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3. Possessive Forms in Mongolian; their role in Switch Reference

3.1. Possessive Forms in Mongolian

In order to understand the role of the reflexive suffix and possessive particles in SR, it is first necessary to understand the Mongolian system of possessive forms. Mongolian possessive forms include:

  • Possessive pronouns (similar to English 'This book is mine')
  • Possessive determiners (similar to English 'my book')
  • Possessive particles (which might, at a considerable stretch, be compared to English 'book of mine')
  • A reflexive suffix (roughly renderable as 'one's own book').
  • The relationship among the last three — particularly possessive particles and the reflexive — is important for SR in Mongolian. The table below, for standardised Khalkha Mongolian, is adapted from Guntsetseg (2016) (section 3.2.2).

    PersonNumberPossessive DeterminersPossessive ParticlesReflexive Suffixes
    1. SG  
    minij ('my')
     
    min' ('of mine')-aa4 ('one's own').
    PL 
    bidnij ('our')
     
    manaj ('our')
     
    maan' ('of ours')
    2.SG 
    činij ('your (fam.)')
     
    tany ('your')
     
    čin' ('of yours (fam.)')
     
    tan' ('of yours').
    PL 
    tanaj ('your')
     
    ta naryn ('your')
     
    3. SG 
    tüünij ('his, hers, its')
     
    n' ('of his, hers, its, theirs').
    PL 
    tednij ('their')
     
    The similarity is in coming after the noun. Connotations and usage are different.
    ᠮᠢᠨᠤ

    миний
    ᠮᠢᠨᠢ

    минь
    ᠴᠢᠨᠢ

    чинь
    ᠨᠢ

    нь
    ᠪᠢᠳᠡᠨ ᠦ

    бидний
    ᠮᠠᠨᠠᠢ

    манай
    ᠮᠠᠨᠢ

    маань
    ᠴᠢᠨᠦ

    чиний
    ᠲᠠᠨᠢ

    тань
    ᠲᠠᠨ ᠦ

    тань
    ᠲᠠᠨᠠᠢ

    танай
    ᠲᠠ ᠨᠠᠷ ᠦᠨ

    та нарын
    ᠲᠡᠭᠦᠨ ᠦ

    түүний
    ᠲᠡᠳᠡᠨ ᠦ

    тэдний
    ᠪᠠᠨ᠂ ᠵᠢᠠᠨ

    -аа, -ээ, -оо, -өө

    1. Possessive determiners are the Genitive forms of the personal pronouns. They occur in prenominal position (that is, before the noun), e.g., minij nom 'my book'.

    2. Possessive particles are reduced forms of the possessive determiners and occur in postnominal position (that is, after the noun). They attach after the case ending or, if the case ending is zero, the noun stem. For example, nom min' 'my book'. They are very similar in meaning to possessive determiners but tend to be used for closer or more intimate relationships (including kinship and inalienable possession). In their possessive sense, possessive determiners and possessive particles are not used together on the same noun. Therefore, *minij nom min' 'My book of mine' is not allowed in Mongolian.

    The possessive particles, particularly čin' and n', have other uses apart from their original use as possessives. They can be used for discourse functions like topicalisation (indicating the topic of a sentence) and emphasis (emphasising one part of a sentence). Since these uses have not yet been fully described, I will refrain from further explanation here. However, these wider functions are often related to SR in Mongolian and will be noted where relevant.

    3. The reflexive suffix (or reflexive-possessive suffix) is a bound form that typically attaches to case endings other than the Nominative. For the Accusative case, the case ending is regularly dropped (except under certain conditions) and the reflexive thus attaches directly to the noun stem. (Note)

    The reflexive suffix can also attach to a wide range of adverbial forms (e.g. jöröösöö 'originally', gurvuulaa 'as a group of three people', tijšee 'this way') but these are largely lexicalised and belong in the dictionary as semi-frozen forms. They are not relevant to SR.

    Since the reflexive suffix and possessive particles are crucial to SR in Mongolian, they warrant closer scrutiny.

    The reflexive suffix takes the form -aa, -ee, -oo, or -öö (-аа, -ээ, -оо, -өө), depending on vowel harmony. In the traditional script it is rendered as a separate orthographical form, ᠪᠠᠨ (after vowels) or ᠵᠢᠠᠨ (after consonants). The following table shows the reflexive with the noun eež 'mother'.

