Сайн байцгаана уу? Хишгээ багш байна. I am Khishge from Nomiin Ger. Today we will learn about Mongolian Cases. Another word is Noun cases. It’s one of the most important grammar aspects in Mongolian as well as one of the most challenging to grasp. I will try to make it as easy as possible. Let’s get started!
So what are ‘cases’ or ‘noun cases’ in linguistics? Unfortunately this is not so simple. If you have this in your language, you will likely understand quickly and find the equivalent. For example, Korean grammar is very similar to Mongolian. However, many languages don’t use cases as extensively.
Noun cases in Mongolian: you can think of these mainly as suffixes we add to nouns (or other words that act as nouns like pronouns, adjectives or numerals) to show their function in a sentence.
Maybe you are confused, and that is ok. Let’s look at simple examples to show this. Here are two examples in English and Mongolian.
First: ‘John gave a book to me’.
To express the idea of an ‘object’ we use the word ‘me’ in English, instead of ‘I’ , which is a subject. Note that without context ‘I’ and ‘me’, are essentially the same word. However, once you add a sentence, you add context, and grammatical function. So ‘to me’ is a case that modifies the noun ‘I’.
" You can think of cases mainly as SUFFIXES we add to nouns to show their FUNCTION in a sentence ! "
In Mongolian the basic word for ‘I’ is ‘би’. However, in our example sentence, we would not use ‘би’ when translating into Mongolian. We would instead apply a certain ‘case’ to express a certain grammar function, which is the function of ‘indirect object’ in this instance. So we would use what is called the Dative case form of ‘би’ which is надад’, as in: ‘Жонн надад ном өгсөн’. (John to me book gave). If we had used the word ‘би’ Жонн би ном өгсөн, this wouldn’t be clear who is subject and who is object in this sentence.
The next example is: Хүүхэд бөмбөгөөр тоглосон. (‘A child played with a ball’).
In this sentence, the noun: ball (бөмбөг) is modified using a different case ending: өөр. This particular case ending denotes the function of an instrument. It is called the Instrumental case and we will go over it in a different lesson. By adding өөр we show that this noun is being used as an instrument, or in English, the prepositions such as ‘with‘, ‘via‘, ‘by means of‘.
So, many of these ‘cases’ or ‘functions’ appear in English as prepositions such as ‘to/from’ or ‘of’ and are sometimes not as clear as in some other languages. For example, If you say ‘I called John’, there is no case marker or particle or preposition that alters/inflect the word ‘John’. We just know from the word order that John is the object here. However, when you use a pronoun instead of John it’s much clearer. It would become ‘I called him’ instead of ‘I called he’.