IIAS Newsletter 14, Autumn 1997, Central Asia 02


Central Asia


A New Mongolian/English Dictionary


Although a number of dictionaries of modern (Khalkha-) Mongolian literary language written in the cyrillic alphabet are currently available, it is often necessary to consult several dictionaries in order to find a word or the right meaning of a term. This is because there is no work which comprizes the Mongolian vocabulary both extensively and in a satisfactory manner.

The major works on Mongolian lexicography include, among others:

  1. Mongol xelnii tovç tailbar tol' (Ulaanbaatar 1966), this Mongolian-Mongolian dictionary was compiled by Ya. Cewel and was published by the Mongolian Academy of Science. It contains around 30,000 words. Due to the fact that it is monolingual, it is not suitable for beginners or scholars from other fields.
  2. Wörterbuch Mongolisch-Deutsch by Hans-Peter Vietze with Klaus Koppe, Gabriele Nagy und Tumenbajaryn Daschzeden (Leipzig 1988). This very reliable dictionary of 50,000 'Wortstellen' - that is to say, main- and sub-entries - is one of the most excellent lexical sources of contemporary Mongolian.
  3. Mongol'sko-russkij slovar' (Moskva 1957), for a long time this was the only dictionary for modern (Khalkha-)Mongolian language. Nowadays it may be regarded as a classic. Its stock of words (around 22,000 words) served as a base for many of the lexicons that appeared later. This work edited by A. Luwsandendew is in general quite reliable.
  4. Gendai Mongorugo Jiten (Tokyo 1984), compiled by Ozawa Shigeo. This dictionary contains about 50,000 entries (25,000 main entries).
  5. A Modern Mongolian-English dictionary (Indiana University Research Institute for Inner Asian Studies 1986) by Gombojab Hangin with John R. Krueger and Paul D. Buell, William V. Rozycki, Robert G. Service. This comprehensive work with 40,000 entries altogether (25,000 key words and 15,000 examples) is at this moment the most widely-used Mongolian dictionary.

Except for some multilingual and special dictionaries, for example: A modern Mongolian-English-Japanese dictionary (Tokyo 1978), Mongolian-Russian-English Dictionary (Ulaanbaatar 1986) and Mongolian-English-Russian Dictionary of Legal Terms and Concepts (The Hague [etc.] 1983), the dictionary of Hangin, which is still in print, was until recently the only work in English.

The recently published Mongolian-English Dictionary, compiled by Charles Bawden, constitutes a new and considerable contribution to the series of Mongolian dictionaries. It 'contains about twenty-six and a half thousand main entries and numerous subsidiary entries'.

Charles Roskelly Bawden, Emeritus Professor of Mongolian in the University of London, whose name is well known because of such excellent publications as The modern history of Mongolia, The Mongol chronicle Altan Tobci etc., has collected the material for his dictionary in the course of thirty years. It is not based on the wordstock of one of the already available dictionaries. Instead, Professor Bawden has extracted all his lexical material from different contemporary sources such as newspapers, magazines etc. Consequently the dictionary gives us a really good and authentic insight into the vocabulary of the modern language. Furthermore, a lot of professional terms are included, including such areas as botany, zoology, politics etc. Moreover, some words and expressions are to be found not occuring in the other well-established dictionaries. The work of Charles Bawden is definitely an important new contribution to the description of the modern Mongolian lexicon.

For purposes of illustration, the randomly chosen sample from Bawden's dictionary is contrasted below with the data from three of the most convenient and well-known dictionaries (Vietze 1988, Hangin 1986, Luwsandendew 1957):


Leiden University,
Faculty of Art Department of Comparative Linguistics,
Altaic Studies

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