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Modal particles: билээ / билүү

11 December 2016

This is part of a series on Modal particles based on textbooks and grammar references that I have to hand.

Билээ and билүү both indicate that the speaker is resorting to memory. The actual tone and functions are not so simple.

There is a gap between what language textbooks describe for questions in conversational Mongolian and what more traditional grammars describe, which relates to positive statements, particularly in the written language.


1. Mongolian Language for Beginners
2. Mongolian Language Handbook
3. Mongolian Grammar
4. 蒙古语语法
5. Dictionaries

1. Bayarmaa Khalzaa (Mongolian Language for Beginners) 2012

Byarmaa covers both билүү and билээ. Her explanation refers only to the most common use of these modals, that is, in direct questions in ordinary conversation.

Билээ?/билүү? (again? I forgot/I can't remember.)

The word "билээ" is used for sentences that have question pronouns. For example:

Та хаана амьдардаг билээ?
Where do you live again?
Та хэзээ хичээлтэй билээ?
When do you have a lesson, again?
Та ямар ажил хийдэг билээ?
(I forgot.) What kind of work do you do?
Тэр юу билээ? [yuvilee]
What is that, again?

The word "билүү" is used for affirmative sentences that have no question pronouns. For example:

Та хөдөө амьдардаг билүү?
(I forgot.) Do you live in the countryside?
Та маргааш хичээлтэй билүү?
(I forgot.) Do you have a lesson tomorrow?
Та багш билүү?
Again, are you a teacher?

Takeaways:

Problems:


2. T. Uranchimeg (Mongolian Language Handbook) 2007

Uranchimeg treats билээ and билүү in a similar manner.

Бил ээ

Бил ээ? is a question particle.

This is used when the person asking is trying to remember the correct answer.

Бил ээ is used when a question contains a question word.

Таны нэр хэн билээ? Би мартчихжээ.
Миний нэр Авирмэд.
What's your name again? I've forgotten.
My name is Avirmed.
Та аль улсаас ирсэн билээ?
Би Канадаас ирсэн шүү дээ.
What country did you say you come from?
I am from Canada.
Та бид хоёр урьд нь хаана уулзсан билээ?
Аа, бид Чингис зочид буудалд уулзсан шүү дээ.
Where did we meet each other last? Remind me.
We met each other at the "Chingis Khan" hotel.
Та аль дүүрэг амьдардаг билээ?
Өө би юү? Баянзүрх дүүрэгт амьдардаг.
What district do you live in? I've forgotten.
Me, I live in the Bayanzurkh district.
Бид хоёр өчигдөр хэдэн цагт эндээс явсан билээ?
Өчигдөр үү? 7.30-д явсан.
What time did we leave from here yesterday? Do you remember?
Yesterday? We left at 7:30.
Хэн өнгөрсөн долоо хоногт миний номыг авсан билээ?
Би таны номыг авсан /шүү дээ/.
Who took my book last week? (I don't remember.)
You know, I took your book.
Та ирэх жил хэдэн сард хутаг руугаа буцах билээ?
Ирэх жил би долдугаар сард нутаг руугаа буцна.
Which month next year will you return to your homeland?
I'll go back home in July next year.

Бил үү?

Бил үү? - is this statement true?

This is a question particle used when seeking confirmation of something of which the questioner is uncertain.

Бил үү is used in sentences with no question word.

Таны нэр Мөнхнасан бил үү?
Үгүй. Миний нэр Мөнхжаргал.
Your name is Munkhnasan, isn't it?
No, my name is Munkhjargal.
Аа тийм, та Дундговь аймгаас ирсэн бил үү?
Тэгсэн. Би Дундговь аймгаас ирсэн.
I see. You came from Dundgovi aimag, didn't you?
Yes, I came from Dundgovi aimag.
Таны нэг хүүхэд манай сургуульд сурдаг бил үү?
Тийм ээ, манай ууган хүү танай сургуульд сурдаг юм.
One of your children studies in our school, doesn't he?
Yes, our eldest son studies in your school.
Нээрэн, таны аав хүүхдийн эмч байсан бил үү?
Тэгэлгүй яах вэ. Миний аав хүүхдийн эмч байсан.
Neeren, your father was a pediatrician, wasn't he?
Of course, my father was a pediatrician.
Цэвэлмаагийн гэр манай хороололд байдаг бил үү?
Үгүй. Цэвэлмаагийн гэр манай хороололд байдаггүй. Түүний эгчийн гэр байдаг.
Tsevelmaa's ger is in our district, isn't it?
No, Tsevelmaa's ger is not in our district. Her elder sister's ger is in our district.
Багшаа энэ номыг 500 төгрөгөөр авсан вил үү?
Үгүй. Энэ номыг 5000 төгрөгөөр авсан шүү дээ.
Teacher, we bought this book for 500 tugrogs didn't we?
No, we bought this book for 5,000 tugrogs.
Маргааш хагас сайн өдөр бил үү, бүтэн сайн өдөр бил үү?
Маргааш бүтэн сайн.
Is tomorrow Saturday or Sunday?
Tomorrow is Sunday.
Улаанбаатараас Өвөрхангай хүртэл 490 км бил үү?
Үгүй. Улаанбаатараас Өвөрхангай хүртэл 409 км.
Is it 490 km from Ulaanbaatar to Uvurkhangai?
No, it is 409 km from Ulaanbaatar to Uvurkhangai.

