Buryat language

Last updated
буряад хэлэн buryaad xelen
ᠪᠤᠷᠢᠠᠳ ᠮᠤᠨᠭᠭᠤᠯ ᠬᠡᠯᠡ
Native to Russia (Buryat Republic, Ust-Orda Buryatia, Aga Buryatia), northern Mongolia, China (Hulunbuir)
Ethnicity Buryats, Barga Mongols
Native speakers
(265,000 in Russia and Mongolia (2010 census); 65,000 in China cited 1982 census) [1]
  • Central Mongolic
    • Buryat
Cyrillic, Mongolian script, Vagindra script, Latin
Official status
Official language in
Flag of Russia.svg  Russia
Language codes
ISO 639-2 bua Buriat
ISO 639-3 bua – inclusive code Buriat
Individual codes:
bxu   China Buriat
bxm   Mongolia Buriat
bxr   Russia Buriat
Glottolog buri1258  Buriat [2]
Linguasphere part of 44-BAA-b
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

Buryat or Buriat [1] [2] ( /ˈbʊriæt/ ; [3] Buryat Cyrillic: буряад хэлэн, buryaad xelen) (in the USSR from 1917 to 1956 - the Buryat-Mongolian language; in China - the Bargu-Buryat dialect of the Mongolian language) [note 1] [4] is a variety of the Mongolic languages spoken by the Buryats and Bargas that is classified either as a language or major dialect group of Mongolian.


Geographic distribution

Buryat language - Geographic distribution Idioma buriato.png
Buryat language - Geographic distribution

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. [5] In the Russian census of 2002, 353,113 people out of an ethnic population of 445,175 reported speaking Buryat (72.3%). Some other 15,694 can also speak Buryat, mostly ethnic Russians. [6] There are at least 100,000 ethnic Buryats in Mongolia and the People's Republic of China as well. [7] Buryats in Russia have a separate literary standard, written in a Cyrillic alphabet. [8] It is based on the Russian alphabet with three additional letters: Ү/ү, Ө/ө and Һ/һ.


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:

Based on loan vocabulary, a division might be drawn between Russia Buriat, Mongolia Buriat and China Buriat. [10] 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 Bargut group on the one hand and the other three groups on the other hand. [11]


Buryat has the vowel phonemes /i, ɯ, e, a, u, ʊ, o, ɔ/ (plus a few diphthongs), [12] 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, z, ʒ, h, j/. [13] [14] These vowels are restricted in their occurrence according to vowel harmony. [15] 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 dropped. [16]


Front Central Back
Close iɯu
Mid e(ə)o
Open a

[ɯ] only occurs as a sound of a short e. [ə] is only an allophone of unstressed vowels.


Bilabial Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
plain pal. plain pal. plain pal.
Plosive aspirated tʲʰ
Fricative voicelesssʃxh
Nasal mn(ŋ)
Lateral l
Rhotic r
Approximant j

[ŋ] only occurs as an allophone of /n/.


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: [17]

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"
HˌH[daˈlaiˌɡaːr]"by sea"
HLˌH[xuˈdaːliŋɡˌdaː]"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" [18]

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. [17]

Writing systems

Buriaad-Mongolon unen 1925.jpeg
Buriaad-mongaliin ynen.jpg
Buriaad-Mongoliin ynen.jpg
Buriat-Mongoloi unen.jpg
Buriaad unen.jpg
The evolution of the Buryat writing on the example of the newspaper headline Buryad Ünen

From the end of the 17th century, Classical Mongolian was used in clerical and religious practice. The language of the end of the XVII — XIX centuries is conventionally referred to as the Old Buryat literary and written language.

Before the October Revolution, Western Buryats clerical work was conducted in Russian language, and not by the Buryats themselves, but originally sent by representatives of the tsarist administration, the so-called clerks, the old-Mongolian script was used only by ancestral nobility, lamas and traders Relations with Tuva, Outer and Inner Mongolia [19] .