    CaseForm General meaningNotes
    Accusative eež-ee,
    eež-ijg-ee
    one's own mother as obj.Accusative suffix appears if noun is animate and under conditions of definiteness.
    Genitive eež-ijn-xeeone's own mother’s Genitive requires inserted /x/.
    Dative-locative eež-d-eeto one's own mother
    Ablative eež-ees-ee from one's own mother
    Instrumental eež-eer-ee through one's own mother Common in causative constructions.
    Comitative eež-tei-gee with one's own mother Inserted /g/ after vowel.
    Directive eež rüü-gee towards one's own mother A non-traditional case. Inserted /g/ after vowel.

    ᠡᠵᠢ

    ээж

    ᠡᠵᠢ ᠶᠢᠨ ᠬᠢ ᠪᠡᠨ

    ээжийнхээ

    ᠡᠵᠢ ᠳᠦ ᠪᠡᠨ

    ээждээ

    ᠡᠵᠢ ᠪᠡᠨ᠂
    ᠡᠵᠢ ᠵᠢ ᠪᠡᠨ

    ээжээ,
    ээжийгээ

    ᠡᠵᠢ ᠡᠴᠡ ᠪᠡᠨ

    ээжээсээ

    ᠡᠵᠢ ᠪᠡᠷ ᠪᠡᠨ

    ээжээрээ

    ᠡᠵᠢ ᠲᠠᠢ ᠪᠡᠨ

    ээжтэйгээ

    ᠡᠵᠢ ᠤᠷᠤᠭᠤ ᠪᠡᠨ

    ээж рүүгээ

    ᠡᠵᠢ ᠳᠦ ᠮᠢᠨᠢ

    ээжид минь

    The reflexive suffix indicates that the noun to which it is attached is related to the subject of the sentence or clause. It is not differentiated for person; instead, it takes its person from the subject of the clause. Therefore, if the subject of the sentence or clause is first person ('I'), the reflexive will be interpreted as 'my (own)'. If the subject is second person ('you'), it will be interpreted as 'your (own)'. And so forth.

    The use of the reflexive is grammatically obligatory when it is applicable. For instance, in a sentence meaning 'I gave it to my mother', 'my' must be expressed using the reflexive eež-d-ee ('to one's own mother'), not eež-id min' ('to my mother'). The latter form can only be used if someone else gave something to one's mother.

    By contrast, possessive particles can attach to any case, including the Nominative. They may refer to entities within the sentence or in the larger discourse context, including those not explicitly mentioned. However, as noted, they cannot be used on nouns related to the subject of the sentence or clause.

    As a result, the reflexive suffix and possessive particles are mutually exclusive and stand in a complementary relationship. The reflexive takes precedence and is used when a noun is related to the subject of the sentence or clause. The possessive particles are used for first, second, or third person when these do not relate to the subject of the sentence or clause.

    In framing sentences in Mongolian, awareness of how elements are related to the subject of the sentence is as important as keeping in mind the sex of a person ('he' or 'she') or the grammatical subject for verb agreement ('I go', 'you go', 'he/she goes') in English. The relationship referred to by the reflexive is not necessarily one of ownership or possession. There are cases where it indicates other kinds of relationship.

    The extended set of examples below demonstrates the interaction between reflexive suffixes and possessive particles.

    (Examples for different cases follow)

    Nominative — possessive particles only:

    (3)
    eež min' / chin' / n' zaxia bič-sen.
    mother 1sg.POSS / 2sg.POSS / 3.POSS letter write.PST

    My / your / his.her mother wrote a letter.

    ᠡᠵᠢ ᠮᠢᠨᠢ / ᠴᠢᠨᠢ / ᠨᠢ
    ᠵᠠᠬᠢᠶ᠎ᠠ ᠪᠢᠴᠢᠭᠰᠡᠨ᠃

    Ээж минь / чинь / нь захиа бичсэн.

    Accusative

    The following sentence has a first-person subject with a reflexive on the object of the verb. The reflexive is used because the lesson is related to the first person subject bi 'I'. (Note: the Accusative suffix -ijg is omitted from the inanimate noun xičeel 'lesson' but is understood.)

    (4)
    bi xičeel-ee xij-sen.
    1sg lesson[.ACC].REFL do.PST

    I did my lesson.

    ᠪᠢ

    би

    ᠬᠢᠴᠢᠶᠡᠯ

    хичээл

     ᠢ

    -ийг

    ᠪᠢ ᠬᠢᠴᠢᠶᠡᠯ ᠪᠡᠨ
    ᠬᠢᠭᠰᠡᠨ᠃


    Би хичээлээ хийсэн.

    In the following, the lesson is related to the second person subject či 'you'.

    (5)
    či xičeel-ee xij-sen.
    2sg lesson[.ACC].REFL do.PST

    You did your lesson.

