The native people of southern Kamchatka are Itelmen. The arrival of Russian men around 1700 created a mixed group called Kamchadals. By 1800, the Itelmen languages were mostly extinct and the Russian language was dominant. Russian settlers had partially adopted the local fish diet, and Kamchadals built log homes in the Russian style. Since there were still few or no Russian women around, ethnic admixture continued.

According to Nelson Hancock's paper Regimes of Classification and theParadox of Kamchadal Heritage [sic], Kamchadal people well into the twentieth century used an obviously regional style of speaking. Perhaps it started out as a pidgin when Itelmen languages were still spoken, then became a dialect, but that is just my speculation. Hancock's informant calls her native speech Kamchadalskii and reports being embarrassed about it in her youth:

We [Kamchadals] have an entirely different accent. A Russian shows up and you have to start speaking correctly.

What are the characteristic markers of Kamchadal Russian speech?

2 Answers 2


Here're some of the salient features of their dialect according to the paper ФОНЕТИЧЕСКИЕ ОСОБЕННОСТИ КАМЧАТСКИХ ГОВОРОВ (НА МАТЕРИАЛЕ ГОВОРА ПОСЕЛКА КОВРАН) (2007) by Малоземлина Оксана Владимировна (there're more nuances in the actual report, the material seems to come from older sources)


1 [в] - sometimes sounds like the English [w]; sometimes drops between vowels (го'орил instead of гоВорил); at positions where the phoneme is devoiced into [ф] sometimes gets replaced with [х] (черкоХ instead of церкоФЬ, вэроХка instead of верёФка); soft phoneme is pronounced with the addition of [й] (ВЬЙАжут instead of ВЯжут, зиВЬЙОт instead of жиВЁт)

Generally soft labials and alveolars harden (поПЭРОк instead of поПЕРЁк, вРЭМА instead of вРЕМЯ, ДЭлаЛЫ instead of ДЕлаЛИ)

2 There's supplantation between sibilants and fricatives/affricates already seen in some examples above [ш] with [с], [ж] with [з] (походиС instead of походиШЬ, Цо-то instead of Ч(т)о-то, Сйут instead of Шьют, дерЗал instead of дерЖал, ни раЖу instead of ни раЗу, ЖамйорЖну instead of ЗамёрЗну, Цетыре instead of Четыре)

3 [й] between vowels can fall out (сделАУт instead of сделАЙУт, двойнАА instead of двойнАЙА)


1 [o] maintains its pronunciation in the first and second prestress syllables and on account of this their speech is classed as full o-ing, and it also does in the first poststress syllable. Unstressed prefix раз/с- is pronounced as роз/с-

2 [и][ы] are mainly undistinguished by the speakers (бИл instead of бЫл, вЫлИ instead of вИлЫ) or being articulated as something in between like [иы] or [ыи]

3 There occurs sporadic labialisation of vowels whereby they devolve into [у] (бУвают instead of бЫвают, кУрыто instead of кОрыто, пУка instead of пОка, жабУла instead of забЫла)

The conclusion:

Таким образом, проанализированный материал позволяет сделать следующие выводы:
1. Говор двуязычных ительменов п. Ковран является окающим.
2. Гласные Е, А после мягких согласных реализуются как [и] (иканье), так и е, а в некоторых случаях – как [а] (яканье).
3. Яркой фонетической чертой является смешение звуков [и] и [ы], а также произношение среднего звука [иы] или [ыи].
4. Наблюдается спорадическая лабиализация гласных.
5. Звук [в], как правило губно - зубной, но он может чередоваться с губно - губным [w].
6. Фонема <л> имеет четыре аллофона: типичные для литературного языка [л] и [л’], а также средненёбные [l] и [l’].
7. Отмечается неразличение свистящих и шипящих звуков [c] и [ш], [з] и [ж], аффрикат [ч’] и [ц], совпадающих в [ц] ( т. е. цоканье).

One other source which may be of interest to yourself is manuscripts of В.И. Иохельсон (V.I. Iochelson) about Itelmens, wherein the last chapter is dedicated to their dialect of Russian. The manuscript is available in the New York Public Library.


Eh, that's pretty outdated. I'm from Kamchatka. Grew up there and lived there until I moved to California at 25. There aren't that many native people in Kamchatka percentage-wise, but certainly there are enough, especially in the north. All Itelmens and Koryaks speak Russian (and vast majority are completely fluent). Though they do teach native languages in rural parts in the North. They also have a few hours of local TV in Itelmen (local news, interviews with some craftsmen and such). It's not a pigeon, but a proper language. Granted, there's a chance of some locals in small villages maybe using occasionally Itelmen or Koryak words for some things, but they generally will be still speaking Russian. Reindeer herders how are more off the grid in their own world might speak Itelmen or Koryak with family or if they run into another herder, but they will speak proper Russian, albeit with some noticeable accent. So while there isn't any 'creole' type thing based in Itelmen and Russian, there is at least some hope that Itelmen and Koryak languages proper will survive. Though like with Native American languages, young people use it less and less.

General population of course has a specific accent and it's quite different than Moscow one, but not to the extent of being a dialect. Also there's a lot of local slang (but that's normal for any language and any country) and words being used differently, but overall it's pretty standard Russian. Like you wouldn't talk about NY or New HempSHA dialect vs West Coast, but rather of different accents. As for accent, we don't extend any vowels. There's no "оканье" or "аканье" and the accent is never nasal. It's kind of a "deep" (as in low-pitched) accent with all vowels being short and reduction not turning "o" into "aaaa" or "e" into "ииии". Local slang is a different thing, but the words do not normally come from native languages.

  • Welcome to the forum, be new addict here :-D
    – Arioch
    Commented Jul 2, 2018 at 9:43
  • isn't reduction not turning "o" into "a" in fact оканье? unless it's reduced to something other than "a" Commented Jul 2, 2018 at 18:26
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    General population. Well almost all people in Kamchatka are native speakers. I doubt there are many Itelemens or Koryaks (besides proper reindeer herders) under 40 who are not native Russian speakers. I've never met people (regardless of ethnic makeup) from Ossora or Palana or Tigil or Esso with a seriously strong accent.
    – AR.
    Commented Jul 4, 2018 at 5:35
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    I did find this video of this video of a woman speaking Itelmen. Interesting that she inserts Russian words now and again ('невод', 'ещё', 'потом',' ещё', 'сейчас', 'наверно(е)'), and strangely enough 'и'. kulturstiftung-sibirien.de/vir_26_1_R.html And here is a Koryak herder. I wish they didn't overdub his language in Russian though. You still can hear a bunch of Russian words thrown in, but itit still seems like a proper language (although influenced by Russian) rather than pigeon. youtube.com/watch?v=3a15M9o_xCQ
    – AR.
    Commented Jul 4, 2018 at 5:35
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    I think some of them a so obscure that there are only a few copies in existence and they are all in private hands. Some are available online for free, though: skitalets.ru/infomation/books/4588
    – AR.
    Commented Jun 14, 2019 at 20:19

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