Mongolian Pronouns: How Are They Different?
Unless you have been living under a rock for most of your childhood and never got a public education, you have probably heard of pronouns. Pronouns of course are very important in a language as they allow us to identify who we are speaking to or about. However, in Mongolian, it is a little different from what you would be familiar with in English. If you want to know more about how Mongolian pronouns work, keep reading!
So to clarify, pronouns grammatically can take the place or function as a noun phrase that refers to those in a conversation like he/she/they and him and her. Now in English, you have the difference between Masculine and Femmine pronouns that show what gender is being discussed. Like I said though, in Mongolian it is different so let’s have a closer look.
Mongolian Pronouns – No Gender?
This really surprised me when I first started learning Mongolian. But in fact, Mongolian doesn’t have pronouns for gender rather they are neutral. You don’t have a difference between male and female, which is more surprising when you think that Mongolian has masculine and feminine words in general, yet English doesn’t. It might seem a little confusing and you may wonder, how do you know if you are talking about someone male or female? Mongolian pronouns are interchangeable but depending on the context of the conversation you should be able to figure out the gender being spoken of.
Let’s see what the pronouns actually are. Mongolian is an Altaic language which means it follows similar rules as others in the same language group including having no definite article as well as a limited plural system. One important thing to note about pronouns though, while they are genderless, they are used differently when speaking to older or younger individuals.
‘Та’ is used when you are speaking to one person, but only a person who is older than you, not younger. It would be considered rude to not use it if you are speaking to someone older than you, especially an elder, or the oldest person in a family. If you were wanting to say ‘your’ ‘Та’ would turn into ‘таны’ (Tani).
‘Чи’ (Chi) you may have guessed is used for those that are the same age as you or younger than yourself, like children or teenagers. However, you can use it with friends even if they are older than you because you know them better. Of course, you shouldn’t use it with those who are older than you and who are not your friends and even if you are good friends with an elder you should still use ‘Та’. Again if you want to say ‘your’ ‘Чи’ would turn into ‘чиний’ (chinii).
‘тэр’ (ter) is used to refer to objects and people and would be the equivalent of saying ‘that’. Since it’s for objects and people there is no difference between older or younger here like you saw above. Use ‘тэр’ especially if you are referring to one person or another living or non-living object. For example:
‘Тэр цүнх байна’ (That’s a bag).
‘Тэд’ (ted) is used to refer to those who are in a group so it should only be used when you are talking about multiple people or something belonging to others of a group. When talking about a group, again you don’t need to worry about whether it is older or younger as you will be talking about a mix of people that could be of all ages, even an entire family. Think of it as using ‘their’ or ‘they’. Have a listen to the pronunciation below.
‘Би’ (bi) is the last one I will mention here, which is the one you will use most and it means ‘I’ which explains its usage as it is a first-person singular pronoun. You of course will use this when referring to anything about yourself.
And that’s it for a quick rundown of pronouns in Mongolian, and just a few of them and how they are used. If you want to know more about how to use them or other pronouns, why not try out our beginner Mongolian course where you can learn a lot more about Mongolian pronouns and even question pronouns? What have you got to lose?