Situated between Russia and China, Mongolia has a unique culture all of its own. The Mongolian Language (known as Khalkha Mongol) is the main language for 90% of the population. Other languages spoken include:
Mongolian represents the most widely spoken language in the Mongolic family, which includes Buryat and Daur. The Mongolic family has been linked with the Japonic and Turkic family groups, although this classification has been disputed.
The total number of people speaking Mongolian has been estimated at around 5 million – many of them live in Inner Mongolia, which is part of China. This has led to some difficulty in accurately measuring the population of speakers.
Middle Mongolian has had a large impact on other languages in Asia, thanks to the cultural impact of the Mongol Empire, which dominated Asia for around 160 years.
Owing to their proximity to Russian, Mongolians have adopted the Cyrillic alphabet for their written texts. Originally, Mongolians used the Mongolian script, which was commissioned by Ghengis Kahn. During the Soviet Era, Cyrillic gained popularity.
Many language students struggle with oral Mongolian due to its extra vowels – the language has many sounds that sound familiar to untrained ears. This leads to all manner of confusions, but with a little practice, you can train yourself to hear the difference.
Although there’s very little evidence to link Mongolian with Korean or Japanese, they do share some similar characteristics, especially in terms of grammar.
Due to the country’s strong Buddhist tradition, a number of Sanskrit words have entered the lexicon. Technically, these are loan-words. Additionally, archaic forms of other Asian languages are also present in Mongol speech, thanks to the cultural richness of the former Mongol Empire.
As a modern tongue, the Mongolian language is alive and vital. Due to the immense impact of the Mongolian empire, it has a special fascination for students of history and linguists.