Khalkha Mongolian

The Khalkha dialect (Mongolian: Халх аялгуу / Halh ayalguu / ᠬᠠᠯᠬ᠎ᠠ ᠠᠶᠠᠯᠭᠤ, [χaɬχ ajɮˈɢʊː]) is a dialect of central Mongolic widely spoken in Mongolia. According to some classifications, the Khalkha dialect includes Southern Mongolian varieties such as Shiliin gol, Ulaanchab and Sönid.[2] As it was the basis for the Cyrillic orthography of Mongolian,[3] it is de facto the national language of Mongolia.[4] The name of the dialect is related to the name of the Khalkha Mongols and the Khalkha river.

Native toMongolia
Native speakers
3,000,000 (2010 census)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3khk

There are certain differences between normative (standardised form of Khalkha) and spoken Khalkha. For example, the normative language uses proximal demonstratives based on the word stem ʉː/n- (except for the nominative in [i̠n] and the accusative which takes the stem ʉːn-)[5] and thus exhibits the same developmental tendency as exhibited by Oirat.[6] On the other hand, the spoken language also makes use of paradigms that are based on the stems inʉːn- and inĕn-.[7] This seems to agree with the use in Chakhar Mongolian.[8] The same holds for the distal demonstrative /tir/.[9]

Khalkha may roughly be divided into Northern and Southern Khalkha, which would include Sönid etc. Both varieties share affricate depalatalization, namely, /tʃ/ > /ts/ and /tʃʰ/ > /tsʰ/ except before *i, while Southern Khalkha patterns with Chakhar and Ordos Mongolian in that it exhibits a dissimilating deaspiration; e.g. *tʰatʰa > /tatʰ/.[10] However, Mongolian scholars more often hold that the border between Khalkha and Chakhar is the border between the Mongolian state and the Chakhar area of South Mongolia.[11]

Especially in the speech of younger speakers, /p/ (or /w/) > [ɸ] may take place, as in Written Mongolian qabtasu > Sünid [ɢaptʰǎs] ~ [ɢaɸtʰǎs] 'cover (of a book)'.[12]

One of the classifications of Khalkha dialect in Mongolia divides it into 3 subdialects: Central, Western and Eastern. The orthography of the Mongolian Cyrillic alphabet is essentially based on the Central Khalkha dialect. Among the main differences is the pronunciation of initial letter х in feminine words which is in Central Khalkha pronounced as it is written, in Western Khalkha as h, and in Eastern Khalkha as g; e.g. хөтөл hötöl (Central Khalkha), көтөл kötöl (Western Khalkha), гөтөл götöl (Eastern Khalkha). The initial letter х is pronounced in masculine words in Western Khalkha as /h/ (almost not heard) if the following consonant is voiceless, and is pronounced as /ɢ/ (and devoiced to /q/) in Eastern Khalkha; e.g. хутга hutga [ˈχo̙tʰɵ̙q] (Central Khalkha), hутага hutaga [ˈhʊtʰəɣ] (Western Khalkha), гутага gutaga [ˈɢʊtʰəq] (Eastern Khalkha). Initial /tʰ/ is unaspirated in Eastern Khalkha; e.g. талх talh [tʰaɬχ] (Central Khalkha), талқ talq [tʰaɬq] (Western Khalkha), далх dalh [taɬχ] (Eastern Khalkha).

Grouping of Khalkha dialectsEdit

In Juha Janhunen's book Mongolian, he groups the Khalkha dialects into the following 19:[13]

  • Outer Mongolia:
    • Central
      • Khalkha Proper dialect
        • northern Khalkha
        • southern Khalkha
        • Ulan Bator dialect of Khalkha
    • Northern:
      • the Khotgoit (Xotgaid) dialect
      • the Darkhat (Darxed) dialect
    • Southeastern:
      • the Dariganga (Darygengg) dialect
  • Russia:
    • Tsongol (Tzonggel)
    • Sartul (Sartool)
      • officially, both are classified as "Buryat" dialects.
  • Inner Mongolia:
    • the Ulan Tsab dialects:
      • the Chakhar (Tzaxer) dialect
      • the Urat (Ourd) dialect
      • the Darkhan (Darxen) dialect
      • the Dörben Huuhet (Deurben Xuuxed) dialect
      • the Muumingan (Moo Minggen) dialect
      • the Keshigten (Xeshegten) dialect
  • Shilingol (Shiilin Gol) dialects:
    • Udzumuchin (Udzencem) dialect
    • Khuuchit (Xooced) dialect
    • Abaga (Abegh) dialect
    • Abaganar (Abeghner) dialect
    • Sunit (Seund) dialect


