Mongolian languages

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Spoken in

Mongolia , Russia ( Kalmykia , Buryatia ), PR China ( Inner Mongolia ), Afghanistan ( Herat )
speaker about 6 million
  • controversial (possibly Paleo-Siberian or Altaic origin)
Official status
Official language in MongoliaMongolia Mongolia
Inner Mongolia (China)
Kalmykia , Buryatia (Russia)
Language codes
ISO 639 -1


ISO 639 -2


ISO 639 -5


The Mongolian languages form a language family of around 15 relatively closely related languages ​​with around 7.5 million speakers that is widespread in Asia, especially in Mongolia , China and Russia , and occasionally in Afghanistan . They do not differ so much in terms of vocabulary, but more in terms of morphology (formation of shapes) and syntax.

Only in Inner Mongolia in China is the traditional Mongolian script standard; the Mongolian script languages ​​in other countries are written in the Cyrillic alphabet .

Distribution areas of the Mongolian languages
languages ​​of the world

Mongolian as a subgroup of the Altaic languages

The Mongolian languages ​​are often put in a genetic connection with the Tungusic and Turkic languages ​​and are grouped together as the " Altaic language family ". The undoubtedly existing typological and lexical correspondences between Mongolian, Tungusian and Turkic languages ​​can, however, also be explained by a mutual influence as a result of language contacts instead of genetic relationships. For more information, see the article Altaic languages .

The major languages

The following Mongolian languages have at least 100,000 native speakers:

language Number of speakers common in the following countries
Mongolian 5 to 6 million Mongolia (including 2.5 to 3 million Chalcha dialect),
China (Inner Mongolia)
Buryat 450,000 Russia, Mongolia, China
Oiri 350,000 Mongolia, China
Santa (Dongxiang) 250,000 China
Kalmyk (Kalmyk) 180,000 Russia
Mangghuer 150,000 China
Dagurian (Daur, Dahuren) 100,000 China
Ordos (Urdus) 100,000 China


The genetic unity of the Mongolian languages ​​is completely undisputed, however, the internal structure of this language family - especially because of the relatively great similarity of most languages, which leads to delimitation problems - is well discussed. The traditional classification into a west and east Mongolian main branch, as well as a residual category of so-called marginal languages, was exclusively areal rather than genetically motivated, whereby the current, but not the historical distribution of the languages ​​was taken as a basis.

The present, more genetically oriented classification is mainly based on V. Rybatzki, Intra-Mongolic Taxonomy. In: J. Janhunen (Ed.): The Mongolic Languages ​​(2003) . The extent of the lexical similarities of the individual languages ​​was used for the classification.

  • Mongolian (14 languages, 7.5 million speakers)
    • Dagur (Northeast Mongolian)
      • Dagur (alternatively Dahur, Tahur, Daur, Dahuren and others) (100 thousand)
    • Buryat (North Mongolian)
      • Chamnigan (Mongol-Chamnigan) (2 to 3 thousand) (bilingual Mongol-tungus.)
      • Buryat (Buryat, Buryaad) (450k)
    • Chalcha Oirat (Central Mongolian)
      • Chalcha Ordos
        • Mongolian (5 to 6 million)
          • Jerim dialect group: Chorchin, Jasagtu, Jarut, Jalait-Dörbet, Gorlos
          • Juu-Uda group: Aru Chortschin, Baarin, Ongniut, Naiman, Aochan
          • Josotu group: Kharachin, Tümet
          • Ulan-tsab group: Tschachar, Urat, Darchan, Muumingan, Dörben Küüket, Keschigt
          • Shilingol group: Üdzümütschin, Khuutschit, Abaga, Abaganar, Sönit
          • Dialect group of Outer Mongolia: Chalcha, Chotogoit, Darchat, Tsongol, Sartul, Dariganga
        • Ordos (Urdus) (100 thousand)
      • Oirat-Kalmyk
    • Shira Yugur (South-Central Mongolian)
      • Shira Yughur (Dongbu Yugu, East Yughur, Nggar) (3 thousand, ethnically 6 thousand)
    • Monguor-Santa (Southeast Mongolian)
      • Mongghuol (Huzhu Mongghul, Monguor, Tu) (150 thousand, ethnically 200 thousand)
      • Mangghuer (Minhe Mangghuer) (25 thousand)
      • Bonan (Bao'an, Paoan, Paongan) (6k)
      • Kangjia (0.4 thousand) (only discovered in the 1990s)
      • Santa (Sarta, Dongxiang, Tungxiang, Tung) (250 thousand)
    • Moghol (Southwest Mongolian)

Geographical distribution by states

The Mongolian languages ​​are common in Mongolia , China , Russia and Afghanistan . The following table shows the distribution of languages ​​with the current number of speakers in the individual countries.

