Cyrillic orthography notes

Updated 25 May, 2023

This page brings together basic information about the Cyrillic script and its use for the Mongolian language. It aims to provide a brief, descriptive summary of the modern, printed orthography and typographic features, and to advise how to write Mongolian using Unicode.


Select part of this sample text to show a list of characters, with links to more details. Source
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Хүн бүр төрж мэндлэхэд эрх чөлөөтэй, адилхан нэр төртэй, ижил эрхтэй байдаг. Оюун ухаан, нандин чанар заяасан хүн гэгч өөр хоорондоо ахан дүүгийн үзэл санаагаар харьцах учиртай.

Хүн бүр энэ Тунхаглалд заасан бүхий л эрх, эрх чөлөөг ямар ч ялгаваргүйгээр, яс үндэс, арьс өнгө, хүйс, хэл, шашин шүтлэг, улс төрийн болон бусад үзэл бодол, үндэсний буюу нийгмийн гарал, эд хөрөнгийн байдал, язгуур угсаа, бусад ялгааг эс харгалзан адилхан эдлэх ёстой. Мөн түүнчлэн тухайн хүний харъяалдаг улс орон буюу нутаг дэвсгэрийн улс төр, эрх зүйн буюу олон улсын статус ямар ч байлаа гэсэн, тэрхүү нутаг дэвсгэр нь тусгаар тогтносон, бусдын асрамжид байгаа, өөртөө захиргаагүй буюу бүрэн эрхт байдал нь өөр ямар ч байдлаар хязгаарлагдмал байсан, хүнийг ялгаварлаж үл болно.

Usage & history

The Mongolian Cyrillic alphabet is used for the standard dialect of the Mongolian language in the modern state of Mongolia. Ethnologue lists 2,640,000 native speakers of Halh Mongolian, but Wikipedia list 5.2 million speakers across all dialects, including the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China. Cyrillic has not been adopted as the writing system in the Inner Mongolia region of China, which continues to use the traditional Mongolian script. In Mongolia, the Halh (or Khalkha) dialect is predominant.

Монгол Кирилл үсэг mongol kirill üseg Mongolian cyrillic alphabet Кирилл цагаан толгой kirill tsagaan tolgoi Mongolian cyrillic alphabet

In the Mongolian People's Republic (Outer Mongolia), the traditional script was replaced by a Cyrillic orthography since the early 1940s, as a result of the spreading of Russian influence following the expansion of Russian Empire and the subsequent Soviet Union. Its introduction is credited with an increase in the literacy rate from 17.3% to 73.5% between 1941 and 1950.wm

Source: Wikipedia.

Basic features

Cyrillic is an alphabet. Letters typically represent a consonant or vowel sound. See the table to the right for a brief overview of features for the Mongolian language.

Cyrillic Mongolian text runs left-to-right in horizontal lines.

Words are separated by spaces.

The script is bicameral. The shapes of the upper and lowercase forms are typically the same. There can be a significant difference, however, between regular and cursive/italic shapes for the same character. ❯ fontstyle

Normal text contains no combining marks (and decomposed text contains only 2).

Mongolian has 21 consonant letters, including 3 for writing sounds from foreign loan words, and one of which is not used in uppercase. The letter inventory also includes a hard sign and a soft sign. ❯ consonants

The orthography is an alphabet that writes vowels using 16 vowel letters (30 in total, because 2 are only used in lowercase), including 4 ioticised vowels which may also indicate palatalisation of the previous consonant. Long vowels are indicated by doubling the vowel letters. A number of diphthongs are written using the semi-vowel letter й [U+0439 CYRILLIC SMALL LETTER SHORT I]. ❯ vowels

Vowel reduction is a significant feature of Mongolian. Non-initial short vowels are reduced to vestiges or to zero, and non-initial long vowels in the orthography are reduced to short vowel length. ❯ reduction

Vowel harmony is another key feature, grouping vowels in a way that indicates a front or back position for the tongue root (ATR). ❯ harmony

Text is generally wrapped at word boundaries, and justification predominantly stretches the spaces between words.

Numbers use ASCII digits.

The visual forms of letters don't usually interact.

Character index



Basic consonants






Combining marks










To be investigated

Items to show in lists


These are the sounds of Halh (or Khalkha) Mongolian.

Click on the sounds to reveal locations in this document where they are mentioned.

Phones in a lighter colour are non-native or allophones. Source Wikipedia.

