Steppe dialects. One of the three dialectal groups comprising the southeastern dialects. The dialects evolved in the 17th to 20th centuries as a result of the intermingling of settlers in southern Ukraine speaking the Podilian dialects, South Volhynian dialects, Chernihiv dialects, Poltava dialects, and central Polisian dialects. They have also been influenced by the Russian language in Ukraine. The dialects are spoken south of the line Uman–Novomyrhorod–Chyhyryn–Krasnohrad–Izium–Luhansk. They are divided into three subgroups: the western (in southern Bessarabia, Odesa oblast and Mykolaiv oblast between the Prut River and the Boh River), in which Podilian and Volhynian features are the most evident; the central (in Kirovohrad oblast, Kryvyi Rih region, Dnipropetrovsk oblast, and Zaporizhia oblast); and the eastern (in Donetsk oblast and Luhansk oblast).
The features of the steppe dialects are (1) the softened pronunciation of consonants before i derived from ō (eg, st'il [Standard Ukrainian (SU) stil] ‘table’); (2) the retention of o derived from ō (eg, odn'imá, stójte [SU vidnimáje, stíjte] ‘subtracts, stand [plural imperative]’); (3) simplification of the group ždž in verbal forms of the type odjižžát' (SU vid’jiždžáty) ‘to depart [by vehicle]’; (4) pronunciation of the group m’ja as mn'a (eg, mn'áty [SU m’játy] ‘to wrinkle’); (5) pronunciation of unstressed o, e as u, i before a subsequent stressed u, i (eg, hudúj, min'í [SU hodúj, mení] ‘feed [singular imperative], to me’) and in endings of the type slúxajiš (SU slúxaješ) ‘you listen’; (6) hardened pronunciation of c' in forms of the type prósycca, prós'acca (SU prósyt'sja, prósjat'sja) ‘(s)he/they plead’, particularly in the west; (7) pronunciation of the type d'it, t'ašké (SU did, tjažké) ‘grandfather, heavy’; (8) influence of the endings of hard nouns on those of soft and mixed nouns (eg, kon'óvi, koval'óm, nožóm, zeml'ój(u), dušój(u) [SU konévi, kovalém, nožém, zemléju, dušéju] ‘horse (dative), blacksmith, knife, land, soul (instrumental)’; (9) the endings -oj/-ej (in addition to -oju/-eju) in instrumental singular feminine nouns and -iv in genitive plural feminine and neuter nouns (eg, žinkíŭ, nočíŭ, jáblukiŭ, poros'átiŭ [SU žinók, nočéj, jábluk, porosját] ‘women, nights, apples, piglets’), and, sporadically, forms such as na ruk'í, na noh'í (SU na rucí, na nozí) ‘on the arm, on the leg’ in dative and locative singular feminine nouns; (10) pronominal forms of the type do jóho, kolo jéji, z jim, bez jíx (SU do n'óho, kolo néji, z nym, bez nyx) ‘to him, near her, with him, without them’; (11) verbal forms of the type krut'ú, xod'ú, voz'ú, pokósynyj, pytá, pytát’, pytác'c'a, pytájus', pytálas', pytáŭs' (SU kručú, xodžú, vožú, pokóšenyj, pytáje, pytáty, pytátysja, pytájusja, pytálasja, pytávsja) ‘I turn, I walk, I drive, mown, he asks, to ask, to enquire, I enquire, she enquired, he enquired’; (12) levelling of the -y-/-ji- and -e- conjugations in root-stressed verbs (eg, krúte, krút'ut’ [SU krútyt', krútjat'] ‘he turns, they turn’); (13) remnants of the archaic type of agreement of predicates with collective nouns used as subjects (eg, naród zbíhlys', mólodiž pišlý [SU naród zbíhsja, mólod' pišlá] ‘the people gathered, the youth went’).
Lexical Turkisms are widespread, particularly in fishing and gardening terminology. Romanianisms are found in the western subgroup’s sheepherding and gardening terminology. In the eastern subgroup, in southeastern Donetsk oblast along the littoral of the Sea of Azov, the Russian influence has been quite strong and has resulted in mixed Ukrainian-Russian dialects (see Russian-Ukrainian linguistic relations). The Ukrainian dialects spoken in Rostov oblast, the Kuban, and the Stavropol region of Subcaucasia are similar to the steppe dialects.
The steppe dialects have been studied by linguists such as A. Berlizov, Yosyp Dzendzelivsky, Artem Moskalenko. L. Tereshko. V. Drozdovsky, A. Mukan, T. Zavorotna, V. Karpova, Ya. Nahin, Stepan Samiilenko, Vasyl S. Vashchenko, Oleksa Horbach, and I. Matviias. Their grammatical and lexical elements can be found in the belletristic works of Ivan Karpenko-Kary, Volodymyr Vynnychenko, and Yurii Yanovsky.
[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 5 (1993).]