What is Surzhyk?

What is Surzhyk

This article is a part of a series of articles about Ukrainian dialects and sociolects.

Most of the people in Ukraine speak both Ukrainian and Russian languages.

Both of these languages have very similar grammar. Therefore, the mixing of these languages is not something unexpected. This mixture is called surzhyk (суржик).

The word itself originally had the meaning of mixing wheat and rye flour, and in the past, it has been associated with the lower class.

4 main categories of surzhyk:

1. Urbanized peasant surzhyk

Ukrainian peasants often move to the cities to find work, and there they speak “the more prestigious” (as they think) Russian language. Still, they make mistakes in vocabulary because of their Ukrainian language background.

2. Village dialect surzhyk

The local dialects feature both Ukrainian and Russian languages, and it is most common in northeastern and eastern Ukraine.

3. Mixed language surzhyk

Bilinguals who speak both Ukrainian and Russian commonly use this type when they frequently flip back and forth between the two languages in conversation and borrow words from one another.

4. Post-independence Surzhyk

This type came about after the elevation of Ukrainian as the official state language. It appears when native Russian speakers substitute Russian words and phrases because they do not have a language background in Ukrainian.

This map shows how surzhyk is spread over Ukraine.

Surzhyk is a widespread form of language that is why here there are some examples of words and phrases for you:

1. Прівє́т! Як дєла́? (surzhyk) /Privet! Yak dela?/

Приві́т! Як спра́ви? (Ukr) /Pryvit! Yak spravy?/

Приве́т! Как дела́? (Rus) /Privet! Kak dela?/

Hello! How are you? (Eng)

There is an interesting fictional character in Ukraine Hus (гусь – goose) who was created by a Ukrainian illustrator Nadia Kushnir. Her character often uses surzhyk in his speech. It makes him funny and ironic as surzhyk is often used in jokes. Гусь is the most popular humoristic public in Ukrainian facebook.

2.Яка́ ти красі́ва сіво́дня (surzhyk). /Yaka ty krasiva sivodnia/

Яка́ ти краси́ва сього́дні (Ukr). /Yaka ty krasyva sohodni /

Кака́я ты краси́вая сего́дня (Rus). /Kakaja ty krasivaja segodnia/

You are so beautiful today! (Eng)

3. О́чєнь жа́ль. Хотя́ ніо́чінь. /Ochen zhal. Hotia niochen/ (surzhyk)

Ду́же шко́да. Хоча́ не ду́же. /Duzhe shkoda. Hocha ne duzhe/ (Ukr)

О́чень жа́ль. Хотя́ не оче́нь. /Ochen zhal. Hotia ne ochen/ (Rus)

So sorry. Although not really. (Eng)

4. Піду́ і ні в чьом собі́ не аткажу́. (surzhyk)

Піду́ і ні в чо́му собі́ не відмо́влю. (Ukr)

Пойду́ и ни в чём себе́ не откажу́. (Rus)

I’ll go and have no limits. (Eng)

5. І оце́ ви всі в направлє́нії мічти́ лягли́ шо́лє?

Ну да. (surzhyk)

І оце́ ви всі в на́прямку мрі́ї лягли́ чи що?

Ну так. (Ukr)

И это вы все в направле́нии мечты́ легли́ что ли?

Ну да. (Rus)

And all of you lay down in the direction of the dream, do you?

Surzhyk is a big part of Ukrainian language. Therefore, if you are learning Ukrainian, you also need to have some understanding of surzhyk. Here is a dictionary with the most common surzhyk words.

Do you have any examples of surzhyk in your mind? Do you have something similar to it in your language? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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