Vowel sounds

Plain vowels

i u ʊ ʊː e ɵ ɵ ɔ ɔː a


ui ʊi ɔi ai

A significant feature of Mongolian phonology is that vowel sounds are divided into front (+ATR), back (-ATR), and neutral groups (see harmony). The front and back distinction has to do with the position of the tongue root (ATR means Advanced Tongue Root). The phonology is more complicated, and sounds are somewhat more fluid than described here. See the sources for more detailed information.

Consonant sounds

labial dental alveolar post-
palatal velar uvular glottal
stop p b d t       k ɡ ɢ  
affricate   t͡s d͡z   t͡ʃ d͡ʒ        
fricative f   s
ʃ   x    
nasal m   n     ŋ  
approximant w       j    
trill/flap     r    

Some phonological transcriptions use t and where others use d and t for the same sounds, respectively. Similar contrasts are applied to the bilabial and affricate pairs in the repertoire (but not to the k/g pairing). Here we use the latter, partly because it is probably better indicative to the non-expert of the approximate sounds involved, and also because that corresponds with the Cyrillic letters used.

Other sources also indicate palatised versions of most consonants (eg. and ) in a table such as this, but they are not shown here. Palatalisation appears to be restricted to words containing -ATR (back) vowelswm,#Consonants.


Mongolian is not a tonal language.


The basic unit of text is a word, however words can contain prefixes and suffixes.

Syllables tend to follow the pattern:


Long vowels only occur in initial syllables. Mongolian has a strong tendency to reduce non-initial short vowels, either to epenthetic remnants or to zero. Non-initial vowels written as long are pronounced with normal length. See reduction.


Basic vowels

Halh Mongolian uses twelve plain vowel and one semi-vowel letters.

И␣ ␣ ␣Й␣У␣Ү␣Э␣Ө␣О␣А

й [U+0439 CYRILLIC SMALL LETTER SHORT I] is used for diphthongs. 

A number of additional letters represent vowel sounds that begin with a y-glide:


When these letters are used after a consonant, they indicate that the consonant is palatalised. When they occur as standalone vowels (at the beginning of a word or after another vowel), they are usually transcribed phonetically as j…. Note that ю [U+044E CYRILLIC SMALL LETTER YU] can represent either a +ATR or a -ATR vowel.

Reduction plays an important part in the realisation of these vowel sounds. See reduction.

Long vowels

Length is phonemically distinctive. Long vowels are most commonly indicated by a doubling of the vowel letter, eg. compare цас цаас

These are the long plain vowels. Note the slight difference for .


When the long vowel begins with a glide, a combination of letters is used to lengthen the sound.


Diphthongs / digraphs


Note that the final digraph is pronounced ɛː, rather than as a diphthong.

Vowel harmony

Vowel harmony is an important aspect of the Mongolian language. Vowels are classed under one of the following 3 types:

  • +ATR (also called +front, or feminine)
  • -ATR (also called back, or masculine)
  • neutral

ATR stands for Advanced Tongue Root.

A native word that begins with a -ATR vowel continues with only -ATR and/or neutral vowels. A word beginning with +ATR vowels continues with only +ATR and/or neutral vowels. Foreign loan words don't follow this pattern, and compound words (especially place names) may be made up of two words of different type, eg. Cүхбаатар

The +ATR vowel letters are:

э␣ө␣ү␣ ␣е␣ю

The -ATR vowel letters are:

а␣о␣у␣ ␣я␣ы␣ю

The following vowel letter is neutral, and can appear in words with either +ATR or -ATR vowels.


Grammatical suffixes usually also have +ATR and -ATR versions.

Vowel stress & reduction

For non-stressed, non-initial syllables, some sources group consonants into those which need to be preceded or followed by a vowel:


And those which don't:


However, Mongolian pronunciation can still appear to be very different from the written text because unstressed vowels are typically reduced or omitted when a word is pronounced, eg.


Word stress always falls on the first syllable of a Mongolian word, unless there are long vowels or diphthongs later in the word, in which case those take the stress.

The first vowel in a word is never reduced, even if unstressed, eg.



If there is more than one long vowel, the first long vowel is long, and the second is short, but not otherwise reduced, eg.


Different rules apply to foreign loan words, eg.



Observation: Sometimes vowels appear to move to places they are not in the orthography, eg. ойлгосон

Observation: Also, ioticised vowels may lose the second part of their sound, resulting in a remnant that sounds like j, eg. баярлалаа баяртай

Standalone vowels


Vowel length



Nasalisation is not marked.


