The Oirat language of Mongolia

Oirat is a Mongolic language spoken in the Russian federation. It is not yet totally clear whether Oirat is an independent language on its own or its a Mongolian dialect. Speakers of the language can also be found in China, Germany, Mongolia, Taiwan and Kyrgyzstan. Unfortunately, due to government actions and negative socio-economic pressure, the Oirat language has been on the decline to the extent that it is now considered to be an endangered language. Only a few children are learning the language, so there may not be many speakers left when the older speakers die. 91% of Oriat speakers use it as a first language. Various factors contributed to the language’s decline. In Russia, a large number of the Kalmyk population were killed in 1943 as a result of the Kalmyk deportations. Russian was imposed as the official language for the Kalmyks who were left alive. The elimination of Oriat as a language that can be used in schools and subsequent imposition of Southern Mongolian as the national language led to the suppression of Oriat in China.

There are about 360,500 Oirats in the whole world. Out of these, there are 80,500 Oirats in Russia. Oirat is different from the other Oirat varieties that are spoken in China, which are sometimes called Asiatic Oriat. Most Oirat speakers also use Russian and Tibetan is used as their religious language. Alternate names for the Oirat language include Volga Oirat, European Oirat, Kalmuk, Kalmack, Kalmytskii Jazyk, Kalmuck, Khalli, Oirat, Western Mongolian and Qalmaq. Oirat has 7 main dialects. These are Dorbet, Uriankhai, Zakhchin, Khoton, Torgut and Bayat. Out of all these dialects, the Torgut dialect is the most widespread in all the countries where Oirat is spoken.

Oirat is written using Cyrillic script, which is mainly used in China and Mongolia. This script was adopted in 1924. China uses the Mongolian script, which is in Todo style. This was based on the Latin script that was used before the 1920s in the Todo Bichig writing system. There are still evidences of this writing system in Elista, which is the Kalmyk capital. The literary language is based on the Torgut dialect even though there are some influences from the Dorbet dialect.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.