Takeways:


3. Kullman and Tserenpil (Mongolian Grammar) 2005

Kullman and Tserenpil deal only with билээ and лээ. The following explanation is slightly edited. Note that in affirmative statements, билээ is used even where no question word is involved.

Modal Particle "билээ/лээ"

This particle derived from the defective auxiliary verb "bü-" and is, therefore, no true particle. It expresses statements that are remembered to be told to others. The particle "лээ" is the shortened form of "билээ" which explains why it is not complying with vowel harmony. It's rarely used, mainly in the modal construction "юм байна лээ".

Usually билээ:-

Follows verbs with a Noun Determining Suffix (NDS⇪):

ᠪᠢ ᠬᠣᠶᠠᠷ ᠵᠢᠯ ᠦᠨ ᠡᠮᠦᠨ᠎ᠡ ᠮᠣᠩᠭᠣᠯ ᠳᠦ ᠢᠷᠡᠭᠰᠡᠨ ᠪᠢᠯᠡ᠃
Би хоёр жилийн өмнө Монголд ирсэн билээ.
You know, two years ago I came to Mongolia.
ᠲᠡᠭᠡᠬᠦ ᠳᠦ ᠲᠡᠷᠡ ᠨᠠᠳᠠ ᠳᠦ ᠲᠣᠰᠠᠯᠠᠭ᠎ᠠ ᠦᠭᠡᠢ ᠪᠢᠯᠡ᠃
Тэгэхэд тэр надад туслаагүй билээ.
Oh yes, I remember, he wasn't helping me at that time.

Follows the shortened form of "-жээ" -> "-ж":

ᠮᠣᠩᠭᠣᠯ ᠳᠦ ᠶᠡᠬᠡ ᠰᠣᠨᠢᠷᠬᠠᠯᠲᠠᠢ ᠪᠠᠢᠵᠣ ᠪᠢᠯᠡ᠃
Монголд их сонирхолтой байж билээ.
You know, two years ago I came to Mongolia.
ᠲᠠ ᠨᠠᠷ ᠢ ᠢᠷᠡᠬᠦ ᠳᠦ ᠮᠣᠩᠭᠣᠯ ᠳᠦ ᠬᠦᠨᠡᠰᠦᠨ ᠦ ᠵᠦᠢᠯ ᠬᠡᠴᠡᠭᠦᠦ ᠪᠠᠢᠵᠣ ᠪᠢᠯᠡ᠃
Та нарыг ирэхэд Монголд хүнсний зүйл хэцүү байж билээ.
Yes, I remember, when you came to Mongolia, the food situation was very difficult.

In the following examples it serves as a copula after a noun.

ᠡᠨᠡ ᠪᠣᠯ ᠮᠠᠰᠢ ᠰᠠᠢᠨ ᠨᠣᠮ ᠪᠢᠯᠡ᠃
Энэ бол маш сайн ном билээ.
Oh yes, that's a very good book.
ᠲᠡᠭᠦᠨ ᠦ ᠡᠬᠡᠨᠡᠷ ᠶᠡᠬᠡ ᠣᠬᠠᠭᠠᠨᠲᠠᠢ ᠬᠦᠮᠦᠨ ᠪᠢᠯᠡ᠃
Түний эхнэр их ухаантай хүн билээ.
Oh yes, his wife is a very intelligent person.

Kullman and Tserenpil give only one example of билээ in a question (which, it should be noted, uses a question word, хэн):

ᠲᠠᠨ ᠦ ᠨᠡᠷ᠎ᠡ ᠵᠢ ᠬᠡᠨ ᠭᠡᠰᠡᠨ ᠪᠢᠯᠡ?
Таны нэрийг хэн гэсэн билээ?
What was your name again?

Takeaways:


4. Chingeltei (蒙古语语法) 1991

Chingeltei covers a broader range of usages. Examples are dated and reflect Inner Mongolian usage. Only one example of билүү is given. Note that, in affirmative statements, билээ is used where no question word is involved.

