University of Helsinki
Khamnigan Mongol is a Mongolic language used as the principal community language of the Khamnigan, an ethnic group in the Amur source region, in the borderzone of China, Russia, and Mongolia. The only vigorous community of Khamnigan Mongol speakers (ca. 2,000 people) today lives in the basins of the Mergel and Imin rivers of Hulun Buir League, Inner Mongolia, China.
Khamnigan Mongol remained virtually unexplored until the 1950s, when preliminary field surveys were made of its last speakers in northeastern Mongolia and Russian Transbaikalia. The Khamnigan community in China, officially classified as a local group of the Ewenki nationality, was only identified in the 1980s. The present description is based on the variety of Khamnigan Mongol spoken by the Khamnigan in China.
As a Mongolic language, Khamnigan Mongol is characterized by exceptional conservativeness, in that it lacks most of the innovations that separate the neighbouring Mongolic languages, including Mongol proper, Buryat, and Dagur, from their Proto-Mongolic ancestor. Khamnigan Mongol is therefore of considerable importance for the diachronic study of the entire Mongolic language family. It also provides an interesting case for the study of the phenomenon of linguistic conservativeness, in general.
Another important property of Khamnigan Mongol is its close and prolonged symbiosis with the Ewenki language within the Khamnigan community. A large part of the Khamnigan in China today still speak ethnospecific forms of Ewenki as their other native language. The two languages have long interacted at the social and linguistic levels, with various kinds of interference phenomena as a result.
Due to its conservativeness, Khamnigan Mongol is structurally close to Middle Mongol, though some of its morphosyntactic features also resemble Buryat. Like Buryat and Dagur, but unlike most other Mongolic languages, Khamnigan Mongol has a fully-developed system of personal marking on the finite predicate. In the phonology, there are properties, including the vowel system, which show an areal parallelism with Ewenki.
Juha JANHUNEN is professor of East Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Helsinki, Finland.
ISBN 9783895862267. Languages of the World/Materials 173. 66pp. 2005.