Journal of Undergraduate Research


Mongolian language, vowel harmony, palatalization, suffixes






The Mongolian language is spoken by approximately 3,000,000 people in the East Asian nation of Mongolia. The language exhibits vowel harmony, a rare phenomenon where the vowels in a single word must belong to matching categories. Mongolian grammars traditionally classify the seven vowels as either “male” or “female,” as well as rounded or unrounded. The “male” vowels are pronounced with a retracted tongue root (RTR), sounding “darker,” while “female” vowels are pronounced with an advanced tongue root (ATR), sounding “lighter.” The vowel /i/ is considered neutral, neither male nor female, but its presence tends to change the pronunciation of male vowels. This effect is known as palatalization, but palatalization in Mongolian is not consistently described or understood. The purpose of our research was to closely analyze these changes in vowel sounds, as well as to analyze the ways that these changing vowel sounds affect vowel harmony in suffixes.

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