views updated Jun 11 2018

SLAV(ON)IC LANGUAGESBrE Slavonic, AmE Slavic. A branch of the INDO-EUROPEAN language family spoken primarily by the Slav peoples of Central, Southern, and Eastern Europe. It is usually divided into East Slavonic (RUSSIAN, Ukrainian, Byelorussian), West Slavonic (Polish, Czech, Slovak, and Sorbian or Lusatian), and South Slavonic (Old Church Slavonic, Macedonian, Bulgarian, Serbo-Croat(ian), and Slovene). Slavonic languages also divide into those using the Roman alphabet (western and southern, including Polish, Czech, Slovak, and Slovene) and those using the Cyrillic alphabet (eastern and southern, including Russian, Ukrainian, and Bulgarian). Serbo-Croat uses both scripts, Serbs Cyrillic, Croats Roman. The impact of the group on English has been relatively slight. LOAN-WORDS include: mammoth (from 17c Russian mamot), mazurka (from Polish, after a regional name), robot (from Czech, from the base of robota compulsory labour, and robotník a peasant owing such labour), samovar (from Russian: ‘self-boiling’), and vampire (through FRENCH from GERMAN from Serbo-Croat vampir). The especially AmE diminutive suffix -nik (mid-20c) is Slavonic in origin, and has entered English along two paths: from Russian, as in sputnik a space satellite, and through YIDDISH, which adopted it from its Slavonic neighbours in Eastern Europe, as in kibbutznik one who lives on a kibbutz. The suffix as used in English refers to a person who exemplifies or endorses a way of life or an idea, as in beatnik, peacenik, refusenik. It is often humorous or dismissive. Loans from English into the Slavonic languages have increased greatly in the late 20c, especially in such areas as sport (for example, Polish faul foul, faulować to cause a foul, sprinter, tenis) and high technology (Polish bit, bajt, hardware and software, and their adjectives hardwarowy and softwarowy. See BORROWING, CANADIAN ENGLISH, EUROPEAN LANGUAGES, INDO-EUROPEAN LANGUAGES.

Slavic languages

views updated May 21 2018

Slavic languages (Slavonic languages) Group of languages spoken in e Europe and the former Soviet Union, constituting a major subdivision of the family of Indo-European languages. The main ones in use today are East Slavic (Russian, Ukrainian, Belorussian); West Slavic (Polish, Czech, Slovak, Sorbian or Lusatian – a language spoken in parts of e Germany); and South Slavic (Bulgarian, Serbo-Croat, Slovenian, Macedonian). Some Slavic languages are written in the Cyrillic alphabet, others in the Roman.

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Slavic languages

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