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    I was looking up some info about how easy it is to understand a Slavic language if you already speak one.  I did not know there were so many dialects out there and I was wondering anyone's opinion about the accuracy of this:

    Mutual Intelligibility of Languages in the Slavic Family
    There is much nonsense said about the mutual intelligibility of the various languages in the Slavic family. It’s often said that all Slavic languages are mutually intelligible with each other. This is simply not the case.

    Let us look first of all at Serbo-Croatian, since there is much nonsense floating around about this language. The main dialects of Croatian, Serbian, Montenegrin and Bosnian are apparently mutually intelligible.

    However, Croatian has strange dialects that Standard Croatian (Štokavian) cannot understand.

    For instance, Čakavian Croatian is not intelligible with Standard Croatian. It consists of at least two languages, Ekavian Croatian spoken on the Istrian Peninsula, and Ikavian Croatian, spoken in southwestern Istria, the islands of Brač, Hvar, Vis, Korčula, Pelješac, the Dalmatian coast at Zadar and Split, and inland at Gacka.

    In addition, Kajkavian Croatian, spoken in northwest Croatia and similar to Slovenian, is not intelligible with Standard Croatian.

    Molise Croatian is a Croatian language spoken in a few towns in Italy, such as Acquaviva Collecroce. The Croatians left Croatia and came to Italy around 1300. Molise Croatian is not intelligible with Standard Croatian.

    Burgenland Croatian, spoken in Austria, is intelligible to Croatian speakers in Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary, but it is not intelligible with Croatian spoken in Croatia. Therefore, there are 6 separate Croatian languages. Shtovakian Croatian, Kajkavian Croatian, Istrian or Čakavian Croatian, Brac-Hvar Croatian, Molise Croatian and Burgenland Croatian.

    Serbian is made up to two languages. Shtovakian Serbian and Torlak Serbian. Torlak Serbian is spoken in the south and southwest of Serbia and is transitional to Macedonian. It is not intelligible with Shtovakian, although this is controversial.

    It’s also said that Serbo-Croatian can understand Slovenian, Bulgarian and Macedonian, but this is not true. However, the Torlak Serbians can understand both Macedonian and Bulgarian well, as this is a Serbian dialect transitional to both languages.

    Intelligibility in the Slavic languages of the Balkans is much exaggerated.

    Slovenian finds it hard to understand most of the others.

    Bulgarian and Macedonian can understand each other to a great degree (85%), but not completely. However, the Ser-Drama-Lagadin-Nevrokop dialect in northeastern Greece and southern Bulgaria and the Maleševo-Pirin dialect in eastern Macedonia and western Bulgarian are transitional between Bulgarian and Macedonian.

    Russian has a quite high degree of intelligibility with Bulgarian, possibly on the order of 75%.

    Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian (Shtokvakian) of course can understand each other.

    Slovenian and Serbo-Croatian have poor intelligiblity, about 50-55% intelligibility. Yet there is a dialect continuum between Slovenian and Croatian. The Kajkavian dialect of Croatian, especially the Hrvatsko Zagorje dialect around Zagreb is close to the Shtajerska dialect of Slovene. However, leaving aside that one dialect, Croatians have poor intelligibility of Slovenian.

    Serbo-Croatian and Bulgarian have about 10% intelligibility, however, there are transitional Bulgarian dialects that are transitional with Torlak Serbian.

    Serbs and Croats have variable intelligibility of Macedonian, averaging around 50%, while Nis Serbians have ~90% intelligibility with Macedonian. Part of the problem between Serbian and Macedonian is that so many of the basic words – be, do, this, that, where – are different, however, much of the rest of the vocabulary is the same. Serbs can often learn to understand Macedonian well after some exposure. Most Macedonians already are able to speak Serbian well.

    The Macedonian spoken near the Serbian border is heavily influenced by Serbian and is quite a bit different from the Macedonian spoken towards the center of Macedonia. The two languages would be much closer together except that in recent years, Macedonian has been heavily influenced by Serbian and Bulgarian has been heavily influenced by Russian. One way to look at Macedonian is that it is a Serbian-Bulgarian transitional lect. The intelligibility of Serbian and Macedonian is highly controversial, and intelligibility studies are in order.

