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Title: Trasianka  
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Subject: Belarusian language, Russian language, Languages of Belarus, Slavic languages, User be-ru
Collection: Belarusian Language, Language Contact, Russian Dialects, Russian Language Varieties and Styles
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Trasianka or trasyanka (Belarusian: трасянка) refers to a mixed form of speech in which Belarusian and Russian elements and structures alternate in rapid succession.[1] There is a similar phenomenon in Ukraine, an Ukrainian–Russian language mixture that is called surzhyk.


  • Etymology 1
  • History 2
    • Mixed speech in pre-Soviet and early Soviet era 2.1
    • After World War II 2.2
  • Linguistic status 3
  • Sociology of mixed speech use 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • Further reading 7
  • External links 8


In Belarusian the word literally means low quality hay, when indigent farmers mix (shake: трасуць, trasuts) fresh grass with the yesteryear's dried hay.[2] The word acquired the second meaning ("language mixture of low quality") relatively recently, in the second half of the 1980s, when a series of publications in the literary newspaper “Litaratura i mastactva” criticized developments in the use of the Belarusian language under Soviet rule.[3] Zianon Pazniak is often said to be the one who has popularized the use of the word for the Belarusian-Russian language mixture (see Pozniak, 1988). For the Belarusian-Russian borderland it has been reported that the phenomenon usually referred to by the term "trasianka" is called "meshanka" instead (this information is based on an interdisciplinary research carried out in the district of Horki and Drybin in 2004).[4]


Mixed speech in pre-Soviet and early Soviet era

In the area of present-day Belarus the mixing of speech has a relatively long history. This is because the Belarusian (and, similarly, Ukrainian) territories were for a long time borderlands in which local dialects contacted with closely related socially dominant languages (Polish , Russian). Whether such older forms of mixing Belarusian with Russian should be referred to as “trasianka” is arguable as there was no intergenerational transfer of speech in those times. A literary example for this kind of mixing can be found in the 19th-century play by Wincenty Dunin-Marcinkiewicz The Gentry of Pinsk (see the 1984 edition). Although it is a piece of art and not a record of everyday speech, it can be assumed that it reflects real language use (in certain situations with certain types of people) of that time. A first academic and journalistic debate on Belarusian-Russian mixed speech took place in the 1920s.[3]

After World War II

The phenomenon referred to as “trasianka” since the 1980s has its origins in the fundamental socio-demographic changes which took place in Soviet Belarus after World War II, in eastern parts of Belarus partially already before World War II.[1] The industrialization of Soviet Belarus led to a massive labor migration from villages to towns. While in 1959 31% of the population lived in towns, in 1990 the share was already 66%.[5] At the same time ethnic Russians from other parts of the Soviet Union migrated to Soviet Belarus and, in many cases, took on leadership tasks in Belarusian communist party, administration and state companies. Consequently, the language use of former Belarusian villagers - and new town dwellers - had to accommodate from (mostly dialectal) Belarusian to standard Russian, a target which was reached seldom though.[6] As a result of this struggle for linguistic accommodation, the so-called trasianka in its contemporary form emerged, and, moreover, children of its speakers were raised in this mixed Belarusian-Russian variety.[7]

Linguistic status

Due to the negative connotation of the word “trasianka” it has been suggested to abandon it in the linguistic debate and use the term “Belarusian-Russian mixed speech” instead.[8] The scientific discussion on the Belarusian-Russian mixed speech has begun in the first half of the 1990s.[9] Influential Belarusian scholars have pointed out the spontaneous, individual, “piecemeal” or even “chaotic” fashion of Belarusian-Russian speech mixing.[10][11] These ‘early’ debates were based mainly on informal observations though, due to a lack of text bodies in the mixed speech. A first empirical case study on the phenomenon has been undertaken only in the early 2000s in the capital Minsk.[12] In the years 2008-2013 a research project carried out by linguists and social scientists at the University of Oldenburg (in cooperation with partners from the Belarusian State University in Minsk) has created two bodies of oral texts in the mixed speech .[13] The linguistic results of the mentioned research project attested the older view that Belarusian-Russian mixed speech could yet not be classified as one relatively stable, homogenous fused lect all over Belarus.[1] On the other hand, on all levels of the linguistic structure several country-wide relatively stable patterns could be observed which the mixed speech shares with one or both of its “donor” languages (Belarusian and Russian) or which, respectively, make the mixed speech differ from both donor languages. Russian elements and traits clearly dominate in the lexicon as well as in morphosyntax. The inflectional morphology is obviously hybride, and even the pronunciation is influenced by Russian. All in all, the Belarusian-Russian mixed speech in its current stage is classified as a complex of regional social dialects.[7] Other studies keep on describing the Belarusian-Russian mixed speech as a "chaotic" and "spontaneous" phenomenon of language mixing.[14]

