In Genghis Khan’s time it was gerlekü.
Hey, it’s October now, and that means it’s to get married! Fall, especially October, is peak season for weddings in Mongolia. In honor of that, this week’s (year’s?) word is the word for “marry.”
Before talking about the word of the week itself, I’d like to introduce you to a neat little suffix, -ла/-лэ/-ло/-лө (depending on vowel harmony), which is Mongolian’s all-purpose verb-forming suffix. This highly versatile and productive morpheme turns nouns or adjectives into verbs. You’ve already encountered this, actually, in the words баярлалаа and овоолох. In many cases the meaning is fairly obvious from the root.
ажил, “job” à ажиллах, “to work”
найз, “friend” à найзлах, “to make friends”
хайр, “love” à хайрлах, “to love”
цэвэр, “clean, pure” à цэвэрлэх, “to clean”
In some cases, it’s less obvious. For example,
баяр, “joy, party, holiday” à баярлалаа, “to rejoice” à баярлалаа, “thank you”
Literally, баярлалаа means “I have just rejoiced,” with the suffix -лаа indicating the immediate past - but most of the time it’s just a polite phrase. Another example is the verb for marrying.
гэр, “home” à гэрлэх, “to get married”
This is not strange if you know Spanish. In Spanish casarse “to marry” is clearly related to casa “house.” But for the English speakers, it may not be obvious. In Khashaat, couples generally got their own ger or house when they got married, and had the wedding in the house. So “home” and “marry” are very closely linked.
Another term for marriage is гэр бүл болох (ger bül boloh), literally “become a family.” You all should already know гэр “ger,” which refers to a yurt, and more generally, any “home.” Бүл (bül) means a “relative” or “family member.” However, I don’t hear бүл by itself much. Usually I only see it as part of гэр бүл, which means “family.” In fact, this expression matches the American idea of a nuclear family very well: a husband and wife and their children, who all live together in one home.
Another expression I hear a lot is хүнтэй суух (hüntei suuh). Хүн is “person,” and -тэй is the comitative case suffix, meaning “with.” Суух is “sit,” but in a more general sense “settle” or “be established.” Literally the sentence is “to sit with a person,” and figuratively it means “marry somebody.”
There are also gender-specific expressions. For a man, you can ask, Эхнэртэй болсон уу, “Have you become with a wife?” or Эхнэр авсан уу, “Have you gotten / taken a wife?” For a woman, you can ask, Нөхөртэй болсон уу, “Have you become with a husband?”
Let’s look at some sentences.
Remember the comitative case? In Mongolia, you get married “with” somebody, not “to” somebody. This works for the other expressions for marrying, so you could say...
More marriage words:
нөхөр (nöhör) - husband
эхнэр (ehner) - wife
хурим (hurim) - wedding