[lg policy] Unique Russian Dialect Recorded in Alaska

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Fri May 31 14:32:37 UTC 2013

Unique Russian Dialect Recorded in

Unique Russian Dialect Recorded in Alaska

 MOSCOW, May 27 (RIA Novosti) – A group of Moscow academics have collected
recordings of a unique Russian dialect spoken by a handful of elderly
people in the US state of Alaska, isolated for more than a century from
modern Russian.

The linguistic aberration occurred over 150 years as Russian-speakers who
colonized Alaska in the 19th century and their descendants became
increasingly cut off from speakers of standardized Russian, according to
the scholars.

“We do not know of any other cases where Russian has existed as a native
language for such a quantity of people, at such a distance, and for so
long,” said Mira Bergelson, a linguistics professor at Moscow State
University and one of the leaders of the expedition, during a presentation
last week.

Alaska was owned and colonized by Russia during the early 19th century, but
was sold to the US government in 1867.

There are 20 people, all over the age of 75, living in the Alaskan village
of Ninilchik who speak the peculiar Russian dialect, according to the
linguists. This community had relatively little contact with the other
major group of Russian-speakers in the state – Orthodox Christian Old
Believers who fled persecution in their homeland and gradually settled in
Alaska in the 1960s. Although Ninilchik is by the sea, its inhabitants also
had little contact with passing Soviet sailors, the researchers said.

The dialect contains many words that would baffle modern Russians, largely
because they have become obsolete or their meaning has changed over the
years. It has also dropped or modified many gender-specific endings, which
are an integral part of Russian, widely replacing feminine endings with
masculine ones, and has integrated words from other languages, including

Russian linguists first visited the Ninilchik community in 1997.
Bergelson's team returned last year to make audio and video recordings of
the last remaining speakers. The Moscow-based academics are currently in
the process of compiling a dictionary of the dialect, due to be completed
next year.


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