Buryat language

Buryat language
буряад хэлэн buryaad khelen
Spoken in Russia (Buryat Republic, Ust-Orda Buryatia, Aga Buryatia), northern Mongolia, China (Hulunbuir)
Ethnicity Buryats, Barga Mongols
Native speakers 500,000  (1982–2002)
Language family
  • Central Mongolic
    • Buryat
Language codes
ISO 639-2 bua
ISO 639-3 bua – Macrolanguage
individual codes:
bxu – China Buriat
bxm – Mongolia Buriat
bxr – Russia Buriat
Linguasphere part of 44-BAA-b

Buryat (or Buriat; Buryat Cyrillic: буряад хэлэн buryaad khelen) is a Mongolic variety spoken by the Buryats that is either classified as a language or as a major dialect group of Mongolian. The majority of Buryat speakers live in Russia along the northern border of Mongolia where it is an official language in the Buryat Republic, Ust-Orda Buryatia and Aga Buryatia.[1] In the Russian census of 2002, 353,113 people out of an ethnic population of 445,175 could speak Buryat (72.3%). Some other 15,694 can also speak Buryat, mostly ethnic Russians.[2] There are at least 100,000 ethnic Buryats in Mongolia and the People's Republic of China as well.[3] Only Buriats of Russia have their own literary language, written in a Cyrillic alphabet.[4]



The delimitation of Buryat mostly concerns its relationship to its immediate neighbors, Mongolian proper and Khamnigan. While Khamnigan is sometimes regarded as a dialect of Buryat, this is not supported by isoglosses. The same holds for Tsongol and Sartul dialects, which rather group with Khalkha Mongolian to which they historically belong. Buryat dialects are:

  • Khori group east of Lake Baikal comprising Khori, Aga, Tugnui, and North Selenga dialects. Khori is also spoken by most Buryats in Mongolia and a few speakers in Hulunbuir.
  • Lower Uda (Nizhneudinsk) dialect, the dialect situated furthest to the west and which shows the strongest influence by Turkic
  • Alar–Tunka group comprising Alar, Tunka–Oka, Zakamna, and Unga in the southwest of Lake Baikal in the case of Tunka also in Mongolia.
  • Ekhirit–Bulagat group in the Ust’-Orda National District comprising Ekhirit–Bulagat, Bokhan, Ol’khon, Barguzin, and Baikal–Kudara
  • Bargut group in Hulunbuir (which is historically known as Barga), comprising Old Bargut and New Bargut[5]

Based on loan vocabulary, a division might be drawn between Russia Buriat, Mongolia Buriat and China Buriat.[6] However, as the influence of Russian is much stronger in the dialects traditionally spoken west of Lake Baikal, a division might rather be drawn between the Khori and Burgut group on the one hand and the other three groups on the other hand.[7]


Buryat has the vowel phonemes /i, ə, e, a, u, ʊ, o, ɔ/ (plus a few diphthongs),[8] short /e/ being realized as [ɯ], and the consonant phonemes /b, g, d, th, m, n, x, l, r/ (each with a corresponding palatalized phoneme) and /s, ʃ, h, j/.[9] These vowels are restricted in their occurrence according to vowel harmony.[10] The basic syllable structure is (C)V(C) in careful articulation, but word-final CC clusters may occur in more rapid speech if short vowels of non-initial syllables get lost.[11]


Buryat is an SOV language, and makes extensive use of vowel harmony. Instead of using prepositions, Buryat uses postpositions. Buryat is equipped with eight grammatical cases: nominative, accusative, genitive, instrumental, ablative, indefinite, comitative and the dative-locative.[12]


Lexical stress (word accent) falls on the last heavy nonfinal syllable when one exists. Otherwise, it falls on the word-final heavy syllable when one exists. If there are no heavy syllables, then the initial syllable is stressed. Heavy syllables without primary stress receive secondary stress:[13]

ˌHˈHL [ˌøːɡˈʃøːxe] "to act encouragingly"
LˌHˈHL [naˌmaːˈtuːlxa] "to cause to be covered with leaves"
ˌHLˌHˈHL [ˌbuːzaˌnuːˈdiːje] "steamed dumplings (accusative)"
ˌHˈHLLL [ˌtaːˈruːlaɡdaxa] "to be adapted to"
ˈHˌH [ˈboːˌsoː] "bet"
HˌH [daˈlaiˌɡaːr] "by sea"
HLˌH [xuˈdaːlinɡˌdaː] "to the husband's parents"
LˌHˈHˌH [daˌlaiˈɡaːˌraː] "by one's own sea"
ˌHLˈHˌH [ˌxyːxenˈɡeːˌreː] "by one's own girl"
LˈH [xaˈdaːr] "through the mountain"
ˈLL [ˈxada] "mountain"[14]

Secondary stress may also occur on word-initial light syllables without primary stress, but further research is required. The stress pattern is the same as in Khalkha Mongolian.[15]


English Classical Mongolian Buryat
1 One Nigen Negen
2 Two Qoyar Khoyor
3 Three Ghurban Gurban
4 Four Dorben Dyrben
5 Five Tabun Taban
6 Six Jirghughan Zurgaan
7 Seven Dologhan Doloon
8 Eight Naiman Nayman
9 Nine Yisun Yuhen
10 Ten Arban Arban


  1. ^ Skribnik 2003: 102, 105
  2. ^ Russian Census (2002)
  3. ^ Skribnik 2003: 102
  4. ^ Skribnik 2003: 105
  5. ^ Skribnik 2003: 104
  6. ^ Gordon (ed.) 2005
  7. ^ Skribnik 2003: 102, 104
  8. ^ Poppe 1960: 8
  9. ^ Svantesson et al. 2005ː 146; the status of [ŋ] is problematic, see Skribnik 2003: 107. In Poppe 1960's description, places of vowel articulation are somewhat more fronted.
  10. ^ Skribnik 2003: 107
  11. ^ Poppe 1960: 13-14
  12. ^ "Overview of the Buriat Language". Learn the Buriat Language & Culture. Transparent Language. http://www.transparent.com/learn-buriat/overview.html. Retrieved 4 Nov 2011. 
  13. ^ Walker 1997
  14. ^ Walker 1997: 27-28
  15. ^ Walker 1997


  • Gordon, Raymond G. Jr. (ed.) (2005): Ethnologue: Languages of the World. 15th edition. Dallas: Summer Institute of Linguistics.
  • Poppe, Nicholas (1960): Buriat grammar. Uralic and Altaic series (No. 2). Bloomington: Indiana University.
  • Skribnik, Elena (2003): Buryat. In: Juha Janhunen (ed.): The Mongolic languages. London: Routledge: 102-128.
  • Svantesson, Jan-Olof, Anna Tsendina, Anastasia Karlsson, Vivan Franzén (2005): The Phonology of Mongolian. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Walker, Rachel (1997): Mongolian stress, licensing, and factorial typology. (Online on the Rutgers Optimality Archive website: roa.rutgers.edu/view.php3?id=184.)

Further readings

External links

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