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|Native to||Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth (language of administration of Grand Duchy of Lithuania until 1699)|
|Extinct||developed into Belarusian, Ukrainian and Rusyn.|
Ruthenian or Old Ruthenian (see other names) was the group of varieties of Eastern Slavonic spoken in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and later in the East Slavic territories of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. The written form is also called Chancery Slavonic by Lithuanian linguists.
Scholars do not agree whether Ruthenian was a separate language, or a Western dialect or set of dialects of Old East Slavic, but it is agreed that Ruthenian has a close genetic relationship with it. Old East Slavic was the colloquial language used in Kievan Rus' (10th–13th centuries). Ruthenian is seen as a predecessor of modern Belarusian, Rusyn and Ukrainian. Indeed, all these languages, from Old East Slavic to Rusyn, have been labelled as Ruthenian (Ukrainian: Рутенська мова, русинська мова) at some point in history.
In modern texts, the language in question is sometimes called "Old Ukrainian" or "Old Belarusian" (Ukrainian: “Староукраїнська мова”) and (Belarusian: “Старабеларуская мова”). As Ruthenian was always in a kind of diglossic opposition to Church Slavonic, this vernacular language was and still is often called prosta(ja) mova (Cyrillic проста(я) мова), literally "simple language".
Note that ISO/DIS 639-3 and SIL currently assigns the code rue for the language which is documented with native name "русин (rusyn)", that they simply named "Ruthenian" in English (and "ruthène" in French) instead "modern Ruthenian" (and "ruthène moderne" in French) : this code is now designated as the Rusyn language.
As Eastern Europe gradually freed itself from the "Tatar yoke" in the 14th century, two separate mainly East Slavic states emerged: the Grand Duchy of Moscow (Muscovy), which eventually evolved into the Tsardom of Russia and subsequently the Russian Empire; and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which covered roughly the territories of modern Belarus, Ukraine, Lithuania, and western Russia, and later united with Poland to form the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. Linguistically, both states continued to use the regional varieties of the literary language of Kievan Rus', but due to the immense Polish influence in the west and to the Church Slavonic influence in the east, they gradually developed into two distinct literary languages: Ruthenian in Lithuania and the Commonwealth, and (Old) Russian in Muscovy. Both were usually called Ruskij (of Rus’) or Slovenskij (Slavonic); only when a differentiation between the literary language of Muscovy and the one of Lithuania was needed was the former called Moskovskij 'Muscovite' (and, rarely, the latter Lytvynskij 'Lithuanian').
This linguistic difference is confirmed by the need for translators during the mid-17th-century negotiations for the Treaty of Pereyaslav, between Bohdan Khmelnytsky, ruler of the Zaporozhian Host, and the Tsardom of Russia.
After the Union of Lublin in 1569, the southern territories of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania came under direct administration by the Polish Crown, whereas the north retained some autonomy. It is possible that this resulted in differences concerning the status of Ruthenian as an official language and the intensity of Polish influence on Ruthenian. However, in both parts of the Commonwealth inhabited by Eastern Slavs, Ruthenian remained a lingua franca, and in both parts it was gradually replaced by Polish as a language of literature, religious polemic, and official documents.
With the beginning of romanticism at the beginning of the 19th century, literary Belarusian and literary Ukrainian appeared, descendant from the popular spoken dialects and little-influenced by literary Ruthenian. Meanwhile, Russian retained a layer of Church Slavonic "high vocabulary", so that nowadays the most striking lexical differences between Russian on the one hand and Belarusian and Ukrainian on the other are the much greater share of Slavonicisms in the former and of Polonisms in the latter. In his 1827 Little Russian Folksongs Mykhaylo Maksymovych used a new orthography for the Ukrainian language which was based on etymology. Maksymovychivka looked quite similar to Russian, but it was a first step towards an independent orthography. In 1834, Maksimovich was appointed professor and the first rector of Russian literature at the newly created Saint Vladimir University in Kiev, established by the Russian government to reduce Polish influence in Ukraine.[better source needed]
The interruption of the literary tradition was especially drastic in Belarusian: In the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, Polish had largely replaced Ruthenian as the language of administration and literature. After that Belarusian only survived as a rural spoken language with almost no written tradition until the mid-19th century.
In contrast to the Belarusians and Ukrainians, the Western Ruthenians who came to live in Carpathian Mountains in Austria-Hungary retained not only the name Ruthenian but also much more of the Church Slavonic and Polish elements of Ruthenian. For disambiguation, in English these people are usually called by the native form of their name, Rusyns.
Thus, in the 19th century, the literary Ruthenian language had evolved into three modern literary languages. For their further development, see Belarusian language, Rusyn language, and Ukrainian language.
|Ruthenian language test of Wikipedia at Wikimedia Incubator|
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