Sociology of mixed speech use

The sociological and sociolinguistic component of the above-mentioned research project on mixed language use in Belarus showed, inter alia, the following results: Asked about their ‘native language’, roughly 38% of around 1200 respondents named the Belarusian-Russian mixed speech, 49% Belarusian and 30% Russian (more than one answer was allowed).[15] As their ‘first language’ roughly 50% declared the mixed speech, 42% Russian and 18% Belarusian (again more than one answer was allowed). Finally, as their ‘primarily used language’ roughly 55% named Russian, 41% the mixed speech and 4% Belarusian. The results of the research project contradict the popular opinion that the use of Belarusian-Russian mixed speech is an indicator for a poor education level and a lack of proficiency in Russian or Belarusian standard language.[15] The mixed speech is widespread among Belarusians from all educational levels and age groups and used alongside with the standard language, which in most cases is Russian.[8] The degree to which individuals tend to approximate ‘their’ mixed speech use to Russian or, respectively, to Belarusian depends on such factors as interlocutors, conversation place, topic etc. Among young Belarusians the relative weight of mixed speech use decreases in favour of Russian.

See also


  1. ^ a b c Hentschel, Gerd Belarusian and Russian in the Mixed Speech of Belarus. In Besters-Dilger, J. et al. (eds.): “Congruence in Contact-Induced Language Change: Language Families, Typological Resemblance, and Perceived Similarity.” Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter, 2014, 93-121.
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ a b Zaprudski, Siarhiej Zur öffentlichen Diskussion der weißrussischen Sprachkultur, zum Aufkommen des Terminus Trasjanka und zur modernen Trasjankaforschung. In Hentschel, G. et al. (eds.): “Trasjanka und Surzhyk - gemischte weißrussisch-russische und ukrainisch-russische Rede. Sprachlicher Inzest in Weißrussland und der Ukraine?” Frankfurt/M.: Lang, in print.
  4. ^ Smulkowa, E. and Engelking, A. (eds.) (2007). Pogranicza Bialorusi w perspektywie interdyscyplinarnej. Warszawa: Wydawnictwo DiG. ISBN 83-7181-485-2, ISBN 978-83-7181-485-3
  5. ^ Marples David A. “Belarus. From Soviet Rule to Nuclear Catastrophe.” Basingstoke, London: Palgrave Macmillan, 1996.
  6. ^ Zaprudski, Sjarhej In the grip of replacive bilingualism: the Belarusian language in contact with Russian. “International Journal of the Sociology of Language” No. 183. (2007) 97-118
  7. ^ a b Hentschel, Gerd Belorusskij, russkij i belorussko-russkaja smeshannaja rech. “Voprosy jazykoznanija” No. 1. (2013) 53-76
  8. ^ a b Hentschel, Gerd and Zeller, Jan Patrick Gemischte Rede, gemischter Diskurs, Sprechertypen: Weißrussisch, Russisch und gemischte Rede in der Kommunikation weißrussischer Familien. “Wiener Slawistischer Almanach” No. 70. (2012) 127-155
  9. ^ Bieder, Hermann Die weißrussisch-russische Mischsprache (Trasjanka) als Forschungsproblem. In Hentschel, G. et al. (eds.): “Trasjanka und Surzhyk - gemischte weißrussisch-russische und ukrainisch-russische Rede. Sprachlicher Inzest in Weißrussland und der Ukraine?” Frankfurt/M.: Lang, in print.
  10. ^ Mechkovskaia, Nina B. Iazykovaia situaciia v Belarusi: Eticheskiie kollizii dvuiazychiia. “Russian Linguistics” Vol. 18 No. 3. (1994) 299-322
  11. ^ Cychun, H. A. Soziolinguistische, soziokulturelle und psychologische Grundlagen gemischten Sprechens. In Hentschel, G. et al. (eds.): “Trasjanka und Surzhyk - gemischte weißrussisch-russische und ukrainisch-russische Rede. Sprachlicher Inzest in Weißrussland und der Ukraine?” Frankfurt/M.: Lang, in print.
  12. ^ Liskovets, Irina Trasjanka: A code of rural migrants in Minsk. “International Journal of Bilingualism” No. 13. (2009) 396-412
  13. ^
  14. ^ Miachkouskia, Nina B. Trasjanka u kantynuume belaruska-ruskich idyjalektau: chto i kali razmauljae na trasjancy?. “Vesnik BDU” No. 1. Series 4 (2014)
  15. ^ a b Hentschel, Gerd and Kittel, Bernhard Weißrussische Dreisprachigkeit? Zur sprachlichen Situation in Weißrussland auf der Basis von Urteilen von Weißrussen über die Verbreitung ihrer Sprachen im Lande. “Wiener Slawistischer Almanach” No. 67. (2011) 107-135

