Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Ukrainians in Brazil. #1

Maryna Hrymych

The Language Identity of Ukrainians in Brazil

(published in: Ukrainians in Brazil / Ed. dr. Maryna Hrymych,... - Kyiv: Duliby Press, 2011)


The topic of language as an indicator of ethnic identity is perhaps one of the thorniest in diaspora communities. Any emigrant community that has found itself in a foreign ethno-cultural and social environment, as a natural means of survival, begins to adapt to it. The key to successful survival for newcomers in an alien environment is the ability to communicate, negotiate, solve problems, and possibly above all, the power of language. And very often the development of immigrants and their descendants in their new linguistic environment is accompanied by the processes of  acculturation and assimilation.
The Ukrainian language situation in Brazil, on the one hand, is typical of all distant diasporas. But on the other hand, it has its unique specificity. The Ukrainian language was introduced to this country by the waves of immigration of the late nineteenth and first decades of the twentieth century, and was reinforced by the post-World War II immigration. One hundred years is a period which is more than sufficient to justify the assimilation of any group of immigrant origin (diaspora), including the loss of the ancestral language. Yet that did not happen in Brazil. “Language Identity” here is understood not as an abstract and symbolic concept, but as a living reality. The study of the relationship between the causes and effects of this situation, and its continued maintenance, is of academic interest.

Past Research on the Topic
Publications related in any way with the topic of the Ukrainian language in Brazil can be divided into two groups: Applied (mainly teaching materials) and theoretical (sociolinguistic and dialectological).

Publications for Ukrainian-language instruction in Brazil can be traced back to the 1910s–20s. That is, from the beginnings of Ukrainian schooling in that country when there was an urgent need for educational programs, primers, texts, etc. The focus of publications in those early years was not in the area of analysis but in development of teaching resources. The textbooks helped in the connecting local (Brazilian) realities and the Ukrainian-language environment.[1]

Fr. Vasyl’ Zinko, an author of one of the Ukrainian primers, in 1960 published the book Ridna shkola v Brazylii [Ukrainian Primary Schools in Brazil], a well-researched history of the teaching of Ukrainian in Brazil. The author described in detail the language situation in the Ukrainian
colônias [settlements], the first spontaneous and later organized steps to establish Ukrainian schools, and the characteristics of various categories of teachers. Incidentally, one paragraph of the book is devoted to learning methods.[2]

The start of the theoretical direction in Ukrainian language studies in Brazil can be traced to the 1960s. At that time, Miguel Wouk [Vovk], a professor of Romance Languages at the Federal University of Paraná, conducted a linguistic and ethnographic examination of one of the Ukrainian
colônias (Dorizon). It was a study that Jaroslav Rudnyckyj, a prominent Ukrainian and Canadian linguist, described as “pioneering,” and “the beginning of linguistic study of Ukrainian.”[3] Wouk completed the work in 1965, but the study was not published in book form for another almost 20 years.[4] One of the chapters is devoted to the language situation around Dorizon. In it, a theoretical discussion (paths of acculturation, language interaction and dialects, and processes of bilingualism), is followed by an analysis of the peculiarities of Ukrainian dialects in the specified area, focusing on the following topics: phonetics, morphology, vocabulary, anthroponimics (in the village context), and colloquial speech.[5] The conclusions reached by Wouk about the acculturation processes and bilingualism are still relevant, and researchers of Ukrainian culture in Brazil are still considering them in their studies.[6]

Another impetus for the study of the language situation in the Ukrainian community of Brazil, from a theoretical basis, was the work of Jaroslav Rudnyckyj. He was in Brazil in 1972–73, teaching and conducting academic and organizational work at the Federal University of Paraná, for which he was awarded a silver medal at the university.[7] He wrote an article about the development of Ukrainian language studies in Brazil, published in 1973 in the journal Slovo na storozhi [Word on Guard], the organ of the Tovarystvo plekannia ukrains’koi movy [Society for the Nurturing of the Ukrainian Language].[8] Articles about the Ukrainian language in Brazil by Brazilians Mykhailo Rubinec [Rubynets’][9] and Oksana Boruszenko
[10] [Borushenko],  were also published in Slovo na storozhi. Boruszenko is the most prominent historian of the Ukrainian-Brazilian community. Her first papers began appearing in the 1960s, and in 1972 she defended her doctoral thesis at the Ukrainian Free University in Munich on the cultural and linguistic integration of Ukrainians in Brazil.[11] The thesis discusses primarily historical and partly sociological aspects of the community in Brazil: the stages of the Ukrainian emigration to Brazil, schooling, social life, and the integration of the Ukrainian community in Brazil.

