Stages of language shift in twentieth-century Inner Mongolia

Sarala Puthuval


Mongolian as a minority language in China is losing speakers, although several million remain in China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. The case of 20th-century Inner Mongolia is an example of the long-term processes that may precede language endangerment. This paper takes Fishman’s (1991) notion of language shift as a decline in intergenerational mother tongue transmission and formalizes it for quantitative research, applying the methodology to a retrospective survey of intergenerational language transmission concerning over 600 Inner Mongolians born between 1922 and 2007. Results show that bilingualism with Chinese has penetrated the entire Mongolian-speaking population, but has not thus far precipitated massive language shift.


Mongolian, language contact, language maintenance and shift

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