If you could have sworn that you saw Mongolian people using the traditional script in a documentary that you watched, you are mistaking Inner Mongolians with Mongolians (sometimes wrongly referred to as Outer Mongolians). Inner Mongolians still use the Traditional Script for writing, but we will be focusing on the writing system within Mongolia.
There are many reasons why Mongolians no longer use the Traditional Script, but do know that Mongolians still learn how to write and read somewhat in Mongolian script during middle-school and sometimes for cultural/historical reasons, they are used in festivities and holidays. We just don’t use them for everyday life anymore, so let’s get into the reasons.
The Origins of Mongolian Traditional Script
Mongolian, being of Turkic origins, share a lot of commonality with Central Asian and Northeast Asian languages. While it’s still up for a lot of debate, historians say Mongolian is related to the Altaic language family and Uighur writing system.
For detailed info on its origins, you can read here on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mongolian_script
The Writings Systems and Alphabets Used in Mongolians
While Mongolians originally used the Traditional script, there were times when Tibetan Sanskrit and Persian forms of writing such as Phags-pa, Soyombo, and Square scripts were used more commonly starting from late 14th century up until 18th century.
After gaining independence in 1921, Mongolians for brief moment of time even used the Latin alphabet for day to day use, but due to economical and political reasons, Mongolia eventually officially stuck with Mongolian Cyrillic since 1946.
Why Is Traditional Script Not Adopted Again?
- Changing back to traditional script is a very implausible scenario for Mongolia. Not only would it require almost every building, road sign, and educational book to be replaced with enormous costs, but logically there is no benefit to changing the writing system back to the traditional script.
- There are about 10 million people who speak some version or language similar to Mongolian, and only 5 million or so Mongolians use traditional script. However, there are over 300 million people who use some form of the Cyrillic alphabet. Traditional Mongolian script also poses a lot of problems when it comes to use of computers and font support on the internet since it’s written vertically rather than horizontally. There are many filler words and in general traditional script takes up more space than Cyrillic.
- However, most importantly, the Cyrillic alphabet is a symbol of Mongolian sovereignty from Manchuria’s 300 years of rule, present day China. Reverting back to traditional script in way would signify Mongolia giving up their sovereignty and undoing the hundreds of years of independence movement efforts. Mongolia and China relationship is still a touchy subject for most modern day Mongolians.
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