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Thread: "na" or ""/ Ukraine or "the Ukraine" debate on grammar.

  1. #1
    Senior Contributor
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    12 Aug 08

    "na" or ""/ Ukraine or "the Ukraine" debate on grammar.

    For those who understand this an argument from the Kyiv Post:

    Ukraine in Russian language

    This use of language by Russia to diminish Ukrainian statehood continued after Ukraine gained independence, and in the Russian language as well — specifically in the use of the Russian prepositions “na” (on) and “v” (in).

    During the Soviet era, Russians used the construction “na Ukraine,” roughly translated as “in the Ukraine.” Although it was generally accepted as a norm, this wasn’t technically correct even at that time. Ukraine was the only republic in the Soviet Union that this preposition was used with.

    One reason why the Russian preposition that means “in the” might have stuck to Ukraine lies in the etymology of the word “Ukraine,” which is believed by many scholars to come from the Old Slavic word “okraina,” which means “the borderland.” This translation often prompted the use of the article.

    However, even this is debatable, as different historic schools trace the name “Ukraine” to the same root word, but with a different meaning. It has variously been interpreted to translate as “homeland,” “country,” “land,” “separated piece of land” or “separated part of the tribe.”

    After independence in 1991, Ukraine asked Russia to stop referring to it as “na Ukraine” and instead switch to “v Ukraine,” which means “in Ukraine” as opposed to “in the Ukraine.” Russian officials and media — even the liberal ones — nevertheless continue to use the “na Ukraine” construction.

    Positive changes

    Grod believes that the best way to deal with those who say and write “the Ukraine” is “to correct them and explain why it is both inappropriate and disrespectful to Ukrainians and Ukraine.”

    Old bad habits might be tough to break, but since Ukraine gained independence from the Soviet Union, usage of the article has declined steadily. The Ukrainian government has also expressed their preference for dropping it.

    The Associated Press style guides (which the Kyiv Post follows) and the UK newspaper the Guardian clearly state that the definite article should not be included when referencing Ukraine.

    The issue of whether to place “the” in front of “Ukraine” may appear to be an obscure grammatical point, but it actually carries a lot of meaning, connected to the long and painful history of Ukraine’s struggle for independence.

    I admit I am not expert on the grammar of such things (French was my first language) so wonder what you think Andrey?

  2. #2
    Senior Contributor
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    05 Sep 06
    Linguistically, isn't this mostly about trying to establish "Ukraine" as a standing name instead of having it treated "merely" as a descriptive noun?

    For a simplistic example of the connotation that even works in English, think of a place named "South Lake". Calling it instead "the south lake" confers a mere geographic direction not acknowledging its standing and thus demeaning it.

    Similar connotations apply in German - in a more convoluted way that depending on situation may even confer a purposeful non-acknowledgement of independence, e.g. "in Nordstadt", delimiting a place vs the one you're in, versus "in der Nordstadt" which makes it part of the city you're in -, but explicitly not in French (where name places not that infrequently contain articles).

  3. #3
    Turbanator Senior Contributor Double Edge's Avatar
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    11 Sep 10
    On the use of 'the' when referring to different countries or even features of geography

    Ukraine or the Ukraine: Why do some country names have 'the'? | BBC | Jun 07 2012

    The literal meaning of Ukraine is 'land on the edge' or 'the' land on the edge
    Last edited by Double Edge; 07 Jul 18, at 14:13.

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