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I have noticed some complexed loanwords in Ukrainian from German via Polish like the word for taste “smak”. Is it just slight influence that Polish had on Ukrainian or was it related to assimilation or superior/inferior battle? Are Polish loanwords the reason why Ukrainian differs so much from Russian?

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The reason why two languages differ is always complex, there's no one single factor, it's the combination of the factors. You can look at it as you've formulated, or you can look at it like Russian was hugely influenced by Old Bulgarian, the factor which wasn't experienced by Polish and Ukrainian that heavily, so in fact (I'd say) it's rather Russian under Old Bulgarian influence that digressed from Ukrainian than Ukrainian under the Polish influence that digressed from Russian.

Don't forget, Russian has tons of borrowings from Polish, too, and also German borrowings via Polish, and смак is also a valid Russian word.

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  • Could you add more info about how Polish influenced Ukrainian? Cf. “The period of the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries is one of enormous Polish influence on Ukrainian, chiefly in lexicon, partly also in syntax.” Šerech-Shevelov 1952: 349 I’m asking because this is not my area of expertise and I’d like to know more
    – Alex B.
    Oct 27 '21 at 13:53
  • what do you think about this quote from the Internet Encyclopedia of Ukraine (hosted by the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, "The most significant development was the expansion of borrowing from Polish, and from Latin, German, and Czech, often via Polish. Loanwords from these languages influenced much more than just Ukrainian administrative, commercial, and cultural terminology: they often replaced established words in the basic vocabulary.
    – Alex B.
    Oct 27 '21 at 19:20
  • (cont.) "As a result of this trend, which continued with undiminished strength for a century and a half, the vocabulary of Ukrainian became closer to that of West Slavic than to that of Russian or Church Slavonic." (Shevelov 1993) encyclopediaofukraine.com/…
    – Alex B.
    Oct 27 '21 at 19:20
  • @AlexB. — Again: vocabulary is just a part of the material (so to say) property of the language. However many words were borrowed into English from non-Germanic languages didn't make English less Germanic or less English as opposed to the rest of the Germanic languages. The same with Ukrainian: for ages the written language didn't represent the spoken Ukrainian which we can well see only since the 19th century. If a Ukr. word is the same as Polish, like чи [tʂɪ] ‘whether; or’ = Pol. czy, it's just a guess it's a borrowing, why can't that be a common Pol.-Ukr. word?
    – Yellow Sky
    Oct 27 '21 at 21:14
  • @AlexB. — The whole division of the Slavic languages into W., S., and E. ones isn't at all justified, there're Sprachbunds inside the Sl. languages, like the Ukr.-Bel.-Pol.-Cz.-Slov.-Sorbian one, with phonetic features being the most characteristic, especially the development of *o > *u/*i in closed syllables which stretches geographically from the Elbe to the Don, that can't be accounted for by borrowings alone. Since the question was about the reason for the difference between Ukr. and Rus., I think I've answered it: it's deeper than just vocab. I see no reason to add anything more here.
    – Yellow Sky
    Oct 27 '21 at 21:27

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