Friday, May 04, 2012

A few notes about the mongolian language

Just for your curiosities' sake.

Mongolian has a reputation for being hard, but I don't think it's too hard. The first obstacle is the sound system. There are four o/y vowels that can sound quite similar to English speakers, and that takes a while to get used to. Also, learning the Cyrillic alphabet might hold you up. I'd learnt the Greek alphabet and so I was halfway there.

One of the main principles in pronouncing words seems to be that after the first syllable, reduce all short vowel syllables to nothing, just cut them out and string together the consonants. In practice this means a combination of consonant clusters and schewa vowels.

Mongolian has 8 cases, which if you, as I, studied an Indo-european language might sound troublesome. Actually, it's not so bad, because there are not really different declensions, and they are all suffixes that do not normally change the root, so really it's just tacking endings on to words. The only variation within a case ending is in the vowel, and it always simply matches the vowels of the word itself, so that is not too hard either.

The cases are:
Nominative (unmarked), Accusative (only marked for definite direct objects), Genitive, Dative/Locative (to/for/at), Instrumental (by), Comitative (with), Ablative (from), Directional (to[wards]). See, compare to Latin, and all they've done is clarify the 500 usages of the Ablative for you, so that is actually helpful!

On to verbs. There are a bunch of tenses, including 4 main past tenses. Oh no you say. Good news, say I, as there are no conjugations to worry about, and verbs are uninflected for person and number. So that's just one set of endings, depending on the vowels (so 4 very similar sets of endings. Suddenly Mongolian is looking like an easy language. Plus, the tense you use often depends on whether the action was personally witnessed or not, so the choice of tense encodes some extra meaning. What a nifty language!

Basic Syntax is not overly complicated, just remember STOP: Subject, Time, Object, Predicate. Actually, anything adverbial can just get chucked in the T-slot. This is practically Latinate, good for all those classical scholars looking to take up Mongolian.

Okay, those are some things. If I think of more interesting factoids about Mongolian I will post them.

No comments: