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Family of about eight Altaic languages spoken by five to seven million people in central Eurasia. All Mongolian languages are relatively closely related; those languages whose speakers left the core area in Mongolia the earliest tend to be the most divergent. The most remote language is Mogholi (Moghul, Mongol), now spoken by fewer than 200 people in western Afghanistan. Less divergent are the languages of several ethnic groups in northwestern China, eastern Qinghai, and adjacent parts of Gansu and Inner Mongolia, altogether spoken by fewer than 500,000 people. The core languages are Mongolian proper, the dominant dialect in the Republic of Mongolia and the basis of Modern Standard Mongolian, and a group of peripheral dialects. The core group of Mongolian speakers traditionally have used Classical Mongolian as their literary language; it is written in a vertical alphabetic script borrowed from the Uighurs (seeTurkic languages). Modern Mongolian was written in this script until 1946, when the People's Republic of Mongolia introduced a script using a modified Cyrillic alphabet. With political democratization in the 1990s, the old script has been revived. In Inner Mongolia it has been in continuous use.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Mongolian languages, visit Britannica.com.
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