Field Work on Oirat language in Xinjiang
province (China)
Summer, 2005
 Linguistics field work issues (20 mins)
a. Introduction to the project
b. Problems and suggestions
c. Photos and video materials
 Level of endangerment of Oirat language in Xinjiang (10 mins)
 Samples of comparative analyses of the data (20 - 25 mins)
a. /-ke/-xe/ alternation in Xinjiang Oirat
b. Erosion of vowel harmony in Xinjiang Oirat
Past tense markers: /-la/-l/, /-de/-te/, and /-va/-v/
video (if time permits)
Field Trip Grant
Foundation for Endangered Languages at School of
Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London, UK.
Title of the Project
Development of teaching materials for Kalmyk
language classes;
Comparative studies of Kalmyk and Oirat
Duration of the project: 1 year (June 2005 – June 2006)
Stage 1: Field work on Oirat language in Xinjiang province (China)
June 2005 - August 2005
Stage 2: Field work on Kalmyk dialect in Kalmyk Republic (Russia)
March 2006 – June 2006
Xoug Sr
Bain Bulg
Collected material
Audio recordings (mostly done directly in Praat )
Transcriptions in IPA
Phonology: 200 word Swadesh list (2), loan words (1), items on vowel harmony (3)
Intonation: 71 read stories (7), 2 the same read stories (6), questions (3), ceremonial texts (4)
Dangr (2), dialogues, free conversations.
Syntax: picture descriptions, questions, self-introductions
verbal forms (morphemes), relative clauses, passive voice
Photos and video recordings
Cultural exchange: songs, customs (wedding, ceremonial narratives), dances, interviews of Oirat
shepherds, teachers, Mongolian school authorities; everyday life activities
(cooking national dishes, etc.)
Before the trip
Grant application - plan in advance!
Contact the language community (if possible)
Check the weather conditions (it can snow in summer)
Check location (Oirats migrate every season)
Learn about the situation with the power supplies
Equipment and software (Olympus DS 2200, Edirol R1, Praat)
Try your recording equipment and software before the trip
(my Shoebox problem, voltage converter)
 Medication
 Budget (grant application)
Don’t forget to include all the costly items
a. Solar battery: ICP Solar 04340 PowerFlex 40 Solar Panel (around $ 550)
b. International warranty for the laptop (up to $500)
In the field
Language consultants
Dialects (distribution, geography, and population)
L1 or L2 (multi-lingualism)
Power of the written form (xar keln vs. prescriptive grammar)
language teachers vs. ranchers
Payment (no monetary rewards to elderly people)
Work place
Immersion into the language vs. independence
• Being a guest (What to bring?)
• Who sits where? (age discrimination)
• Local time (punctuality; 10pm appointments)
Be aware of the requirements for the foreigners
Avoid getting your hosts in trouble
Data analysis
Analyze data while in the field
• Learn the language (Oirat yes/no, Yrymch(d))
• Collect data for a specific reason
• Linguistic literature (digitized)
Contact your colleagues for advise (if possible)
2 -3 months might be too short for a broad documentation
Level of Endangerment of Oirat language
Ethnolinguistic situation in Xinjiang
Multilingualism among Oirats
(based on 2.5 month experience)
Recent language policy
Statistics on Mongolian schools
Perspectives for the future
Ethnolinguistic situation in Xinjiang
Great Diversity
47 ethnic groups, 13 of which have lived in Xinjiang for many generations
Surrounded by eight countries: Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kirghizstan,
Tadzhikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.
Population in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Province
Uyghur nationality - more than 6 million ( 45% of the entire population)
Han nationality (Mandarin Chinese) - 5 million
Kazax - 900,000
Hui nationality - 600,000
Mongol nationality (Oirat) - 170,000
Kirgiz nationality - 120,000
Xibe nationality - 30,000
Mandarin Chinese is used by the representatives of all the nationalities
Multilingualism among Oirats
(based on 2.5 month experience)
Chinese (L1) >> Oirat (L2)
Chinese/Oirat = Oirat/Chinese >> Uighur>>Kazax
Fully bi/multilingual
Oirat/Chinese >> Chinese/Oirat >> Uighur >> Kazax
bi/multilingual with Oirat as L1
70 +
Oirat >> Chinese >> Uighur>>Kazax
Monolingual Oirats
Let’s watch video!
Recent language policies
a. 1982 reform (Hudum Bichig)
b. Welcome to Chinese schools
c. Unemployment among Oirat teachers
a. Low level of education in Mongolian schools
(200 scores lower)
b. Advantages of fluent Chinese
Children of rancher spend only 4 months with their parents
Beginning of 1990s - 167 Mongolian schools
By 2005 out of 167 schools:
82 % have been closed (137)
10 % have been reorganized (16-17)
8% have remained (13-14)
Note: in reorganized schools the language of instruction for all subjects is Chinese;
Mongolian language is taught to Mongolian children 2-4 hours per week.
By 2002 in Xinjiang:
Total number of students in Mongolian schools is 17270 (10%), including
7-11 years old – elementary school – 10507
12-14 years old - middle school - 4897
15-18 years old - high school - 1876
Summer 2005 – only two monolingual Mongolian schools
In my estimation less than 2000 Oirat children study in monolingual Mongolian schools
Perspectives for the future
Less than 2% of the population study Oirat in monolingual
Mongolian school
Thank you for the help
Ken Rehg, Laura Robinson, Lisa Ebeling, Alexandr Vovin,
Victoria Anderson, Maria Faehndrich

Slide 1