Around the same time (in 1974), in the United States, William Seward Pierce defended his BA thesis on Ukrainian immigrant speech in Brazil at the University of Texas in Austin.[12] The study provided not only a historical overview of the immigration of the Slavs (including Ukrainians) in Brazil and their incorporation into a new environment, but also a discussion of examples of the Ukrainian language. Texts were analyzed in order to demonstrate the connection between historical events and their embodiment in the narrative tradition through means of language.[13] The author made a comparative phonology of Ukrainian and Brazilian Portuguese, and also presented and transliterated  examples of narrative styles. This work by a person of non-Ukrainian origin was completed 40 years ago.[14] It is virtually unknown in the Ukrainian academic community and is still of scholarly value.

Meanwhile, in Brazil since 1970 and until now, the priority in the direction of language study is sociolinguistics,[15] while the most popular topic is undoubtedly bilingualism. In the 1980s a number of publications appeared about the Ukrainian language in Brazil, grounded in a professional sociolinguistic basis. At that time, the well-known American linguist Dennis Preston was in Brazil and he instilled an interest in the Slavic languages in Brazilian linguists.[16] Preston encouraged Wolodymyr Kulczynskyj, then a lecturer in the history of English, to retool to Slavic language studies. In 1980, Kulczynskyj began to collect materials for linguistic mapping of places with large populations of Brazilians of Ukrainian and Polish origins. His study was completed in 1983,[17] and in 1985 he defended his doctoral dissertation, on Ukrainian-Portuguese lexical borrowing in the Ukrainian settlements in the valleys of the middle reaches of the River Iguazu, at the Ukrainian Free University in Munich.[18] In 1985 he initiated a Ukrainian-language course at the Federal University of Paraná, which since 1995 operates within the Centre for Languages and Intercultural Studies at that university (Centro de Línguas e Interculturalidade da Universidade Federal do Paraná).[19]

In 1985–87, Nadia Kerecuk  [Nadia Dolud-Levchuk-Kirichuk] prepared a Master’s thesis at the Federal University of Paraná on Ukrainian-Portuguese bilingualism in Brazil.[20] She became the first lecturer of the Ukrainian language course at that university (1985–87). Subsequently, the other lecturers have been: Olha-Nadia Kalko (1986–2010), Wolodymyr Kulczynskyj (1988–90), Protopresbyter Mykola Mylus of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church in Brazil (1990), and Pavlina Chaika-Mylus (1992–2010).[21] Significant achievements of these lecturers in Ukrainian studies include methodological development and the production of curricula and textbooks on Ukrainian language and culture.
In the 1990s a number of language specialists from other countries visited Brazil, which served as a stimulus to further development of Ukrainian language studies in that country. In the early 1990s the accomplished Canadian methodologist Olenka Bilash came to Brazil. That University of Alberta professor is now one of Canada’s leading experts in  the methodology of teaching a second language, bilingual education, language in a multicultural setting, the training of teachers of language, etc.  She lectured at the Federal University of Paraná and the St. Olha Institute of Ukrainian Catechists.[22] , Upon completion of her training course, graduates were awarded teaching diplomas in the Ukrainian language that allowed them to work in the colônias.[23] Bilash’s activities in the area of teaching languages in a bilingual setting boosted this branch of Ukrainian language studies in Brazil.

In the 1990s, at the invitation of the Federal University of Paraná, Ukrainian linguist Iaroslava Zakrevs’ka, a dialectologist and Doctor of Philology from L’viv, visited Brazil several times. She collected field material on Ukrainian dialects in Brazil, which, unfortunately, have not been published or analyzed.

