Help: Rusyn

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This is a crash course in Rusyn for English speakers fluent in Ukrainian, which should help for understanding the vast majority of content in Lemko songs and songs in other Rusyn dialects. This also includes some dated Western Ukrainian dialectal forms which are not strictly Rusyn. It errs on the side of including forms which are considered improper or are no longer used in the interest of aiding in understanding when these appear in songs.

What is Rusyn?[ ]

Rusyn is generally considered a transitional language between Ukrainian, Polish, and Slovak, though some consider it to be a dialect of Ukrainian. Lemko is a dialect of Rusyn, and Lemko is sometimes (incorrectly) used as a synonym for Rusyn, but there are other dialects as well. Due to the strong degree of mutual intelligibility and proximity, Rusyn songs are frequently sung by Ukrainians, especially in the Ukrainian diaspora, many of whom came from these regions.

Alphabet[ ]

There are a few Rusyn alphabets in common use. On WikiSpiv, we render the songs with the closest phonetic Ukrainian approximation rather than aiming for faithful reproduction of Rusyn. We occasionally use "ы" and "ў" in addendums as part of explaining the correct pronunciation, but the main lyrics of a song will not contain them.

Here's a summary of Rusyn letters which differ from Ukrainian which you might encounter:

  • В - Usually V, but sometimes makes an F sound, depending on the dialect. Also sometimes makes a W sound (see "Л").
  • Л - Some speakers always pronounce this L, but some pronounce it L it some positions and W in others (equivalent to Polish ł or Belarusian ў). Details. Oftentimes this letter will be rendered as a "в" instead when it should be pronounced as a "w" (e.g. you may see the spelling "горівка" instead of "горілка" - this would be pronounced "horeewka")
  • Ё - Йо / Ьо
  • Ы - This is not a Russism! In Rusyn there are three "I" sounds, and Ы is distinct from І and И. This letter makes more of an "uh" sound, like the second "I" in "position". In Ukrainian cognates, this is usually an "и", and we usually represent it with "и" in our lyrics.
  • Сь - This sound is pronounced more like "шь" (and the same is true when a softened "С" occurs automatically by proximity, e.g. with the word "ся"). So "ся" would be pronounced "shya" in Lemko but "sya" in Ukrainian. This pronunciation was once common in all of western Ukraine and it's often heard in the diaspora.

Personal pronouns (Accusative)[ ]

Rusyn Ukrainian English
я я I
ты (ти) ти you (singular)
він він he
она вона she
оно воно it
мы (ми) ми we
вы (ви) ви you (plural)
Вы (Ви) Ви you (formal)
они вони they

Personal pronouns (Genitive)[ ]

Rusyn Ukrainian English
мене / мя / ня / мня мене
тебе / тя тебе you (singular)
його / го його him
єй / ю її her
його / го Його it
нас нас us
вас вас you (plural)
Вас Вас you (formal)
іх їх them

Personal pronouns (Dative)[ ]

Rusyn Ukrainian English
мі / ми мені
тобі / ти тобі you (singular)
йому / му йому him
ій їй her
йому / му йому it
нам нам us
вам вам you (plural)
Вам Вам you (formal)
ім їм them

Personal pronouns (Locative)[ ]

Rusyn Ukrainian English
мі / ми мені
тобі тобі you (singular)
ним ньому / нім him
ній / ньов ній her
ним ньому / нім it
нас нас us
вас вас you (plural)
Вас Вас you (formal)
них них them

Personal pronouns (Instrumental)[ ]

Rusyn Ukrainian English
мном / мнов мною with mе
тобом / тобов тобою with you (singular)
ним ним with him
ньом / ньов нею with her
ним ним with it
нами нами with us
вами вами with you (plural)
Вами Вами with you (formal)
нима ними with them

Demontrative pronouns[ ]


Reflexive Personal Pronouns[ ]

In Ukrainian, the pronoun "ся" has become a suffix, whereas in Rusyn it continues to be a separate word, as it was in old Ukrainian (which is still preserved in some expressions, like "Бог ся рождає" = "Бог рoждається")

Ukrainian: "Він помився" = "Він помив себе" = "Він себе помив"

Rusyn: "Він помыв ся" = "Він ся помыв" = "Він помыв себе" = "Він себе помыв"

Grammatical Case Rusyn Ukrainian
Genitive Себе / Ся Себе
Accusative Себе / Ся Себе
Dative / Locative Собі / Си / Сі / Сой Собі
Instrumental Собом / Собов Собою
  • While "ся" is literarily only for genitive and accusative and "си" or "сі" is literarily only for dative, in spoken language all 3 of these are commonly used interchangeably.

To Be: Быти (Бити/Бути)[ ]

Tense Rusyn Slovak* Ukrainian
я єм / йим som / сом є
ти єс / єси / єш / єшь / єсь si / сі є
він / вона / воно єст / єсть / є je / є є
ми сме / сьме / зме / єсьме sme / сме є
ви / Ви сте ste / сте є
вони сут sú / су є

Quite a bit of info can also be found here:

  • Sometimes Rusyn speakers use Slovak words here so these are included as well for reference, both with the Slovak alphabet and transliterated in cyrillic

Past Tense - Быти endings[ ]

There are 2 ways to form past tense, either the way it's done in Ukrainian (e.g. "Я бесідувала / Ти бесідувала") or by appending the conjugated form of "быти" (e.g. "Бесідувала єм" or "Бесідувала єс"). These in turn are commonly shortened (e.g. "Бесідувалам" or "Бесідувалас").

We see this in a number of songs. For example, "Би-м ся рум'янила" in Іванку, Іванку, купи ми рум'янку could be translated thusly:

  • Би-м ся рум'янила (original)
  • Би єм ся рум'янила (unshortening "єм")
  • Я би ся рум'янила (replacing conjugated "єм", with "я")
  • Я би рум'янилася (turning reflexive "ся" into a suffix)

Бим (1 особа однини), бись (2 особа однини), бисьмо (1 особа множни), бисьте (2 особа множини) = б (би) ( )

Common Vocab[ ]

Some common Rusyn vocabulary used in songs which is different enough from the Ukrainian word that it might not be recognized.

Rusyn Ukrainian English
Лем Тільки / Лиш Only
Бесіда / Бесїда Розмова Conversation
Фраїр Коханий Beloved (male)
Фраїрка Кохана Beloved (female)
Плине Пливе Swims
Хыжа (Хижа) Хата House
Кедь Коли When
Неня Мама Mother
Неньо Батько Father
Од Від From
Ту Тут Here
Пухара Чарка Chalice
Кой Коли / Якщо / Бо When / If / Because
Зо Зі / З With
Тота Оця / Ота / Той That
К / Ку (see Russian "к") До To
Єсли (see Polish "jeśli") Якщо If

Dictionaries[ ]

Examples of Rusyn Pronunciation[ ]

Additional Resources[ ]