Every language is not spoken the same everywhere, and Ukrainian is no different. There are various Ukrainian dialects that are traditionally grouped into Northern, South-Western and South-Eastern Ukrainian dialects.
History of Ukrainian dialects
Literary Ukrainian is a standardized variant of our language. It is relatively young. Although its roots are found in literature of the 17th century, it was fully formed only by the end of 18th – beginning of the 19th century in the works of Ivan Kotliarevskyi and Taras Shevchenko. The standard Ukrainian language united different Ukrainian dialects.
More often than not, the dialects were developing under different ruling. The languages of the Russian Empire, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and the Ottoman Empire all had influence on Ukrainian dialects.
The major ethnographic Ukrainian regions are Western, Central (Naddniprianska) and South-Eastern Ukraine. They have a common history.
Ukrainian dialects are different from each other on three levels: pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary use. If you go to off-the-beaten-track locations, you are likely to hear some ancient Ukrainian. You can prepare for it by reading this article 😉😎
You can see different Ukrainian dialect groups on this map.
- The blue one is the Northern group, which is the Полісся Polissia region.
- The red one is the South-Western group, which unites diverse dialects from different Western regions of Ukraine.
- The biggest part is the South-Eatern group. It covers most of Central and South-Eastern Ukraine. This group is traditionally divided into Наддніпрянський Naddnipr’anskyi, Слобожанський Slobozhanskyi, and Степовий Stepovyi dialects.
- Dotted areas mark territories where different groups overlap and mix together.
- Larger dots stand for foreign influences.
Північне наріччя Northern group
This group includes Ukrainian dialects of Eastern, Western and Middle Полісся Polissia. It is spoken in the North, where Ukraine borders Belarus, Poland and Russia. Because of these neighboring influences, you may hear vocabulary similar to Belarusian, Polish or Russian.
There you might hear people using -є /je/ instead of -а /a/ after double consonants:
- життє /zhyt’:e/ життя
- весіллє /ves’il’:e/ весілля
- зіллє /zil’:e/ зілля
They also say -и instead of -ий in plural adjectives:
- добри /dobry/ добрий
- здорови /zdorovy/ здоровий
- гарни /harny/ гарний
- бульба /bul’ba/ картопля
- но /no/ так
- цибахи /tsybakhy/ зелена цибуля
- ягоди /yahody/ чорниці
- ровер /rover/ велосипед
Learn camping and hiking vocabulary in Ukrainian that will come in handy if you decide to go on a trip in Ukraine!
Південно-західне наріччя South-Western group
Western Ukraine has four big regions: Галичина Halychyna, Волинь Volyn’, Закарпаття Zakarpattia and Буковина Bukovyna. These lands were a part of Poland, Hungary and Austria. People here speak the dialect of the South-Western group.
These Ukrainian dialects may be difficult to understand because the speakers live quite far from big cities and they do not mix with the rest of the Ukrainian population.
After soft and hissing consonants sound /а/ turns into /е/, /і/, /и/ in Halychyna and Bukovyna:
- чiс /chis/ час
- шипка /shypka/ шапка
Unstressed /о/ becomes /у/:
- гулубка /hulubka/ голубка
- кужух /kuzhukh/ кожух
Mixing /е/ and /і/:
- жиеве /zhyeve/ живе
- висло /vyslo/ весло
In Bukovyna, /и/ tends to sound more like /е/:
- беике /beyky/ бики
- жето /zheto/ жито
Quite often they stress words differently:
- моя – моя
- твоя – твоя
- була – була
They saved the ancient endings of dative and locative cases of plural masculine adjectives:
- синім – синам
- братім – братам
- на синох – на синах
- на братіх – на братах
Also instead of dative and instrumental cases of singular pronouns мені, тобі, собі, мене, тебе, себе people in these lands say мі, ми, ті, ти, си.
- Дайте ми гусочку. – Дайте мені гусочку.
Give me a duckling.
- Він поміг ті. – Він допоміг тобі.
He has helped you.
Future forms are numerous:
- буду читати
- буду читав
- му читати
I will read.
- бараболя /barabol’a/ картопля
- ябко /jabko/ яблуко
- горнятко /horn’atko/ чашка
- коцик /kotsyk/ ковдра
- пляцок /pl’atsok/ пиріг
If you want to check your understanding of this Ukrainian dialect, listen to a lady from Zakarpattia talking about her grandfather:
Південно-східне наріччя South-Eastern group
This region is the biggest. It includes the biggest part of our country. It is no wonder that this group of Ukrainian dialects was used as a basis for the literary language as you know it. Even so, there are still some special features which make it unique. Also, due to contact with Russians, Turkish and Bulgarian people, these dialects have some common vocabulary with them.
They kept soft hissing sounds:
- ло[ш’а] – лоша
- ведме[ж’а] – ведмежа
- поспі[ш’а]ть – поспішать
Sometimes there is no alternation / х /,/ г /, / з /, / с /, / к /, / ц /:
- поро[г’i] – порозі
- ру[к’í] – руці
The vowel sound /ф/ is pronounced /x/, /хв/:
- тухлі – туфлі
- хвабріка – фабрика
There is -ій ending in many adjectives:
- прохід[н’iй] – прохідний
- мар[н’iй] – марний
- б’і[л’iй] – білий
Ending -iм, -iх in dative and locative cases of plural nouns:
- ко[н’iм] – коням
- ді[т’iм] – дітям
- на ко[н’iх] – на конях
The ending -е is quite common in verbs of the third person:
- ход[е] – ходить
- прос[е] – просить
- нос[е] – носить
Here you can listen to a lady talking about her childhood in the Kharkiv region:
- синенькі /synen’ki/ баклажани
- аіст /aist/ лелека
- жаровня /zharovn’a/ сковорода
- драники /dranyky/ деруни
- мореля /morel’a/ абрикос
I must say that these are just a few of many examples. You may encounter many more special features in every dialect.
To be honest, due to globalization and progress, the literary Ukrainian language is well-understood everywhere. But Ukrainian dialects stil influence it every day. They enrich the literary language and spice it up quite a bit.
So, next time you talk to a native speaker, try to find out which Ukrainian region they come from and impress them with your knowledge of their dialect! 😃🤩
Be sure to check out Ukrainian Lessons Podcast episode #144 to listen about Діалекти української мови!
Learning Ukrainian and looking for great resources?
Check out our list of 1000 most common words in Ukrainian with interactive flashcards.
You can also learn Ukrainian step by step wherever you are with our free Ukrainian Lessons Podcast.