Scholars do not agree whether Ruthenian was a separate language, or a Western dialect or set of dialects of Old East Slavic, but it is agreed that Ruthenian has a close genetic relationship with it. Old East Slavic was the colloquial language used in Kievan Rus' (10th–13th centuries). Ruthenian is seen as a predecessor of modern Belarusian, Rusyn and Ukrainian. Indeed, all these languages, from Old East Slavic to Rusyn, have been labelled as Ruthenian (Ukrainian: Рутенська мова, русинська мова) at some point in history.
In modern texts, the language in question is sometimes called "Old Ukrainian" or "Old Belarusian" (Ukrainian: “Староукраїнська мова”) and (Belarusian: “Старабеларуская мова”). As Ruthenian was always in a kind of diglossic opposition to Church Slavonic, this vernacular language was and still is often called prosta(ja) mova (Cyrillic проста(я) мова), literally "simple speech".
Names in contemporary use
Ruthenian (Old Belarusian: руски езыкъ) — by the contemporaries, but, generally, not in contemporary Russia.
Lithuanian (Russian: Литовский язык) — possibly, exclusive reference to it in the contemporary Russia. Also by Zizaniy (end of the 16th century), Pamva Berynda (1653).
Names in modern use
(Old) Ruthenian — modern collective name, covering both Old Belarusian and Old Ukrainian languages, predominantly used by the 20th-century Lithuanian, also many Polish and English researchers.
(Old) West Russian, language or dialect (Russian: (Древний) западнорусский язык, Russian: (Древнее) западнорусское наречие) — chiefly by the supporters of the concept of the Proto-Russian phase, esp. since the end of the 19th century, e.g., by Karskiy, Shakhmatov. Russian Wikipedia uses the term West Russian written language (Западнорусский письменный язык).
(Old) Belarusian (language) — rarely in contemporary Russia. Also Kryzhanich. The denotation Belarusian (language) (Russian: белорусский (язык)) when referring both to the 19th-century language and to the Medieval language had been used in works of the 19th-century Russian researchers Fyodor Buslayev, Ogonovskiy, Zhitetskiy, Sobolevskiy, Nedeshev, Vladimirov and Belarusian nationalists, such as Karskiy.
ruski — used by Norman Davies in Vanished Kingdoms: The History of Half-Forgotten Europe.
Divergence between literary Ruthenian and literary Russian
East Slavic languages in 1389. Areas with different spoken dialects are shown in different colors. Territories using different written languages are delineated by dashed lines: the green line for the Ruthenian (“западнорусский”) and the orange line for the Old-Russian (“старорусский”).
As Eastern Europe gradually freed itself from the "Tatar yoke" in the 14th century, 2 separate mainly East Slavic states emerged: the Grand Duchy of Moscow (Muscovy), which eventually evolved into the Tsardom of Russia and subsequently the Russian Empire; the Kingdom of Galicia-Volhynia. Many of Ruthenic lands conquered by the Lithuanians were incorporated into the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which covered roughly the territories of modern Belarus, Ukraine, Lithuania, and western Russia, and later united with Poland to form the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. Linguistically, both states continued to use the regional varieties of the literary language of Kievan Rus', but due to the immense Polish influence in the west and to the Church Slavonic influence in the east, they gradually developed into two distinct literary languages: Ruthenian in Lithuania and the Commonwealth, and (Old) Russian in Muscovy. Both were usually called Ruskij (of Rus’) or Slovenskij (Slavonic); only when a differentiation between the literary language of Muscovy and the one of Lithuania was needed was the former called Moskovskij 'Muscovite' (and, rarely, the latter Lytvynskij 'Lithuanian').
^Начальный этап формирования русского национального языка, Ленинград 1962, p. 221
^e.g., Elana Goldberg Shohamy and Monica Barni, Linguistic Landscape in the City (Multilingual Matters, 2010: ISBN 1847692974), p. 139: "[The Grand Duchy of Lithuania] adopted as its official language the literary version of Ruthenian, written in Cyrillic and also known as Chancery Slavonic"; Virgil Krapauskas, Nationalism and Historiography: The Case of Nineteenth-Century Lithuanian Historicism (East European Monographs, 2000: ISBN 0880334576), p. 26: "By the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries Chancery Slavonic dominated the written state language in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania"; Timothy Snyder, The Reconstruction Of Nations: Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, 1569-1999 (Yale University Press, 2004: ISBN 030010586X), p. 18: "Local recensions of Church Slavonic, introduced by Orthodox churchmen from more southerly lands, provided the basis for Chancery Slavonic, the court language of the Grand Duchy."
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