There are several controversial theories about the nature of Rusyn as a language or dialect. Czech, Slovak and Hungarian as well as American and some Polish and Serbian linguists treat it as a distinct language (with its own ISO 639-3 code), whereas other scholars (especially in Ukraine but also Poland, Serbia and Romania) treat it as a Southwestern dialect of Ukrainian.
Poland (traditionally in the southeast, but now mainly scattered throughout the north and west). The Rusyn variety of Poland is generally known as Lemko (лемківскій язык – lemkivskij jazyk), after the characteristic word лем (lem) meaning "only", "but" and "like"
The classification and identification of Rusyn is historically and politically problematic. Before World War I, Rusyns were recognized as the Ukrainians of Galicia within the Austro-Hungarian Empire, however in the Hungarian part they were recognized as Rusyns/Ruthenes. Crown Prince Franz Ferdinand had planned to recognize a Rusyn-majority area as one of the states of a planned United States of Greater Austria before his assassination. After the war, the former Austria and Hungary was partitioned, and Carpathian Ruthenia was appended to the new Czechoslovak state as its easternmost province. With the advent of World War II, Carpatho-Ukraine declared its independence, lasting not even one day, until its occupation and annexation by Hungary. After the war, the region was annexed by the Soviet Union as part of the Ukrainian SSR, which proceeded with an anti-ethnic assimilation program. Poland did the same, using internal exile to move all Ukrainians from the southern homelands to western areas incorporated from Germany, and switch everyday language to Polish.
Scholars with the former Institute of Slavic and Balkan Studies in Moscow (now the Institute of Slavonic Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences) formally re-acknowledged Rusyn as a separate language in 1992, and trained specialists to study the language. These studies were financially supported by the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Ukrainian politicians do not recognise Rusyns as a separate ethnicity, regardless of Rusyn self-identification. Ukraine officially considers Rusyn a dialect of Ukrainian, related to the Hutsul dialect of Ukrainian.
It is not possible to estimate accurately the number of fluent speakers of Rusyn; however, their number is estimated in the tens of thousands.
There are three Rusyn standard varieties: one in Slovakia, one in Poland, and one in Vojvodina and Croatia (Pannonian Rusyn). Pannonian Rusyn was first standardised in 1923, Slovakia (Prešov) Rusyn in 1995, and Poland (Lemko) Rusyn in 2000.
Early grammars include Dmytrij Vyslockij's (Дмитрий Вислоцкий) Карпаторусский букварь (Karpatorusskij bukvar') Vanja Hunjanky (1931) and Metodyj Trochanovskij's Буквар. Перша книжечка для народных школ. (Bukvar. Perša knyžečka dlja narodnıx škol.) (1935).
The Carpathian Rusyn alphabets
Each of the three Rusyn standard varieties has its own Cyrillic alphabet. The table below shows the alphabet of Slovakia (Prešov) Rusyn. The alphabet of the other Carpathian Rusyn standard, Lemko (Poland) Rusyn, differs from it only by lacking ё and ї. For the Pannonian Rusyn alphabet, see Pannonian Rusyn language#Writing system.
The Lemko and Prešov Rusyn alphabets place ъ at the very end, while the vast majority of Cyrillic alphabets place it after щ. They also place ы before й, while the vast majority of Cyrillic alphabets place it after ш, щ (if present), and ъ (if present).
In the Prešov Rusyn alphabet, і and ї come before и, and likewise, і comes before и in the Lemko Rusyn alphabet (which doesn't have ї). In the Ukrainian alphabet, however, и precedes і and ї, and the Pannonian Rusyn alphabet (which doesn't have і) follows this precedent by placing и before ї.
Elaine Rusinko, "Rusinski/Ruski pisni" selected by Nataliya Dudash; "Muza spid Karpat (Zbornik poezii Rusiniv na Sloven'sku)" assembled by Anna Plishkova. Books review. "The Slavic and East European Journal, Vol. 42, No. 2. (Summer, 1998), pp. 348-350. JSTOR archive
Плішкова, Анна [Anna Plishkova] (ed.): Муза спід Карпат (Зборник поезії Русинів на Словеньску). [Muza spid Karpat (Zbornik poezii Rusiniv na Sloven'sku)] Пряшів: Русиньска оброда, 1996. on-line[permanent dead link]
Геровский Г.Ю. Язык Подкарпатской Руси – Москва, 1995
Marta Harasowska. "Morphophonemic Variability, Productivity, and Change: The Case of Rusyn", Berlin ; New York : Mouton de Gruyter, 1999, ISBN3-11-015761-6.
Book review by Edward J. Vajda, Language, Vol. 76, No. 3. (Sep., 2000), pp. 728–729