Peculiarities of Kazakh-Russian code-mixing: data interpretation of the scene from the sketch comedy “Q-eli”

In this data interpretation, I will analyze the scene taken from the sketch comedy popular among the youth of Kazakhstan called “Q-yeli”, which depicts a stereotypical image of Kazakhstani regions and their inhabitants.  Three minute and fifty second video consists of a dialogue between the urban married young couple which uses code-mixing recurrently in their predominantly Kazakh speech. Thirty two Russian words appear during the dialogue, including 20 nouns, 7 verbs, 1 interjection, 2 adverbs and 2 conjunctions. In the video, the Kazakh language functions as a “matrix language” (Auer & Muhamedova, 2005) where the Kazakh sentence structure pattern dominates the sentences, with Russian words “embedded” to them.

In terms of morphological structure, Russian verbs are embedded into the speech in two different ways: (a) preserving the morphological form of the Russian language (3 verbs); (b) taking on the morphological form of the Kazakh language (4 verbs).  For instance, the Russian verbs “посмотри” [look], “слушай” [listen], “скажи”[tell me] are used preserving their morphological structure in the second person singular form, imperative mood of the Russian language. While the verbs “экономдап жатырмын” [I am saving], “пландаймыз” [we will plan], “звондаймын” [I will call], “заказ беру” [to order] are modified and adjusted to the Kazakh sentence by adding Kazakh verb forming suffixes ( –дай, -дап), morphemes indicating person  (–мын [1st person sing], -мыз [1st person plural] ) and auxiliary verb (жатырмын − used to form present continuous first person singular) to the Russian roots -план-, -звон-, -эконом-.  Interestingly, in Kazakh the word “to order” is a compound word which consists of the nominal part “тапсырыс” [the order] and verbal part ‘беру’ [to give], while in Russian the simple verb “заказывать” is used instead. To say the word “order” in the phrase “рестораннан заказ бергенің” the speaker uses the compound verb instead of adding the verb forming suffix to the root “заказ” which makes the sentence more compatible with Kazakh morphology. But, at the same time, she replaces the Kazakh word “тапсырыc” [the order] with the Russian equivalent “заказ”. Compared to verbs, all the Russian nouns used in the dialogue carry the morphological form of the Kazakh language. For example:  the words with the endings of different cases (dative, locative, ablative): интернет-тен [from the internet], ресторан-нан [from the restaurant], ресторан-дар-ға [to restaurants], ресторан-да [at the restaurant] and etc.

Most of the Russian nouns embedded to the speech are used instead of relatively new Kazakh terms that have not been fully integrated into common usage. For example: ресторан − мейрамхана [restaurant], интернет − ғаламтор [internet], кредит − несие [credit], процент − өсім, пайыз [interest], квитанция − түбіртек [receipt]. Frequent usage of the Russian equivalents demonstrates that those new terms in Kazakh have not become pervasive among the young speakers of Kazakh language yet.

By using the sentence structure common to both languages, the speakers show their knowledge in both languages and bilingual identity. For instance, the words such as “не…, не” in Kazakh and “либо…, либо” in Russian, meaning “either…, or” in English, are used interchangeably in the sentences “Либо ананы төле светті, либо маникюр жаса” [either pay for the electricity, or get your nails done] and “Не бізге шығындарды азайту керек, не сен табысыңды көбейту керексің” [We should either cut down on expenses, or you should earn more]. Moreover, the Russian-Kazakh code mixing, especially the usage of transitional words such as “тем более”, “так” can be a demonstration of urban identity of speakers, as code-mixing is more prevalent in urban areas.  During her speech, the wife used the Russian regular expression “ой, все” popular in Internet, meaning “oh, enough”, that expresses a stereotypical image of girls that always end their argument saying “oh, enough” unable or unwilling to justify their point. Thus, the expression is used to show stereotypical “girlish” side of the character.

Limitations of this data source consist in that films are artificial set-ups that use prechosen codes that can differ from the speech produced in natural environment.  Moreover, script-writers may use abundance of code mixing to create a comic effect, or, conversely, eliminate code-mixing to promote pure Kazakh speech.


Auer, P., & Muhamedova, R. (2005). “Embedded language” and “matrix language” in insertional language mixing: Some problematic cases. Rivista Di Linguistica, 17(1), 35–54.


2 thoughts on “Peculiarities of Kazakh-Russian code-mixing: data interpretation of the scene from the sketch comedy “Q-eli”

  1. Interesting post! I’ve seen the video and it really relates to real lifes of young families. You’ve done the quantitative discourse analysis, which is very trustworthy to support your stance. I find code-switching as the problem for Kazakh language speakers because it triggers the extinction of Kazakh verbs as people used to change it to Russian equivalents. How do you think?


  2. Thanks for writing, Ariya. (5/5) You have shed some light on an interesting phenomenon by conducting this small quantitative analysis. The reader comes away with a nuanced, insightful view of code-switching in Kazakhstani pop culture.


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