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Switch-Reference in Mongolian: A Preliminary Outline

26 August 2019 (last update 23 Feb 2021)

'Switch-Reference' is a misleading name for a very interesting phenomenon. It is not in the least bit mysterious but it is different from what speakers of major world languages are used to. To find out more, read on.

This post has three objectives:

1) To put Mongolian squarely on the map as a language featuring ‘Switch-Reference’ (tentatively "оногдохууны солилт" onogdokhuuny solilt 'referent changing').

ᠣᠨᠣᠭᠳᠠᠬᠤᠨ ᠦ

2) To provide an outline of Switch-Reference as found in Mongolian.

3) To briefly consider the significance of Mongolian for Switch-Reference.

For practical reasons I will deal with standard Khalkh Mongolian. A broader view would need to take in a greater range of varieties and dialects.

Note: This is a blog post. It is lengthy. It uses colour, gives local scripts, and presents too many examples. It is an attempt to 'join up the dots' and give an overview of Switch-Reference in Mongolian from existing sources, but it does not purport to present a unified theoretical approach. A majority of examples are drawn from textbooks and grammars (especially Bayarmaa 2017 and Tserenpil, D., Kullmannn, R. 2005), supplemented by material from books, movies, and the Internet.

Red background indicates 'subject of main clause', red border (sometimes solid red, depending on your system) represents 'marker of same subject between clauses', blue background indicates 'different subject in subordinate clause', blue border (sometimes solid blue, depending on the system) means 'marker of different subject between clauses'. Cyrillic and Traditional Mongolian script renderings can be accessed by hovering over or clicking on upward pointing arrows after sentence examples. Green lettering also provides access to Cyrillic and Traditional Mongolian script renderings.

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