The draft of the new spelling rules has made a lot of noise in the network, becoming one of the most controversial topics. “Проект” or “проєкт” (project), “ефір” or “етер” (ether) the search for answers and fear of change – somewhat looked like a significant number of reactions to possible innovations. Opinion found out what to expect from the new spelling when it starts to work, what is wrong with the old version, what fundamental changes the Ukrainians will have to be ready for and how to make it so that the written is not left on paper.
What to expect from the new spelling draft?
According to Minister of Education and Science Liliia Hrynevych, a potential new spelling should not be considered as something that demands critical changes and unexpected innovations. In fact, it is primarily about the return of a part of the repressed norms that were withdrawn in the 1930s. The Minister does not deny, that the majority of the norms created for the Russification of the Ukrainian language have completely caught on, as much as we cannot even feel it.
“It does not claim huge innovations, it only returns part of the repressed norms of Ukrainian spelling, which were withdrawn in the 1930s. These are the norms that have survived in the literary works of all famous writers. It was very hard work that lasted over 3 years. Scientists and public figures gathered together. And for a long time, they decided which of these norms… Language is a living organism, it is constantly changing, it is part of everyday life of people, and some principal changes are difficult to make.
The fact is that many of the norms that we are now used to are nothing more than certain things made for Russification of the Ukrainian language. Today, these norms have taken root, of course, for so many years of everyday use. And we do not even feel it. But linguists know very well, that this is really new growth, which then after the repressions of Ukrainian spelling came into our lives”, Liliia Hrynevych explained in the interview.
What’s wrong with the old spelling?
According to Iryna Farion, a doctor of philological sciences and a professor, modern spelling is a kind of legalization of the “Ukrainian Soviet language” that they tried to normalize through violent changes. In fact, these are the norms of the Moscow language, not the Ukrainian language.
“The current Ukrainian spelling (the latest form of 2012) is the legalization of the so-called Ukrainian Soviet language, which was “normalized “in the 20-30’s of the twentieth century due to the intense change in the internal structure of the language (phonetics, morphology, syntax) and the external demographic impact on the native speaker (Holodomor, repression and terror: in just 1933, 1,649 scientists-“nationalists” were DESTROYED and 10 million were starved). Accepted by foreigners (J. Stalin, N. Kahanovych, A. Khvylia (Olinter), P. Postyshev, V. Zatonskyi). The spelling of 1933 in foreign words is the norms of the Moscow language, not the Ukrainian language”, Iryna Farion explained in her address.
However, the Doctor of Philology emphasized: the proposed new spelling project is a reflection of the typical split between autonomy and dependence. According to Farion, the main feature of this project is the ambivalence and compromise, since it completely loses on the back of the project of the 99th year, which is instead of a project of the Ukrainian-language position.
“… In the 2018 project, we have a mirror of the typical Ukrainian split between autonomy and dependence, between position and co-operation, between our own and others. And this is not a professional philological phenomenon, but a general socio-political tendency, which is called hybridism (or, according to Dontsov, “hermaphroditism”). Ambience and compromise are the main features of this project. Because of this, it completely loses to the 1999 project, which was branded in its time by power, the press and ignorance. Project 1999 through the systematic demonization of our language can be called a project of the Ukrainian-speaking position, and not a compromise”, Farion says.
How relevant are the new changes?
Maryna Bahrova, a member of the Board of the international union “National Policy Institute”, explained to Opinion that there is more than an objective need for the adoption of new spelling, as this is the step that was to be taken immediately after the proclamation of Ukraine’s independence. Such measures, according to the expert, can restore the conceptual integrity of certain spheres of the Ukrainian language.
“The new Ukrainian spelling is an objective necessity. There is such a classic saying: “There is no nation without a language, and there is no state without a nation.” Therefore, the adoption of new spelling has historical grounds, which are related to the re-establishment of the Ukrainian language, excited by Russian influence. This is the absolutely correct step, that is to have been taken immediately after the declaration of Ukrainian independence. Adoption of the new spelling will restore the conceptual integrity of certain spheres of the Ukrainian language. These measures are aimed at developing the Ukrainian language, restoring historical justice and strengthening Ukrainian great powers”, Maryna Bahrova thinks.
