Mongolic is an extraordinary language spoken by many people across the world. The Mongolian language family portrays uniqueness and is considered to be part of the Altaic language family, which takes its name from the majestic Altai Mountains.
Approximate research suggests that about 5.2 million people communicate in Mongolian worldwide. This includes 3.3 million people who live in Mongolia, others inside of Inner Mongolia, China, and several more spread throughout the Russian Federation.
The national and official language of Mongolia is Mongolian, a dialect of the Khalkha variety spoken by 95% of the population. Other minority dialects include Durwud, Tuvan, and Buryat, all spoken by small minorities. Kazakh speakers can be found in western Mongolia’s West.
Mongolian, a macro language, is the best-known and largest member of the Mongolic language group. It has two principal members:
- Mongolian Khalkha Dialect (is spoken by over 2.35 million people in the Mongolia where it has the status of a national language.)
- Peripheral Mongolian ( is spoken by 3.38 million people. It is a co-official language with Mandarin Chinese in the People’s Republic of China in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region and several adjoining provinces in northwest China.)
Despite certain phonological and lexical differences, Mongolian Khalh and Peripheral Mongolian are mutually intelligible. Both have a number of mutually comprehensible variants. The following variants are listed by Ethnologue:
Mongolian, being a member of the Altaic language family, has structural likenesses to Turkic and Tungusic language groups. The Mongolian vocabulary is hardly ever short of words from early Turkic languages, Sanskrit, Tibetan or Chinese; this is due to the country’s nomadic past, its Buddhism-based culture, as well as neighboring Asian countries.
Even though Mongolia continues to adopt loanwords from Russian and English sources, it has managed to keep hold of its own unique character without fail.
The history of Mongolian language
Mongolian is one of the oldest languages in the world. Although there are very few records left and it has changed a lot over a long period of history, some words that have been recorded in ancient historical sources show that they had basic terms and phrases even from the time of the Huns.
For example, there is the word “shanyu” which refers to the king of the Huns. Mr. Rinchen reconstructed this word by means of historical linguistic comparison and found out that its current form is the word “good” and now it is used as “minister” of the minister of government.
Most scholars divide the history of the Mongolian language into three periods:
- Old, or Ancient Mongolian (through the 12th century),
- Middle Mongolian (13th–16th centuries)
- New, or Modern Mongolian (17th century to the present).
There are few surviving examples of Old Mongolian. Linguists have reconstructed the language by comparing documents that do exist to other languages. They attempt to figure out what exactly the language sounded like by looking at what has been borrowed from various languages.
The conventional Mongolian form of writing, which utilizes brushstrokes and vertical text, began during the thirteenth century. The oldest texts still in existence date from around 1255. Written about 1240, The Secret History of the Mongols describes many palace intrigues and aspects of Mongol life during the great empire’s golden age.
The period of Middle Mongolian began to develop as new scripts were adapted to the language. Mongolians traditionally practiced shamanism, but during this time they began to convert to Buddhism. They converted and translated Buddhist texts, however it wasn’t the same type of Buddhism as in China .
Chinese, Turkic, Sanskrit and Tibetan terms were introduced into the Mongolian language as a result of this. In fact, most written forms of the weekdays are usually borrowed from Tibetan. During this period, the Mongolian language grew in popularity, and distinct dialects evolved into isolated languages as a result of the empire’s growth.
With the start of the 17th century, Mongolian standardized. The Soyombo alphabet was created by Zanabazar, a famous Renaissance monk, according to many sources. Today’s Mongolian script symbol is based on this design. It is possible to write Sanskrit, Mongolian and Tibetan in this script. Horizontal writing was perhaps first introduced as a result of its invention. It was primarily used for inscriptions because it was too difficult to be used as an everyday language.
The Classical Mongolian changed after World War 2 when Mongolia was aided by Russia and adopted a Communist government. They also adopted a new writing system, Cyrillic.
Mongolian Language interesting facts
Fact #1 Mongolian Sentence Structure
Mongolian sentence structure follows a different format than that of English and some other languages. In Mongolian, the language structures sentences in this way:
Subject – Time – Object- Predicate (verb).
Which can be memorized as STOP.
English speakers often find it difficult to understand the meaning of a sentence since the verb, which is typically the most important word, is always placed at the end.
Би өчигдөр монгол хэл сурсан (I yesterday study Mongolian.) – I studied Mongolian yesterday.
Fact#2 Mongolian Grammar
Mongolian is an agglutinative language. An agglutinative language is a type of language in which words are formed by adding prefixes and suffixes to root words, thus creating new words. These affixes usually indicate the grammatical role of the word in the sentence. This occasionally results in rather long words.