回忆语气词:ᠪᠢᠯᠡ

ᠪᠢᠯᠡ 可以用在以静词、形动词结束的句尾,也可以用在以᠊ᠭᠰᠠᠭᠠᠷ (᠊ᠭ᠍ᠰᠡᠭᠡᠷ) ɣsaɣar (gseger), ᠊ᠵᠢ ǰi, ᠊ᠨ᠎ᠠ n-a n-e结尾的句尾。一般是表示回忆语气或本来如此的语气(用在否定句就变成原来不是如此,从来不是如此)。用在᠊ᠬᠣ (᠊ᠬᠦ) qu (ku), ᠳ᠌ᠠᠭ (ᠳ᠌ᠡᠭ) daɣ (deg) 之后,表示应如何,前边有疑问代词则表示“到底应该如何”的意思。

Rough translation: Modal of remembering билээ: Билээ can be used to terminate sentences that end with 'static words' [nouns etc.] and adjectives and verbs. They can also be used to terminate sentences that end in -ж, -х, and -на/-нэ. In general they express a tone of remembering or realising something (if used in a negative sentence, the meaning changes to a realisation that it was not and has never been so). Used after -х or -даг / -дэг, it indicates how things should be.

ᠴᠣᠭᠮᠠᠨᠳᠣᠯ ᠪᠣᠯ ᠣᠭ ᠡᠴᠡ ᠭᠠᠷ ᠣᠷᠠᠨ ᠲᠠᠢ ᠬᠦᠮᠦᠨ ᠪᠢᠯᠡ᠃
Цогмандал бол угаас гар урантай хүн билээ.
朝克满都拉原来就是个手巧的人。
(Tsogmandal was always skilled with his hands.)
ᠲᠠ ᠦ ᠬᠠᠮᠠᠷ ᠴᠠᠭᠠᠨ ᠬᠣᠨᠢᠨ ᠦ ᠬᠠᠯᠵᠠᠨ ᠬᠣᠷᠠᠭ᠎ᠠ ᠪᠢᠰᠢ ᠪᠢᠯᠢᠦ (ᠪᠢᠯᠡ ᠦ᠋ᠦ)?
Таны хамар цагаан хонины чинь халзан хурга биш билүү (билээ үү)?
不是你们的白鼻子羊的有白点的羊羔吗?
(Aren't these the white-fronted lambs from your white-nosed sheep?)
ᠵᠦᠭᠯᠡᠭᠦᠷ ᠢ ᠡᠷᠲᠡ ᠦᠶ᠎ᠡ ᠳᠦ ᠮᠠᠨ ᠦ ᠣᠯᠣᠰ ᠨᠡᠭᠡᠭᠡᠨ ᠭᠠᠷᠭᠠᠭᠰᠠᠨ ᠶᠣᠮ ᠪᠢᠯᠡ᠃
Зүглүүр эрт үед манай улс нээн гаргасан юм билээ.
我国在古代发明了指南针。
(In ancient times our country invented the compass.)
ᠬᠠᠷᠠᠩᠭᠣᠢ ᠰᠦᠨᠢ ᠦᠩᠭᠡᠷᠡᠪᠡᠯ ᠦᠷ ᠴᠠᠢᠵᠣ ᠭᠡᠭᠡᠨ ᠨᠠᠷᠠᠨ ᠮᠠᠨᠳᠣᠳᠠᠭ ᠪᠢᠯᠡ᠃
Харанхуй шөнө өнгөрвөл үүр цайж гэгээн наран манддаг билээ.
黑夜过去,就要黎明,太阳就要升起来。
(When the dark night has passed the day will break and the sun will rise.)
ᠡᠨᠡ ᠨᠠᠰᠣᠨ ᠳᠠᠭᠠᠨ ᠣᠯᠵᠣ ᠰᠣᠨᠣᠰᠣᠭ᠎ᠠ ᠦᠭᠡᠢ ᠪᠢᠯᠡ᠃
Энэ насандаа олж сонсоогүй билээ.
这一生没有听说。
(I've never heard of it in my life.)
ᠬᠠᠪᠣᠷ ᠦᠨ ᠲᠣᠩᠭᠠᠯᠠᠭ ᠦᠷᠯᠦᠭᠡ ᠪᠠᠢᠵᠢ ᠪᠢᠯᠡ᠃
Хаврын тунгалаг өглөө байж билээ.
是个春天的明朗的早晨。
(It was a bright spring dawn.)
ᠡᠨᠡ ᠲᠠᠯ᠎ᠠ ᠪᠠᠷ ᠪᠢᠳᠡ ᠪᠠᠰᠠ ᠴᠣ ᠪᠠᠭ᠎ᠠ ᠰᠣᠷᠣᠭᠴᠢ ᠪᠠᠢᠭᠰᠠᠭᠠᠷ ᠪᠢᠯᠡ᠃
Энэ талаар бид бас ч бага сурагч байсаар билээ.
在这方面我们还是一个小学生。
(In this area we are still just a primary school pupil.)
ᠬᠣᠷᠰᠢᠶᠠᠨ ᠦ ᠵᠠᠷᠢᠮ ᠬᠦᠮᠦᠨ ᠴᠢᠩᠭᠢᠵᠦ ᠬᠡᠯᠡᠵᠦ ᠪᠠᠢᠨ᠎ᠠ ᠪᠢᠯᠡ᠃
Хоршоон зарим хүн чингээж хэлж байна билээ.
合作社的有些人那样说。
(There are some people in the collective who say that.)