Oleksandr Yaroshchuk, a journalist and doctoral student at the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, is convinced that it was necessary to adopt the new spelling much earlier. Moreover, according to the expert, the most optimal variant is the return of the spelling of 1928, over which the leading linguists of the twentieth century worked at that time. Yaroshuk suggests adding to this variant of spelling those changes, that have enriched the Ukrainian language over the past 90 years.
“In fact, this decision had to be taken a long time ago. To this date, in the history of Ukraine, there were three spellings: 1928 one, which codified the Ukrainian language (also called “Kharkiv” or Skrypnik spelling), 1933 spelling, when Stalin began to destroy the Ukrainian language and 1999, when some peculiarities of the language were returned, for example the letter ґ, which since 1933 did not officially exist because of it, as communists wrote, was “bourgeois-nationalistic”, but simply because it was an original feature of the Ukrainian language.
Therefore, today it is necessary to renew the spelling of 1928, on which the leading linguists of the early twentieth century worked, taking into account changes that have enriched the Ukrainian language over the past 90 years. It is necessary to understand that spelling is a national heritage, a Ukrainian national feature and one must do everything possible to Ukrainianize it as soon as possible, taking away all non-Ukrainian elements from it, namely Russian loan words”, was commented to Opinion.
However, returning to the “Kharkiv” spelling is impossible. This was stated by the head of the Institute of Linguistics named after Oleksandr Potebnia of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, the member of the Ukrainian National Commission on Spelling Bohdan Azhnyuk. The expert also added that the version of the spelling of 1928 was not perfect even at that time.
“To go back to “Skrypnyk” spelling is impossible technically because it cannot codify the language of Ukraine at the beginning of the XXI century. I emphasize, this is not only a system but an organism, it lives. On the other hand, the “Skrypnyk ” spelling was not an ideal solution even at the time, when it was adopted. And if it, just imagine, had not been sprinkled with the blood of the victims, it would also undergo changes, transformations and to this day would have a different look. The words “flota”, “cliasa” nobody even suggested for discussion, which was one of the most significant features of the Kharkiv spelling on the translating of foreign words”, the specialist comments.
When will the new Ukrainian spelling work?
Commenting on this question for our colleagues, Liliia Hrynevych explained that due to a rather emotional discussion around the project, public discussion is likely to be continued. Among the reasons, there is the fact, that the information campaign was implemented in an insufficient volume. In addition, according to the minister, there is a need to include those specialists who did not get to the working group.
“The spelling draft is currently in the public discussion until September 15. But our observations and the emotional discussion around spelling suggest that the public debate needs to be continued and more information campaigns are needed, because people are afraid that they will be forbidden to speak in a certain way, and they will be forced to speak somehow differently. Because many of them did not even read this spelling and this suggestion in detail, but someone heard something somewhere.
Therefore, it requires a further scientific discussion of the addition with all those who were not in the working group, but want to join now. When we have a more or less socially agreed option, it must first be approved by the Cabinet, considered by all central authorities and after that will be decided”, Hrynevych explained.
What are the fundamental changes?
Oleksandr Yaroshchuk is sure that the changes, proposed by the new spelling, intended in the first turn to restore what was abolished and actually destroyed by Stalin’s decrees, and was done for the artificial convergence of the Ukrainian and Russian languages.
“It is essential to return specifically Ukrainian words, that were removed from the dictionaries by Stalin’s decrees as “bourgeois-nationalist”. This was done in order to bring Ukrainian and Russian language closer together and undermine the identity of Ukrainians. The experiment was very successful since in the 1970s the Ukrainian language was included in the so-called group of “unpromising” languages. In addition to Ukrainian, there were also Belarusian and languages of the peoples of Central Asia. In Moscow, hoped that these languages would disappear first in the USSR and integrate into Russian.
As we can see, their plan with Belarussian almost succeeded. Imagine with the Ukrainian it could be the same. Therefore, today we need to go the way that as chosen by, for example, Kazakhstan. First of all, now words that start with “и” will be returned to the Ukrainian language. Secondly, the words of Greek origin will be written through “т”: therefore, «етер», «міт» (*air, myth). Words through “ф” will be saved. Third, fewer dashes and quotes”, the journalist said to Opinion.
