Monday, March 31, 2014

Language Profile: Mongolian

This week, we're looking at Mongolian in our language profile. Mongolian is the sole official language of Mongolia, where it is spoken by over 95% of the population. It is also recognized as official regional language in China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, which borders Mongolia. However, use of Mongolian in the area is currently declining due to the popularity of speaking Chinese instead.

Gandantegchinlen Monastery in Ulaanbaatar,
the capital of Mongolia.
Like Kazakh, Hungarian, and Xhosa, Mongolian is an agglutinative language, meaning it creates new words through the addition of affixes. In the case of Mongolian, this is mainly done through the use of suffixes.

Early loanwords included in the Mongolian lexicon came from languages including Sanskrit, Persian, and Arabic. More recent terminology has come from Russian, English, and Chinese. Russian loanwords include shokolad, the Russian word for "chocolate", while the English word "online" becomes onlain in Mongolian spelling.

Mongolian is written using two different writing systems. Since the 1940s, the official script used in Mongolia has been Mongolian Cyrillic script. However, in China, Mongolian is written using traditional Mongolian script, which was adapted in the 13th century from the script used to write Uyghur, a Turkic language spoken in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in northwest China.