Native toPeople's Republic of China, Mongolia, Russia
RegionXinjiang, Khovd, eastern Kalmykia
Native speakers
(270,000, incl. all Kalmyk in Russia, cited 1987–2002)[1]
  • Central Mongolic
Language codes
ISO 639-3
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Torgut, also spelled Torghud, is a dialect of the Oirat language spoken in Xinjiang, in western Mongolia and in eastern Kalmykia (where it was the basis for Kalmyk, the literary standard language of that region[2]). Thus, it has more speakers than any other variety of Oirat.[3] It is better researched than any other Oirat variety spoken in China.[4]


The Torgut dialect is spoken in Russia in Eastern Kalmykia,[5] in Bulgan sum in Khovd Province in Mongolia[6] and in the Chinese autonomous region of Xinjiang, mainly in three separate areas in its north-western part.[7] Sečenbaγatur et al. give an exhaustive list of the areas of Xinjiang where Oirat (in many cases Torgut) is spoken that also includes some places in north-eastern Xinjiang: the autonomous prefectures of Bayangol and Bortala, the counties Hoboksar and Dörbiljin and the city of Wusu in Tacheng Prefecture, the counties Küriye, Tekes and Nilka in the Ili Prefecture, the prefectures Altay, Hamil and Changji and Xinjiang's capital city, Ürümqi.[8] To some degree, this distribution can be associated with the history of the Torgut tribe, one of the four crucial members of the clan federation "Dörben Oirat".[9]



Torgut has the vowel phonemes /a, o, u/ and /e, i, ɵ, y, æ/[10] that may be short or long.[11] When appearing in the first syllable of a word, these vowels determine the vowel harmony class, e.g. Written Mongolian talbiγun, Khalkha-Mongolian ⟨talbiun⟩, but Torgut [tælb] 'broad'. However, /i/, /iː/, and /æː/ in a non-initial syllable are neutral vowels. /oː/, /ɵː/ and /eː/ never appear in any but the first syllable of a word.[12] The consonant system consists of the phonemes /m, n, nʲ, ŋ, b, t, d, k g ts, tʃ, dʒ, s, z, ʃ, x, l, lʲ, r, j/.[13]

Nominal system

Most of the plural forms of Torgut are common Mongolian, -mu:d is normal Oirat,[14] but -sud[15] seems to be somewhat peculiar. The case system is standard Oirat which differs from Mongolian in lacking an allative and retaining the old comitative case, that is, it is rather conservative. In contrast to Middle Mongolian and Southern Mongolian and in agreement with Khalkha, the accusative case always has -g, not -i.[16] The reflexive-possessive retains -n, thus -aan.[17]

The pronominal forms are not substantially different from Khalkha. The first person singular pronoun stem is nam- ~ nan-, next to the standard Mongolian first person plural there is also a variant in ma-, namely madan, madnu:s (both nominative), and the third person singular accusative is peculiar in that it is based on the regular stem yy/n- (proximal, distal is tyy/n-), thus inflecting as yyg compared to Written Mongolian ⟨egün-i⟩, Standard Khalkha ⟨üünijg⟩.[18]

Verbal system

The old voluntative -su: ~ -s is retained in Oirat, while the new voluntative -ja (at least in Xinjiang Torgut) rather tends to indicate a plural subject.[19] Like in all Oirat varieties, the converb -xla:[20] is quite common. As is common to all Oirat dialects except for Alasha, participles and finite verbal suffixes can inflect for first and second person and for number; in case it is present, these inflections follow a modal particle.[21] Else, the formal inventory is what would be expected from a Mongolian variety, though it is not clear to what degree the functions are the same.


  1. ^ Oirat at Ethnologue (16th ed., 2009)
  2. ^ Bläsing 2003: 229
  3. ^ Sečenbaγatur et al. 2005: 398
  4. ^ Bulaγ-a 2005: 11ff.
  5. ^ Svantesson et al. 2005: 148
  6. ^ Coloo 1988: 3
  7. ^ Svantesson et al. 2005: 141
  8. ^ Sečenbaγatur et al. 2005: 397. Sečenbaγatur et al. talk about the distribution of Oirat in China in general, but following Svantesson et al. 2005: 148, it is presumed here that Xinjiang Oirat is Torgut. Sečenbaγatur et al. 2005: 187-188 also point to the fact that the Oirat spoken in Xinjiang is separate in that it is less influenced by Mongolian proper than other dialects of Oirat spoken in China. In the above article, it was assumed that "Qaranusu" which is either a county or a city (Mongolian "siyen qota") is the original Mongolian name of "Wusu".
  9. ^ Bläsing 2003: 229, Birtalan 2003: 210
  10. ^ Sečenbaγatur et al. 2005: 399, but we write /o/ and /u/ instead of /ɔ/ and /ʊ/ in accordance with an observation by Bulaγ-a 2005: 27 who nevertheless keeps on writing /ɔ/ and /ʊ/. The notation /o/ and /u/ is more in line with Svantesson et al. 2005: 149, 179
  11. ^ This analysis follows Sečenbaγatur et al. 2005. Svantesson et al. 2005 would instead claim that there are phonemic and non-phonemic vowels in non-initial syllables.
  12. ^ Sečenbaγatur et al. 2005: 405-408
  13. ^ Sečenbaγatur et al. 2005: 408. Bulaγ-a 2005: 48-51 also gives /p/ and /ɢ/, but she doesn't present any evidence for /p/ and evidence from Coloo 1988: 71, 373 suggests that ɢ is phonemic in Dörbet and some other varieties, but not in Torgut (as spoken in Mongolia). Furthermore, it is not clear whether there is indeed a distinction of voicing or, as Svantesson et al. 2005: 149 speculate, rather of aspiration.
  14. ^ cp. Coloo 1965: 74, Birtalan 2003: 216
  15. ^ Sečenbaγatur et al. 2005: 412-413. As a convention, only one form of a suffix is given, as it is understood that almost all suffixes are subject to vowel harmony.
  16. ^ Birtalan 2003: 217, Sečenbaγatur et al. 2005: 413
  17. ^ Birtalan 2003: 217, Sečenbaγatur et al. 2005: 414
  18. ^ Bulaγ-a 2005: 70-72
  19. ^ Bulaγ-a 2005: 75
  20. ^ Sečenbaγatur et al. 2005: 422
  21. ^ Sečenbaγatur et al. 2005: 423-424