Korean language
Overview
 
Korean is the official language
Language
Language may refer either to the specifically human capacity for acquiring and using complex systems of communication, or to a specific instance of such a system of complex communication...

 of the country Korea
Korea
Korea ) is an East Asian geographic region that is currently divided into two separate sovereign states — North Korea and South Korea. Located on the Korean Peninsula, Korea is bordered by the People's Republic of China to the northwest, Russia to the northeast, and is separated from Japan to the...

, in both South
South Korea
The Republic of Korea , , is a sovereign state in East Asia, located on the southern portion of the Korean Peninsula. It is neighbored by the People's Republic of China to the west, Japan to the east, North Korea to the north, and the East China Sea and Republic of China to the south...

 and North
North Korea
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea , , is a country in East Asia, occupying the northern half of the Korean Peninsula. Its capital and largest city is Pyongyang. The Korean Demilitarized Zone serves as the buffer zone between North Korea and South Korea...

. It is also one of the two official languages in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture
Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture
Yanbian is a Korean Autonomous Prefecture in Jilin Province, in Northeastern China, above the border with North Korea. Yanbian is bordered to the north by Heilongjiang, on the west by Baishan City and Jilin City, on the south by North Hamgyong Province of North Korea, and on the east by Primorsky...

 in People's Republic of China
People's Republic of China
China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

. There are about 78 million Korean speakers worldwide. In the 15th century, a national writing system was commissioned by Sejong the Great, the system being currently called Hangul
Hangul
Hangul,Pronounced or ; Korean: 한글 Hangeul/Han'gŭl or 조선글 Chosŏn'gŭl/Joseongeul the Korean alphabet, is the native alphabet of the Korean language. It is a separate script from Hanja, the logographic Chinese characters which are also sometimes used to write Korean...

. Prior to the development of Hangul, Koreans had used Hanja
Hanja
Hanja is the Korean name for the Chinese characters hanzi. More specifically, it refers to those Chinese characters borrowed from Chinese and incorporated into the Korean language with Korean pronunciation...

 and phonetic systems like Hyangchal
Hyangchal
Hyangchal is an archaic writing system of Korea and was used to transcribe the Korean language in hanja. Under the hyangchal system, Chinese characters were given a Korean reading based on the syllable associated with the character. The hyangchal writing system is often classified as a...

, Gugyeol
Gugyeol
Gugyeol is a system for rendering texts written in Classical Chinese into understandable Korean. It was chiefly used during the Joseon Dynasty, when readings of the Chinese classics were of paramount social importance...

 and Idu extensively for over a millennium.

The genealogical classification of the Korean language is debated by a number of historical linguists.
Discussions
Encyclopedia
Korean is the official language
Language
Language may refer either to the specifically human capacity for acquiring and using complex systems of communication, or to a specific instance of such a system of complex communication...

 of the country Korea
Korea
Korea ) is an East Asian geographic region that is currently divided into two separate sovereign states — North Korea and South Korea. Located on the Korean Peninsula, Korea is bordered by the People's Republic of China to the northwest, Russia to the northeast, and is separated from Japan to the...

, in both South
South Korea
The Republic of Korea , , is a sovereign state in East Asia, located on the southern portion of the Korean Peninsula. It is neighbored by the People's Republic of China to the west, Japan to the east, North Korea to the north, and the East China Sea and Republic of China to the south...

 and North
North Korea
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea , , is a country in East Asia, occupying the northern half of the Korean Peninsula. Its capital and largest city is Pyongyang. The Korean Demilitarized Zone serves as the buffer zone between North Korea and South Korea...

. It is also one of the two official languages in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture
Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture
Yanbian is a Korean Autonomous Prefecture in Jilin Province, in Northeastern China, above the border with North Korea. Yanbian is bordered to the north by Heilongjiang, on the west by Baishan City and Jilin City, on the south by North Hamgyong Province of North Korea, and on the east by Primorsky...

 in People's Republic of China
People's Republic of China
China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

. There are about 78 million Korean speakers worldwide. In the 15th century, a national writing system was commissioned by Sejong the Great, the system being currently called Hangul
Hangul
Hangul,Pronounced or ; Korean: 한글 Hangeul/Han'gŭl or 조선글 Chosŏn'gŭl/Joseongeul the Korean alphabet, is the native alphabet of the Korean language. It is a separate script from Hanja, the logographic Chinese characters which are also sometimes used to write Korean...

