Ruanruan language

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Native toRouran Khaganate
RegionMongolia and northern China
Era4th century CE – 6th century CE
Language codes
ISO 639-3None (mis)

Ruan-ruan (Chinese: 蠕蠕; also called Rouran) is an unclassified extinct language of Mongolia and northern China, spoken in the Rouran Khaganate from the 4th to the 6th centuries CE.

Alexander Vovin (2004, 2010)[1][2] considers the Ruan-ruan language to be an extinct non-Altaic language that is not related to any modern-day language (i.e., a language isolate) and is hence unrelated to Mongolic. Vovin (2004) notes that Old Turkic had borrowed some words from an unknown non-Altaic language that may have been Ruan-ruan. He suggested that Ruan-ruan was possibly related to the Yeniseian languages.[3][4] In 2018, Vovin changed his view after new evidence was found through the analysis of the Brāhmī Bugut and Khüis Tolgoi inscriptions and suggests that the Ruan-ruan language was in fact a Mongolic language, close but not identical to Middle Mongolian.[5]


Features of Ruan-ruan included:[2]

  • no mid vowels
  • initial l-
  • final consonantal cluster -nd


Ruan-ruan had the feminine gender suffix -tu-.[2]


Ruan-ruan vocabulary included:[2]

  • küskü – 'rat'
  • ud – 'ox'
  • luu – 'dragon' < Middle Chinese luŋ – 'dragon'
  • yund – 'horse'
  • laγzïn – 'pig'
  • qaγan – 'emperor'
  • qan – 'khan'
  • qaγatun – 'empress'
  • qatun – 'khan's wife'
  • aq – 'dung'
  • and – 'oath'


  1. ^ Vovin, Alexander 2004. ‘Some Thoughts on the Origins of the Old Turkic 12-Year Animal Cycle.’ Central Asiatic Journal 48/1: 118–32.
  2. ^ a b c d 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.
  3. ^ Vovin, Alexander. "Did the Xiongnu speak a Yeniseian language?". Central Asiatic Journal 44/1 (2000), pp. 87–104.
  4. ^ Vajda, Edward J. (2013). Yeniseian Peoples and Languages: A History of Yeniseian Studies with an Annotated Bibliography and a Source Guide. Oxford/New York: Routledge.
  5. ^ Vovin, Alexander. "A Sketch of the Earliest Mongolic Language: the Brāhmī Bugut and Khüis Tolgoi Inscriptions". International Journal of Eurasian Linguistics. 1 (1): 162–197. ISSN 2589-8825.