Canadian Ukrainian

This article is about the dialect. For the ethnic group, see Ukrainian Canadian.
Canadian Ukrainian
канадсько-українська мова kanadsko-ukrayinska mova
Native to Canada
Region mostly the Prairie Provinces, especially in the historical Ukrainian Bloc Settlement
Native speakers
150,000180,000 (date missing)
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Glottolog None

Canadian Ukrainian (Ukrainian: канадсько-українська мова kanadsko-ukrayinska mova, [ukraˈjinsʲka ˈmɔva]) is a variety (also considered a dialect by some linguists) of the Ukrainian language specific to the Ukrainian Canadian community descended from the first two waves of historical Ukrainian emigration to Western Canada.

Canadian Ukrainian was widely spoken from the beginning of Ukrainian settlement in Canada in 1892 until the mid-20th century. Because Ukrainian Canadians are largely descended from emigrants from the Austro-Hungarian provinces of Galicia and Bukovina, where some self-identified as Rusyns or Ruthenians rather than Ukrainians proper, it is most similar to the dialects spoken in these areas, not in the Russian Empire- administered areas where Ukrainian was spoken. As such Canadian Ukrainian contains many more loanwords from Polish, German, and Romanian, and fewer from Russian, than does modern standard Ukrainian, which is mostly based on the dialect spoken in central Ukraine, particularly in the Cherkasy, Poltava and Kiev areas.

The first two waves of immigrants (1882—1914, 1918—1939) spoke the dialects of what is now western Ukraine, but they were cut off from their co-linguists by wars and social changes, and half the globe. Ukrainophones in Canada were also exposed to speakers of many other languages in Canada, especially English. As well, the mostly impoverished peasants were introduced to many new technologies and concepts, for which they had no words. Consequently, Canadian Ukrainian began to develop in new directions from the language in the "Old Country".


The vocabulary of the dialect, circa the 1920s, consisted of mostly of common Ukrainian words, dialecticisms from Western Ukraine, and Ukrainianizations of English words. For example, concepts that were well known from the pre-emigration period continued to be called be their Ukrainian names, as in vuhillia (coal), kukhnia (kitchen), and oliya (oil). However, for new concepts that had not existed in rural Austria-Hungary in the late 19th and early twentieth century, English words were simply adapted in Ukrainian speech, as in trak "truck", pamps "pumps", kesh régyster "cash register", or risít "receipt".[1]

History of the Ukrainian language in Canada

Prior to the First World War the Anglo-Canadian authorities in many areas did allow some Ukrainian-language instruction in public schools, as minority language rights had been given a degree of protection early in the history of the West, during the Manitoba Schools Question. However, during the war era nativist attitudes came to the fore and all minority language rights were revoked. Speaking Ukrainian in school was expressly forbidden by Anglo-Canadian authorities for most of the mid-20th Century. Ukrainian would not again be spoken in Western Canadian public schools until policy of multiculturalism became official in the very late 1960s.

Economically, Ukrainian speakers in Canada tended to lag behind others because of the need for English in most fields of labour. Ukrainians also faced ridicule and intimidation from some in the majority community for not speaking English only, particularly if they moved outside the majority ethnic-Ukrainian rural Bloc Settlements. Those migrating to other rural areas or from the countryside to nearby cities such as Edmonton and Winnipeg were often quicker to lose their language. Ukrainian language use became associated with rural backwardness and went into relative decline, and would only increase with the introduction of a new wave of post-World War II immigrant speakers who spoke, by and large, a Modern or Standard Ukrainian, and not Canadian Ukrainian.

Post-war demographic trends

The interval census years 1961-1971 witnessed the first absolute decline in the number of individuals claiming Ukrainian as their mother tongue (361,496 to 309,860). The rate of decline has increased precipitously such that in 1981 there were 254,690 individuals who claimed Ukrainian as their mother tongue, while only 187,015 did so in 1991. The number of Ukrainian speakers in Canada continues to decline although less if only because of the change in the demographic structure of the Ukrainian ethnic group; the last post-war wave of immigrant native Ukrainian language speakers have largely disappeared as a significant statistical category. Consequently, in 1996, a total of 162,695 individuals claimed Ukrainian as their mother tongue, while in 2001 the number dropped, albeit at a lesser rate, to 148,085.

The data on Ukrainian home language use reveals that, in terms of routine family use, Ukrainian is marginal although there are some curious recent developments. Ukrainian home language use has been consistently declining, such that, in 1996, only 49,985 individuals identified Ukrainian as the language used routinely in the home. This however would increase to 67,665 in 2001, presumably the result of the arrival of post-independence Ukrainian immigrants and their children.

In the context of Canadian multiculturalism, the effect on Ukrainian language use of official provincial educational policies, which are much more sympathetic to the teaching of so-called 'heritage languages', is unknown. Nevertheless, Ukrainian language private schools exist across the country while Ukrainian is taught in both public and Catholic elementary and high schools as well as at several universities in Canada, notably on the Prairies.

According to the Canada 2001 Census, 148,085 people in Canada claimed Ukrainian as their sole "mother tongue". No provision however is made in the Canada Census for identifying dialects. Therefore, data on the Canadian Ukrainian dialect are unknown.

2001 Census Total speakers Percentage of provincial total
British Columbia 13,600 0.35%
Alberta 33,970 1.15%
Saskatchewan 19,650 2.04%
Manitoba 26,540 2.40%
Ontario 48,620 0.43%
Quebec 5,125 0.07%

Provincially, the largest Ukrainian speaking population resides in Ontario. Ukrainophones there, however, are a small percentage of the population, while on the Prairies the percentage is much higher. Very few Ukrainian speakers are present in either Atlantic and Northern Canada.



This version of the Red Ensign appears in the 1925 Bukvar.

This poem about the Canadian Red Ensign comes from a bukvar ("basal reader") published in Winnipeg in 1925. The Canadian Red Ensign was the unofficial flag of Canada at the time.

Ukrainian Transliteration Translation in English

Наш прапор.

Наш прапор має три кольори: червоний, білий і синий.

Червоний означає: „Будь відважний“
Білий означає: „Будь чесний“
Синий означає: „Будь вірний“

Памятаймо о тім, коли дивимось на Наш прапор.

Nash prapor.

Nash prapor maye try kol’ory: Chervonyy, bilyy i synyy.

Chervonyy oznachaye: „Bud’ vidvazhnyy“
Bilyy oznachaye: „Bud’ chesnyy“
Synyy oznachaye: „Bud’ virnyy“

Pamyataymo o tim, koly dyvymos’ na nash prapor.

Our Flag

Our flag has three colours: Red, white and blue.

Red stands for: “Be Brave”
White stands for: “Be Honest”
Blue stands for: “Be Faithful”

This we remember, when we see our flag.

External links


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