. Prior to the development of Hangul, Koreans had used Hanja
Hanja
Hanja is the Korean name for the Chinese characters hanzi. More specifically, it refers to those Chinese characters borrowed from Chinese and incorporated into the Korean language with Korean pronunciation...

 and phonetic systems like Hyangchal
Hyangchal
Hyangchal is an archaic writing system of Korea and was used to transcribe the Korean language in hanja. Under the hyangchal system, Chinese characters were given a Korean reading based on the syllable associated with the character. The hyangchal writing system is often classified as a...

, Gugyeol
Gugyeol
Gugyeol is a system for rendering texts written in Classical Chinese into understandable Korean. It was chiefly used during the Joseon Dynasty, when readings of the Chinese classics were of paramount social importance...

 and Idu extensively for over a millennium.

The genealogical classification of the Korean language is debated by a number of historical linguists. Most classify it as a language isolate
Language isolate
A language isolate, in the absolute sense, is a natural language with no demonstrable genealogical relationship with other languages; that is, one that has not been demonstrated to descend from an ancestor common with any other language. They are in effect language families consisting of a single...

 while a few consider it to be in the Altaic
Altaic languages
Altaic is a proposed language family that includes the Turkic, Mongolic, Tungusic, and Japonic language families and the Korean language isolate. These languages are spoken in a wide arc stretching from northeast Asia through Central Asia to Anatolia and eastern Europe...

 language family. The Korean language is agglutinative
Agglutinative language
An agglutinative language is a language that uses agglutination extensively: most words are formed by joining morphemes together. This term was introduced by Wilhelm von Humboldt in 1836 to classify languages from a morphological point of view...

 in its morphology and SOV in its syntax
Syntax
In linguistics, syntax is the study of the principles and rules for constructing phrases and sentences in natural languages....

.

Names

The Korean names for the language are based on the names for Korea
Names of Korea
There are various names of Korea in use today, derived from ancient kingdoms and dynasties. The modern English name Korea is an exonym derived from the Goryeo period and is used by both North Korea and South Korea in international contexts...

 used in North and South Korea.

In South Korea, the language is most often called Hangugmal

, or more formally, Hangugeo or Gugeo .

In North Korea and Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture in China, the language is most often called Chosŏnmal , or more formally, Chosŏnŏ .

On the other hand, Korean people in the former USSR
Post-Soviet states
The post-Soviet states, also commonly known as the Former Soviet Union or former Soviet republics, are the 15 independent states that split off from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in its dissolution in December 1991...

, who refer to themselves as Koryo-saram
Koryo-saram
Koryo-saram is the name which ethnic Koreans in the post-Soviet states use to refer to themselves. Approximately 500,000 ethnic Koreans reside in the former Soviet Union, primarily in the now-independent states of Central Asia. There are also large Korean communities in southern Russia , the...

 (고려사람; also Goryeoin [; ; literally, "Goryeo person(s)"]) call the language Goryeomal
Koryo-mar
Koryo-mar, Goryeomal or Koryŏmal is the dialect of the Korean language spoken by the Koryo-saram, ethnic Koreans in the former USSR. It is descended from the Hamgyŏng dialect...

.

In mainland China
Mainland China
Mainland China, the Chinese mainland or simply the mainland, is a geopolitical term that refers to the area under the jurisdiction of the People's Republic of China . According to the Taipei-based Mainland Affairs Council, the term excludes the PRC Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and...

, following the establishment of diplomatic relations with South Korea in 1992, the term Cháoxiǎnyǔ ( or the short form: Cháoyǔ ) has normally been used to refer to the standard language of North Korea and Yanbian, while Hánguóyǔ ( or the short form: Hányǔ ) is used to refer to the standard language of South Korea.

Some older English sources also used the name "Korean" to refer to the language, country, and people. The word "Korean" is derived from Goryeo
Goryeo
The Goryeo Dynasty or Koryŏ was a Korean dynasty established in 918 by Emperor Taejo. Korea gets its name from this kingdom which came to be pronounced Korea. It united the Later Three Kingdoms in 936 and ruled most of the Korean peninsula until it was removed by the Joseon dynasty in 1392...

, which is thought to be the first dynasty known to western countries.

