Mongolian Script

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Mongolian Script


a script borrowed by the Mongols from the Uighurs in the early 13th century. It is derived from one of the Syriac-Aramaic alphabets via the Sogdian script. In the Mongolian People’s Republic it is called the Old Script. The letters, written from top to bottom and from right to left, are polyphonic, since many of them represent two or three phonemes. The way in which some letters are written depends on their position in a word.

In 1945 the Mongolians adopted a new alphabet based on the Cyrillic. It differs from the Russian alphabet in that it has two additional letters, θ and γ, representing midvowels similar to the German vowels ö and ü. In addition, in the Mongolian alphabet the letters «ж» (zh) and «3» (z) represent the affricates «жж» (dzh) and «ж3» (dz). Double vowel letters represent long vowel phonemes, for example, Ulan Bator is written in Mongolian as yπaaH(ulaan, “red”) and σaaTap (baatar, “hero”). The old Mongolian script is now used in the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region in the People’s Republic of China and in special scholarly publications in the Mongolian People’s Republic.

Other, less widely used alphabets have included the “square script” of the 13th and 14th centuries, based on the Tibetan alphabet, and the “clear script” of Zaia-Pandita, an improved version of the old Mongolian script used by the western Mongols from the 17th century.


Damdinsuren, Ts. Shine usgiin durem. Ulan Bator, 1942.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.