The Kolvitsa dialect of Karelian

Idiolect variation in a dying language


Keywords: endangered languages, linguistic variation, mixed dialects, idiolects, ­Karelian language, Kola peninsula

Our research question is whether the remarkable morphological diversity observed in dying Finnic languages occurs just on community level, or is it also characteristic of the usage of a single speaker. To answer this question we take a closer look at idiolect variation in a hitherto unexplored variety of Karelian, namely, the Kolvitsa dialect spoken in the Kola peninsula. Examining lexical, morphophonological and morphological variation we focus on the possible reasons behind the use of parallel forms. We observe that lexical variation is often conditioned by dialect geography, i.e. it depends on the origin of the (grand)parents of Kolvitsa residents from different regions of White Sea Karelia, whereas in the case of morpho(phono)logy the main factor behind choice and alternation is erosion of language structure.


Petar Kehayov (b. 1972), PhD, University of Tartu, Institute of Estonian and ­General Linguistics, Research Fellow in Finno-Ugric Syntax (Jakobi 2, 51005 Tartu),petar.kehayov@ut.ee

Denis Kuzmin (b. 1977), PhD, University of Helsinki, Department of Finnish, Finno-Ugrian and Scandinavian Studies, Researcher (Yliopistonkatu 3, 00014 Helsinki, Finland), denis.kuzmin@helsinki.fi