If there is an interrogative pronoun (question word), it expresses the meaning 'exactly how should things be?' This falls within the scope of билүү as used by Bayarmaa and Uranchimeg.

ᠣᠳᠣ ᠪᠢᠳᠡ ᠶᠠᠭᠠᠬᠢᠳᠠᠭ ᠪᠢᠯᠡ?
Одоо бид яаaдаг билээ?
这回我们该怎么办?
(What should we do now?)
ᠴᠢᠨᠠᠭᠰᠢ ᠶᠠᠭᠣ ᠬᠡᠯᠡᠬᠦ ᠪᠢᠯᠡ!
Цааш юу хэлэх билээ!
往下还能说什么呢?
(What should we say in future?)
ᠡᠭᠦᠨ ᠢ ᠬᠦᠮᠦᠨ ᠠᠰᠠᠭᠣᠪᠠᠯ ᠶᠠᠭᠣ ᠬᠡᠵᠦ ᠬᠡᠯᠡᠳᠡᠭ ᠪᠢᠯᠡ?
Үүнийг хүн асуувал юу гэж хэлдэг билээ.
如果别人问这个,该怎么说呢?
(If people ask what should I say?)

Takeways:


5. Dictionaries

Монгол хэлний дэлгэрэнгүй тайлвар толь edited by Л. Балдан, Ё. Баярсайхан, Э. Пүрэвжав (2008):

БИЛҮҮ ᠪᠢᠯᠡ ᠦ᠋ᠦ Мэдэхгүй болон эргэлзээт зүйлийг хэлэлцэхэд лавлах үүргээр хэрэглэгдэх туслах үйл үг

ирсэн билүү (ирсэн үү)

Хийсэн билүү (хийсэн үү)

захисан билүү (захисан уу)

Би тэдэнд захисангүй билүү (С. Дашдэндэв. Улаан наран)

ᠮᠡᠩᠭᠣᠯ
ᠬᠢᠲᠠᠳ
ᠲᠣᠯᠢ
(ᠨᠡᠮᠡᠨ
ᠵᠠᠰᠠᠭᠰᠠᠨ
ᠳᠡᠪᠲᠡᠷ)
蒙汉词典(增订本) by Inner Mongolian University School of Mongolian Studies Mongolian Language Research Institute (1999) gives the following for билээ:

ᠪᠢᠯᠡ bile [bile:~bil] [语]

1. 是(表示肯定)

2. 来着(表示回想):

ᠲᠠᠨ ᠦ ᠨᠡᠷ᠎ᠡ
ᠬᠡᠨ ᠪᠢᠯᠡ
你叫什么名字来着?

ᠲᠡᠢᠮᠦ
ᠪᠢᠯᠡ ᠦ᠋ᠦ?
是那样吗?

2. 呀(表示无可奈何):

ᠪᠢ ᠶᠠᠭᠠᠬᠢᠳᠠᠭ
ᠪᠢᠯᠡ!
我怎么办呀!

The following is for билүү:

ᠪᠢᠯᠢᠦ biliü [biliu] [语] 是... ... 吗?曾经... ...是吗?

ᠲᠠᠨ ᠦ ᠠᠬ᠎ᠠ
ᠴᠢᠨᠢ
ᠬᠣᠨᠢᠲᠠᠢ
ᠪᠢᠯᠢᠦ?
你哥哥是属羊的吗?

ᠲᠡᠢᠮᠦ
ᠪᠢᠯᠢᠦ?
是那样吗?

NDS: Noun Determining Suffix (traditionally known as a 'verbal noun suffix') is a category in the Kullman/Tserenpil grammar. It includes the verb endings -сан (-сон, -сэн, -сөн), -даг (-дог, -дэг, -дөг), -аа (-ээ, -оо, -өө), -х, and -гч.

An NDS can serve as a verbal adjective to a succeeding noun (явсан хүн), can take case endings (явсаныг), can be followed by the particle юм (явсан юм) or an auxiliary verb (явсан байна), and can form negatives (явсангүй) and interrogatives (явсан уу?)