    Croats say Macedonian is a complete mystery to them. Macedonians are often able to understand Serbo-Croatian due to heavy bilingual learning. In fact, many Macedonians are switching away from the Macedonian language towards Serbo-Croatian.

    Czech and Polish are incomprehensible to Serbo-Croatian, but Serbo-Croatian has some limited comprehension of Slovak, on the order of 30% or so.

    Serbo-Croatian and Russian have about 10% intelligibility, if that.

    Slovenians have a very hard time understanding Poles and Czechs and vice versa.

    It’s often said that Czechs and Poles can understand each other, but this is not so. Czech and Polish have some intelligibility, but it’s hard to say how much – possibly on the order of 40%. It’s definitely less than Portuguese and Spanish. Much of the claimed intelligibility is simply bilingual learning.

    The intelligibility of Polish and Russian is very low, maybe on the order of 5-10%.

    It is often said that Ukrainian and Russian are intelligible with each other or even that they are the same language (crazy Russian nationalists). It is not true at all that Ukrainian and Russian are mutually intelligible, as Ukrainian and Russian may have 55% intelligibility. For example, all Russian shows get subtitles on Ukrainian TV. Yet some say that the subtitles are simply put on as a political move due to Ukraine’s puristic language policy. However, there are dialects in between Ukrainian and Russian that are intelligible with both languages. However, many Ukrainians are bilingual and speak Russian also. Ukrainians can understand Russian much better than the other way around.

    On the other hand, Belorussian has some dialects that are intelligible with some dialects of both Russian and Ukrainian. However, Belorussian is nonetheless a separate language from both Ukrainian and Russian. For instance, West Palesian is a transitional Belorussian dialect to Ukrainian. Whether or not West Palesian then qualifies as a separate language is not known.

    Nevertheless, Russian has very high intelligibility of Belorussian, possibly on the order of 85%. Russian with Ukrainian has been declining recently mostly because since independence, the authorities have strove to make the new Ukrainian as far away from Russian as possible. Hence, Russians can understand colloquial Ukrainian spoken in the countryside pretty well but they understand the modern standard heard on TV much less. This is because colloquial Ukrainian is closer to the Ukrainian spoken in the Soviet era, which had huge Russian influence.

    From some reason, the Hutsul, Lemko, Boiko dialects (small Ukrainian/Rusyn dialects) are much more comprehensible to Russians than Standard Ukrainian is. Intelligibility may be on the order of 85%.

    The intelligibility of Czech and Slovak is much exaggerated. It is true that West Slovak dialects can understand Czech, but Central, East and Extraslovakian dialects cannot. Further, West Slovak (Bratislava) cannot understand East Slovak, so Slovak is actually two different languages.

    Much of the claimed intelligibility was simply bilingual learning. Since the breakup, young Czechs and Slovaks understand each other worse and worse since they have less contact with each other.

    Intelligibility of Czech and Slovak is around 82%, varies from 70-95% depending on the dialect. Intelligibility problems are mostly on the Czech end, because they don’t bother to learn Slovak, while many Slovaks learn Czech. There is as much Czech literature and media as Slovak literature and media in Slovakia, and many Slovaks study at Czech universities. When there, they have to pass a language test. Czechs hardly ever study at Slovak universities. Czechs see Slovaks as country bumpkins, backwards, folksy but optimistic, outgoing and friendly. Czechs are more urbane. The written languages are much more different than the spoken ones.

    The languages really split about 1000 years ago, but written Slovak was based on written Czech and there was a lot of interlingual communication. A Moravian Czech speaker (Eastern Czech) and a Bratislavan Slovak (Western Slovak) speaker understand each other very well. In the former Czechoslovakia, everything was 50-50 bilingual, media, literature, etc. Since then, Slovak has been disappearing from the Czech Republic, so the younger people don’t understand Slovak so well.

