Mongolian/The Alphabet

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Mongolian has been written in a variety of alphabets over the years. The traditional Mongolian script was adapted from Uyghur alphabet in 1208, although it has undergone transformations, and occasionally been supplemented by other scripts. The Mongolian alphabet was used in Mongolia until 1931, when it was temporarily replaced by the Latin alphabet, and finally by Cyrillic in 1937. The traditional alphabet was abolished completely by the pro-Soviet government in 1941, and a short-lived attempt to reintroduce the traditional alphabet after 1990 was abandoned after some years.

In the People's Republic of China, the Mongolian language is a co-official language with Standard Mandarin in some regions, notably the entire Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. The traditional alphabet has always been used there, although Cyrillic was considered briefly before the Sino-Soviet split. The classical script used in China in fact represent a very old state of language, and there is no one-to-one correspondence between Cyrillic and classical script.

Cyrillic alphabet[edit]

Currently Mongolian in Outer Mongolia is written in the Cyrillic alphabet. The modified Cyrillic alphabet used for Mongolian is as follows:

Cyrillic Name Sounds Like Transliteration Cyrillic Name Sounds Like Transliteration
Аа а "a" in come a Пп пэ "p" in pop p
Бб бэ "b" in Bob b Рр эр "r" in rrrrr r
Вв вэ "v" in vote v Сс эс "s" in see s
Гг гэ "g" in green g Тт тэ "t" in tall t
Дд дэ "d" in dance d Уу у "u" in food u
Ее е jε~jɜ, e ye Үү ү u ü
Ёё ё yo Фф фэ~фа~эф ( f ) f
Жж жэ zh Хх хэ~ха x, h
Зз зэ ts z Цц цэ tsʰ ts
Ии и i i Чч чэ tʃʰ ch
Йй хагас и i y Шш ша~эш ʃ sh
Кк ка ( k ), ( ) k Щщ ща~эшчэ (stʃ ) shch
Лл эл ɮ,ɮʲ l Ъ ъ хатуугийн тэмдэг "
Мм эм m, m Ыы эр үгийн ы i ï
Нн эн n, n Ьь зөөлний тэмдэг ʲ '
Оо о ɔ o Ээ э e e
Өө ө o ö Юю ю , ju yu
Яя я ja, j ya

Үү and Өө are sometimes written as Vv and Єє, mainly when using Russian software or keyboards that don't support them.

Notes for good writing[edit]

When writing the iy sound on the end of a back vowel word you write it as ы (this is referred to as the jarin-nigin (sixty one) iy). When writing this sound at the end of front vowel words you write the normal iy: ий.

Examples:

  • таны
  • цүцгий

Traditional Mongolian alphabet[edit]

Note: Make sure your web browser has quality support for Mongolian layout. For more details, see: Template:MongolUnicode#Issues.

The traditional Mongolian alphabet used for Mongolian is as follows:

Characters Transliteration Notes
alone initial medial final Latin Cyrillic IPA
ᠠ‍ ‍ᠠ‍ ‍ᠠ‍ᠠ᠋ a А a Distinction usually by vowel harmony (see also q/γ and k/g below)
ᠡ‍ e Э e
ᠢ‍ ‍ᠢ‍[note 1] ‍ᠢ᠋‍[note 2] ‍ᠢ i, yi И, Й, Ы, Ь i, ji At end of word today often absorbed into preceding syllable
ᠣ‍ ‍ᠣ‍ ‍ᠣ o, u О, У o, ʊ Distinction depending on context.
ᠥ‍ ‍ᠥ‍‍ᠥ᠋‍ ‍ᠥ‍ᠥ᠋ ö, ü Ө, Ү œ, u Distinction depending on context.
ᠨ‍ ‍ᠨ‍[note 3] ‍ᠨ᠋‍[note 4] ‍ᠨ‍ᠨ᠌ n Н n Distinction from medial and final a/e by position in syllable sequence.
‍ᠩ‍ ‍ᠩ ng Н, НГ ŋ Only at end of word (medial for composites).

Transcribes Tibetan ; Sanskrit ङ.

ᠪ‍ ‍ᠪ‍ ‍ᠪ‍ᠪ᠋ b Б, В b, v In classical Mongolian v is used only for transcribing foreign words, so most "В (V)" in Cyrillic Mongolian correspond to "Б (B)" in Classical Mongolian.
ᠫ‍ ‍ᠫ‍ ‍ᠫ p П p Only at the beginning of Mongolian words.

