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13 Jan. 2024


What will the Ukrainian language be like in 200 years: linguist's predictions

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What will the Ukrainian language be like in 200 years: linguist's predictions

Projections for the future development of the Ukrainian language over the next 200 years are of particular interest, as it is not only an extremely difficult task, but also an opportunity to look into the distant future of the language. Find out more about what to expect and what changes may occur

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The Ukrainian language is facing potentially major transformations over the next two centuries, and remains the subject of attention of linguists. In particular, Doctor of Philology Pylyp Seligei in his book "Ukrainian Language in 2222" presents eight options for the evolution of the Ukrainian language, BBC Ukraine reports.

Would we understand the language we will speak in 200 years? 

This question becomes the main topic of reflection aimed at analyzing the future use of the Ukrainian language.

To answer this question, the author of the book suggests trying to understand the Ukrainian language of the past through works such as Ivan Kotliarevsky's Aeneid, written more than two centuries ago (1798). 

According to Seligay, this language remains largely understandable today, albeit with some differences in the use of certain words.

However, analyzing the development of the language for another 200 years, Seligey points out that even modern people, reading texts from such a distant future, would probably not be able to fully understand them in the context of new subjects and phenomena. Specific terms and expressions that would have become commonplace could have become alien to readers.

Vocabulary changes over time, and so does the perception of language. Seligey emphasizes that the pace of this change could lead to the fact that the Ukrainian language could become unrecognizable in two centuries. Such trends suggest that the linguistic landscape of the future may look like a place where a modern reader will not be able to understand and reproduce its meaning without any problems.

What will the future of language look like: new and disappeared words

The prediction here is quite obvious. We will gradually move away from typically Ukrainian words that refer to outdated realities and objects. At first, they will fall into the passive voice, and later they may disappear altogether.

Even now, many words from ancient literature and dictionaries are rarely used. And while this may strike many language lovers as disturbing, it is rather a sign of development than decline.

"Everything will be decided by the language community. Normativity will be assessed not only by the presence of a word in dictionaries, but also by its actual use."

The source of new words, as now, is likely to be foreign languages, particularly English.

It is already leading the way in terms of the number of new words and the speed of updating its vocabulary. Thus, it can be seen as an experimental laboratory.

"It can be argued that what appears in the English dictionary now may sooner or later appear in other languages, including Ukrainian," Seligey is convinced.

Can the Latin alphabet replace the Cyrillic alphabet? 

A complete transition to the Latin script is less likely, but there is a noticeable mixing of sounds in writing.

The author points to the Serbian language as an example of the "Latinization" of a language that traditionally uses the Cyrillic alphabet. Serbs are showing a tendency to use Latin script, especially on the Internet, in commerce, and in the press, although Cyrillic still holds sway in official documents. This duality is also evident in the modern Ukrainian language, where, despite the lack of official Latinization, some names and brands use Latin script.

As for the future, a possible scenario involves the Latinization of informal written communication over decades, but there is another option: the coexistence of both alphabets. The transliteration of texts could be automated, depending on the reader's personal preferences. Officially, the Cyrillic alphabet will remain a priority, but the Latin alphabet can be used by those who want to. This approach eliminates "alphabet wars" in the future.

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Is it possible that the Ukrainian language will disappear? 

Currently, like other Slavic languages, it uses three genders: masculine, feminine, and neuter. However, by analogy with other Indo-European languages, some of which have already lost the neuter gender, while others have merged masculine and feminine, and all these changes have their roots, it is possible that Ukrainian will also see significant changes.

The question arises whether the Ukrainian language will go the same way. According to many scholars, the concept of gender may lose its relevance and remain only a conditioned inertia. It is noted that in the distant future, the category of gender may completely disappear in the Ukrainian language, as it has already happened, for example, in English.

As for the seven cases in the modern Ukrainian language, their number is likely to decrease in the distant future. This may happen due to the expansion of the nominative case, which will gain an advantage over other cases. The borrowing of words from other languages that are not subject to declension and the use of constructions with prepositions, particles, and articles may lead to changes in the language structure.

It is predicted that in the future, cases may lose their significance due to the general trend of Indo-European languages. Although this process is not instantaneous, it is possible that over time cases will decline and disappear, which is already happening in certain aspects of speech.

What will happen to commas?

Language freedom will be perhaps the most important issue here. Speech, social media, and messengers are already radically changing the structure of writing. In the future, sentences will become shorter, literary language will become closer to colloquial speech, and the rules will be less rigid.

Thus, punctuation, which is now a nightmare for many students, will become much easier. 

What will change the least?

If there is one place where stability can be found, it is in phonetics, i.e. in the sound of the language.

Phonetics is always the slowest to change. This is true for all languages, as the sound system is always very systematic. Changes here are rare and unfold slowly.

Therefore, we can be sure that in the coming centuries, the Ukrainian language will sound much the same as it does now, perhaps with new words, phrases, and sentence structure.

The future of the Ukrainian language: what to expect in 200 years

Predicting the fate of the Ukrainian language in 200 years is a difficult task. The answer to this question is not as clear-cut as many would like.

Seligey believes that there are several scenarios, and the worst of them is the gradual decline and degeneration of the language. This is possible in the case of a significant decrease in native speakers and economic difficulties, and the war with russia only exacerbates this danger. In general, the author estimates the probability of this scenario at 35%.

The most realistic scenario is the "stable development" scenario, where the use of the Ukrainian language remains at least at the current level or improves slightly. The chances of this happening are 55%, and even with a decrease in the number of speakers, which is a trend that demographers say is possible, stabilization is possible due to immigration.

There is also an optimistic scenario, but its chances are the lowest - 15%. In this scenario, the number of speakers would increase significantly, Ukrainian would become a non-territorial language, and its use would expand thanks to foreigners. For this to happen, however, economic growth and leadership in the region must be achieved.

We remind you! Earlier we wrote that the Ukrainian government is trying to actively promote the English language in Ukraine. Find out how many Ukrainians don't know any foreign languages and how many are fluent in English.

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