Kyakhta Russian–Chinese Pidgin

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RegionRussian–Chinese border
Extinctearly 20th century
  • Kyakhta
Language codes
ISO 639-3None (mis)

Kyakhta Russian–Chinese Pidgin was a contact language (specifically a pidgin) used by Russian and Chinese traders to communicate during the 18th-early 20th century. The pidgin owes its name to the town of Kyakhta, a Russian town on the border with the Qing Empire's Outer Mongolia, which was the most important border trading point between the two regions for more than a century after its foundation in 1728.[2]

In Russian it is known as Кяхтинский язык (Kjachtinskij jazyk; "Kyakhtian language") and in Chinese it is known as 中俄混合語 (s. 中俄混合语, Zhōng ě hùnhé yǔ / Чжун э хуньхэ юй; "Chinese–Russian mixed language/creole").


Due to the absence of consonant clusters in Chinese and their quite frequent occurrence in Russian, the need for epenthesis - adding additional sounds to words - arises to make pronunciation easier. Thus, the following transformations are typical:[3]

Russian word Russian pronunciation Kyakhtian pronunciation English translation
прошу [prˈoʂʊ] [porˈoʂʊ] (I) ask
солнце [sont͡sɨ] [solenɨt͡sɨ] sun
шампанское [ʂɐmpˈanskəjə] [ʂɐmpˈanɛsɨkɪ] sparkling wine

In a number of words, the stop consonants [d] and [t] and the affricate [ts] transform to the fricative [z]:

Russian word Russian pronunciation Kyakhtian pronunciation English translation
спереди [spʲˈerʲɪdʲɪ] [pjerjza] in front
халат [xɐlˈat] [xɐlˈaza] dressing gown
поклониться [pəklɐnʲˈit͡sə] [pəkələniza] to bow


Most of the words in the Kyakhta pidgin come from Russian. Many of them, in particular those that do not have consonants clusters, undergo no change; for example, воля ("will"), люди ("people"), мало ("little"), надо ("it is necessary"), рубаха ("shirt"), сюда ("to here"), чужой ("alien"), шуба ("fur coat").

As a rule, pidgins have limited grammar and vocabulary. To compensate for this, words are often borrowed with additional meanings. In Kyakhta pidgin, for instance, the adverb мало, along with the meaning of "little" that it has in Russian, also means "not only"; посиди means not only "to seat", but also "to converse". An example of significant difference between the Russian translation and the meaning in Kyakhta pidgin is the word месяца - it means "months" in Russian, while it means "forever" in the pidgin.

The predominantly colloquial origin of words is very noticeable. Many words are present in exclusively diminutive form: женушеки ("woman") comes from Russian женушка, the diminutive form of жена ("wife"); рюмашека ("wine glass") comes from Russian рюмашка, the diminutive form of рюмка; беленеки ("white") comes from Russian беленький, the diminutive form of белый.

While Russian is clearly the main source of vocabulary, some words are borrowed from Mongolian which was spoken in the same region, such as адали ("exactly"), and бичиху ("to write"). Still, the influence of Mongolian is minimal.

The only significant contribution of Chinese to the vocabulary is the word фуза meaning "store, shop" (Chinese: 鋪子; pinyin: pùzi). Aside from that, Kyakhta pidgin contains several new compounds that could have been inspired by Chinese:

  • ума-конейчайло ("madness") can be loosely translated to Russian as end-of-mind, it was used instead of Russian сумашествие
  • середеце-шило ("hard-heartedness", literally "heart-awl") instead of Russian жестокосердие
  • языка-меда ("eloquence", literally "tongue-honey") instead of Russian красноречие.[4]


Like most pidgins Kyakhta pidgin lacks many morphological categories - there are no cases, numbers or gender of nouns.

Russian pidgins in general tend to have clear verb indications. In Kyakhta Pidgin, similarly to other Siberian pidgins, most verbs have ending -j/-i: болей ("to be sick"), выгони ("to turn out"), захорони ("to bury"), гоняй ("to drive"), незнай ("to be unaware"), ругай ("to scold"), сади ("to seat"). This ending makes verbs similar to the imperative form of Russian verbs: for example, болей is the Russian verb болеть ("to be sick"), but in the imperative mood. We can speculate that such forms prevailed when Russians addressed their interlocutors.

During the late stages of the pidgin, the indicators of verb tenses appear: было indicates the past tense, буду indicates the future tense, еса indicates the present tense; for example, погули было means "to have walked", погули еса means "to be walking", погули буду means "will walk".

An object is identified with за - a preposition from the Russian language that has many semantic properties. It is the only preposition present in the Kyakhta pidgin and it is used in the following way: за наша походи means "come to us" (приходи к нам in proper Russian), за наша фуза means "in our store" (в нашем магазине in proper Russian).

Russian pronouns came into the pidgin in an exclusively possessive form: моя ("I") means "mine" in Russian, твоя ("you") means "yours" in Russian, and ево ("he") comes from Russian его, which means "his" in Russian. This feature is shared with the Norwegian-Russian pidgin Russenorsk. All declensions of pronouns are formed with the already mentioned за: за-моя, за-твоя, за-ево.[3]

See also


  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Chinese Pidgin Russian". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. ^ International Council for Philosophy and Humanistic Studies (1996). Atlas of languages of intercultural communication in the Pacific, Asia, and the Americas, Volume 2, Part 1. (Volume 13 of Trends in Linguistics, Documentation Series). Walter de Gruyter. pp. 911–912. ISBN 3-11-013417-9.
  3. ^ a b Черепанов, Семён (1853). "Кяхтинское китайское наречие русского языка". Известия Императорской Академии Наук по Отделению русского языка и словесности (X ed.): 370–378.
  4. ^ Мусорин. "Лексика Кяхтинского Пиджина".

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