Example : найзуудтайгаа means ‘with my friends’. In this word
найз means friend,
ууд is plural,
тай is the competitive case (‘with’),
гаа is possessive (the reflexive case).
Remember that all of these need to be formed with proper vowel harmony! And this is just one word.
Fact#3 Mongolian Pronunciation
The Mongolian language has a natural harmony to it because of something called vowel harmony. This means that the vowels used in a word can affect the other allowed vowels in that same word or sentence.
For example, if an “o” sound is present, then only corresponding vowel sounds can make up the rest of that word or sentence. With more and more modern English words and Chinese slang infiltrating Mongolian though, this rule isn’t always followed strictly anymore.
Fact#4 Mongolian alphabet
There are two alphabets used in the Mongolian language. One is Cyrillic, and the other is traditional Mongolian script. The former is used for the Khalka dialect of Mongolian, while the latter is used in Inner Mongolian.
Fact#5 Written Mongolian Language
The Mongolian language has had various writing systems over the years, all derived from a variety of different scripts. The oldest script, called simply the Mongolian script, is still in active use today in Inner Mongolia and de facto use in Mongolia. This script was also predominant during most of Mongolian history. So, let’s take a look at the evolution of Mongolian writing.
In 1208 Genghis khan defeated the Naimans, Turkic tribes living in Central Asia, and captured their Uyghur scribe Tatar-Tonga, who apparently adapted the Old Uyghur alphabet to write Mongolian. The Tatar-Tonga alphabet is now more commonly called the Uighur/Uyghur Script, the classical or traditional Mongol Script, simply Old Script, or Mongol Bichig.
The traditional Mongolian script was not suitable for either writing the Mongolian language or Chinese, so in the 13th century a Tibetan monk named Drogön Chögyal Phagpa was commissioned by Kublai Khan to design a new script for the Mongol empire.
The ‘Phags-pa script, also known as the Mongolian new script, was devised by Phagpa based on the Tibetan alphabet. This script was rarely employed and ‘Phags-pa was primarily used to illustrate Mongolian phonetic glosses in Chinese texts after the Yuan dynasty fell in 1368.
In the late 1600s, a Mongolian monk and scholar named Bogdo Zanabazar invented Soyombo Script, which could be used to write Chinese and Sanskrit in addition to Mongolian. Primarily, it was employed for translating Buddhist texts into Mongolian and creating temple inscriptions.
Mongolian Square Script
In addition to the Clear Script, Bogdo Zanabazar also devised another writing system for Mongolian people known as the Mongolian Square Script or Mongolian Horizontal Square script. It was (re)discovered in 1801 and is speculated to be based on the Tibetan script; however, its purpose remains unknown.
In 1567, Ayuush Güüsh added extra letters to the traditional Mongol Script in order to write Tibetan, Sanskrit, and Chinese loanwords into Mongolian texts. This version of the script is known as the Galik script.
Latin alphabet/ Cyrillic alphabet
On 1 February 1941, the Mongolian government discontinued the traditional Mongolian script, replacing it with a variant of the Latin alphabet from February to March 1941. Following this, the Cyrillic alphabet was adopted as Mongolia’s official writing system. The Latin alphabet was abandoned for political reasons; however books and periodicals were still produced in that script, suggesting that the switch to Cyrillic may have been motivated by politics.
Back to traditional Mongolian Script
Since its revival in 1994, efforts have been made to teach the ancient Mongolian script in schools. It is presently taught to some extent in schools, although it is primarily utilized for decorative purposes by artists, designers, calligraphers, and poets. The traditional Mongol script is little or unknown knowledge to most people in Mongolia; nevertheless, there is high literacy in Cyrillic.
The Government of Mongolia stated in March 2020 that it would adopt the traditional Mongolian writing style for official documents by 2025, though Cyrillic script could still be used unofficially.
10 Useful Mongolian Phrases
- Sain baina uu, Сайн байна уу Hello
- Bayartai, Баяртай Goodbye
- Bayarlalaa, Баярлалаа Thank you
- Uuchlaarai, Уучлаарай I’m sorry
- Tiim, Тийм Yes
- Ugui, Үгүй No
- Eregtei Khin Эрэгтэй хүн Man
- Emergtei khin Эмэгтэй хүн Woman
- Миний нэр Жон. Minii ner John. My name is John.
- Таны нэр хэн бэ? Tanii ner hen be? What is your name?
If you have any questions let write down in the comment below.
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