    ᠴᠢ ᠬᠢᠴᠢᠶᠡᠯ ᠪᠡᠨ
    ᠬᠢᠭᠰᠡᠨ᠃

    Чи хичээлээ хийсэн.

    The following sentence has a first-person subject with possessive particles. The possessive particles indicate that the lesson is not related to the subject of the clause. Only second and third-person possessive particles are possible here; the first-person possessive particle (min') is ruled out because it could refer only to the subject of the clause, which would require the reflexive.

    (6)
    bi xičeel-ijg čin' / n' xij-sen.
    1sg lesson.ACC .2sg.POSS / .3.POSS do.PST

    I did your / his.her lesson.

    ᠪᠢ ᠬᠢᠴᠢᠶᠡᠯ ᠢ ᠴᠢᠨᠢ / ᠨᠢ
    ᠬᠢᠭᠰᠡᠨ᠃

    Би хичээлийг чинь / нь хийсэн.

    The following sentence has a third-person subject with possessive particles, indicating that the lesson is not related to the subject of the sentence. Possessive particles of all three persons are possible, but third person is permitted only if it does not refer to the subject; that is, it must refer to lessons belonging to a person other than the subject. (Different persons are indicated with the subscripts 'i' and 'j'.)

    (7)
    ter xičeel-ijg min' / čin' / n' xij-sen..
    3SG lesson.ACC .1sg.POSS / .2sg.POSS / .3.POSS do.PST

    Hei.shei did my / your / hisj.herj lesson.

    ᠲᠡᠷᠡ ᠬᠢᠴᠢᠶᠡᠯ ᠢ ᠮᠢᠨᠢ /
    ᠴᠢᠨᠢ / ᠨᠢ ᠬᠢᠭᠰᠡᠨ᠃


    Tэр хичээлийг минь / чинь / нь хийсэн.


    Show - Hide: Further examples of Reflexive / Possessive Particles


    Genitive

    The following has a third-person subject with reflexive. The reflexive is used because the noun marked with the Genitive (eež 'mother') is related to the subject of the sentence.

    (8)
    ter eež-ijn-xee zaxia-g unš-san.
    3SG mother.GEN.REFL letter.ACC read.PST

    Hei.shei read hisi.heri mother’s letter.

    ᠲᠡᠷᠡ ᠡᠵᠢ ᠵᠢᠨ ᠬᠢ ᠪᠡᠨ
    ᠵᠠᠬᠢᠶ᠎ᠠ ᠵᠢ ᠤᠩᠰᠢᠭᠰᠡᠨ᠃


    Tэр ээжийнхээ захиаг уншсан.

    The following has a third-person subject with possessive particles. These indicate that the mother in question is the mother of someone other than the subject of the sentence.

    (9)
    ter eež-ijn min' / čin' / n' zaxia-g unš-san.
    3SG mother.GEN.1sg.POSS / 2sg.POSS / 3.POSS letter.ACC read.PST

    Hei.shei read my / your / hisj.herj mother’s letter.

    ᠲᠡᠷᠡ ᠡᠵᠢ ᠵᠢᠨ ᠬᠢ ᠪᠡᠨ
    ᠵᠠᠬᠢᠶ᠎ᠠ ᠵᠢ ᠤᠩᠰᠢᠭᠰᠡᠨ᠃

    Tэр ээжийнхээ захиаг уншсан.

    Dative-locative

    First-person subject with reflexive: The reflexive is understood as first person, referring to the subject of the sentence.

    (10)
    bi eež-d-ee zaxia bič-sen.
    1sg mother.DAT.REFL letter write.PST

    I wrote a letter to my mother

    ᠪᠢ ᠡᠵᠢ ᠳᠦ ᠪᠡᠨ
    ᠵᠠᠬᠢᠶ᠎ᠠ ᠪᠢᠴᠢᠭᠰᠡᠨ᠃


    Би ээждээ захиа бичсэн.

    First person subject with possessive particles: First person possession referring to the subject must use the reflexive.

    (11)
    bi eež-id čin' / n' zaxia bič-sen.
    1sg mother.DAT 2sg.POSS / 3.POSS letter write.PST

    I wrote a letter to your / his.her mother

    ᠪᠢ ᠡᠵᠢ ᠳᠦ ᠴᠢᠨᠢ / ᠨᠢ
    ᠵᠠᠬᠢᠶ᠎ᠠ ᠪᠢᠴᠢᠭᠰᠡᠨ᠃


    Би ээжид чинь / нь захиа бичсэн.

    Ablative

    The Ablative is mandated by verbs like asuux ‘to ask’.

    Third-person subject with reflexive: The reflexive indicates that the children asked their own father.

