Dagur language

The Dagur or Daghur language, is a Mongolic language, as well as a distinct branch of the Mongolic language family,[3] and is primarily spoken by members of the Dagur ethnic group.

Native toChina, Mongolia
RegionInner Mongolia, Hailar District; Heilongjiang Province, Qiqihar Prefecture; Xinjiang, Tacheng Prefecture
Native speakers
96,000 in China (1999)[1]
  • Dagur
Latin script, Mongol script (Historically)
Language codes
ISO 639-3dta
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Dagur is a Mongolic language consisting of four dialects:[4]

There is no written standard in use, although a Pinyin-based orthography has been devised; instead the Dagur make use of Mongolian or Chinese, as most speakers know these languages as well.[6] During the time of the Qing dynasty, Dagur was written with the Manchu alphabet.[7]


Dagur phonology is peculiar in that some of its dialects have developed a set of labialized consonants (e.g. /sʷar/ 'flea' vs. /sar/ 'moon'),[8] while it shares palatalized consonants[9] with most Mongolian dialects that have not been developed in the other Mongolic languages. It also has /f/, which is, however, limited to loan words.[10] Word-final short vowels were lost[11] and historically short vowels in non-initial syllables have lost phoneme status.[12] Dagur is the only Mongolic language to share this development with Mongolian (i.e. Mongolian proper, Oirat, Buryat). Due to the merger of /ɔ/ and /ʊ/ with /o/ and /u/, vowel harmony was lost.[13] According to Tsumagari (2003), vowel harmony is still a productive synchronic phonotactic aspect of Dagur in which initial syllable long vowels are divided into "masculine" (back), "feminine" (front), and neutral groups. Likewise, suffixal long vowels must agree in harmonic group with the root.


Dagur vowels (Tsumagari 2003)
Front/Central Back
Short Long Short Long
Close i u
Mid ə əː ɔ ɔː
Open a


Dagur consonants (Chuluu 1994)
Labial Alveolar Velar
plain lab. pal. plain lab. pal. plain lab. pal.
Stop voiceless p t k
voiced b d ɡ ɡʲ
Affricate voiceless tʃʷ
voiced dʒʷ
Fricative f s ʃ x
Nasal m n ŋ
Trill r
Lateral l
Semivowel j w


Dagur has a pronominal system that distinguishes between first person plural inclusive /bed/ and exclusive /baː/ and, even more archaic, it distinguishes between third person singular /iːn/ and plural /aːn/.[14] While the phoneme /t͡ʃ/ (< *t͡ʃʰ) has been retained, the second person singular pronoun has become /ʃiː/ nevertheless,[15] resembling a more thorough sound change in Khorchin Mongolian. The second person plural is retained as /taː/.[15] The genitive and accusative have fused in some variants, becoming –ji, and the ablative may assume the form of the instrumental case. The old comitative has been lost, while the innovated comitative is the same as in Mongolian.[16] In addition, several other cases have been innovated that are not shared by Mongolian, including a new allative, -maji.[17]

Dagur has a fairly simple tense-aspect system consisting of the nonpast markers -/bəi/ and (marginally) -/n/ and the past forms -/sən/ and (marginally) /la/ and the non-finite imperfective marker -/d͡ʒa/-. These may be inflected for person. The attributive particle forms are limited to –/ɡʷ/ (< Written Mongolian -γ-a) for imperfective aspect and future tense, -sən (< -γsan) for perfective aspect, -/ɡat͡ʃ/ (< -gči) for habituality (instead of -daγ which used to fulfil this function) and -/mar/ for potential and probable actions. It has acquired a highly complex converbal system containing several innovations. Notably, -mar which is a participle in Mongolian serves as a converb as well.[18]

Table of personal pronouns [19]Edit

Singular Plural
Case 1st Person 2nd Person 3rd Person 1st Person (exclusive) 1st Person (inclusive) 2nd Person 3rd Person
Nominative bii šii ing biede baa taa aang
Genitive minii šinii inii biednii (maanii) taanii aanii
Dative namd šamd yamd (ind) biedende maande taande aande
Accusative namii šamii yamii biednii (maanii) taanii aanii
Ablative namaase šamaase yamaas biedenaas maanaas taanaas aanaas
Instrumental namaare šamaare yamaar biedenaar maanaar taanaar aanaar
Comitative namtij šamtij yamtij biedentij maantij taantij aantij


It is estimated that out Dagur's entire language vocabulary, over half is Mongolic in origin.[20] Additionally, while Dagur has over 50% common Mongolic vocabulary, it has borrowed 5[21] to 10% of its words from Chinese, as well as 10% of its words from Manchu, and a small number vocabulary borrowed from Evenki[22] and Russian – leaving about 20% vocabulary that is specific to Dagur only.[23]

Middle Mongol wordsEdit

Dagur retains quite a few archaic Mongolic words, and although they not commonly found in the modern Mongolic languages, they do appear in Middle Mongol sources, like the Hua-Yi yiyu and the ‘Secret History’. These words include:[24]

  • tergul ~ terwul ‘road’ (in Mongol *jam)
  • najir ‘summer’ (Mongol *jun)
  • xeky ‘head’ (Mongol *tologai)
  • sorby ‘staff’ (Mongol *tayag)
  • kasoo ‘iron’
  • saur ‘spade’
  • ogw ‘brain’
  • basert ‘kidney’
  • twalcig ‘knee’
  • kataa ‘salt’
  • warkel ‘clothes’
  • el- ‘to say’ (cf. Mongol *kele-)


All basic numerals are of Mongolic origin.

