The Khitan language (also known as Liao and Kitan (ISO 639-3); Chinese: 契丹語) is a now-extinct language once spoken by the Khitan people (AD 388 – 1243). Khitan is genetically linked to the Mongolic languages. It was written using two mutually exclusive writing systems known as the Khitan large script and the Khitan small script. The language was the official language of the Liao Dynasty (907–1125) and Kara-Khitan Khanate (1124–1218). Janhunen states "A better term for Khitan than Mongolic would be Para-Mongolic, implying that it was probably a language collateral to the ancestor of all the Mongolic languages." Presently the theory of the Mongolic, rather than Tungusic, affiliation of Khitan is more and more commonly accepted by both eastern and western scholars. The Khitans had two scripts of their own and many Mongolic words are found in their half-deciphered writings that are usually found with a parallel Chinese text (for example, nair = sun, sair = moon, tau = five, jau = hundred, m.r = horse, im.a = goat, n.q = dog, m.ng = silver, ju.un = summer, n.am.ur = autumn, u.ul = winter, heu.ur = spring, tau.l.a = rabbit, t.q.a = hen and m.g.o = snake). There is no doubt regarding the Khitan being an early Mongolic language.
The History of Liao (Liao Shi) contains a volume on Khitan language words transcribed in Chinese characters in a volume titled "Glossary of National Language" (國語解). It is found in Chapter 116 - 遼史/卷116.
The Qing dynastyQianlong Emperor erroneously identified the Khitan people and their language with the Solons, leading him to use the Solon language to "correct" Chinese character transcriptions of Khitan names in the History of Liao in his "Imperial Liao Jin Yuan Three Histories National Language Explanation" (欽定遼金元三史國語解) project.
There are several closed systems of Khitan lexical items for which systematic information is available. The following is a list of words in these closed systems that are similar to Mongolic. Mongolian equivalents are given after the English translation:
^Cf. Franke. In Sinor ed., 1990, p. 407, and note. 6; Liu, Fengzhu 1992, p. 1; Janhunen 1996, p. 143.
^Frederick W. Mote, Imperial China 900–1800, p.405
^Herbert Franke, John King Fairbank, Denis Crispin Twitchett, Roderick MacFarquhar, Denis Twitchett, Albert Feuerwerker. The Cambridge History of China, Vol. 3: Sui and T'ang China, 589–906. Part 1, p.364
^Kane, Daniel The Kitan language and script 2009, Leiden, The Netherlands
Franks, H. (1976): "Two Chinese-Khitan Macaronic Poems." In: Heissig, W.-Krueger, J. R.-Oinas, F. J.-Schütz, E. (eds): Tradata Altaica. Wiesbaden, Otto Harrassowitz.
Kane, Daniel (1989). The Sino-Jurchen Vocabulary of the Bureau of Interpreters. Uralic and Altaic Series, Vol. 153. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University, Research Institute for Inner Asian Studies. ISBN978-0-933070-23-3.