Towards etymologization of the lexical substrate of Northern Russia: Russian dialectal sénduxa, séndux

2020. №2, 93-103

Nadezhda V. Kabinina
Ural Federal University, Ekaterinburg, Russia;


The article addresses the origins of the Russian dialectal sénduxa in the meaning ‘tundra, nature’ (archaic dialects of the East Siberian village of Russkoye Ustye), as well as ‘empty place’, ‘open air’, ‘space outside the house’, ‘lodging under the sky’ in other micro-zones of the Northern Russia. The author shows that the word originates from the Upper Pinega. In this area the word can be repeatedly found in the same contexts as a syntactically bound unit: “he spent the night on sénduxa — under the open sky”, “he spent the night on sénduxa, without a roof, near the fi re”. This allows, fi rstly, to reveal the prototypical meaning ‘open space’ for this word and, secondly, leads to the conclusion that its etymon is an oblique form of a substrate word with a similar meaning. As an etymon, the author proposes ancient Balto-Finnic *säänneh with an oblique stem *sääntehe-, where sää has the syncretic meaning ‘weather / air / sky’, and -nneh is an ancient relict suffix with the meaning of similarity, serving to form geographical terms: *säänneh is literally “a place similar to the air, the sky”, i.e. ‘an open / clear / empty place’. During Russian assimilation, these oblique forms with the stem *sääntehe-, naturally, should have been phonetically refl ected as sendVx-, and the final form of the lexeme is conditioned by Russian adaptation: correlation with the words dux ‘spirit’, vozdux ‘air’ and possible morphological influence of the suffix -ux(a). The author suggests that the substrate source language was an unknown Balto-Finnic dialect, which could be brought into correlation with the language of Chud’: the possible presence of this people on the Upper Pinega is confirmed by many local legends and a number of ethnic
toponyms. All the attestations of this word found to the east from the Pinega area, up to Kamchatka and Baikal, are, with no doubt, of secondary origin.

For citation:

Kabinina N. V. Towards etymologization of the lexical substrate of Northern Russia: Russian dialectal sénduxa, séndux. Voprosy Jazykoznanija, 2020, 2: 93–103.


This work is supported by Russian Science Foundation (project No. 17-18-01351 Contact and Genetic Ties of North-Russian Vocabulary and Onomastics).