English Classical Mongolian Dagur
1 One Nigen Nyk
2 Two Qoyar Xoyir
3 Three Ghurban Gwarbyn
4 Four Dorben Durbun
5 Five Tabun Taawyn
6 Six Jirghughan Jirgoo
7 Seven Dologhan Doloo
8 Eight Naiman Naimyn
9 Nine Yisun Isyn
10 Ten Arban Harbin


  1. ^ Dagur at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Dagur". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ Janhunen, Juha A. (2012). Mongolian. John Benjamins Publishing. ISBN 978-90-272-3820-7.
  4. ^ Tsumagari 2003: 129, Sengge 2004: 616
  5. ^ a b Janhunen, Juha (2006-01-27). The Mongolic Languages. Routledge. pp. On page 129, Janhunen writes: 'The Nonni Dagur are normally divided into speakers of the Butha (northern) and Tsitsikar (southern) dialects'. ISBN 978-1-135-79690-7.
  6. ^ Tsumagari 2003: 129
  7. ^ Engkebatu 2001
  8. ^ Chuluu 1994: 5, but for example not the Tacheng dialect, see Yu et al. 2008: 25-26
  9. ^ Sengge 2004a, Tsumagari 2003: 133
  10. ^ Namcarai and Qaserdeni 1983: 66-67, cp. Tsumagari 2003: 131
  11. ^ Tsumagari 2003: 131
  12. ^ cp. Namcarai and Qaserdeni 1983: 84
  13. ^ Tsumagari 2003: 131 basically in agreement with Sengge 2004a; in contrast, Namcarai and Qaserdeni 1983: 37 give a pretty standard Mongolian vowel harmony system with the pharyngeal vowels /ɑ/, /ɔ/, /ʊ/ contrasting with the non-pharyngeal vowels /ə/, /o/, /u/, while /i/ is neutral.
  14. ^ Namcarai and Qaserdeni 1983: 211-126, cp. Tsumagari 2003: 141
  15. ^ a b Sengge 2004c: 621
  16. ^ Namcarai and Qaserdeni 1983: 110-121, Sengge 619-620
  17. ^ Sengge 2004c: 620
  18. ^ Tsumagari 2003: 144-148 supplemented with Sengge 2004c. The exact form of the plosive in -/ɡat͡ʃ/ is unclear as these two sources and Namcarai and Qaserdeni 1983 give different phones.
  19. ^ Tsumagari 2003: 141
  20. ^ Janhunen, Juha (2006-01-27). The Mongolic Languages. Routledge. pp. Page 151, under 'Lexicon', Janhunen writes: "It has been estimated that, roughly speaking, more than half of the entire vocabulary of Dagur is Mongolic in origin, including both inherited items and reintroduced borrowings.". ISBN 978-1-135-79690-7.
  21. ^ Sengge 2004b
  22. ^ Janhunen, Juha (2006-01-27). The Mongolic Languages. Routledge. pp. Page 151, Janhunen writes: " Borrowings from Manchu amount to c.10 per cent, while borrowings from Chinese cover another 10 per cent of the lexicon. A smaller number of items has been borrowed from Ewenki. This means that a significant proportion, over 20 per cent, of all vocabulary items are specific only to Dagur". ISBN 978-1-135-79690-7.
  23. ^ Tsumagari 2003: 151-152
  24. ^ Janhunen, Juha (2006-01-27). The Mongolic Languages. Routledge. pp. In pages 151 and 152: "Due to its peripheral position, Dagur retains a considerable number of archaic Mongolic words, which are not commonly found in the modern Mongolic languages, but which are attested in Middle Mongol sources, such as the Hua-Yi yiyu and the ‘Secret History’. Such words include: tergul ~ terwul ‘road’ (Mongol *jam), najir ‘summer’ (Mo. *jun), xeky ‘head’ (Mongol *tologai), sorby ‘staff’ (Mongol *tayag). Other more or less idiosyncratic words include several basic items, such as: kasoo ‘iron’, saur‘spade’, ogw ‘brain’, basert ‘kidney’, twalcig ‘knee’, kataa ‘salt’, warkel ‘clothes’, el- ‘to say’ (cf. Mongol *kele-).". ISBN 978-1-135-79690-7.


  • Chuluu, Üjiyediin (1994), Introduction, Grammar, and Sample Sentences for Dagur (PDF), Sino-Platonic Papers, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania
  • Engkebatu (2001): Cing ulus-un üy-e-dü dagur kele-ber bicigdegsen jokiyal-ud-un sudulul. Kökeqota: Öbür monggol-un yeke surgaguli-yin keblel-ün qoriy-a.
  • Namcarai; Qaserdeni (1983), Daγur kele ba mongγul kelen-ü qaričaγulul, Öbür mongγul-un arad-un keblel-ün qoriy-a, OCLC 45024952
  • Oyunčimeg, ed. (2004), Mongγul sudulul-un nebterkei toli, Kökeqota: Öbür mongγul-un arad-un keblel-ün qoriy-a, ISBN 978-7-204-07745-8, OCLC 67279589
  • Sengge (2004): Daγur kele. In: Oyunčimeg 2004: 616-617.
  • Sengge (2004a): Daγur kelen-ü abiy-a. In: Oyunčimeg 2004: 618.
  • Sengge (2004b): Daγur kelen-ü üges. In: Oyunčimeg 2004: 619.
  • Sengge (2004c): Daγur kelen-ü kele ǰüi. In: Oyunčimeg 2004: 618-622.
  • Tsumagari, Toshiro (2003): Dagur. In: Janhunen, Juha (ed.) (2003): The Mongolic languages. London: Routledge: 129-153.
  • Yu, Wonsoo, Jae-il Kwon, Moon-Jeong Choi, Yong-kwon Shin, Borjigin Bayarmend, Luvsandorj[in] Bold (2008): A study of the Tacheng dialect of the Dagur language. Seoul: Seoul National University Press.

External linksEdit