The Mongolian script

Mongolian is an Altaic language spoken by approximately 5 million people in Mongolia, China, Afghanistan and Russia. There are a number of closely related varieties of Mongolian: Khalkha or Halha, the national language of Mongolia, and Oirat, Chahar and Ordos, which are spoken mainly in the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region of China.

Other languages considered part of the Mongolian language family, but separate from Mongolian, include Buryat and Kalmyk, spoken in Russia and Moghul or Mogul, spoken in Afghanistan.

In 1208 Chinggis Khan defeated the Naiman, and captured their Uyghur scribe Tatar-Tonga, who apparently adapted the Old Uyghur alphabet to write Mongolian. The alphabet created by Tatar-Tonga is now known as the Uyghur/Hudam Script, the Classical Mongol Script, the Old Script, or Mongol Bichig in Mongolian.

As a result of pressure from the Soviet Union, Mongolia adopted the Latin alphabet in 1931 and the Cyrillic alphabet in 1937. In 1941 the Mongolian government passed a law to abolish the Classical Mongol script, but since 1994 they have been trying to bring it back. It is now taught to some extent in schools, though is mainly used for decorative purposes by artists, designers, calligraphers and poets. The average person in Mongolia knows little or nothing about the Classical Mongol script, though there is high literacy in Cyrillic. In Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region of China the Classical Mongol script is still used.

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