Mongolian languages ​​- distribution by state

language Number of speakers common in the following countries
Dagur 100,000 China ( Inner Mongolia , Xinjiang )
Buryat 450,000 Russia 320,000, China 65,000, Mongolia 65,000
Chamnigan 3,000 Russia ( Transbaikal area ) bilingual Mongolian-Tungusian
Mongolian 5 to 6 million Mongolia 2.5 million (mainly Chalcha ), China (Inner Mongolia) 3 to 3.5 million
Ordos (Urdus) 100,000 China (Inner Mongolia)
Oiri 350,000 Mongolia 200,000, China 150,000
Kalmuck 150,000 Russia (AR Kalmykia )
Shira Yugur 3,000 China ( Gansu )
Mongghuol (Monguor) 100,000 China ( Qinghai )
Mangghuer 30,000 China (Qinghai)
Bonan (Paoan) 600,000 China (Qinghai, Gansu)
Kangjia 400 China (Qinghai) only discovered in the 1990s
Santa (Dongxiang) 600,000 China (Gansu)
Mogholi 200 Afghanistan (near Herat )

Lexical comparison

The following word equations from the basic vocabulary of the most important modern Mongolian languages show that the Mongolian languages ​​are closely related . In addition, the Proto-Mongolian or Old Mongolian form, the form of literary Mongolian (handed down in Uighur vertical script since the 12th century, fixed in the 17th century) and the Central Mongolian form (13th to 16th centuries) are listed.

meaning Proto-
Chalcha Buryat Kalmyk Ordos Baoan Monguor Dagur Yugur
father * abu abu abu aav aba awə but but aba . aba
mother * ebej ebei ebej (evij, eej) ebı ewə . . . ewe .
Son / grandson * ači ači ači aša ačə ači . ači . .
Brothers * aka aqa aqa (ax) axa axə axa . aga aka aga
Woman breast * kökön kökün kokan xöx xüxen kökn göxö kugo kugo . hgön
blood * čisu čisu čisun cus šuhan cusn djusu čisoŋ cəsu čos čusun
head * tolugai toluγai . tolgoj tolgoj tolγa tologo . tolGui . toloγui
eye * nidün nidün nidun nüd nudist nüdn nüdün nedoŋ nudu nide nudun
Hand / arm *at all γar qar at all at all γar At all xar At all . At all
water * usu usun usun us uhan usn usun se . oso qusun
rock * kada qada qada xad xada xadə xada . Gada xada Gada
Lake (the) * naγur naγur na'ur only just just just . just actually .
3 * gurban γurban xurban gurav gurban gurwn Gurwa goraŋ guran guarban gurwan
4th * dörben dörben dorben döröv thirst dörwn dörwo deroŋ deran durub dörwen
5 * taboo taboo taboo tav (an) taban tawn tawun tavoŋ tawen tawan .

Source: S. Starostin, Altaic Etymological Database, Internet 2005. (Partly available in book form: S. Starostin (et al.), Etymological Dictionary of the Altaic Languages, Part 1 (AK), Brill, Leiden 2003.)

Language periods and writing systems

The Mongolian language is historically divided into the following periods:

Old Mongolian - Mongolian before the 13th century
Old Mongolian is still close to Proto-Mongolian, the construct of a proto-language from which all Mongolian languages ​​arose. It already contains some loan words from other languages ​​such as Kitan , the early Rouran languages ​​and from the Chinese of the Tang Dynasty . At the end of the Old Mongolian period, the vertical Uighur script was adopted by the Mongols.
Central Mongolian - Mongolian from the 13th to the beginning of the 17th centuries
Central Mongolian is preserved in texts in Chinese transcription (the most important text is "The Secret History of the Mongols", approx. 1240), but also in the Tibetan Phags-Pa script and bilingual glossaries. The oldest surviving written testimony from around 1225 is the stone of Yisüngge , a nephew of Genghis Khan . At the end of this period, which took place conversion of the Mongols to the (Tibetan) Buddhism (17th century). Because of this, many translations from Tibetan or Sanskrit have been published and Buddhist terms have been adopted or translated into Mongolian. The differentiation of the Mongolian dialects, which later developed into today's Mongolian languages, begins in the Central Mongolian period.
Modern Mongolian - Mongolian since the 17th century as well
Classical Mongolian - Classical written language since the 17th century
In the 17th century the transition to the modern spoken language took place, but also the fixation of the classical written language, which goes back to ancient and central Mongolian levels. The spoken forms of Mongolian have moved very far from the written language.