Mongolian is not a tonal language.

Vowel sounds to characters

This section maps Halh Mongolian vowel sounds to common graphemes in the Cyrillic orthography. Click on a grapheme to find other mentions on this page (links appear at the bottom of the page). Click on the character name to see examples and for detailed descriptions of the character(s) shown.

Plain vowels

Ioticised vowels



Mongolian consonants

The Mongolian language has a basic set of 20 consonants.



г [U+0433 CYRILLIC SMALL LETTER GHE] represents either ɡ or ɢ. In words with +ATR (front/feminine) vowels (үэө) it is always ɡ. In words with −ATR (-ATR/masculine) vowels (уоа) it is ɢ unless it occurs in syllable-final position, when it normally reverts to ɡ (but see syllable_final).wc

Foreign sounds


п [U+043F CYRILLIC SMALL LETTER PE], ф [U+0444 CYRILLIC SMALL LETTER EF] and к [U+043A CYRILLIC SMALL LETTER KA] are usually only used for foreign loan words, and the latter two may be pronounced and x, respectively.wc

щ [U+0449 CYRILLIC SMALL LETTER SHCHA] is only used for Russian words.wc



Typically, Cyrillic Mongolian text will use no combining marks at all. However, when the text is decomposed, the letters й [U+0439 CYRILLIC SMALL LETTER SHORT I] and ё [U+0451 CYRILLIC SMALL LETTER IO] become й [U+0438 CYRILLIC SMALL LETTER I + U+0306 COMBINING BREVE] and ё [U+0435 CYRILLIC SMALL LETTER IE + U+0308 COMBINING DIAERESIS].

Hard & soft signs


ь [U+044C CYRILLIC SMALL LETTER SOFT SIGN] does one of two things:ng

  • separates е [U+0435 CYRILLIC SMALL LETTER IE] from a +ATR verb stem ending with a consonant, eg. хэлье өгье
  • softens hard consonants, eg. морь хууль хорь

This may result in a short ĭ sound, eg. арьс амьтан

ъ [U+044A CYRILLIC SMALL LETTER HARD SIGN] is only used to separate я [U+044F CYRILLIC SMALL LETTER YA] and ё [U+0451 CYRILLIC SMALL LETTER IO] from a -ATR verb stem ending with a consonant,ng eg. явъя уулзъя бодъё

Vowel absence


Onset consonants


Final consonants


A number of consonants change their sound in final position. These include:

г [U+0433 CYRILLIC SMALL LETTER GHE] (in female words)ɢ ɡ~k өндөг
д [U+0434 CYRILLIC SMALL LETTER DE]  d t гадаад
в [U+0432 CYRILLIC SMALL LETTER VE]  v w арав

In a number of words, the syllable-final sound change is prevented by following the consonant with a mute, syllable-final vowel letterwc, eg. халбага энэ

Consonant clusters & gemination

Because the script is alphabetic, there are no special mechanisms for representing clusters of consonants without intervening vowels, or doubled consonants.

Consonant length


Consonant sounds to characters

This section maps Halh Mongolian consonant sounds to common graphemes in the Cyrillic orthography. Click on a grapheme to find other mentions on this page (links appear at the bottom of the page). Click on the character name to see examples and for detailed descriptions of the character(s) shown.

Sounds listed as 'infrequent' are allophones, or sounds used for foreign words, etc.


ɡ ɡʲ

г [U+0433 CYRILLIC SMALL LETTER GHE] in words with -ATR (back/masculine) vowels,


г [U+0433 CYRILLIC SMALL LETTER GHE] in words with +ATR (front/feminine) vowels,





w̜ w̜ʲ

в [U+0432 CYRILLIC SMALL LETTER VE], esp. word final.


The Cyrillic orthography of Mongolian uses ASCII digits.


The Mongolian unit of currency is the tugrik, formerly subdivided into 100 möngö. The standard abbreviation is MNT, and the currency symbol is [U+20AE TUGRIK SIGN].

Text direction

Mongolian in Cyrillic is written in horizontal lines with text running from left to right.

Show default bidi_class properties for characters in the Mongolian orthography described here.

Glyph shaping & positioning

This section brings together information about the following topics: writing styles; cursive text; context-based shaping; context-based positioning; baselines, line height, etc.; font styles; case & other character transforms.

You can experiment with examples using the All Cyrillic character app and the Russian character app.

