Mongolian Tradition of Using Terms of Respect

by sumpteretc

Mongolians follow strict rules of respect handed down from earlier times. Parents teach their children how to respect their elders and their friends.

A person says, “Та” or “Гуай” to respect one older than oneself. Besides this, when people talk about a person’s condition, they soften their speech. They speak softly and respectfully, saying “sightless” rather than “blind,” “hard-eared” rather than “deaf,” and “aged” rather than old.

It is taboo to say one’s parents’ name. People who have the same name as their father or mother are called “hard-named.”

Mongolians have trained their children from early childhood in the tradition of using polite forms of address. It is a simple thing for the words of respect to enter the language and speech of the children.

One follows the name of an elderly person, a senior person in the office, one older than oneself, or an unknown person with a word of respect such as “авгай,” “гуай,” or “ахай.” For example, Dorj guai, Dulmaa guai, Tsermaa guai, etc.
For the names of people one knows well or of close friends, people first say the first syllable of the name and then add -yaa or –yee or else –khai or –khee to the end. For example, Natsag becomes Naayaa, Tseren becomes Tseeyee, Dulmaa becomes Duuyaa, Gomb becomes Gombokhoi, Chuluun becomes Chuluukhai, etc.

Also elders, acquaintance, and close people may be addressed with special terms of respect instead of by their names. For example: Ambaa, Agaa, Ajaa, Jaajaa, Adzai, Ania, Nainaa.

When using a polite and respectful form of address to teachers, bosses, relatives, and close people, one says the first syllable of the person’s name then brother, sister, teacher, boss, etc. For example, Ray teacher, Da teacher, Do brother, Tsee sister. It is also in widespread use to add brother or sister after the name. Bat brother, Tsetsgee sister, Davaanyam brother, Dulamsuren sister, etc.

Also people say peoples’ names followed by their occupation. Sukh doctor, Baatar engineer, Enkhee driver, Tuya director, Bold artist, etc.