|Mongolia; Inner Mongolia, Buryatia, Kalmykia (Russia) and Herat (Afghanistan)|
|Linguistic classification||Khitan–Mongolic? (see below)|
Otherwise one of the world's primary language families
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, with an estimated 5.7+ million speakers.
The closest relatives of the Mongolic languages appear to be the extinct Khitan and Tuyuhun languages. Some linguists have grouped Mongolic with Turkic, Tungusic, and possibly Koreanic and Japonic as part of the controversial Altaic family.
- Middle Mongol (depending on classification spoken from the 13th century until the early 15th century or late 16th century; given the almost entire lack of written sources for the period in between, an exact cutoff point cannot be established)
- Classical Mongolian, from approximately 1700 to 1900
- Daur - 96,000 speakers
- Central Mongolic
- Southern Mongolic (part of a Gansu–Qinghai Sprachbund)
- Moghol 200 speakers
The classification and numbers of speakers above follow Janhunen (2006) except for Southern Mongolic, which follows Nugteren (2011). In another classificational approach, 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 Mongolic 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). 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 because of the close contacts between, for example, 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).
Pre-Proto-Mongolic is the name for the stage of Mongolic that precedes Proto-Mongolic. Proto-Mongolic can be clearly identified chronologically with the language spoken by the Mongols during Genghis Khan's early expansion in the 1200-1210s. Pre-Proto-Mongolic by contrast is a continuum that stretches back indefinitely in time. It is divided into Early Pre-Proto-Mongolic and Late Pre-Proto-Mongolic. Late Pre-Proto-Mongolic refers to the Mongolic spoken a few centuries before Proto-Mongolic by the Mongols and neighboring tribes like the Merkits and Keraits. Certain archaic words and features in Written Mongol go back past Proto-Mongolic to Late Pre-Proto-Mongolic (Janhunen 2006). In the case of Early Pre-Proto-Mongolic certain loanwords in the Mongolic languages point to early contact with Oghur (Pre-Proto-Bulgharic) Turkic also known as r-Turkic. These loanwords precede Common Turkic (z-Turkic) loanwords and include Mongolic ikere (twins) from Pre-Proto-Bulgharic ikir (versus Common Turkic ekiz), hüker (ox) from Pre-Proto-Bulgharic hekür (Common Turkic öküz), jer (weapon) from Pre-Proto-Bulgharic jer (Common Turkic yäz), biragu (calf) versus Common Turkic buzagu and siri- (to smelt ore) versus Common Turkic siz- (to melt). These are thought to have been borrowed from Oghur Turkic during the time of the Xiongnu. Subsequent Turkic people in Mongolia all spoke forms of Common Turkic (z-Turkic) as opposed to Oghur (Bulgharic) Turkic which withdrew to the west in the 4th century. The Chuvash language spoken by 1 million people in European Russia is the only living representative of Oghur Turkic which split from Common Turkic around the 1st century CE. Words in Mongolic like dayir (brown, Common Turkic yagiz) and nidurga (fist, Common Turkic yudruk) with initial *d and *n versus Common Turkic *y are sufficiently archaic to indicate loans from an earlier stage of Oghur (Pre-Proto-Bulgharic) since Chuvash and Common Turkic do not differ in these features despite differing fundamentally in rhotacism-lambdacism (Janhunen 2006). Oghur tribes lived in the Mongolian borderlands before the 5th century and provided Oghur loanwords to Early Pre-Proto-Mongolic before Common Turkic loanwords.
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. 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.
- Juha Janhunen (2006). The Mongolic Languages. Routledge. p. 393. ISBN 978-1-135-79690-7.
- Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Mongolic". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
- Svantesson et al. (2005:141)
- e.g. Starostin, Dybo & Mudrak (2003); contra e.g. Vovin (2005)
- Rybatzki (2003:57)
- Poppe (1964:1)
- Vovin, Alexander. 2007. ‘Once again on the Tabγač language.’ Mongolian Studies XXIX: 191-206.
- Chen, Sanping 2005. Turkic or Proto-Mongolian? A Note on the Tuoba Language. Central Asiatic Journal 49.2: 161-73.
- Janhunen (2006:232–233)
- Nugteren (2011)
- e.g. Sečenbaγatur et al. (2005:193–194)
- Luvsanvandan (1959) quoted from Sečenbaγatur et al. (2005:167–168)
- Golden 2011, p. 31.
- 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."
- see Vovin 2007 for Tabghach and Janhunen 2012 for Khitan
- Vovin, Alexander. 2015. Some notes on the Tuyuhun (吐谷渾) language: in the footsteps of Paul Pelliot. In Journal of Sino-Western Communications, Volume 7, Issue 2 (December 2015).
- Andrews, Peter A. (1999). Felt tents and pavilions: the nomadic tradition and its interaction with princely tentage, Volume 1. Melisende. ISBN 978-1-901764-03-1.
- Janhunen, Juha, ed. (2003). The Mongolic languages. Routledge Language Family Series. London: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-7007-1133-8.
- Rybatzki, Volker (2003). "Middle Mongol". In Janhunen, J. pp. 47–82. Missing or empty
- Rybatzki, Volker (2003). "Middle Mongol". In Janhunen, J. pp. 47–82. Missing or empty
- Janhunen, Juha. 2012. Khitan – Understanding the language behind the scripts. SCRIPTA, Vol. 4: 107–132.
- Janhunen, Juha (2006). "Mongolic languages". In Brown, K. The encyclopedia of language & linguistics. Amsterdam: Elsevier. pp. 231–234.
- Luvsanvandan, Š. (1959). "Mongol hel ajalguuny učir". Mongolyn Sudlal. 1.
- Nugteren, Hans (2011). Mongolic Phonology and the Qinghai-Gansu Languages (Ph.D.). Netherlands Graduate School of Linguistics / Landelijke – LOT.
- Poppe, Nicholas (1964) . Grammar of Written Mongolian. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.
- Sechenbaatar, Borjigin (2003). The Chakhar dialect of Mongol – A morphological description. Helsinki: Finno-Ugrian society.
- [Sechenbaatar] Sečenbaγatur, Qasgerel, Tuyaγ-a, B. ǰirannige, U Ying ǰe. (2005). Mongγul kelen-ü nutuγ-un ayalγun-u sinǰilel-ün uduridqal. Kökeqota: ÖMAKQ.
- Starostin, Sergei A.; Dybo, Anna V.; Mudrak, Oleg A. (2003). Etymological Dictionary of the Altaic Languages. Leiden: Brill.
- Svantesson, Jan-Olof; Tsendina, Anna; Karlsson, Anastasia; Franzén, Vivan (2005). The Phonology of Mongolian. New York: Oxford University Press.
- Golden, Peter B. (2011). Studies on the Peoples and Cultures of the Eurasian Steppes. Editura Academiei Române; Editura Istros a Muzeului Brăilei. ISBN 9789732721520.
- Vovin, Alexander (2005). "The end of the Altaic controversy (review of Starostin et al. 2003)". Central Asiatic Journal. 49 (1): 71–132.
- Vovin, Alexander. 2007. Once again on the Tabgač language. Mongolian Studies XXIX: 191–206.