Mongolian writing systems

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Many Mongolian writing systems have been devised over the centuries. The number of scripts dedicated to the Mongolian language is matched by few other tongues.

The oldest has also been the predominant one during most of Mongolian history, and is still in active use today in the Inner Mongolia region of China. Others have been developed either as attempts to fix its perceived shortcomings, or to allow the notation of other languages as well, most often Sanskrit and Tibetan. In the 20th century, Mongolia chose first a Latin script, which was almost immediately replaced by a Cyrillic script to be more compatible with the Soviet Union, its political ally of the time. Mongolians in Inner Mongolia, on the other hand, still use the traditional Mongolian script.

Contents

Precursors

The Khitan spoke a proto mongolic language called Khitan language and had developed two scripts for writing their language: a logographic script derived from Chinese characters, and another derived from Uighur.

Classic Mongolian script

At the very beginning of the Mongol Empire around 1204, Genghis Khan defeated the Naimans and captured an Uyghur scribe called Tatar-Tonga, who then adapted the Uyghur alphabet — a descendant of the Syriac alphabet, via Sogdian — to write Mongol. With only minor modifications, it is used in Inner Mongolia to this day. Its most salient feature is its vertical direction; it is the only vertical script that is written from left to right. (All other vertical writing systems are written right to left.) This is because the Uyghurs rotated their script 90 degrees counterclockwise to emulate the Chinese writing system.

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