Water, Whiskey, and Vodka

A Story of Slavic Languages

Danko Šipka

"Šipka invites us in the Slavic manner with a welcome drink and bids us to stay for a witty, enthralling read." —Marc L. Greenberg, professor of Slavic languages and literatures, University of Kansas
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A fascinating cultural and linguistic history of the Slavic languages, exploring the deep connections and distinctions between them

Water, whiskey, and vodka are three words that seem to have nothing in common, but each of them comes from the same root.

Water, Whiskey, and Vodka takes a deep dive into the origins of the Slavic languages, from a common ancestor language through various cultural and historical shifts to arrive at the current breadth of languages. The book takes a captivating look at the unique sociolinguistic context of the Slavic languages and pays special attention to the cultural subtleties particular to each one and the people who speak it. Danko Šipka touches on the origins of the Slavic languages, their linguistic similarities and differences, word borrowing across them all, and the cultural importance of languages even within this family of languages.

Water, Whiskey, and Vodka will fascinate readers—whether or not they speak Slavic languages—interested in the history and development of one or more Slavic languages. Writing from the Slavic linguistic tradition, where talking about language happens in the public sphere, he offers readers a deeper understanding of various Slavic cultural traditions and historical events as they are reflected in their languages.

Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations

1 What Is a Slavic Language, and How Do Language and Culture Interact?

Part I: Nuts and Bolts
2 Water, Whiskey, and Vodka: How Slavic Languages Came to Be
3 The Sounds of the Slavs: Like Dancing in the Air
4 The Forms of Slavic Words: Bending and Gendering

Part II: Words, Words, Words
5 How Time and Space Split Slavic Roots
6 How Well Do Slavs Understand Each Other?
7 How Slavic Languages Lend and Borrow Words

Part III: Languages as Tools of Cultures
8 Pens and Peasants: How Slavic Literacies Have Emerged
9 Slavic Rock Star Linguists
10 Slavic Language Wars

Appendix: Transcription and Pronunciation Guide


"Danko Šipka’s monograph is an excellent introduction to the languages, histories, and cultures of the Slavic peoples. Professionally written yet delivered in an accessible language, replete with intriguing topics and exemplified with interesting data, this book will fascinate anyone who wants to learn about the Slavic world and its linguistic characteristics."—Motoki Nomachi, professor of Slavic linguistics, Slavic-Eurasian Research Center, Hokkaido University, Japan

"Šipka invites us in the Slavic manner with a welcome drink and bids us to stay for a witty, enthralling read. Accessible to undergraduates, the text provides historical depth, contemporary substance, and matters for debate. The book will enchant those who love words: their sounds, meanings, and historical connections."—Marc L. Greenberg, professor of Slavic languages and literatures, University of Kansas

"Šipka has deftly and entertainingly simplified a complex story, making a rather technical subject accessible to a broad audience. This is a reader-friendly book that does indeed serve as a ‘gateway’ to the study of historical linguistics, the Slavic-language family as a whole, or a first (perhaps second) Slavic language."—David S. Danaher, professor of Slavic studies, University of Wisconsin–Madison

"With carefully chosen examples and clever comparisons, Danko Šipka's Water, Whiskey, and Vodka offers nontechnical readers accessible answers to questions like: Where did the Slavic languages come from? How did they grow? How similar are they? What words did they import and export? Who sets their standards and their social status?”"—Wayles Browne, professor emeritus of linguistics, Cornell University


Supplemental Materials


About the Author

Danko Šipka is a professor of Slavic languages and head of linguistics at Arizona State University, where he teaches in the School of International Letters and Cultures. He served as a senior linguist and consultant to numerous language industry companies. He has written thirty books, including The Geography of Words (2022) and Lexical Layers of Identity (2019).

296 pp., 6 x 9 x .5625
4 maps, 8 tables
ISBN: 978-1-64712-373-4
Nov 2023

296 pp., 6 x 9 x .5625
4 maps, 8 tables
ISBN: 978-1-64712-374-1
Nov 2023

296 pp.
4 maps, 8 tables
ISBN: 978-1-64712-375-8
Nov 2023

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