    However, in recent years, there has also been quite a bit of bilingual learning. Young Czechs and Slovaks talk to each other a lot via the Internet.

    All foreign movies are translated into Czech, not Slovak. Far Northeastern Slovak (Saris) near the Polish border is close to Polish and Ukrainian. Southern Slovak on the Hungarian border has a harder time understanding Polish because they do not hear it much. There are also some TV shows that show Czech and Slovak contestants untranslated (like in Sweden where Norwegian comics perform untranslated), and most people seem to understand these shows.

    Russian has low intelligibility with Czech and Slovak, maybe 30%.

    Source:  http://robertlindsay.wordpress.com/2010/11/06/mutual-intelligibility-of-languages-in-the-slavic-family/



    Well, there is not much told about Polish, but in case of understanding Czech language I am going to say something.

    I played once in Neverwinter Online with a colleague from the academy. We were looking people who will join our team that we could go do dungeons. We have found one, but we were speaking in Polish (I was talking to the colleague and he was to me). This guy apparently told "no kurva Polaki". I asked him, where is he from. Obviously for me he was not Polish according to a way he had written this message. He answered: Česká republika. We continued speaking in Polish, he was speaking Czech to us. We had no problems in understanding each other. Some two other guys had, because they were not Slavic. So I cannot agree with these "problems" in understanding. Of course, there could be some, but we had none.

    Similar case. My sister was in England few years ago. She met a Slovak woman with whom she still is in touch. Sister told me once, that she does not speak Polish, as my sister doesn't speak Slovak. Both of them are not really fluent in English as well. But they had no problems in communicate in their native languages. Few days ago I noticed a comment under photo on facebook written in Slovak and I understood more than less.

    There is also nothing written about the Kashubian language spoken in Kashubia in Poland. I assume this language could be more problematic to Czechs and Slovaks or Russians or even for Poles. We have also Silesian dialect, which is not always understandable for me, especially when someone speaks really fast. Somewhere on my territory ( :D ) people were speaking (it seems be less present nowadays) in "język chachłacki" – I don't know the English equivalent for this term. I, personally, never heard it but the other colleague's grandmother knows this language. Chachłacki is a term describing East Slavic vernaculars. According to the Wikipedia it is most commonly used by the Orthodox populace on the north from Bug River, and by Roman Catholic populace on the south from Bug – in the areas of Siemiatycze, Bielsk Podlaski and Biała Podlaska. But still, seems to be more present in Orthodox people here.

    But as I said before, I never heard this language, though I live 20km from Biała Podlaska. Generally, chachłacki is officially an Ukrainian dialect (at least Wikipedia says so), but it is spoken in territories near Bug River. It is a mixture of Polish, Ukrainian, Belorussian and Russian languages.

    Still, coming back to the point – I haven't noticed any problems in communicating with Slovaks or Czechs. Maybe I base only on written word, not spoken one which can obviously differ.



    Interesting.  I had to substitute for an English as a second language classroom for a month while in college.  There were two girls there.  One spoke Polish, and the other spoke Slovak.  They carried a phrase book for each others language and spoke to each other fairly easily.  The rest of the kids spoke Spanish and they were totally alone until they learned English.



    There is not full mutual inteligibility between slavic languages, anyway there is still high mutual intel.
    And if you know how to make your own language easy for other slavic speaker/listener, he will understand you. All what you need, is little bit training/knowledge and have a good ears plus to be patient :)



    What's been said about Slovenian …
    I wouldn't really say we have it that hard to understand other Slavs as one might think after reading this. Culturaly, we have quite some contact with out southern neighbours, so most of us have no problems with Serbo-Croatian. At least we understand most of what we hear if we don't speak it. Especially Kajkavian Croatian, well, it's same shyt, we understand Zagorci 99 % while others, like Međimurci and Podravci may be a bit of a chalenge, even for Croats. ;D

    I was learning Russian in school for the past 2 years and you get a pretty good deal of what they're saying. Personally, I understand some basic Czech and written Macedonian and Bulgarian isn't hard to follow.

