definition of Wikipedia
|Mongolia; Inner Mongolia and regions close to its border, Xinjiang, Gansu, Qinghai (China); Buryatia and Kalmykia (Russian Federation)|
|Linguistic classification:||Altaic (controversial)
Geographic distribution of the Mongolic languages
The Mongolic languages are a group of languages spoken in East-Central Asia, mostly in Mongolia and surrounding areas plus in Kalmykia. The best-known member of this language family, Mongolian, is the primary language of most of the residents of Mongolia and the Mongolian residents of Inner Mongolia, China with an estimated 5.2 million speakers. A minority of linguists have grouped Mongolic with Turkic, Tungusic and possibly Korean and Japonic as part of the larger Altaic family.
The classification and speaker numbers above follow Janhunen except that Mongghul and Mangghuer are treated as a sub-branch and that Kangjia has been added. In another classificational approach, there is a tendency to call Central Mongolian a language consisting of Mongolian proper, Oirat and Buryat, while Ordos (and implicitly also Khamnigan) is seen as a variety of Mongolian proper. Within Mongolian proper, they then draw a distinction between Khalkha on the one hand and Southern Mongolian (containing everything else) on the other hand. A less common subdivision of Central Mongolian is to divide it into a Central dialect (Khalkha, Chakhar, Ordos), an Eastern dialect (Kharchin, Khorchin), a Western dialect (Oirat, Kalmyk), and a Northern dialect (consisting of two Buryat varieties). The broader delimitation of Mongolian may be based on mutual intelligibility, but an analysis based on a tree diagram such as the one above faces other problems due to the close contacts between e.g. Buryat and Khalkha Mongols during history thus creating or preserving a dialect continuum. Another problem lies in the sheer comparability of terminology as Western linguists use language and dialect, while Mongolian linguists use the Grimmian trichotomy language (kele), dialect (nutuγ-un ayalγu) and Mundart (aman ayalγu).
Proto-Mongolic, the ancestor language of the modern Mongolic languages, is very close to Middle Mongol, the language spoken at the time of Genghis Khan and the Mongol Empire. Most features of modern Mongolic languages can thus be reconstructed from Middle Mongol. An exception would be the voice suffix like -caga- 'do together', which can be reconstructed from the modern languages but is not attested in Middle Mongol.
The languages of Donghu, Wuhuan and Xianbei might be related to Proto-Mongolic, as might be Tabghach (the language of the founders of the Northern Wei dynasty) and Khitan. In the case of Tabghach, the surviving evidence is very sparse, thus one can state that a generic relationship is possible. In the case of Khitan, there is rich evidence, but most of it is written in the two Khitan scripts that have as yet not been fully deciphered. However, from the available evidence it has to be concluded that a generic relationship to Mongolic is likely.
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