim. This debate was settled 75 years ago.

If the authors wish to understand more about differences between languages and dialects, they can study Hindi which has 48 dialects or Mandarin which has dialects like Hakka, Hokkien and Teochew. Hong Kongers will take offense if someone calls Cantonese a dialect instead of a language but Cantonese has no written version. Cantonese and Mandarin are also not mutually intelligible.

If someone speaks Hindi he or she can understand Urdu more easily than Haryanvi (which counts as a dialect since it has no separate written script) but someone who writes Hindi will never be able to understand written Urdu and vice versa.

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I thought that one key element of the war between Russia and Ukraine was the fact that after the overthrow of the elected government, the new regime tried to ban the use of the Russian language, leading to the breakaway of Crimea and Donbass regions.

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Kitty, please supply some objective evidence of this russian propaganda claim used as part of the justification of the illegal invasion of a democratic neighbour.

The russian stooge was overthrown by a popular uprising, democracy if you are not aware is government of the people by the people, ergo this was true democracy in action. Oppressing your own people by force as the stooge did is not the actions of a valid democratic government.

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Englisc aspyrgend: that was very well-elucidated...!

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I like very much the last phrase of this note, but of all the things happening in Ukraine language is not one I am paying any attention to.

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Kitty, please supply some objective evidence of this russian propaganda claim used as part of the justification of the illegal invasion of a democratic neighbour.

I don't think it's just a Russian propaganda claim. Various laws were introduced following the 2014 coup, and were criticized by various countries. While not a justification for invasion, it didn't do Ukraine any favors.

One example (from Wikipedia):

According to Volodymyr Viatrovych, who had inspired the law, in October 2016 Ukraine's toponymy had undergone a complete process of decommunization, including in the Donbas region. Former Dnipropetrovsk became Dnipro, and Kirovohrad became Kropyvnytskyi. The de-Russification of Ukrainian toponymy implied also the removal from railways and airports of any information board written in Russian; as of December 2016, all information had to be given only in Ukrainian and English. Free Ukrainian language courses for civil servants working in the Donetsk regional administration were organised, and from January 2017 Ukrainian became the only language of official and interpersonal communication in public institutions.

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The Ryukyuan language has many dialects , not only each island but also different villages .

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Various laws were introduced following the 2014 coup, and were criticized by various countries.

a) That was not a coup – after the then legitimate president Yanukovych was kidnapped by the Russians from Crimea in Feb 2014, Poroshenko was democratically elected in May 2014 and was democratically succeeded by President Zelenskyi in 2019. Coup – is smth done by a (relatively) small group while 2014 Maidan movement involved majority of the Ukrainians.

b) There were two language laws that made some (4-6) countries unhappy after being adopted. They are available in Endlish translation on the Rada (Parliament) website.

1 – Law on Ukrainian as an official language of Ukraine.

(Russia was unhappy because it made it impossible to dream about Russian as second official language of Ukraine.)

2 – On languages in education.

(RF was unhappy because it made the Ukrainian the main language in the system of education and stopped the language competition. Since the law let ethnic minorities to have their languages as iinstruction language in junior school, Romania, Bulgaria and Poland are happy with it and cooperate on the corresponding Ministries level. Another unhappy country is (a big Russian friend) Hungary.)

c) There were much more various laws passed in Ukraine that have made Russia very unhappy, so unhappy they invaded Ukraine using them as a formal reason.

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