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Mongolian Language and Literature

chinese, manchu, native, written, century, mongols, bitkhe and literary

MONGOLIAN LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE. The Mongolian language, with Turki-Tatar and Tungus-Manchu, belongs to the Altaic family of languages. It has, roughly, three dialects : East Mongolian (Khalkha), West Mongolian (Kalmuk), and Buriatic, which differ but slightly.

The literary language is written vertically downwards, the lines following from left to right. The alphabet is very imperfect : ger (house) and ker (how), urtu (long) and ordu (palace), for instance, are written alike.

The word-order is almost the reverse of that of English. Nouns have six oblique cases: gen. -yin, -ii(n); dat.-loc. -dii(r), -e; Acc.

-(y)i; ablat.-eje; instrum. -ber, -iyer ; co-operat. So also the pronouns bi (I) , ci (thou), bide (we), to (ye), ene (this), tere (that), etc., but with certain modifications. The nominative of a noun is usually marked by inu, anu or ber, while the plural is expressed by -ner,-(ii)d, -s, etc. Adjectives are often used sub stantivally and are not declined for comparison. Verbs are con jugated for tenses and moods, but person and number are not expressed : ind. pres. and fut. etc.; past -be(i), etc.: optat. -su(gei), etc.; cond. -base, -besii. The present participles are -gei, past part. -gsen, and fut. part. or infinitive -qu, -kii. Various adjunctive forms and the gerund ending in -iii, -ged, -tele, -run, etc., are used. Negation is expressed by the adverbs 11l11, ese, ftgei and buu (imperative), and interrogation by uu. There are no prepositions, only postposi tions. The sentences are joined by certain adjunctive and parti cipial forms of the verb.

(E. D. R.) Literature.—Mongolian liter ature (including MANCHU), as an indigenous growth, is compara tively slight. A vast body of Buddhist and Confucian litera ture exists in excellent style, but most of the truly native literature is in the colloquial. Collections of native songs and folk-tales ex ist but these are not held in high esteem by the literati. The Mon golian Siddhi-kur, a collection of Buddhist tales, has been of use in restoring partly lost Indian originals. A number of Chinese novels and folk-stories have been translated in such a way as to obscure their real origin : the Mongol imagination is very vivid when dealing with fairy-tale themes. The Buddhist succession of hells gives the Mongol writers ample scope for the creation of weird and grisly characters, most convincing in their presentation. Historical works such as that of Sanang Setzen (17th century), a history of the Eastern Mongols and the Altan Tobchi stand very high in native and foreign es teem. The Uliger tin dalai (Sea of Comparisons) is the most im portant of all the religious works in Mongolian, while heroic liter ature is best represented by Gesser Khan, a legend of the hero of that name, with the poetic Jangariad as second favourite.

Most of these works exist in excellent Russian and German trans lations, though some are only partly translated.

From the early part of the 17th century official documents were written in Chinese and Manchu, these two versions often carry ing a Mongolian translation. The two words San Ho frequently found at the beginning of Chinese titles indicate that the work is trilingual, and the classics as well as popular works of fiction and poetry were early issued in this form. Before 1650 most of the existing dynastic histories of the Chinese empire had been translated into Manchu. One of the earliest independent works in Manchu was the Han I Araha Ampasai Mutzilen Pe Dara Pure Bitkhe (An address, from the Emperor to the Magistrates, on Moral Training) published in 1655. Strangely enough, very few works on the Tatars themselves were written, a noteworthy treatise being the JagOn gosai tung-tzi sutchung ga weileghe bitkhe or Essay on the origin of the 8 Banners. The Jalan Jalan i hafu puleku or Mirror of Successive Generations gives a vivid historical picture of Tatar ambitions, and in this period only one work is known to us dealing with the Mongols, the Kalkai dulimbi chugun gosa (The Banners of the Khalkha Mongols). Works appeared on the arts of war and government and detailed account of Chinese embassies to different Tatar tribes. In the early f8th century bilingual collections of metaphors, proverbs and literary allusions began to appear and in 1732 was published the Manju Nikon ghergen Kamtsiha sing li bitkhe (Natural Philosophy in Manchu and Chinese).

From 175o onwards various imperial commissions were engaged in translating commentaries on the orthodox classics and the text of heterodox philosophers. Where existing translations were deemed faulty new ones were undertaken at the charge of the Imperial Treasury and for over a century publication was con tinuous. In the last 8o years, however, little has been done to increase the bulk of literature in Manchu and Mongolian ; one Mongolian newspaper has made its appearance but publication in the classical tongue (except for a few Scripture versions and Bible histories) ceased several decades ago. Chinese is rapidly becoming the native tongue of those who do not still cling to the debased Tibetan in use among the lamas, and has been recognized for some years as the literary tongue of Manchuria and Mongolia.