Transcribes Tibetan ;

‍ᠬ‍ ‍ᠬ q Х x Only with back vowels
‍ᠭ‍‍ᠭ᠋‍ ‍ᠭ‍ᠭ᠋ γ Г g, ɢ Only with back vowels.

Between vowels pronounced as a long vowel in oral Mongolian.[note 5] The "final" version only appears when followed by an a written detached from the word.

ᠬ‍ ‍ᠭ᠍‍ k Х x Only with front vowels, but 'ki/gi' can occur in both front and back vowel words

Word-finally only g, not k.

g between vowels pronounced as long vowel.[note 6]

‍ᠭ᠌ g Г g, ɢ
ᠮ‍ ‍ᠮ‍ ‍ᠮ m М m
ᠯ‍ ‍ᠯ‍ ‍ᠯ l Л l
ᠰ‍ ‍ᠰ‍ ‍ᠰ s С s
ᠱ‍ ‍ᠱ‍ ‍ᠱ š Ш ʃ
ᠲ‍ ‍ᠲ‍‍ᠳ᠋‍ ‍ᠳ t, d Т, Д t, d Distinction depending on context.
ᠴ‍ ‍ᠴ‍ č Ч, Ц tʃʰ, tsʰ Distinction between /tʃʰ/ and /tsʰ/ in Khalkha Mongolian.
ᠵ‍ ‍ᠵ‍ j Ж, З tʃ, ts Distinction by context in Khalkha Mongolian.
ᠶ‍ ‍ᠶ‍ ‍ᠶ y -Й, Е*, Ё*, Ю*, Я* j
ᠷ‍ ‍ᠷ‍ ‍ᠷ r Р r Not normally at the beginning of words.[note 7]
ᠸ‍ ‍ᠸ‍ v В v Used to transcribe foreign words (Originally used to transcribe Sanskrit व)
ᠹ‍ ‍ᠹ‍ ‍ᠹ f Ф f Used to transcribe foreign words
‍ᠺ‍ ‍ᠺ k К Used to transcribe foreign words (Originally used to transcribe Tibetan /g/ ; Sanskrit ग)
ᠻ‍ ‍ᠻ‍ ‍ᠻ К Used to transcribe foreign words (Originally used to transcribe Tibetan /kʰ/ ; Sanskrit ख)
ᠼ‍ ‍ᠼ‍ (c) (ц) ts Used to transcribe foreign words (Originally used to transcribe Tibetan /ts'/ ; Sanskrit छ)
ᠽ‍ ‍ᠽ‍ (z) (з) z Used to transcribe foreign words (Originally used to transcribe Tibetan /dz/ ; Sanskrit ज)
ᠾ‍ ‍ᠾ‍ (h) (г, х) h Used to transcribe foreign words (Originally used to transcribe Tibetan /h/ , ; Sanskrit ह)
ᠿ‍ (ř) (-,-) Transcribes Chinese 'ri' - used in Inner Mongolia
ᡁ‍ (zh) (-,-) ʈ͡ʂ Transcribes Chinese 'zhi' - used in Inner Mongolia
ᡂ‍ (chi) (-,-) Transcribes Chinese 'chi' - used in Inner Mongolia

Notes:

  1. Following a consonant, Latin transliteration is i.
  2. Following a vowel, Latin transliteration is yi, with rare exceptions like naim ("eight") or Naiman.
  3. Character for front of syllable (n-<vowel>).
  4. Character for back of syllable (<vowel>-n).
  5. Examples: qa-γ-an (khan) is shortened to qaan unless reading classical literary Mongolian. Some exceptions like tsa-g-aan ("white") exist.
  6. Example: de-g-er is shortened to deer. Some exceptions like ügüi ("no") exist.
  7. Transcribed foreign words usually get a vowel prepended. Example: Transcribing Русь (Russia) results in Oros.

Notes for good writing[edit]

When writing the suffix at the end of a word you write it separately without initial form.

Examples:

  • ᠮᠣᠩᠭᠣᠯ ‍ᠤᠨ
  • ᠣᠷᠣᠨ ᠤ