Mongolian script use

From: Tiro Typeworks (
Date: Sun Nov 28 1999 - 18:14:22 EST

Chris Pratley asked me to report back on Mongolian script use after my
dinner with our Mongolian visitors. One of our visitors works for the
Mongolian Foreign Affairs ministry, and the other is a researcher at the
international relations institute in Ulaanbaatar.

In 1990, following democratic reforms, the Mongolian government announced
that the traditional Mongolian script would be revived and would replace
Cyrillic as the official script over five years. By 1995, the country
would switch completely to the traditional script. When that year arrived,
however, it was clear that the majority of Mongolians were unready for the
change. The biggest problem is that most educated adults cannot read
the traditional script at all, and even have difficulty spelling out
words doe to the combined difficulty of the morphographic script and
Mongolian vowel harmonisation. In 1995 the government announced that
official changeover to the traditional script would be indefinitely
postponed, and that the Cyrillic script would continue to be used. The
traditional script is taught to all school children between the ages of 10
and 17, and the government still hopes to make the script official when a
greater number of adults can read and write it with ease.

The traditional Mongolian script is officially recognised for writing the
official language of Mongolian in Inner Mongolia (China), and is also
championed by Mongolians living outside Asia, many of whom come from the
Chinese province.

Meanwhile, Mongolian computer users universally use a Latin
transliteration of the Cyrillic orthography for e-mail purposes, and at
least some see this a possible route for Mongolian orthographic reform.

John Hudson

Tiro Typeworks
Vancouver, BC

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