Linguistic evidence for the history of Govorka (Taimyr Pidgin Russian)

2013. № 1 (25), 135-157

Valentin Yu. Gusev, Institute of Linguistics, Russian Academy of Sciences


Govorka, a Russian-based pidgin spoken on the Taimyr peninsula until the end of the 20th century, has very few lexical elements of non-Russian origin; however, some of its structural properties permit us to trace the history of its emergence and development. We hypothesize that originally it was the language of the descendants of Russian settlers who had mixed with the aboriginal Dolgan population and switched to Dolgan but conserved Russian as their heritage language. This form of Russian, strongly influenced by Dolgan, was used to communicate with Russian authorities and merchants. Later it spread to the surrounding population — Nganasan and Evenki — and formed ethnolects, some traces of which can be found in old recordings.