|agency = Russian Language Institute〔(【引用サイトリンク】title=Russian Language Institute )〕 at the Russian Academy of Sciences
|lingua=53-AAA-ea < 53-AAA-e
(varieties: 53-AAA-eaa to 53-AAA-eat)
|map = LanguageMapRussian.png
|mapcaption = Russian-speaking world
Russian (, ', pronounced ) is an East Slavic language and an official language in Russia, Belarus, and Kyrgyzstan. It is an unofficial but widely spoken language in Ukraine, Moldova, Latvia, Estonia, and to a lesser extent, the other countries that were once constituent republics of the Soviet Union and former participants of the Eastern Bloc. Russian belongs to the family of Indo-European languages and is one of the three living members of the East Slavic languages. Written examples of Old East Slavonic are attested from the 10th century onwards.
It is the most geographically widespread language of Eurasia and the most widely spoken of the Slavic languages. It is also the largest native language in Europe, with 144 million native speakers in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. Russian is the eighth most spoken language in the world by number of native speakers and the seventh by total number of speakers. The language is one of the six official languages of the United Nations.
Russian distinguishes between consonant phonemes with palatal secondary articulation and those without, the so-called ''soft'' and ''hard'' sounds. This distinction is found between pairs of almost all consonants and is one of the most distinguishing features of the language. Another important aspect is the reduction of unstressed vowels. Stress, which is unpredictable, is not normally indicated orthographically though an optional acute accent () may be used to mark stress, such as to distinguish between homographic words, for example замо́к (zamok, meaning ''a lock'') and за́мок (zamok, meaning ''a castle''), or to indicate the proper pronunciation of uncommon words or names.
Russian is a Slavic language of the Indo-European family. It is a lineal descendant of the language used in Kievan Rus'. From the point of view of the spoken language, its closest relatives are Ukrainian, Belarusian, and Rusyn, the other three languages in the East Slavic group. In many places in eastern and southern Ukraine and throughout Belarus, these languages are spoken interchangeably, and in certain areas traditional bilingualism resulted in language mixtures, e.g. Surzhyk in eastern Ukraine and Trasianka in Belarus. An East Slavic Old Novgorod dialect, although vanished during the 15th or 16th century, is sometimes considered to have played a significant role in the formation of modern Russian. Also Russian has notable lexical similarities with Bulgarian due to a common Church Slavonic influence on both languages, as well as because of later interaction in the 19th–20th centuries, although Bulgarian grammar differs markedly from Russian. In the 19th century, the language was often called "Great Russian" to distinguish it from Belarusian, then called "White Russian" and Ukrainian, then called "Little Russian".
The vocabulary (mainly abstract and literary words), principles of word formations, and, to some extent, inflections and literary style of Russian have been also influenced by Church Slavonic, a developed and partly russified form of the South Slavic Old Church Slavonic language used by the Russian Orthodox Church. However, the East Slavic forms have tended to be used exclusively in the various dialects that are experiencing a rapid decline. In some cases, both the East Slavic and the Church Slavonic forms are in use, with many different meanings. ''For details, see Russian phonology and History of the Russian language.''
Over the course of centuries, the vocabulary and literary style of Russian have also been influenced by Western and Central European languages such as Greek, Latin, Polish, Dutch, German, French, Italian and English,〔(【引用サイトリンク】 url=http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Russian_Language )〕 and to a lesser extent the languages to the south and the east: Uralic, Turkic,〔(【引用サイトリンク】title=The Turkic Languages of Central Asia: Problems of Planned Culture Contact by Stefan Wurm )〕〔(【引用サイトリンク】title=Falling Sonoroty Onsets, Loanwords, and Syllable contact )〕 Persian, Arabic, as well as Hebrew.〔Colin Baker,Sylvia Prys Jones (''Encyclopedia of Bilingualism and Bilingual Education'' ) pp 219 Multilingual Matters, 1998 ISBN 1853593621〕
According to the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, Russian is classified as a level IV language in terms of learning difficulty for native English speakers, requiring approximately 1,100 hours of immersion instruction to achieve intermediate fluency. It is also regarded by the United States Intelligence Community as a "hard target" language, due to both its difficulty to master for English speakers and its critical role in American world policy.
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