In 1993, Wolodymyr Kulczynskyj launched a series of field expeditions in Ukrainian dialectology in the
colônias of Paraná and Santa Catarina, the result of which were hours of interviews on the Ukrainian language.[25] The questionnaire drafted for the first expedition comprised: 27 questions on vocabulary, 27 on phonology, 8 on morphology, 8 on syntax, and 28 on borrowings.[26] Iaroslava Zakrevs’ka, Professor Oksana Boruszenko, Mirna Slava Kyrylovych-Voloshyn, Leonilda Prokhailo,[27] Mykola Zhelezniak, Olha-Nadia Kalko, and Pavlina Chaika-Mylus[28] all participated as members of the expedition at various times.

Simultaneously,  Wolodymyr Kulczynskyj prepared a number of talented scholars in this field, including in particular, Olha-Nadia Kalko, an expert on the method of teaching the Ukrainian language; Magdalena Lozovei, head of the Association of Teachers of Ukrainian Language in Brazil.

The UNICENTRO (Universidade Estadual do Centro-Oeste) university (branches in Guarapuava and in Irati) is second after the Federal University of Paraná (Curitiba) as a center of Ukrainian studies. Here, in the 1990s, was introduced an advanced course in Ukrainian language and Ukrainian studies instructed by Kulczynskyj, Bilash, Zakrevs’ka, and Vera Vovk. A number of research works in Ukrainian studies (mainly toward a diploma) were prepared, among them some that directly or indirectly related to the Ukrainian language.

Thus, in 1998, at the Irati campus of  the UNICENTRO, Eliana Bernadette Lukava-Laniski completed a small diploma thesis on the situation of bilingualism around Gonçalves Júnior (State of Paraná).[29] In 1999, under the supervision of Kulczynskyj at the Center for Ukrainian Language and Literature, Maria Magdalena Lozovei undertook dialectology field work and completed the study “The Speech of the Ukrainian Community around Costa Carvalho.”[30] For her study, Lozovei selected older respondents, whose speech was minimally distorted through linguistic interference and was as close as possible to the “parent” standard spoken language. A significant part of the work is the glossary of words spoken in the locality.

That same year, in 1999, at the Federal University of Santa Catarina (City of Florianópolis), Marlyna Maria Ogliari defended her doctorate in the field of “sociolinguistics” with the thesis “The Conditions of Resistance and Vitality of a Minority Language in a Brazilian Sociolinguistic Context.”[31] In the sociolinguistic tradition of Brazil, the work consists largely of the characteristics of factors that influenced and continue to influence the language situation in the designated area (specifics of settlement, cultural characteristics, the role of churches and church organizations, etc.). Separately comes the practical part, by means of ethnographic methods. The author gives a detailed description of the respondents, and examines their oral skills in Ukrainian and Portuguese, ability to write in these languages, and the local dialect features of Ukrainian and Portuguese. A separate paragraph is devoted to representatives of mixed marriages.[32]

Kulczynskyj, after a short break, has continued his linguistic work. In 2005 his book [The Ukrainian Spoken Language in Brazil,] appeared,[33] in which he discusses the functioning of the Ukrainian language in the southern states of Brazil, where other Slavic groups had also settled, the influence of Portuguese on the Ukrainian language, and the situation with the study of bilingualism in Brazil. The work is written on the basis of the dialectology material collected in his aforementioned ethnolinguistic study.

In Ukraine, the first signs of interest in the Ukrainian language in Brazil have begun to appear in recent years. An article authored by I. Sushyns’kyi emphasizes the social aspects of the contemporary language situation in Brazil.

Expedition Material

In 2009, a professional Canadian-Ukrainian historical and ethnological expedition to Brazil was undertaken. A linguistic examination of the Ukrainian community in Brazil was among the studies conducted, even though originally it was not an objective of the expedition. Many hours of interviews collected in the field by the author of this article contain exceptionally rich linguistic material. They are valuable in that the respondents represent all age groups and both sexes, all social strata (village - town, villagers - intelligentsia, etc.), and different Ukrainian localities of Brazil. Numerous examples of speech were recorded from these respondents. . In addition, the author managed to bring or copy a good number of Ukrainian-Brazilian publications, which formed the basis for observations on the written (literary) language that are given below.

But first it is necessary to distinguish between two spheres—oral and written— because they are different types of language activities.
For the purposes here, oral language can be divided into the following groups: a) traditional (rural) dialect, b) “literary” language, and c) transitional variants.

