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9 Amazing Facts About Belarusian Language A Foreigner Should Know

The language is the mirror of the nation, they say. In Belarus, it’s a fragile but extremely amusing one. Here’s the list of facts about the Belarusian language that will let you understand its history, current state, native speakers and those who don’t speak it at all better.

In danger

The Belarusian language listed in the UNESCO list of endangered and vulnerable languages. According to the latest data, there are about 4 million people in the world who speak Belarusian.

The official language of Belarus is also spoken in Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia and Ukraine. However, most Belarusians speak Russian at home, half of them are able to both read and speak it.

Arabic, Hebrew and Latin 

There were three alphabets in the history of the Belarusian language. In the early 20th century, people living on the territory of Belarus used ArabicHebrew and Latin scripts.

The Glagolitic script had been used, sporadically, until the 11th or 12th century. Later the Latin script became known as Biełaruskaja Łacinka.

Nowadays one can see łacinka in Minsk metro schemes, in Belarusian geographical and proper names (just check Google maps!).

Rules

In Belarusian, there are two sets of rules. There is an alternative literary norm of the language of 1918, named Taraškievica after Branisłaŭ Taraškievič. The promoters and users of it refer to it as Classic orthography.

belarusian language

It was in official use in Belarus until the orthography reform of 1930s-1950s (read Russification). The Soviet spelling was called Narkomovka and Taraškievica was used informally in Belarus and abroad.

Short U 

Ŭ is a letter of the Cyrillic script. The only Slavic language using this letter is the Belarusian Cyrillic script. The letter even has a monument celebrating its uniqueness in Polotsk.

Surzhyk

Belarusians have their own Surzhyk called Trasianka, which is a mixed form of speech of Belarusian and Russian languages.

According to the statistics of 2018, 43.5% of Belarusians speak Trasianka – they use it in shops, at work, with friends, and at home.

Interestingly, 49% of Belarusians equally use both Russian and Trasianka at home, while only 3.5% speak Belarusian.

Intelligible

There is a high degree of mutual intelligibility among Belarusian, Russian, and Ukrainian languages.

Belarusian has 80% mutual intelligibility with Ukrainian, 75% with Russian, and 55% with the Polish language. Within East Slavic, the Belarusian language is most closely related to Ukrainian.

Krasavik

The most beautiful month in Belarus is April. In Belarusian, it’s called Krasavik that literally means beautiful, handsome, lovely, etc.

Dialects

There are two main dialects of the Belarusian language, the North-Eastern and the South-Western. They are separated by a hypothetical line AshmianyMinskBobrujskGomel.

The North-Eastern dialect is chiefly characterized by the soft sounding R and strong akanye. The South-Western dialect is characterized by the hard sounding R and moderate akanye.

The West Polesian dialect group is more distinct linguistically, close to Ukrainian in many aspects. It is separated by the conventional line PruzhanyIvatsevichyTelekhanyLuninyetsStolin.

Source: Hromadske.TV 

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