World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Mongolic languages

Article Id: WHEBN0000165682
Reproduction Date:

Title: Mongolic languages  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Demographics of Mongolia, Altaic languages, History of Mongolia, Y-DNA haplogroups by populations of East and Southeast Asia, Mongols
Collection: Mongolic Languages
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Mongolic languages

Mongolia; Inner Mongolia and regions close to its border, Xinjiang, Gansu, Qinghai (China); Buryatia, Kalmykia (Russia) and Herat (Afghanistan)
Linguistic classification: Khitan–Mongolic?[1]
Otherwise one of the world's primary language families
Proto-language: Proto-Mongolic
ISO 639-5: xgn
Glottolog: mong1329[2]
Topographic map showing Asia as centered on modern-day Mongolia and Kazakhstan. Areas are marked in multiple colors and attributed some of the language names of Mongolic languages. The extent of the colored area is somewhat less than in the previous map.
Geographic distribution of the Mongolic languages

The Mongolic languages are a group of languages spoken in East-Central Asia, mostly in Mongolia and surrounding areas plus in Kalmykia. The best-known member of this language family, Mongolian, is the primary language of most of the residents of Mongolia and the Mongolian residents of Inner Mongolia, China with an estimated 5.7+ million speakers.[3]

The closest relative of the Mongolic languages appears to be the extinct language Khitan.[1] Some linguists have grouped Mongolic with Turkic, Tungusic, and possibly Koreanic and Japonic as part of a larger Altaic family,[4] but this has been widely disputed.


  • Classification 1
  • Proto-Mongolic 2
  • Para-Mongolic 3
  • Notes 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


Historical Mongolic:

  • Middle Mongol (depending on classification spoken from the 13th century until the early 15th century[5] or late 16th century[6]—given the almost entire lack of written sources for the period in-between, an exact cut-off point cannot be established)
  • Classical Mongolian, from approximately 1700 to 1900

Contemporary Mongolic:

  • Daur (=Dagur) (ca. 100,000 speakers)
  • Central Mongolic
  • Southern Mongolic (part of a Gansu–Qinghai Sprachbund)
    • Eastern Yugur (Shira Yugur) (c. 3,000 speakers)
    • Shirongolic
      • Monguor (also known as Tu; dialects: Mongghul (Huzhu), Mangghuer (Minhe)) (ca. 100,000+30,000 speakers)
      • Bonan (ca. 10,000 speakers), Santa (Dongxiang) (ca. 600,000 speakers), Kangjia
  • Moghol (=Mogholi) (unclear whether there are speakers left)

The classification and speaker numbers above follow Janhunen (2006)[7] except for Southern Mongolic which follows Nugteren (2011).[8] In another classificational approach,[9] there is a tendency to call Central Mongolian a language consisting of Mongolian proper, Oirat and Buryat, while Ordos (and implicitly also Khamnigan) is seen as a variety of Mongolian proper. Within Mongolian proper, they then draw a distinction between Khalkha on the one hand and Southern Mongolian (containing everything else) on the other hand. A less common subdivision of Central Mongolian is to divide it into a Central dialect (Khalkha, Chakhar, Ordos), an Eastern dialect (Kharchin, Khorchin), a Western dialect (Oirat, Kalmyk), and a Northern dialect (consisting of two Buryat varieties).[10] The broader delimitation of Mongolian may be based on mutual intelligibility, but an analysis based on a tree diagram such as the one above faces other problems due to the close contacts between e.g. Buryat and Khalkha Mongols during history thus creating or preserving a dialect continuum. Another problem lies in the sheer comparability of terminology as Western linguists use language and dialect, while Mongolian linguists use the Grimmian trichotomy language (kele), dialect (nutuγ-un ayalγu) and Mundart (aman ayalγu).


Proto-Mongolic, the ancestor language of the modern Mongolic languages, is very close to Middle Mongol, the language spoken at the time of Genghis Khan and the Mongol Empire. Most features of modern Mongolic languages can thus be reconstructed from Middle Mongol. An exception would be the voice suffix like -caga- 'do together', which can be reconstructed from the modern languages but is not attested in Middle Mongol.

One can speculate that the languages of Donghu, Wuhuan, and Xianbei might be related to Proto-Mongolic.[11] For Tabghach, the language of the founders of the Northern Wei dynasty for which the surviving evidence is very sparse, and Khitan, for which evidence exists that is written in the two Khitan scripts which have as yet not been fully deciphered, a direct affiliation to Mongolic can now be taken to be most likely or even demonstrated.[12]


The closest relative of the languages traced back to Proto-Mongolic appears to be the medieval Khitan language. Khitan has been described as "Para-Mongolic": not part of the Mongolic family, but related to it.[1]


  1. ^ a b c
  2. ^
  3. ^ Svantesson et al. (2005:141)
  4. ^ e.g. Starostin, Dybo & Mudrak (2003); contra e.g. Vovin (2005)
  5. ^ Rybatzki (2003:57)
  6. ^ Poppe (1964:1)
  7. ^ Janhunen (2006:232–233)
  8. ^ Nugteren (2011)
  9. ^ e.g. Sečenbaγatur et al. (2005:193–194)
  10. ^ Luvsanvandan (1959) quoted from Sečenbaγatur et al. (2005:167–168)
  11. ^ Andrews (1999:72), "[...] believed that at least some of their constituent tribes spoke a Mongolian language, though there is still some argument that a particular variety of Turkic may have been spoken among them."
  12. ^ see Vovin 2007 for Tabghach and Janhunen 2012 for Khitan


  • Janhunen, Juha. 2012. Khitan – Understanding the language behind the scripts. SCRIPTA, Vol. 4: 107–132.
  • [Sechenbaatar] Sečenbaγatur, Qasgerel, Tuyaγ-a, B. ǰirannige, U Ying ǰe. (2005). Mongγul kelen-ü nutuγ-un ayalγun-u sinǰilel-ün uduridqal. Kökeqota: ÖMAKQ.
  • Vovin, Alexander. 2007. Once again on the Tabgač language. Mongolian Studies XXIX: 191–206.

External links

  • Ethnic map of Mongolia
  • Monumenta Altaica grammars, texts, dictionaries and bibliographies of Mongolian and other Altaic languages
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.