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Mira Bergelson about Alaskan Russian

A professor from the School of Philology took part in the ‘Diversity Linguistics: Retrospect and Prospect’ conference, which took place in Leipzig from May 1st – 3rd, 2015.

In her paper entitled ‘Alaskan Russian: A Special Result of Language Contact’, prepared together with Andrey Kibrik, Head of the RAS Institute of Linguistics Department of Typology and Areal Linguistics, Mira Bergelson spoke about the ‘Alaskan Russian’ language phenomenon, which is considerably different from continental Russian dialects.

The purpose of the paper was to reconstruct the key features and development stages of Russian language on Alaska in the 18th-20th centuries, on the basis of contemporary evidences and by using  the so-called ‘archaeological’ approach. The main object of the study was Ninilchik Russian – a Russian dialect found in the Alaskan village of Ninilchik, where ex-employees of the Russian-American Company used to retire to. Ninilchik Russian is considered a dying dialect: there are currently no native speakers under 70, the dialect isn’t used as the main language of communication, and the specifics of speech vary significantly from one speaker to another. Mira Bergelson and her colleagues analysed the key linguistic contacts that have influenced the dialect’s specifics and its evolution and concluded that Ninilchik Russian, although formed as a result of language contacts, can’t be considered a ‘contact language’ and is a unique form of Russian, a splinter of Russia in the New World.