Monguor language

The Monguor language (Chinese: 土族语; pinyin: Tǔzúyǔ; also written Mongour and Mongor) is a Mongolic language of its Shirongolic branch and is part of the GansuQinghai sprachbund (also called the Amdo sprachbund). There are several dialects, mostly spoken by the Monguor people. A written script was devised for Huzhu Monguor (Mongghul) in the late 20th century but has been little used.

Dēd Mongol, Tu
Native toChina
RegionQinghai, Gansu
Native speakers
150,000 (2000 census)[1]
  • Mongghul
  • Mangghuer
Latin script
Language codes
ISO 639-3mjg

A division into two languages, namely Mongghul in Huzhu Tu Autonomous County and Mangghuer in Minhe Hui and Tu Autonomous County, is considered necessary by some linguists. While Mongghul was under strong influence from Amdo Tibetan, the same holds for Mangghuer and Sinitic languages, and local varieties of Chinese such as the Gangou language were in turn influenced by Monguor.



Front Central Back
Close i u
Mid e o
Open a
  • Vowel sounds may also be nasalized when preceding a nasal consonant, in different environments.
  • Vowels /i, e, u/ may also undergo a devoicing process in certain phonetic environments.
Phoneme/Sound Allophones Notes
/i/ [i] [ɪ] in stressed syllables
[ɨ] when following alveolar sibilants or affricates
[ɨ˞] when following a retroflex consonant
/e/ [e] [ə] in stressed syllables without onset clusters or coda consonants
[ɛ] in a syllable with a palatal onset or palatal coda
[ə̝] in a syllable with a nasal coda consonant
/a/ [ä] [ɑ] in a syllable closed by a velar nasal coda /ŋ/
[ɐ] before a syllable-final /j/
[æ] when a syllable is closed by an alveolar nasal /n/
[ɛ] when following a palatal onset consonant, and preceding an alveolar nasal /n/
/o/ [o] [ɵ] may be closer in different environments
/u/ [u] [ʊ] when in unstressed syllables
[ʉ] when following palatal consonants


Labial Alveolar Alveolo-
Retroflex Palatal Velar Uvular
Stop voiceless p t k q
Affricate voiceless t͡s t͡ɕ t͡ʂ
aspirated t͡sʰ t͡ɕʰ t͡ʂʰ
Fricative f s ɕ ʂ χ
Nasal m n ŋ
Approximant liquid l ɻ
central j w
  • /χ/ can also be heard as allophones [h] or [x], occurring in free variation.
  • /ɻ/ can be heard as a voiced fricative [ʐ] within the onset of a stressed syllable, or of a word-initial syllable. It can also be heard as a flap sound [ɾ] intervocalically in the onset of an unstressed syllable. In a syllable-coda position, it is heard as a rhotic [ə˞] vowel sound.
  • /j/ can have a spirantized allophone of [ʝ] strongly in stressed syllables.[3]


Mongolian numerals such as the following[4] are only in use in the Mongghul dialect, while Mangghuer speakers have switched to counting in Chinese.[4] Note that while the Mongolian script has only arban for 'ten', Middle Mongolian *harpa/n including *h can be reconstructed from the scripts.[5]

Numeral Classical Mongolian Monguor
1 nigen nige
2 qoyar ghoori
3 ghurban ghuran
4 dörben deeran
5 tabun tawun
6 jirghughan jirighun
7 dologhan duluun
8 naiman niiman
9 yisün shdzin
10 arban haran


  1. ^ Monguor at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
  2. ^ Glottopedia article on Monguor language.
  3. ^ Slater, Keith W. (2003). A Grammar of Mangghuer: A Mongolic Language of China's Qinghai-Gansu Sprachbund. Routledge.
  4. ^ a b Dpal-ldan-bkra-shis, Slater et al. 1996: 4
  5. ^ Svantesson et al. 2005: 130


  • Dpal-ldan-bkra-shis, Keith Slater, et al. (1996): Language Materials of China’s Monguor Minority: Huzhu Mongghul and Minhe Mangghuer. Sino-Platonic papers no. 69.
  • Georg, Stefan (2003): Mongghul. In: Janhunen, Juha (ed.) (2003): The Mongolic languages. London: Routledge: 286-306.
  • Slater, Keith W. (2003): A grammar of Mangghuer: A Mongolic language of China's Qinghai-Gansu sprachbund. London/New York: RoutledgeCurzon.
  • Svantesson, Jan-Olof, Anna Tsendina, Anastasia Karlsson, Vivan Franzén (2005): The Phonology of Mongolian. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Zhàonàsītú 照那斯图 (1981): Tǔzúyǔ jiǎnzhì 土族语简志 (Introduction to the Tu language). Běijīng 北京: Mínzú chūbǎnshè 民族出版社.
  • Mostaert, A.; de Shmedt, A. (1930). "Le Dialecte Monguor parlé par les Mongols du Kansu Occidental. Iére Partie: Phonétique. (Suite)". Anthropos. 25 (3/4): 657–669. JSTOR 40445863.
  • Mostaert, A.; de Smedt, A. (1929). "Le Dialecte Monguor parlé par les Mongols du Kansu Occidental. Iére Partie: Phonétique. (Suite)". Anthropos. 24 (5/6): 801–815. JSTOR 40445976.
  • Gaspardone, Emile (1933). "A. Mostaert et A. de Smedt : Le dialecte monguor parlé par les Mongols du Kansu occidental, 1ère à 3ème parties". Bulletin de l'École française d'Extrême-Orient. 33 (1): 1014.

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