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Alaskan Russian
аляскинско-русские говоры
русский язык на Аляске
Spoken in Alaska
Native speakers ~60 million  (2017)
Language family
Writing system Cyrillic (Russian alphabet)
Russian Braille
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Location of Alaska (Russian America)

Alaskan Russian (Russian: аляскинско-русские говоры, alyaskinsko-russkiye govory) refers to a set of dialects of the Russian language which are spoken across Alaska and neighboring parts of North America. The Alaskan Russian dialects were influenced by the Russian settlers of Russian America, with some influences from English, Spanish, Ukrainian, and various native languages of North America (among others).

Phonology

Main article: Russian phonology

The Alaskan dialects of Russian share a similar phonological makeup to the Southern Russian dialects and the Ukrainian language (which was officially treated as a Russian dialect until 1917). There also includes elements from the Central Russian dialects, most notably among the White Emigre areas in the north.

Consonants

The differences between Alaskan Russian (AR) and Standard Russian (SR) are minimal. The most recognizable exceptions are Alaskan's use of Gekanye and Vekanye.

Vekanye (also known as the "Alaskan 'W'") is a trait where the Standard Russian "V" is substituted for a "W" (e.g., вода is pronounced /woda/ instead of /vada/). This trait developed across Alaska throughout the 19th Century (both independently and from a steady stream of Southern Russian and Ukrainian immigrants). Following independence, many Alaskans began to streamline this trait as a sign of Alaskan nativism (as opposed to both the Soviet Union and the White Emigre). This sound shift only occurs for voiced instances, while all voiceless instances are still pronounced with an "F" (as in SR). A noted example would be the name for Vancouver Island (Остров Ванкувер), which is /ostrof wankuwer/ in AR and /ostraf vankuver/ in SR.

Gekanye is a trait where the Standard Russian "G" are substituted with a fricative "Gh" [ɣ] (e.g., нога is pronounced /noɣa/ instead of /naga/). Unlike Vekanye, all instances of Gekanye in Alaskan Russian are concentrated southeast of the Columbia River (with the rest of the nation using the standard "G"). This trait developed from the influx of Southern Russian and Ukrainian speakers, as well as minor influences from Greek and Spanish. Because this sound is not native to English, most English speakers describe the sound as being similar to an "H". This trait only occurs for voiced instances, while all voiceless instances are pronounced as a "Kh" instead of a SR "K" (e.g., друг is pronounced /drux/ instead of /druk/).

Vowels

Like Standard Russian, Alaskan Russian possesses vowel reduction for unstressed vowels (though its use varies across the nation). The most defining feature of AR is it's inclusion of Okanye, which negates this trait with unstressed "O". Okanye speakers are dominant in the south, with the Ruthenite dialect being very pronounced and gradually shifting to Akanye in the north.

Vocabulary

Four fifths of the lexicon in Alaskan Russian is the same as in Standard Russian. AR also retains a significant number of words and meanings which have become archaic in SR, as well as the adoption of new words that follow Russian grammatical rules.

Alaskan Russian also utilizes many loanwords which have no use/meaning in Standard Russian. This includes many indigenous words for plants and animals. Most indigenous words are of Aleut, Dena'ina, Pomo, and Tlingit origin. Words of English and Spanish origin are also prominent.

English Alaskan Russian Standard Russian Notes
automobile, car кара (kara) машина (mashina) car (en), carro (es)
expensive, costly спендий (spendy) дорогой (dorogoy) spendy (en)
jerrycan, gas canister газник (gaznik) канистра (kanistra) neologism
restroom, toilet нужник (nuzhnik) туалет (tualet) archaic word
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