Axiomatic is the claim that language is best kept in the midst of a compact settlement of a group. In Brazil, as known, this situation is found in the rural areas of Paraná and Santa Catarina. Oral Ukrainian speech here has a natural character. This means that in many families and community (meaning church-related) activities people communicate with each other in Ukrainian. The threats of loss of the Ukrainian language spoken in this environment cannot be envisioned here for at least the next 50 years (worst-case scenario) or even 100 years
[35] (if the system, introduced by the church, or, say, a newly created secular system, is shown to be effective). The environment in the urban centres of Brazil is, naturally, Portuguese-speaking. The Ukrainian language there is maintained with difficulty. Other laws of language operate there, especially that of adaptation. In the cities the spoken Ukrainian language has lost its position. Even in the nationally conscious Ukrainian families that process is palpable.

The Culture of the Spoken Language

In context of the Ukrainian diaspora in general, the culture of the spoken language is strong in Brazil. Speakers of all ages (this applies mainly to rural areas and small towns) “feel” the language, use most declensions properly, do not confuse them. They tend to have a natural Ukrainian pronunciation[36] and a large vocabulary. Problems arise when speaking with numerals, with particular lexical groups, and sometimes because of a lack of Ukrainian words which is compensated with borrowings from Portuguese.[37] Melodic intonation is characteristic of the Ukrainian language in the colônias. Syntax (sentence structure) is authentically Ukrainian. It can be sensed that people think in that language. This means that the spoken Ukrainian language in Brazil is still alive.

Correlation between Dialect and Literary Language in Spoken Ukrainian.

 Ukrainian immigrants to Brazil during the first and second waves originated in the areas of Bibrka, Zolochiv, Sokal’, Brody, Zhovkva, Kamianka Strumylova, Zalishchyky, Ternopil’, and Przemyśl.[38] As we see from this list, the first six towns are around L’viv, where approximately the same dialect features have been retained. Zalishchyky and Ternopil’ are ethnographically in western Podillia,[39] but the dialect features are close to the so-called “Galician” language culture. As for people from Przemyśl, their dialect is sharp even for the ear of representatives of the other subgroups mentioned. Some Ukrainian immigrants also came to Brazil from Volhynia.

However, over the course of a century or so the dialect features from different regions of western Ukraine managed to blend in Brazil; they no longer reflect the purity of the local parent dialects. Iaroslava Zakrevs’ka had hoped to identify specific variants of dialects affiliated with her interviwees’ ancestral source and map them. But this project proved not to be realistic.

The author of this article considers erroneous the judgments that people in the colônias in Brazil speak the Ukrainian language that was spoken in the nineteenth century.
[41] It is incorrect to believe that the dialects in Brazil have been preserved exactly, for they developed (evolved and transformed). These processes also took place in Ukraine, only in a different direction. Let us consider for example the “Galician” dialects. The results of numerous expeditions to rural areas of modern Galicia by the author indicate that Ukrainian-Brazilian dialectal peculiarities which are considered “archaic” are still present in the ancestral home region. The ancestral dialects, which were used by the Ukrainian immigrants, have evolved (practically “lived”) in parallel to Brazil, and so they are very similar to each other. Differences between the “parent” and “child” versions reside in that the influences occurred in the processes differently. The borrowings in Brazil are mainly from the Portuguese language, and in Galicia, from central Ukrainian dialects, literary Ukrainian, and the Russian language.

In the oral language of the Ukrainian intelligentsia, “national” teachers (catechists, sisters, priests) in Brazil received good training in the literary language. But here it is important to make one clarification. The development of the literary language (its official version) in Ukraine was oriented on the central dialect. However, at the same time, in Galicia a local version of the literary language was being created, which can be called, conditionally, “Galician.” The official literary language gradually replaced the Galician literary variant in the western lands after 1939 because it was stronger. (Yet it should be pointed out that it is still also present in modern Galicia, especially in cities and towns, as an unofficial version of the literary Ukrainian language.) But in the diaspora, the Galician variant of the literary language continued to flourish.