However, Iryna Farion is convinced that a number of suggestions for the draft of the new spelling have a half-nature, due to the variation of use. However, the specialist emphasizes that even the variability is better than staying out of the codification.
“Long-lasting suggestions related to the demoscowization and desovietization of Ukrainian spelling have a half-natured character due to the varied use (інший / инший, Гегель / Геґель, аудиторія / авдиторія, ефір / етер, вікенд / Уельс, Вайнрайх / Гейне, Сідней / Сирія, бюст / б’ю, в кіно / в пальті, незалежності / незалежности) (another, Hegel, audience, air, weekend, Wales, Weinraih, Heine, Sidnei, Syria, bust, beat, in cinema, in coat, independence ), and some of them remain in the Soviet-Moscow version (матеріальний, імені – р. в. одн) (material, name – genitive case, singular). Positive innovations or rather positive returns are small steps, which, it seems, frightened even the authors of innovations (проект – project, дієреза – diaeresis, ріелтор – realtor; -ай instead of -ей in German borrowings; the treatment of active participles; expansion of the sphere of the vocative). However, the variation is, of course, much better than the more specific form of staying behind the codification. I can only imagine the resistance that the Sovietophiles did, most of which are evident in the UNC, and I am grateful to everyone, who tried to demoscowizate our language constitution”, Irina Farion said.
But Bohdan Azhnyuk took writing borrowings from other languages to fundamental changes. Such as words like «проект» – «проєкт» (project). Under the new project, all words with the Latin root ject-sound combination [je]will be transmitted through the Ukrainian є.
“This is a change without options. Other changes are what legitimizes the language practice that is present in many media today. This is the writing of words of foreign origin, where there is the English letter “j” or the German “g”. As a legitimate option there also will be the writing of ” г'” in names and surnames – Габсбург and Габсбург’ (Habsburg). In the common names, the list of words with “г'” remains virtually unchanged. Ukrainian language and all other languages of the world, borrowing words, change them and adapt to their phonological system. The Ukrainian “г'” is one of the most characteristic features of our system. If we allow ” г’ ” in the common names, the amount and frequency of use of “г” would increase so that we would have distorted the phonetic face of Ukraine. The principle cannot be implemented selectively, because if we allow г’еймер (gamer), we must also allow «лег’ендарний г’вардійський г’енерал» (legendary, guards, general). And there will be «сто г’рам» і «кілог’рам г’речки» (one hundred grams and a kilo of buckwheat”. This is a pidgin, not a Ukrainian language”, the expert said during one of the briefings.
How to make so that changes do not remain just on papers?
According to journalist Oleksandr Yaroshchuk, to ensure that all proposed changes are actually implemented, we need to start working on the transition to a new spelling of state authorities and the media. But at the same time, innovations need to be introduced to primary institutions as well.
“It is necessary to start with the mandatory transition to a new spelling of state authorities and mass media. At the same time, it has to be implemented in all educational institutions so that students and pupils automatically switch to a new spelling that will not be painful for them. If you create conditions for the transition in these areas, the rest of the country will be able to absorb new rules over time. For example, the letter ґ easily entered the official use.
Of course, individual words can cause shock, but in the long run, people will get used to it. What we have to say about writing the particle, which is written differently today, will be written exclusively in the new spelling, which at least somewhat simplifies the study of the Ukrainian language. It is worth emphasizing, that the new spelling will only affect writing, so nobody will be forced to speak in a new way”, the expert says.
At the same time, the specialist explained that innovations are unlikely to lead to large financial losses. If, for example, speak on the topic of school education, one should understand that new textbooks are printed every year. It means that the implementation of spelling will be rather non-radical, and virtually invisible for most citizens.
“The transition to the new spelling should not lead to any financial or trite speech problems. Firstly, textbooks are published annually. Secondly, the changes made by the spelling are insignificant. Thirdly, if you begin to implement it gradually, the transition will be virtually invisible for most citizens. It is also worth taking the experience of other countries. For example, in Italy at one time, new spelling began to be introduced to schools. Students, despite the fact that they taught a standardized language, could communicate with elderly people who used dialects. Therefore, the return of Kharkiv spelling will not be a problem”, Yaroschuk comments.
Text by Dmytro Zhuravel