Further reading

  • DUNIN-MARTSINKIEVICH, Vintsent (1984): Tvory. Ed. by Ia. Ianushkevich. Minsk: Mastatskaia litaratura.
  • HENTSCHEL, Gerd (2013): Belorusskij, russkij i belorussko-russkaja smeshannaja rech‘."Voprosy jazykoznanija", No. 1, pp.  53–76.
  • HENTSCHEL, Gerd (2014): Belarusian and Russian in the Mixed Speech of Belarus. In: Besters-Dilger, J., et al. (eds.): Congruence in Contact-Induced Language Change. Berlin/Boston: de Gruyter, pp. 93–121.
  • HENTSCHEL, Gerd, and KITTEL, BERNHARD (2011): Weißrussische Dreisprachigkeit? Zur sprachlichen Situation in Weißrussland auf der Basis von Urteilen von Weißrussen über die Verbreitung "ihrer Sprachen" im Lande. "Wiener Slawistischer Almanach", No. 67, pp.  107–135.
  • HENTSCHEL, Gerd, and ZELLER, JAN PATRICK (2012): Gemischte Rede, gemischter Diskurs, Sprechertypen: Weißrussisch, Russisch und gemischte Rede in der Kommunikation weißrussischer Familien. "Wiener Slawistischer Almanach", No. 70, pp.  127–155
  • IOFFE, Grigory (2003): Understanding Belarus: Questions of Language. Europe-Asia Studies, vol. 55, No. 7, pp. 1009–1047.
  • KALITA I. V. (2010) Современная Беларусь: языки и национальная идентичность. Ústí nad Labem, ISBN 978-80-7414-324-3, 2010, 300 s. s. 112-190. (URL -
  • KITTEL, Bernhard et al. (2010): Mixed Language Usage in Belarus. The Sociostructural Background of Language Choice. "International Journal of the Sociology of Language", No. 206, pp.  47–71.
  • LISKOVETS, Irina V. (2002): Trasianka: proiskhozhdeniie, sushchnost', funkcionirovaniie. Antropologiia, fol'kloristika, lingvistika, 2, pp. 329–343.
  • LISKOVETS, Irina V. (2003): Novyie iazyki novykh gosudarstv: iavleniia na styke blizkorodstvennykh iazykov na postsovetskom prostranstveProject . (The part on Belarus.) European University in Sankt-Peterburg.
  • MECHKOVSKAIA, Nina B. (1994): Iazykovaia situaciia v Belarusi: Eticheskiie kollizii dvuiazychiia. Russian Linguistics, 18, pp. 299–322.
  • MECHKOVSKAIA, Nina B. (2002): Iazyk v roli ideologii: nacional'no-simvolicheskiie funkcii iazyka v belorusskoi iazykovoi situacii. In: Gutschmidt, K., et al. (eds.): Möglichkeiten und Grenzen der Standardisierung slavischer Schriftsprachen in der Gegenwart. Dresden: Thelem, pp. 123–141.
  • MECHKOVSKAIA, Nina B. (2006): Belorusskaia trasianka i ukrainskii surzhik: surrogaty etnicheskogo substandarta v ikh otnosheniiakh k massovoi kul'ture i literaturnym iazykam. In Problemy zistavnoi semantyky, vyp. 7. Kiev: Kyivs'kyi nacional'nyi linhvistychnyi universytet.
  • MIACHKOUSKAIA, Nina B. (2007): Трасянка ў кантынууме беларуска-рускіх ідыялектаў: хто і калі размаўляе на трасянцы? [Trasianka in the continuum of Belarusian-Russian ideolects: who speaks trasianka and when]. Веснік БДУ, серыя 4 (1).
  • POZNIAK, Zenon (1988): Dvuiazychiie i biurokratizm. Raduga, No. 4, pp. 36–50.
  • SENDER, Natallia: Spracheinstellung zur weißrussisch - russischen Mischsprache Trasjanka in Belarus, Frankfurt/Oder, Univ., Masterarbeit.
  • TSYKHUN, Henadz A. (2000): Krealizavany pradukt (trasianka iak ab'iekt linhvistychnaha dasledavannia). ARCHE - Paczatak, 6.
  • WOOLHISER, Curt (2001): Language ideology and language conflict in post-Soviet Belarus. In O'Reilly, C. C. (ed.): Language, Ethnicity and the State, vol. 2. Palgrave, pp. 91–122.

External links

  • Studies on Belarusian-Russian mixed speech published at the University of Oldenburg, Slavic Department
  • The Oldenburg corpus of Belarusian-Russian Mixed Speech
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