Russenorsk (Norwegian pronunciation: [ˈrʉsːəˌnɔʂk]; Russian: Руссено́рск, [rʊsʲɪˈnorsk]; English: Russo-Norwegian) is an extinct dual-source pidgin language formerly used in the Arctic, which combined elements of Russian and Norwegian, and which was created by Russian traders and Norwegian fishermen from northern Norway and the Russian Kola Peninsula. It was used extensively in Northern Norway for about 150 years in the Pomor trade. Russenorsk is important as a test case for theories concerning pidgin languages since it was used far away from most of the other documented pidgins of the world.
As is common in the development of pidgins and trade languages, the interaction of fishermen and traders with no common language necessitated the creation of some minimal form of communication. Like all pidgins, Russenorsk had a rudimentary grammar and a restricted vocabulary, mostly composed of words essential to Arctic fishing and trade (fish, weather, etc.) and did not particularly deal with unrelated issues (music, politics, etc.).
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Barter existed between Russians and Norwegians for 150 years in Troms and Finnmark counties. This barter was supported by the Norwegian government, and King Christian VII conferred city status to several settlements, such as Tromsø, to facilitate it. Norwegians mainly traded fish for flour and wheat from Russians. The trading went on throughout the sunny months of the year and was beneficial to both sides; Norwegians had access to cheap fish in the summer, whilst Russians had surplus wheat. Traders came from the areas near Murmansk and the White Sea, most often to Vardø, Hammerfest, and Tromsø, sometimes reaching as far south as Lofoten.
The earliest recorded instance of Russenorsk was in 1785. It is one of the most studied northern pidgins; many linguists, for example, Olaf Broch, studied it. Unlike equatorial pidgins, it was formed from only two languages: Norwegian and Russian. Furthermore, these languages are not from the same branch of Indo-European languages. Also unlike equatorial pidgins, Russenorsk was formed from one social class.
Until 1850, Russenorsk was socially acceptable for all social classes. In 1850, Russenorsk became more limited to Norwegian fishermen, whereas Norwegian traders spent more time in Russia, often formally studying the language to the extent that they could communicate in rudimentary Russian. This caused Russenorsk to lose some of its prestige.
In 1917, Finland's declaration of independence from Russia caused the Russian-Norwegian border to decrease significantly. In 1919, the border disappeared completely. Furthermore, the Soviet Union limited international contact significantly, decreasing the need for the common language between Norwegians and Russians. The last such Norwegian-Russian trade occurred in 1923.
One of the characteristics differentiating the pidgin from jargon is its grammar. Russenorsk is mainly influenced by Norwegian grammar, leading some to conclude that it is a variant of Norwegian with some Russian influence.
There are no clear verb conjugations. The main indication of a verb is the suffix -om, for example, kapitan på kajuta slipom (the captain is asleep in his cabin). Nominative nouns usually end with -a. Conjunctions used to make compound sentences or dependent clauses are ja, i, and jes. Kak is used as an interrogative word. The general word order is SVO, with some alterations for questions and sentences with adverbs.
Corpora of Russenorsk consist of lists of individual words and phrases as well as records of dialogues compiled by linguists such as Just Knut Qvigstad. The corpora include c. 400 words, about half of those only appear once in the records (so-called hapax legomena).
Many words in Russenorsk have a synonym from the other primary language.
Some words can be etymologically traced to both Norwegian and Russian, for example, vin (Norwegian) and вино (Russian). Some words have an unclear etymology, for example, tovara or vara can come from Russian, Swedish, or Finnish.
Russenorsk does not have extensive morphology, but has some unique characteristics. The ending -om does not come from Russian nor Norwegian, but it may come from Solombala English. The ending -mann, from Norwegian, is used to indicate nationality or profession, for example russmann (Russian), burmann (Norwegian), or kukmann (trader). Other morphological features are reduplication, such as morra-morradag (after tomorrow), and compounding, such as kua (cow) and sjorta (shirt) to kuasjorta (cowhide).
One characteristic syntactical attribute of Russenorsk is the tendency to move the verb to the final position when the sentence has adverbs. This is found in neither Russian nor Norwegian. Another is that the negator (ikke, njet) precedes the verb, but can be separated from the verb. This is unlike negation in either Russian or Norwegian, but it may have come from Finnish, in which this syntax was probable.
A lack of metalinguistic awareness amongst Russenorsk speakers may have led them to believe they were speaking the language of their interlocutor; that is, that Russians believed they were speaking Norwegian and vice versa.
R marks Russian origin, N marks Norwegian.
|What are you saying? I don't understand.|
|Moja på tvoja.||I'm talking in your language.|
|Kak sprek? Moja njet forsto.||What are you talking about? I don't understand.|
|Ju sprek på moja kantor kom||You said that you would come to my office.|
|Tvoja fisk kopom?||Will you buy fish?|
|Saika kopom i på Arkangelsk på gaf spaserom||I'll buy pollack and we'll swim in Arkhangelsk.|
|Kak pris? Mangeli kosta?||What is the price? How much?|
|Eta grot dyr. Værsegod, på minder prodaj!||It is very expensive. Please lower the price!|