Ninilchik Russian in Alaska

There’s an interesting news reports from a couple of weeks ago on the Russian dialect spoken in Ninilchik, Alaska, a community about four hours’ drive southwest of Anchorage.  Founded in 1847 in what was then Russian America (on this map from 1860, it’s near where the X for ‘Fort Georgievsk’ is placed) in an area mostly populated by Dena’ina (Athabaskan) speakers, Ninilchik today is a community of about 900 people, mostly English speaking but with a small remnant of elderly speakers of a Russian dialect that has been developing independently from other Russian varieties for over 100 years.  The Ninilchik Russian website provides quite a bit of information, including several research papers, recordings, and other information.  My only quibble, which is a small one, is that we need to be careful in calling Ninilchik Russian ‘isolated’ – isolated from other forms of Russian, yes, but as a whole, no – obviously it has been in contact with English, with Athabaskan languages, and with Alaskan Eskimo languages over the past century, which is part of the reason it is so interesting.

Author: schrisomalis

Anthropologist, Wayne State University. Professional numbers guy. Rare Words: Blog:

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