İlya Gruntov (Russian Academy of Sciences) “Mongolian Euphemisms and Taboo”


Linguistic taboo in Khalkha Mongolian euphemisms and taboo are very frequent phenomena cross-linguistically. Tradition often prohibits calling special objects or actions by their real name in order to avoid bad consequences for speakers. Such prohibited words or expressions typically refer to the semantic fields of death, birth, pregnancy, sex, defecation and urination, hunting, illness, religion, special taboo for married women. During our study of euphemisms in Khalkha Mongolian, we came across a large stratum of such expressions. Apart from the semantic groups indicated above, it is worth mentioning special linguistic taboos concerning names of people and natural objects: One cannot call a child by name outside the house after sunset, one cannot call one’s namesake by name, it’s not recommended to name mountains and rivers you’re passing by because it can provoke their spirits (lus-savdag) to commit unfriendly actions. There are also specific names for uncommon meat (“meat of the high” for camel meat or “meat of the wild ass” for horse meat), special names for the bones and parts of an animal if one eats them in the open steppe. Lots of taboos are connected with children.