In 1905, on the basis of the Old Mongolian letter Agvan Dorzhiev a script was created Vagindra , which until 1910 had at least a dozen books printed. However, vagindra was not widespread.

In USSR in 1926 began the organized scientific development of the Buryat romanized writing. In 1929, the draft Buryat alphabet was ready. It contained the following letters: A a, B b, C c, Ç ç, D d, E e, Ә ә, Ɔ ɔ, G g, I i, J j, K k, L l, M m, N n, O o, P p, R r, S s, Ş ş, T t, U u, Y y, Z z, Ƶ ƶ, H h, F f, V v [20] . However, this project was not approved. In February 1930, a new version of the Latinized alphabet was approved. It contained letters of the standard Latin alphabet (except for h, q, x), digraphs ch, sh, zh, and also the letter ө. But in January 1931, its modified version was officially adopted, unified with other alphabets of peoples USSR.

Buryat alphabet (Latin) 1931-1939

A aB bC cÇ çD dE eF fG g
H hI iJ jK kL lM mN nO o
Ө өP pR rS sŞ şT tU uV v
X x [21] Y yZ zƵ ƶь [21]

In 1939, the Latinized alphabet was replaced by Cyrillic with the addition of three special letters (Ү ү, Ө ө, Һ һ).

Modern Buryat alphabet (Cyrillic) since 1939

А аБ бВ вГ гД дЕ еЁ ёЖ ж
З зИ иЙ йК кЛ лМ мН нО о
Ө өП пР рС сТ тУ уҮ үФ ф
Х хҺ һЦ цЧ чШ шЩ щЪ ъЫ ы
Ь ьЭ эЮ юЯ я

Buryats changed the literary base of their written language three times in order to approach the living spoken language. Finally, in 1936, Khorinsky oriental dialect, close and accessible to most native speakers, was chosen as the basis of the literary language at the linguistic conference in Ulan-Ude.


Buryat is an SOV language that makes exclusive use of postpositions. Buryat is equipped with eight grammatical cases: nominative, accusative, genitive, instrumental, ablative, comitative, dative-locative and a particular oblique form of the stem. [22]


EnglishClassical MongolianBuryat


  1. In China, the Buryat language is classified as the Bargu-Buryat dialect of the Mongolian language.


  1. 1 2 Buriat at Ethnologue (19th ed., 2016)
    China Buriat at Ethnologue (19th ed., 2016)
    Mongolia Buriat at Ethnologue (19th ed., 2016)
    Russia Buriat at Ethnologue (19th ed., 2016)
  2. 1 2 Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Buriat". Glottolog 3.0 . Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. Laurie Bauer, 2007, The Linguistics Student’s Handbook, Edinburgh
  4. Тодаева Б. Х. Монгольские языки и диалекты Китая. Moscow, 1960.
  5. Skribnik 2003: 102, 105
  6. Russian Census (2002)
  7. Skribnik 2003: 102
  8. Skribnik 2003: 105
  9. Skribnik 2003: 104
  10. Gordon (ed.) 2005
  11. Skribnik 2003: 102, 104
  12. Poppe 1960: 8
  13. Svantesson, Tsendina and Karlsson 2008, p. 146.
  14. Svantesson et al. 2005: 146; the status of [ŋ] is problematic, see Skribnik 2003: 107. In Poppe 1960's description, places of vowel articulation are somewhat more fronted.
  15. Skribnik 2003: 107
  16. Poppe 1960: 13-14
  17. 1 2 Walker 1997
  18. Walker 1997: 27-28
  19. Окладников А. П. Очерки из истории западных бурят-монголов.
  20. Барадин Б. (1929). Вопросы повышения бурят-монгольской языковой культуры. Баку: Изд-во ЦК НТА. p. 33.
  21. 1 2 Letter established in 1937
  22. "Overview of the Buriat Language". Learn the Buriat Language & Culture. Transparent Language. Retrieved 4 Nov 2011.

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Further reading