    (12)
    (TsK)
    xüüxd-üüd aav-aas-aa zöndöö yum asuu-san.
    Child.PL father.ABL.REFL many thing ask.PST

    The childreni asked theiri father many things.

    ᠪᠢ ᠡᠵᠢ ᠳᠦ ᠴᠢᠨᠢ / ᠨᠢ
    ᠵᠠᠬᠢᠶ᠎ᠠ ᠪᠢᠴᠢᠭᠰᠡᠨ᠃


    Хүүхдүүд ааваас зөндөө юм асуусан.

    Third-person subject with possessive particles: The referent must be someone else's father.

    (13)
    xüüxd-üüd aav-aas min' / čin' / n' zöndöö yum asuu-san.
    Child.PL father.ABL 1sg.POSS / 2sg.POSS / 3.POSS many thing ask.PST

    The childreni asked my / your / hisj.herj.theirj father many things.

    ᠪᠢ ᠡᠵᠢ ᠳᠦ ᠴᠢᠨᠢ / ᠨᠢ
    ᠵᠠᠬᠢᠶ᠎ᠠ ᠪᠢᠴᠢᠭᠰᠡᠨ᠃


    Хүүхдүүд ааваас минь/ чинь зөндөө юм асуусан.

    Instrumental

    These are mostly mandated in voice constructions, such as the causative.

    First-person subject with reflexive: The reflexive indicates that we asked our own teacher:

    (14)
    (TsK)
    bid bagš-aar-aa üün-ijg zaa-lag-san.
    1pl teacher.INSTR.REFL this.ACC teach.CAUS.PST

    We had our teacher teach us this.

    ᠪᠢᠳᠡ ᠪᠠᠭᠰᠢ ᠪᠠᠷ ᠵᠢᠠᠨ
    ᠡᠭᠦᠨ ᠢ ᠵᠢᠭᠠᠯᠭᠠᠭᠰᠠᠨ᠃


    Бид багшаараа үүнийг заалгасан.

    First-person subject with possessive particles: The referent must be someone else's teacher.

    (15)
    bid bagš-aar čin' / n' üün-ijg zaa-lag-san.
    1pl teacher.INSTR. 2sg 3SG this.ACC teach.CAUS.PST

    We had your / his.her.their teacher teach us this.

    ᠪᠢᠳᠡ ᠪᠠᠭᠰᠢ ᠪᠠᠷ ᠴᠢᠨᠢ / ᠨᠢ
    ᠡᠭᠦᠨ ᠢ ᠵᠢᠭᠠᠯᠭᠠᠭᠰᠠᠨ᠃


    Бид багшаар чинь / нь үүнийг заалгасан.


    3.2 Role of Possessive Forms in SR

    In addition to nouns, the reflexive suffix is able to attach to subordinate clauses, a feature that is central to SR in Mongolian.

    When added to a subordinate clause, the reflexive suffix serves to indicate that the subject of the subordinate clause is the same as the subject of the main clause ('same subject'). The subject is not repeated in the subordinate clause.

    On the other hand, if a subordinate clause is bare (not followed by a reflexive suffix) or is followed by a possessive particle, the subject of the subordinate clause will be different from that of the main clause ('different subject'). In this case, the subject of the subordinate clause may be retained or deleted. If it is retained, it may have differential subject marking (that is, case marking other than Nominative).

    Several different types of subordinate clause can be marked with the reflexive suffix:

    1. Subordinate clauses ending in verb forms that can directly take case endings ☟. The case ending indicates the syntactic role of the subordinate clause in the sentence, whether as a daughter or ad-subordinate clause.
    2. Clauses ending in certain predicative forms ☟ (such as xeregtei 'having necessity', yostoi 'having obligation', the negative form -güj, and at times adjectives), which can be followed by cases.
    3. The verb form gedeg ☟, which acts as a complementiser and can be followed by case endings;
    4. Subordinate clauses ending in a postposition ☟. Genitive or Ablative-inflected verb forms preceding postpositions can carry the reflexive suffix. In other cases the postposition itself takes the reflexive suffix. These are very common and include words equivalent to English 'before', 'after', 'about', 'for the sake of', etc.
    5. Subordinating converbs ☟ (nonfinite verb forms whose main function is to mark adverbial subordination). These converbs include some forms that can be followed by reflexives and some that can not.

    On the other hand, there are some forms (other than a few members of the subordinating converbs) that do not take the reflexive suffix.

    1. The quotative gež ☟ is a coordinating converb and does not take the reflexive. The only SR marking is thus differential subject marking.
    2. A few verbs of 'desiring' ☟do not allow the reflexive suffix on a subordinate clause.

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