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Mongolian at SOAS Language Centre

Mongolian is, properly speaking, a term used to identify a number of languages that are genetically related to each other and belong to the Mongolian branch of the Altaic language family (See our webpage for Turkish, another member of the same family but from the Turkic branch). The variety of Mongolian that is being offered by the SOAS Language Centre is Khalkha, the living national language of Mongolia.  


Khalkha Mongolian does not have a huge number of speakers – the current estimate is around 5 million – but this does not reflect the fact that its speakers are spread across an area roughly equivalent in size to Western Europe. At their greatest extent, during the Mongol conquests of the 13th Century, speakers of the closely related dialects of Mongolian would have been attested over a land area that is truly vast, from Eastern Europe to the Pacific seaboard.  


Throughout its history, Mongolian has absorbed linguistic influences from other languages: there is a Sanskrit element, reflecting the adoption of Buddhism by the Mongols, influence from Chinese through centuries of trade and the spread of literacy practices, Russian during the Soviet period and, most recently, English. Modern Mongolian clearly illustrates how cultural, political and socioeconomic influences impact upon a language system.