Ukrainian language in Canada: From prosperity to extinction?

Khrystyna Hudyma


In this paper I want to explore in what way and due to what factors the Ukrainian language in Canada evolved from being a mother tongue for one of the biggest country’s ethnic groups to just an ethnic language hardly spoken by younger generations. Ukrainian was brought to the country by peasant settlers from Western Ukraine at the end of the 19th century; therefore, it is one of the oldest heritage languages in Canada. Three subsequent waves of Ukrainian immigration supplied language retention; however had their own language-related peculiarities.

Initially, the Ukrainian language in Canada differed from standard Ukrainian, with the pace of time and under influence of the English language they diverged even more. Profound changes on phonetic, lexical and grammatical levels allow some scholars to consider Canadian Ukrainian an established dialect of standard Ukrainian.

Once one of the best maintained mother tongues in Canada, today Ukrainian experiences a significant drop in number of native speakers and use at home, as well as faces a persistent failure of transmission to the next generation. Although, numerous efforts are made to maintain Ukrainian in Canada, i.e. bilingual schools, summer camps, university courses, the young generation of Ukrainian Canadians learn it as a foreign language and limit its use to family and school settings. Such tendency fosters language shift and puts Canadian Ukrainian on the brink of extinction in the nearest future.


Ukrainian language; language retention; language shift

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Working Papers of the Linguistics Circle

EISSN: 1920-440X
ISSN: 1200-3344

University of Victoria