The Mongolian language levels can u. a. make clear by the change in the old Mongolian initial / p- /. Central Mongolian became / h- /, in modern Mongolian (also in the classical written language) it disappears completely. Example: Old Mongolian pon > Central Mongolian hon > lit. Mongolian on "year".

For the Mongolian writing systems, see also the articles Mongolian language and Mongolian script .

Linguistic characteristics

Typological features

Typologically , the Mongolian languages ​​are very similar to the other two groups of Altaic languages ​​(Turkic and Tungusian), but can also be found in Uralic and Paleo-Siberian languages.

The main typological characteristics of the Mongolian languages ​​are:

  • Medium-sized phoneme inventories and simple syllable structure, hardly any consonant clusters. Usually seven vowels (the “Turkish” / ı / coincides with / i /). The vowels can be classified according to their place of articulation (front-back), rounding (rounded-unrounded) and height (high-low). This classification is crucial for vowel harmony.
Articulation place front back
Rounding unrounded rounded unrounded rounded
high i ü   u
deep e ö a O
  • Vowel harmony between the last vowel of the stem and the following suffix, which is based on different vowel opposition, especially on the articulation point “front-back” (“palatal vowel harmony”). Some Mongolian languages, e.g. B. Mogholi and Tu have lost the vowel harmony.
    • Example from the Chalcha:
mal-aar "through the cattle" (INSTR)
nom-oor "through the book" (INSTR)
  • A consistently agglutinative word formation and inflection , almost exclusively through suffixes . Each morpheme has a specific meaning and grammatical function and is - apart from the requirements of the vowel harmony - immutable.
  • Adjectives are not inflected in modern Mongolian languages, they show no congruence with the defining word they precede. (However, the older language levels show remnants of congruence in number and gender.)
  • When using quantifiers (numerals, quantities) there is no plural marking.
  • There are no articles .
  • There is no grammatical gender , not even in pronouns.
  • Important for Mongolian languages ​​is the concept of converbs (basically participles), which are used as replacements for subordinate clauses. Below are examples from the Chalcha.
  • The verb is at the end of a sentence, the normal sentence sequence is SOV (subject-object-verb).

Nominal formation

The nouns of the Mongolian languages ​​have the categories number (singular / plural) and case (seven cases), which are indicated by appended plural or case markers. The plural markers come before the case markers, both suffixes are subject to the vowel harmony (see above).

The formation of the plural is shown using the example of the Chalcha. Plural markers are / nar /, / uud / and / čuud / and variants thereof and, more rarely, / d / and / s /.

Examples of plural formation in Chalcha

meaning Singular Plural
book nom nom-uud
youth zaluu zaluu-čuud
father aav aav-uud
mother eej eej-üüd
son xüü xüü-d-üüd
Brothers ax ax-nar
head tolgoi Tolgoi-nuud
eye nüd nüd-nüüd
poor at all gar-nuud
rock xad xad-nuud
lake only nuur-nuud

The following table shows the case markers and the declination of the word mal "Vieh" in Chalcha.

case Case marker shape meaning
Nominative -O times-Ø the cattle (nom.)
Genitive -iin mal-iin of the cattle
Dative-locative -d times-d to the cattle, to the cattle, to the cattle
accusative -iig mal-iig the cattle (acc.)
ablative -aas mal-aas from cattle
Instrumental -aar mal-aar by the cattle
Comitative -tai mal-tai along with the cattle
Allative -ruu mal-ruu towards the cattle


  • ulaan nom "the red ( ulaan ) book ( nom )"
  • ulaan nom-uud "the red books"
  • ulaan nom-iin "of the red book"

There is no change to the preceding adjective in number and case, and there is no congruence with the defining word.

Personal pronouns

The personal pronouns are in the nominative:

person Singular Plural
1 bi bid (bid nar)
2 či, ta ta nar
3 ene, ter ted (ted nar)

In the 2nd person singular, the former plural form ta now only corresponds to the polite form of address "you". The 3rd person pronouns are derived from demonstrative pronouns and differ according to whether the person in question is far away or close to the speaker; ter stands for "he / she / it" (there is no gender marking in the pronoun either). In the declension, the pronouns in the singular and in the first person plural have oblique stems, whereas in the first person plural in the genitive a distinction is made between exclusive and inclusive "we". The oblique stems of the 3rd person singular are nowadays mostly replaced by the regular forms in spoken language.

