20.1 - Alternative orthography

In the past, especially in the Soviet era, the Ukrainian language has at times been modified, often to conform to the prevailing political philosophy (as exemplified on page 1.1 by the letter ґ).

In 1927 a set of norms for spelling and the correct use of word endings (правопис - orthography) were agreed at a major standardisation conference in Kharkiv. In 1933, however, they were revised by an orthographical commission which «розглянула правопис і кардинально його переробила, відкинувши штучне відмежовування української мови від російської мови, спростивши правопис, ліквідувавши націоналістичні правила цього правопису, що орієнтували українську мову на польську, чеську буржуазну культуру» (translation).

Further revisions were made in later years. After Ukraine's declaration of independence in 1991, work on restoring some of the Kharkiv norms and standardising current Ukrainian resumed, and new editions of the Український правопис (Ukrainian Orthographic Norms) have been published. There is still discussion, however, as to what is "authentic" as opposed to "sovietised" Ukrainian, and this is unlikely to end soon. Although most writers and publications conform to the current norms, the orthography used in some texts is closer to that of the Kharkiv norms (in particular, the Ukrainian diaspora has in the main traditionally adhered to the Kharkiv orthography).

So, as a reader of Ukrainian texts you may come across deviations from the spellings, case endings and other rules which have been presented in these materials (in conformance with current standard Ukrainian), and you need to be aware of the alternatives to avoid confusion and misunderstanding. The following table lists the main respects in which the Kharkiv norms differ from the current standard.

  Kharkiv norms Current standard
ґ/г in many words аґрарний аграрний
feminine/masculine gender of certain nouns роля, контроля роль, контроль
я/а after л in some words of Latin origin плян, клярнет, лямпа план, кларнет, лампа
iotated vs non-iotated vowels я/а, ю/у, є/е after a vowel in the stems of words of Latin origin проєкт, матеріял, тріюмф проект, матеріал, тріумф
ав/ау and ев/ей to represent au and eu in Latin words авдиторія, невтральний аудиторія, нейтральний
т/ф in words of Greek origin катедра, міт кафедра, міф
е/є word-initially in words of Greek origin Европа, Евген Європа, Євген
г/х in some foreign loan words гокей хокей
«-ій»/«-ий» endings in some adjectives західній західний
-и/-і endings for genitive singular of some non-1st declension nouns кількости, радости, імени кількості, радості, імені
-у/-а endings for some masculine place names Лондону Лондона

N.B. In the Kharkiv norms the soft sign ь occurs at the end of the alphabet, whilst the current standard places it before ю and я (as on page 1.1).

To practise recognising words written according to the Kharkiv orthography go to Exercise 20.1A.

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© 2007 Marta Jenkala