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Subject History

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631220398.2000.x


Formerly known as B(y)elorussian, White Russian or White Ruthenian, Belarusian (the preferred spelling since Belarus declared independence in 1991) belongs to the eastern branch of the * Slavonic languages . It is an official language of Belarus. The Slavonic dialects that formed the basis of what was to become Belarusian were spoken by tribes known to early chroniclers as the Dregovichi, Radimichi and Krivichi, who began to settle in the area bounded by the rivers Pripiat' in the south (flowing west to east, eventually joining the Dnepr), Dvina in the north (flowing east to west into the Baltic), and the Dnepr itself in the west (flowing roughly north-south towards the Black Sea). Linguistic and archaeological evidence attests to the presence of a small * Baltic -speaking population already living in the region. Some linguists explain certain dialect features, especially in the north-west of Belarus, as the result of absorption by the Slavs of these Balts. This process is still continuing: there are pockets of * Lithuanian speech inside Belarus, and Belarusian long ago established itself within the frontiers of modern Lithuania. The Belarusian dialects of today range from the north-eastern group to the south-western; the dialects of the centre are usually said to form the basis of the modern literary language. One special dialect, in the extreme south-western Palessie region (the ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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