  1. ^ National Census 2010 of Mongolia Archived 2011-09-15 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Svantesson et al. 2005: 143. Janhunen 2003: 179-180 mentions that such an approach might be possible. Sečenbaγatur et al. 2005: 207 without further discussion include at least Shiliin gol and Ulaanchab into the Chakhar dialect.
  3. ^ Sečenbaγatur et al. (2005): 372, also see Svantesson et al. (2005): 36
  4. ^ Sečenbaγatur et al. (2005): 372, cp. Mongolian State (2003): Törijn alban josny helnij tuhaj huul’ Archived 2009-08-22 at the Wayback Machine, retrieved 2009-03-27
  5. ^ cp. Street (1957): 88, IPA in accordance with Svantesson et al. (2005): 2,6-7, 91, but it follows Ölǰeyibürin (2001) in writing [ʉ] instead of [u].
  6. ^ Birtalan (2003): 220, Bläsing (2003): 239
  7. ^ Poppe (1951): 72
  8. ^ See Sečenbaγatur et al. (2005): 237. While this reference is a bit fuzzy as it includes parts of Southern Khalkh into Chakhar, it does not mention stems like ʉːn-.
  9. ^ See the same sources as for /in/
  10. ^ Svantesson et al. (2005): 143, 206
  11. ^ e.g. Sečenbaγatur et al. (2005): 207, 372-373, probably also Amaržargal (1988): 22-25
  12. ^ Ölǰeyibürin (2001): 17-18. He assumes voicing to be distinctive, while the above transcription follows Svantesson et al. (2005) in assuming only aspiration as distinctive.
  13. ^ Janhunen, Juha A. (2012). Mongolian. John Benjamins Publishing. pp. On page 9, Juhanen writes: "In Outer Mongolia, the Khalkha group comprises, apart from Khalkha proper, the Khotgoit (Xotgaid) and Darkhat (Darxed) dialects in the north and the Dariganga (Darygengg) dialect in the southeast. This group also includes the Tsongol (Tzonggel) and Sartul (Sartool) dialects, officially classified as “Buryat”, on the Russian side. On the Inner Mongolian side, the Khalkha group comprises the so-called Ulan Tsab (Oulaan Tzab) dialects, including Chakhar (Tzaxer), Urat (Ourd), Darkhan (Darxen), Muumingan (Moo Minggen), Dörben Huuhet (Deurben Xuuxed) and Keshigten (Xeshegten), as well as the so-called Shilingol (Shiliin Gol) dialects, including Udzumuchin (Udzemcen), Khuuchit (Xooced), Abaga (Abegh), Abaganar (Abeghner) and Sunit (Seund). Most of the dialects genetically belonging to the Khalkha group but areally spoken on the Inner Mongolian side are in some ways transitional, in that they incorporate secondary influences from dialects of the Khorchin type. Khalkha proper itself is also dialectally diversified and comprises, among others, two major groups of subdialects known as Northern Khalkha and Southern Khalkha. The modern Ulan Bator dialect of Khalkha, which for political reasons has a prestige status in Mongolia, has also developed into a distinct form of speech.". ISBN 978-90-272-3820-7.


  • Amaržargal, B. (1988): BNMAU dah’ mongol helnij nutgijn ajalguuny tol’ bichig: halh ajalguu. Ulaanbaatar: ŠUA.
  • Birtalan, Ágnes (2003): Oirat. In: Janhunen (ed.) 2003: 210-228.
  • Bläsing, Uwe (2003): Kalmuck. In: Janhunen (ed.) 2003: 229-247.
  • Janhunen, Juha (ed.) (2003): The Mongolic languages. London: Routledge.
  • Janhunen, Juha (2003a): Mongol dialects. In: Janhunen 2003: 177-191.
  • Ölǰeyibürin (2001): Sünid aman ayalγun-u geyigülügči abiyalaburi-yin sistem. In: Mongγol Kele Utq-a ǰokiyal 2001/1: 16-23.
  • Poppe, Nicholas (1951): Khalkha-mongolische Grammatik. Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner.
  • Sečenbaγatur, Qasgerel, Tuyaγ-a, B. ǰirannige, U Ying ǰe (2005): Mongγul kelen-ü nutuγ-un ayalγun-u sinǰilel-ün uduridqal. Kökeqota: Öbür mongγul-un arad-un keblel-ün qoriy-a.
  • Street, John (1957): The language of the Secret history of the Mongols. American Oriental series 42.
  • Svantesson, Jan-Olof, Anna Tsendina, Anastasia Karlsson, Vivan Franzén (2005): The Phonology of Mongolian. New York: Oxford University Press.