Border Language

Chinese Pidgin Russian with a Mongolian ‘Accent’

in Inner Asia
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The conceptual framework of this paper is to view Mongolia as a ‘contact zone’ which geographically bridged the gap between two rapidly growing Eurasian empires—Russia and China. It allows a rethinking of the historical and social circumstances that led to the formation of Chinese Pidgin Russian (cpr)1 by highlighting the lexical and grammatical influence of the Mongolian language on contact languages in the China–Russia border area. In particular, it discusses Mongolian language in various encounters in Russian–Chinese interactions, such as the use of Mongolian as mediation language during the initial stage of Qing–Russian diplomatic relations and as lingua franca in caravan trade and border relations between Russia and China, as well as its influence on the formation of Transbaikal dialect (or Zabaikal’skoe narechie), which was widely spoken by Russians in Mongol-speaking colonial frontiers of Russia in Eastern Siberia. Moreover, the paper highlights the Mongolian elements in the first cpr, questioning a common scholarly perception that Kiakhta (or Maimacheng)2 pidgin consisted primarily of Russian and Chinese borrowings. Therefore, unique language hybridisation of these three languages continues to be noticeable in Russia–China trade hubs in Inner Mongolia nowadays, where transborder ethnic and economic contacts between Russia, China and Mongolia are becoming more complicated and diverse.

Border Language

Chinese Pidgin Russian with a Mongolian ‘Accent’

in Inner Asia

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References

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According to Robert Rupen (1964) up to 30% of Buryats and Khamnigans were recruited for Russian border service.

Figures

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    Shop advertisement in three languages: vertical Mongolian script, Chinese characters and Russian Cyrillic, Manzhouli.
  • View in gallery
    Shop advertisement in Mongol Cyrillic ‘Bair’, Manzhouli.
  • View in gallery
    Present-day ‘creators’ of CPR with a Mongolian accent. Barga Mongol Tumeru from Hailar (left) and his Russian friend Sasha (right) from Zabaika’sk in the ‘Barguzin’ restaurant in Manzhouli, run by a Buryat family from Inner Mongolian Sheneknen.

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