If quite optimistic conclusions can be drawn about spoken Ukrainian in Brazil, those about the written language are less positive.
Whereas imprecisions, borrowings and other non-standard characteristics are allowed in oral language—all this is more problematic in writing. The purpose of the Ukrainian teachers in rural areas is to preserve the Ukrainian language in the context of speech, i.e, language as oral interaction. Therefore, less attention is paid to the written variant. This phenomenon is functional, meaning it meets the existing needs, as the Ukrainian farmers in Brazil do not need to write to someone in Ukrainian. In cities and towns, children learn the Ukrainian language in Saturday schools where the emphasis is on other skills: reading and writing. As a result, children read and write relatively well, but understand with difficulty what they read or write.[42] The written language in the urban Saturday schools has precedence over the oral, and the spoken language suffers significantly.

The language of the press and publications traditionally show features of the Galician variant of the literary language, although recently more and more publications can be found using the modern literary Ukrainian language standards of Ukraine. Teaching in the Ukrainian language course of the Federal University of Paraná is also conducted in the official standard modern literary language.

In summing up, it is important to take note of the following points.

The Ukrainian diaspora in Brazil can be described as a bilingual society. As for the notion of identity, it is advisable to take the term produced by North American sociologists of migration, of a “dual identity,” when people associate themselves with two ethnocultural milieux simultaneously.

The Ukrainian language situation in Brazil is far from being critical. Brazilian Ukrainians managed to do what other communities in the diaspora failed to do
: on their own, they have kept the language alive,functioning and reproducing itself. This conclusion applies primarily to the colônias, for the processes did not develop in favour of minority languages in the city. However, judging from numerous conversations with the city’s youth, a process of awakening or revival of ethnic consciousness can be observed. This also is not accidental: In 1938 Marcus Lee Hansen[43] published a book titled The Problem of the Third Generation Immigrant, where he made this observation: That which the son of immigrants wants to forget, the grandson wishes to remember. Therein lies the main “secret of survial”of ethnicity in foreign conditions.

The study of the language situation and language identity of Brazilian Ukrainians has developed in Brazil mostly under the banner of sociolinguistics. Moreover, the sociolinguistic approach means a study of the whole complex of factors (historical, cultural, religious, environmental, etc.) that influence the development and functioning of language. One of the methods is the field (or, as it is called in the western world, “ethnographic”) method which brings this area of sociolinguistics closer to dialectology. A feature of Brazilian sociolinguistics is the emphasis on bilingualism and biculturalism. The bilingual situation is perceived here as positive in comparison with the processes of acculturation.

And most importantly, despite what has been accomplished to date, there is a wide range of issues which require further careful study.

[1] Боднарук І. Друга книжечка для українських дітей у Бразилії. – Прудентопіль, 1953; Слобода С. Український буквар. – Прудентопіль: вид-во ОО.Василіян, 1976; Зінько В. Буквар. – Прудентопіль: вид-во ОО.Василіян, 1980; Купіцький А., Корчагін О. Друга читанка для українських дітей у Бразилії. – Прудентопіль, 1981.

