Proto-Mongolic language

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Reconstruction ofMongolic languages
EraDeveloped into Middle Mongol after the thirteenth century, after geographical dispersal of the ancient Mongols under Chinggis Khan and his heirs[1]

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

According to Juha Janhunen in his book The Mongolic Languages, "Proto-Mongolic was spoken before the differentiation in the present-day Mongolic languages had begun", meaning that it was spoken before there were different Mongolic languages, so it can be attested (believed) that all Mongolic languages descended/evolved/came from Proto-Mongolic.[2]

Regarding precisely when Proto-Mongolic was spoken, Janhunen writes: "The absolute dating of Proto-Mongolic depends on when, exactly, the linguistic unity of its speakers ended," meaning Proto-Mongolic evolved into other Mongolic languages; "only after the geographical dispersal of the ancient Mongols under Chinggis Khan", which was; "not earlier than the thirteenth century." As a result; "this means that the presentday differences between the Mongolic languages are likely to be the result of less than 800 years of divergent evolution."[2]

The languages of the Xiongnu, Donghu and Wuhuan might be related to Proto-Mongolic,[3] as well as that of the Xianbei and the Tuoba clan/subgroup (the language of the founders of the Northern Wei) and Khitan. Because the surviving evidence for Xianbei/Tuoba is very sparse, one can hypothesize, but not definitively state, that a genetic relationship could be possible. In the case of Khitan, there is rich evidence, but most of it is written in the two Khitan scripts (large and small) that have as yet not been fully deciphered. However, from the available evidence it has to be concluded that a genetic relationship to Mongolic is likely.[4][5]


Front Neutral Back
High *y *i *u
Mid *o
Low *e *a
Labial Alveolar Palatal Velar
Nasal *m *n
Fortis *t *c *k
Lenis *b *d *j *g
Fricative *s *x
Lateral *l
Liquid *r
Semivowel *y



One way in which Proto-Mongolic formed plurals was by adding -s or -ud to a word. -s would be added to words ending in vowels, for example ere (man) would become eres. -ud would be added to words ending in consonants, for example nom (book) would become nomud. However, for words ending with the consonant n, l, or r would lose the final letter, and just add d, for example kan (prince) would become kad (princes).[8]


1 *nike(n)
2 *koxar
3 *gurba(n)
4 *dörbe(n)
5 *tabu(n)
6 *jirguxa(n)
7 *doluxa(n)
8 *na(y)ima(n)
9 *yersü(n)
10 *xarba(n)
20 *kori(n)
30 *guci(n)
40 *döci(n)
50 *tabi(n)
60 *jira(n)
70 *dala(n)
80 *naya(n)
90 *yere(n)
100 *zugu(n) 1000 *Mynga(n)


  1. ^ Janhunen, Juha (2006-01-27). The Mongolic Languages. doi:10.4324/9780203987919. ISBN 9780203987919.
  2. ^ a b Janhunen, Juha (2006-01-27). The Mongolic Languages. pp. Chapter 1, page 1. doi:10.4324/9780203987919. ISBN 9780203987919.
  3. ^ Andrews 1999, p. 72.
  4. ^ Janhunen 2003b, pp. 391–394.
  5. ^ Janhunen 2003a, pp. 1–3.
  6. ^ Janhunen (2003a:4)
  7. ^ Janhunen (2003a:6)
  8. ^ Janhunen, Juha (2006-01-27). The Mongolic Languages. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-203-98791-9.
  9. ^ Janhunen (2003a:16–17)