In Johanna Nichols' book Linguistic Diversity in Space and Time, I came across the passage on page 146, where she asserts that Japanese, Mongolian, Dyirbal, and Yawelmani are all radically dependent-marking. Having studied a bit of Japanese, I can imagine what she is talking about. But I'd like to see what this looks like in Mongolian in practice. Can someone provide a simple example (sentence-length perhaps)?

For those unfamiliar with the distinction between head-marking and dependent-marking, a copy of Nichols' classic 1986 paper on the topic can be downloaded here.

1 Answer 1


Here is a very simple one from this paper:

Bold naiz   ohin-ig-oo    uns-sen.
Bold friend girl-Acc-Poss kiss-Pst.
‘Bold kissed his girlfriend.’

There are two head-dependent relations in this sentence. One is the relationship between the verb (a head), 'uns-...' and its arguments (dependents), 'Bold' and 'naiz ohin-...-oo'. The other is between a possessor noun (dependent), 'Bold' and the possessed noun (head), 'naiz ohin-...'. In both cases, the relationship is marked on the dependent; Accusative case is marked on the object noun, and possessive is marked on the possessed noun, the two of which happen to be the same thing.

  • 1
    Huh? If 'naiz ohin-...' is the head, as you write, the relationship is marked on the head, no?
    – dainichi
    May 5, 2013 at 15:41

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