The oblique forms of the personal pronoun

person Singular Plural
1 nad-, min-ii (gen.) bid (en) -, man-ai (Gen.)
2 čam-, čin-ii (Gen.)
3 üü (n) -, tüü (n) -

Verbal morphology

The main features of verb formation are explained using the example of the chalcha.

Aspect and tense

Mongolian verbs distinguish between two aspects , a perfect tense (completed action) and an imperfective (non-completed action). Both aspects can in turn have the tenses of the past tense (past) and the present-future tense (non-past). This means that each verb has four stem forms, which are identified by the following suffixes:

The root form markers of the Mongolian verb

Tense Perfective Imperfect
preterite -v -džee
Present-future tense -laa -n / A

These forms show no distinction of the person and cannot be negated. Examples:

  • ter ire-v "he / she / it has come" (perfect, past)
  • bid nom-iig unši-na "we will read a book"


The negation takes place with the negation marker / -gui /, which is attached to verbal nouns. In the past tense the verbal noun is used on / -san /, in the present future tense on / -x /. Examples:

  • ter ir-sen-gui "he / she / it did not come"
  • bi mede-x-gui "I don't know"

Iterative, durative

An iterative or durative aspect can be expressed using the verbal noun auf / -dag /. Example:

  • ter Ulaanbaatart amidar-dag "he lives (constantly) in Ulaanbaator"


The imperative is formed by the bare stem, its polite form by / -aarai /, its negation with the help of / bitgii /. Examples:

  • yav! "Go!"
  • yaw-aarai! "please go!"
  • bitgii yav! "do not go"

There are about 10 other imperative endings, which are used depending on the situation and urgency and can range in strength from a non-binding wish (yav-maar) to an urgent request (yav-aach).


Converbs are used in all Mongolian languages ​​when coordinating or subordinating several sentences; they can be viewed as participles. Depending on their function, they have different shapes.

A simple sequence is introduced by the converb on / -dž /, only the last verb in such a chain is in a finite form. Example:

  • bi doloon cagt bos- , oglooni xool ide- , nom unši- v
  • "I got up at seven o'clock, ate breakfast and read (then) a book"

Prematurity is expressed by the converb on / -aad /. Example (because of the vowel harmony here / -ood /):

  • Bid xuvcas OMS ood , nom-oog uncer- na "after we have put on us, we will read a book"

Literature: Examples of morphology partly from GL Campbell, Compendium of the World's Languages.

See also


  • Juha Janhunen (Ed.): The Mongolic Languages. Routledge, London 2003, ISBN 0-7007-1133-3 .
  • Gerard Clauson: Turkish and Mongolian Studies. Luzac, London 1962.
  • Bernard Comrie: The Languages ​​of the Soviet Union. Cambridge University Press 1981, ISBN 0-521-29877-6 .
  • Colin P. Masica: Defining a Linguistic Area: South Asia. Chicago University Press 1976, ISBN 0-226-50944-3 .
  • S. Robert Ramsey: The Languages ​​of China. Princeton University Press 1987, ISBN 0-691-01468-X .
  • Gerhard Spuler: Mongolian Studies. (= Handbook of Oriental Studies. 1: 5: 2 ). Brill, Leiden 1964, OCLC 916143769 .
  • Rita Kullmann: Mongolian Grammar. privately published, Ulan Bataar 2001, ISBN 962-8457-05-5 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Minglang Zhou: Multilingualism in China: The Politics of Writing Reforms for Minority Languages 1949-2002. Walter de Gruyter, 2003, ISBN 3-11-017896-6 , p. 294. Google Books
  2. ^ Vovin, Alexander 2004. 'Some Thoughts on the Origins of the Old Turkic 12-Year Animal Cycle.' Central Asiatic Journal 48/1: 118-32.
  3. ^ Vovin, Alexander. 2010. Once Again on the Ruan-ruan Language. Ötüken'den İstanbul'a Türkçenin 1290 Yılı (720–2010) Sempozyumu From Ötüken to Istanbul, 1290 Years of Turkish (720–2010). 3–5 Aralık 2010, İstanbul / 3–5 December 2010, İstanbul: 1–10.
This article was added to the list of articles worth reading on June 16, 2006 in this version .