Better late than never. After all, if my University can send around an e-mail saying Wednesday (today) is a Monday, my Monday feature can clearly appear in the day of the week!
This week language of the week is Mongolian, because of the post in a comment on languagehat’s blog which intimated that there was not enough Mongolian on the site. Given that I am up to M and slack in posting to boot, Joshua Smith is in luck.
Mongolian is, of course, the national language of Mongolia. The standard language is based on the Khalkha dialect. It’s Altaic, if you believe in Altaic. Mongolian is also spoken in China by rapidly diminishing numbers of people.
Mongolian is of course famous for its vowel harmony, and people disagree about the details of the system. On the descriptions I have seen, it seems to be some sort of tenseness harmony, with e, o and u belonging to one set, and a, ʊ, and ɔ making up the other set. i is a neutral vowel (that is, it does not participate in the harmony system). There are also long versions of each of the above.
The consonant system is also truly wild. There’s no phonemic voicing, of which is of course something I always like to see. Except, the uvulars are all voiced and anything further forward is voiceless. They have no lateral approximant, but they do have a lateral fricative which can be palatalised phonemically.
Here’s a random collection of links:
- inLinguamongolia a: a new site on Mongolian
- The Omniglot discussion of the scripts that Mongolian has been written in
- A FAQ on Mongolian history
- A site for Mongolian tourism in case any of my readers would like to find out more about their fantastic vowel harmony system,
- The Mongolian section of Monumenta Altaica.
- A site where you can find Mongolian pen-friends and language partners for IMing and chat.