The Cyrillic script is not cursive, and involves no significant context-based shaping or positioning. Nor are there significant issues around baselines or inline alignment.

Font styling & weight

Cyrillic doesn't normally have any of the changeability of complex scripts. Characters are typically separate and self-contained. However, there can be a significant difference in shape between regular and italic/cursive font shapes for the same character.



Conservative transformations between regular and italic.



More radical transformations between regular and italic.

Note in particular the italic form of т in the figure just above, which looks similar to the italic form of м shown in the previous figure.

The shapes of the italic forms can also vary by language.w

The shape of the breve sign in Cyrillic is different from that used for Latin text.s A font such as Brill can detect the appropriate shape from the adjacent characters.

й ̆ й i ̆ i

̆ [U+0306 COMBINING BREVE] between cyrillic and latin characters changes shape in the Brill font.

Case & other character transforms

Cyrillic is bicameral, and applications may need to enable transforms to allow the user to switch between cases.


Cyrillic Mongolian graphemes are straightforward, and can be mapped to Unicode grapheme clusters.

Grapheme clusters

Base (Combining_mark)*

The 2 combining marks that occur in Cyrillic Mongolian appear only on the rare occasions when the text is decomposed, and only one combining mark at a time appears after any base. All such decompositions conform to Unicode grapheme clusters.

Click on the text version of this word to see more detail about the composition.


Punctuation & inline features

Word boundaries

Words are separated by spaces.

Phrase & section boundaries


The cyrillic orthography uses ASCII punctuation.


, [U+002C COMMA]


: [U+003A COLON]


. [U+002E FULL STOP]



Bracketed text


Mongolian commonly uses ASCII parentheses to insert parenthetical information into text.

  start end



Quotations & citations


The standard approach is to use angle brackets by default, and the quotation marks for nested quotes. An alternative is to use the quotation marks at the top level.wq

  start end






Үндсэн хүн амын нэрээс улсын оноосон нэрийг «Монгол» хэмээжээ.
Mongolian quotation marks.

For dialogue, the quotation dash is commonly used to introduce the spoken text, but also to terminate it before identifying the speaker. [U+2014 EM DASH] could be used for this, with spaces around it.wq



Abbreviation, ellipsis & repetition

Inline notes & annotations


Other punctuation


Other inline text decoration


Line & paragraph layout

Line breaking & hyphenation

Spaces between words provide the primary line break opportunities.u

Line-edge rules

As in almost all writing systems, certain punctuation characters should not appear at the end or the start of a line. The Unicode line-break properties help applications decide whether a character should appear at the start or end of a line.

Show (default) line-breaking properties for characters in the Mongolian orthography.

The following list gives examples of typical behaviours for some of the characters used in Mongolian. Context may affect the behaviour of some of these and other characters.

Click/tap on the characters to show what they are.

  • « „ (   should not be the last character on a line.
  • » “ ) . , ; ! ? %   should not begin a new line.
  •   should be kept with any number, even if separated by a space or parenthesis.

Text alignment & justification

Justification is done, principally, by adjusting the space between words.

Text spacing


This section looks at ways in which spacing is applied between characters over and above that which is introduced during justification.

Baselines, line height, etc.

Cyrillic uses the so-called 'alphabetic' baseline, which is the same as for Latin and many other scripts.

Cyrillic has little in the way of ascenders and descenders, and mostly the font metrics are the same as for ASCII text. One difference is the use of a couple of diacritics, which rise above the ASCII ascender height in capital letters..

To give an approximate idea, fig_baselines compares Latin and Cyrillic glyphs from Noto fonts.

HhqxюбдфйЮБДФЙ HhqxюбдфйЮБДФЙ
Font metrics for Latin text compared with Cyrillic glyphs in the Noto Serif (top) and Noto Sans (bottom) fonts.

fig_baselines_other shows similar comparisons for the Doulos SIL and Helvetica fonts.

HhqxюбдфйЮБДФЙ HhqxюбдфйЮБДФЙ
Latin font metrics compared with Cyrillic glyphs in the Doulos SIL (top) and Helvetica (bottom) fonts.

Counters, lists, etc.


Styling initials


Page & book layout

This section is for any features that are specific to Cyrillic and that relate to the following topics: general page layout & progression; grids & tables; notes, footnotes, etc; forms & user interaction; page numbering, running headers, etc.

Online resources

  1. President of Mongolia Website
  2. Wikipedia home page
  3. Wikipedia page: Монгол Улс