    However, if a person never had contact with other Slavic languages, has more of a basic vocabulary of his native tongue and is ingnorant, sure, such a person can't understand much of what our fellow Slavs are telling him. That goes mostly for the modern youth. All Slovenes in Yugoslavia learned Serbo-Croatian in school and some also Russian.

    Usually, we don't have so much problems understanding others. We're historically used to learn other languages. But when it comes to foreigners understanding Slovenian, well, I rather thats something else … ::) :)



    awesome!  I wanted to start a similar thread, but was too lazy  :P



    It should say that there are 7 Croatian dialects,not languages.The author forgot to mention the Krašovani Croats from Romania which speak a torlakian dialect.



    Serbo-Croatian and Bulgarian have about 10% intelligibility, however, there are transitional Bulgarian dialects that are transitional with Torlak Serbian.

    Only 10%?? Last time I talked to a Serb, we seemed to understand each other much more than that. Maybe someone needs to record themselves so we can make a test ;D



    All three main Croatian dialects are mutually intelligible with each other and with Serbian and Bosnian dialects but it depends on specific region some more than less. Most of the confusion comes from vocabulary since some dialects use more German or Italian inspired words.

    60 ljet Hrvatski akademski klub – HAK
    This is a clip of Burgenland Croats speaking their own form of Cakavian. They use a Slavic-Croatian vocabulary instead of Italian like in Dalmatian and more Ijekavian speech than typical Ikavian in Dalmatia. Because of the new Slavic grammar and neo-ijekavian introduced in the language its fairly easily understood by any speaker of Croatian , Serbian , and Bosnian and probably some Slovenes. There is no question this is part of the Croatian ( BCS) family of Slavic languages.



    I think it depends on the words they use. Some sentences will mostly contain words that are the same or similar enough to understand. Conversely there are some sentences in Bulgarian that use words that are not used in Serbo-Croatian or are similar to their Serbo-Croatian translations.

    For example:
    Bulgarian: Това е някакво недоразумение/Tova e nyakakvo nedorazumenie (It was a misunderstanding)
    Serbo-Croatian: То је неспоразум/To je nesporazum (It was a misunderstanding)

    If a Bulgarian said this to me I would have trouble understanding them.



    The first line (Bulgarian) seems to be saying that this is some sort of misunderstanding,while the SC line says this is a misunderstanding.The key parts would be "ne" i "razum".



    Macedonians are often able to understand Serbo-Croatian due to heavy bilingual learning. In fact, many Macedonians are switching away from the Macedonian language towards Serbo-Croatian.

    I would like to hear what Macedonians think of this.



    I doubt it. Macedonians probably watch a lot of Serbian TV and have access to Serbian radio. So what? Slovenes watch a lot of Croatian programming but that doesn’t mean they are going to teach their kids Cro in school now :P. The word is digitalized and access to information is instantaneous and I’m sure a lot of people Macedonia have access at least to 3G wireless networks… A lot of their media is probably Serbian which is why they understand it well but that doesn’t mean they are giving up Macedonian :P



    60 ljet Hrvatski akademski klub – HAK
    This is a clip of Burgenland Croats speaking their own form of Cakavian. They use a Slavic-Croatian vocabulary instead of Italian like in Dalmatian and more Ijekavian speech than typical Ikavian in Dalmatia. Because of the new Slavic grammar and neo-ijekavian introduced in the language its fairly easily understood by any speaker of Croatian , Serbian , and Bosnian and probably some Slovenes. There is no question this is part of the Croatian ( BCS) family of Slavic languages.

    Kajkavian,Čakavian and Štokavian are mutually unintiligible with each other,and it has nothing to do with volabulary (lol) but with grammar which is completely different.
    These dialects are basically languages of their own, with different case systems, tense systems, word endings, accentuation, prosody etc.
    And Czech is closer to Slovak than Kajkavian/Čakavian is to Štokavian.



    You presume to know this how? Unintelligble? AYFS?

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