[2] Зінько В. Рідна школа у Бразилії (Історично-правний нарис). – Прудентопіль-Апостолес: Вид-во ОО.Василіян, 1960. – Pp.185-187.
[3] Interview with Wolodymyr Kulczynskyj by Maryna Hrymych and Andriy Nahachewsky, 7.5.2009, Federal University of Paraná, Curitiba.
[4] Wouk  M. Estudo etnográfico-linguístico da comunidade ucraína de Dorizon. – Curitiba, 1981.
[5] Wouk  M. Estudo etnográfico-linguístico da comunidade ucraína de Dorizon. – Pp.63–92.
[6] Kuzma R. Ritos tradicionais de casamento nas comunidades ucranianas do interior de Prudentópolis: Monografia. - Guarapuava, 2002. – Pp.43–44.
[8] Рудницький Я. До початків українсько-бразилійського мовознавства // Слово на сторожі [Word on Guard]. – Winnipeg, 1976. -  # 13. – Pp.10-16.
[9] Рубинець М. Українська мова в бразильському етері  // Слово на сторожі (Word on Guard). – Winnipeg, 1987. -  # 24. – Pp.30-31.
[10] Борушенко О. Про мову українців у Бразилії // Слово на сторожі . – Winnipeg, 1976. – #13. – Pp.8-10.
[11] Борушенко О. Культурно-мовна інтеґрація українців у Бразилії. – Мюнхен, 1972. Рукопис.
[12] Pierce W.S. Ukrainian Immigrant Speech in Brazil. –  MA thesis. – Austin: University of Texas, 1974.
[13] Pierce W.S. Ukrainian Immigrant Speech in Brazil. – P.3.
[14] William Seward Pierce taught English at the University of São Paulo. In his work he often cited American scholars, and on the Brazilian side, Oksana Boruszenko. See ibid., 60.
[15] See: Киричук Н. Соціолінгвістика в Бразилії: Доповідь, виголошена на Міжнародній школі україністики. – Київ, 1990. Рукопис.
[16] During 1982, Dennis R. Preston lectured at the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul in Porto Alegre. See:
[17] Interview with Wolodymyr Kulczynskyj.
[18] Kulczynskyj W. A Língua Ucraniana Falada no Brasil. – Curitiba, 2005. – P.87.
[19] Interview with Olha Kalko and Wolodymyr Kulczynskyj by Maryna Hrymych and Andriy Nahachewsky, 7.5.2009, Federal University of Paraná, Curitiba.
[20] See:  з доповіді Киричук Н. Соціолінгвістика в Бразилії: Доповідь на Міжнародній школі україністики. – Київ, 1990 р.
[21] Information provided courtesy of Olha-Nadia Kalko.
[22]  In 1992 she received an award from the Federal University of Paraná for her contribution to Ukrainian language instruction in Brazil. See:
[23] Interview with Olha Kalko and Wolodymyr Kulczynskyj.
[24] That L’viv scholar has contributed one of the best articles on Ukrainians in Brazil: Закревська Я. Бразилійська Україна зблизька. – Дзвін, 1993. - ## 2-3. – Pp.129-134.
[25] Bohdan Medwidsky Ukrainian Folklore Archives, University of Alberta.
[26] Interview with Wolodymyr Kulczynskyj.
[27] At that time, secretary of the Committee for Academic and Cultural Relations with Ukrainians Abroad at the Ukraine Academy of Sciences, a Candidate of Philology.
[28] Information provided courtesy of Olha-Nadia Kalko.
[29] Lucavei-Laniski E.B. A situação atual do bilinguismo em Gonçalves Júnior: Monografia. – UNICENTRO. – Irati, 1998.
[30] Lozovei M. O falar da comunidade Ucraniana de Costa Carvalho: Estudo sociolinguístico. – Prudentópolis, 1999.
[31] Ogliari M.M. As condições de resistência e vitalidade de uma língua minoritária no contexto sociolinguístico brasileiro: Doctoral thesis. – Universidade Federal de
Santa Catarina.. – Florianópolis, 1999.
[32] Ogliari M.M. As condições de resistência e vitalidade de uma língua minoritária no contexto sociolinguístico brasileiro. – Pp.256-287.
[33] Kulczynskyj W. A Língua Ucraniana Falada no Brasil. – Curitiba, 2005.
[34] Сушинська І. Українська мова у бразильській діаспорі: стан і статус // Лінгвістичні студії, 2010. – Вип.20. – Pp.250-253.
[35] This is the opinion of Bishop Emeritus Efraím Basílio (Iefrem Vasyl’) Krevey. See: Гудзик  К. П’яте покоління: Українці Бразилії зберігають свої традиції. Інтерв’ю з Єфремом Кривим // “День”. -
[36] This can partly be explained in the phonetic similarities between Ukrainian and Portuguese, which was studied by Pierce (cited above).
[37] See also the works of the Brazilian scholars cited above about Brazilian-Ukrainian bilingualism.
[38] Вігоринський І. Ірасема в історичному розвитку в 1895-1958 рр. – Прудентополіс: вид-во ОО. Василіян, 1958. - P.41.
[39]The term is not linguistic, but ethnographic.  Still it allows for an outline of the ranges of these local dialects.
[40] Interview with Wolodymyr Kulczynskyj.
[41] See:,
[42] Interview with M. Lozovei by M. Hrymych, 12.5.2009, Prudentópolis.
[43] Hansen M. L. The Problem of the Third Generation Immigrant. – Rock Island: Augustana Historical Society, 1938. – P.37.

1 comment:

  1. Цю статтю в скороченому вигляді можна прочитати українською мовою в журналі "Українознавство" в одному з останніх номерів.