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Russenorsk (Norwegian for "Russo-Norwegian") was a dual-source pidgin language in the Arctic combining elements of Russian and Norwegian, 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 so-called Pomor trade, i.e., the barter trade between Russians and Norwegians in the north. The first attested word in Russenorsk is from the 18th century; the 19th century, however, was the main period of its use. 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. An interesting sociolinguistic feature is that there was no social difference between its users. A special morphological feature is the verb ending -om, probably taken from a (poorly attested) Russian-English pidgin in Arkhangelsk.

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.). About 400 different words are attested. Russenorsk has been referred to in the literature (e.g. by S. Romaine and others) as an example of a stable pidgin.



"R" marks Russian origin, "N" marks Norwegian.

  • "Moja på tvoja" - "I speak in your language" (wordwise: "My (R) in (N, R) your (R)"); på/по in both languages happens to mean "in" when referring to speaking "in" a language
  • "Kak sprek? Moja njet forsto." - What are you saying? I don't understand. (How (R) speak (N)? My (R) no (R) understood (N).)
  • råbbåtom - to work (R: работать, rabotat’)
  • klæba - bread (R: хлеб, khleb)


The history of Russenorsk is mainly limited to the 18th and 19th centuries. The Russian Revolution of 1917 brought about an end to its use; it is reported that the last Norwegian–Russian trade occurred in 1923, marking the last use of Russenorsk.


  • Broch, I. & Jahr, E. H. 1984. Russenorsk: Et pidginspråk i Norge (2. utgave), Oslo: Novus.
  • Broch, I. & Jahr, E. H. 1984. "Russenorsk: a new look at the Russo-Norwegian pidgin in northern Norway." In: P. Sture Ureland & I. Clarkson (eds.): Scandinavian Language Contacts, Cambridge: C.U.P., pp. 21-65.
  • Jahr, E. H. 1996. "On the pidgin status of Russenorsk", in: E. H. Jahr and I. Broch (eds.): Language contact in the Arctic: Northern pidgins and contact languages, Berlin-New York: Mouton de Gruyter, 107-122.
  • Lunden, S. S. 1978. Tracing the ancestry of Russenorsk. Slavia Orientalis 27/2, 213–217.

See also



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