Classification

Since the publication of the article of Ramstedt
Gustaf John Ramstedt
Gustaf John Ramstedt was a Swedish-speaking Finnish linguist and diplomat.-Biography:Ramstedt was born in Ekenäs in Southern Finland....

 in 1928, some linguists support the hypothesis that Korean can be classified as an Altaic
Altaic languages
Altaic is a proposed language family that includes the Turkic, Mongolic, Tungusic, and Japonic language families and the Korean language isolate. These languages are spoken in a wide arc stretching from northeast Asia through Central Asia to Anatolia and eastern Europe...

 language or as a relative of proto-Altaic. Korean is similar to the Altaic languages in that they both lack certain grammatical elements, including articles
Article (grammar)
An article is a word that combines with a noun to indicate the type of reference being made by the noun. Articles specify the grammatical definiteness of the noun, in some languages extending to volume or numerical scope. The articles in the English language are the and a/an, and some...

, fusional morphology and relative pronoun
Relative pronoun
A relative pronoun is a pronoun that marks a relative clause within a larger sentence. It is called a relative pronoun because it relates the relative clause to the noun that it modifies. In English, the relative pronouns are: who, whom, whose, whosever, whosesoever, which, and, in some...

s. However, linguists agree today on the fact that typological resemblances cannot be used to prove genetic relatedness of languages as these features are typologically connected and easily borrowed. Such factors of typological divergence as Middle Mongolian's exhibition of gender agreement can be used to argue that a genetic relationship is unlikely.

The hypothesis that Korean might be related to Japanese
Japanese language
is a language spoken by over 130 million people in Japan and in Japanese emigrant communities. It is a member of the Japonic language family, which has a number of proposed relationships with other languages, none of which has gained wide acceptance among historical linguists .Japanese is an...

 has had some supporters due to some apparent overlap in vocabulary and similar grammatical features that have been elaborated upon by such researchers as Samuel E. Martin and Roy Andrew Miller
Roy Andrew Miller
Roy Andrew Miller is a linguist notable for his advocacy of Korean and Japanese as members of the Altaic group of languages....

. Sergei Starostin
Sergei Starostin
Dr. Sergei Anatolyevich Starostin was a Russian historical linguist and scholar, best known for his work with hypothetical proto-languages, including his work on the reconstruction of the Proto-Borean language, the controversial theory of Altaic languages and the formulation of the Dené–Caucasian...

 (1991) found about 25% of potential cognate
Cognate
In linguistics, cognates are words that have a common etymological origin. This learned term derives from the Latin cognatus . Cognates within the same language are called doublets. Strictly speaking, loanwords from another language are usually not meant by the term, e.g...

s in the Japanese-Korean 100-word Swadesh list
Swadesh list
A Swadesh list is one of several lists of vocabulary with basic meanings, developed by Morris Swadesh from 1940 onward, with the final, posthumously published version 1971 [1972], which is used in lexicostatistics and glottochronology .- Versions and authors :There are several versions of Swadesh...

, which—if valid—would place these two languages closer together than other possible members of the Altaic family.

Other linguists, most notably Alexander Vovin
Alexander Vovin
Alexander V. Vovin is an American linguist and philologist in the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, where he is a Professor of East Asian Languages and the acting chair of the department from August 1, 2009.Alexander Vovin earned his M.A...

, argue, however, that the similarities are not due to any genetic relationship, but rather to a sprachbund
Sprachbund
A Sprachbund – also known as a linguistic area, convergence area, diffusion area or language crossroads – is a group of languages that have become similar in some way because of geographical proximity and language contact. They may be genetically unrelated, or only distantly related...

effect and heavy borrowing especially from ancient Korean into Western Old Japanese. A good example might be Middle Korean sàm and Japanese asa ‘hemp’. This word seems to be cognate, but while it is well-attested in Western Old Japanese and Northern Ryūkyū, in Eastern Old Japanese it only occurs in compounds, and it is only present in three subdialects of the South-Ryūkyūan dialect group. Then, the doublet wo ‘hemp’ is attested in Western Old Japanese and Southern Ryūkyū. It is thus plausible to assume a borrowed term. See East Asian languages for morphological features shared among languages of the East Asian sprachbund, and Classification of Japonic for further details on the discussion of a possible relationship.

History

Korean is descended from Proto-Korean, Old Korean
Old Korean
Old Korean corresponds to the Korean language from the beginning of Three Kingdoms of Korea to the latter part of the Unified Silla, of which period is roughly from 1 AD to 1000 AD. There are many theories to differentiate the Korean language histories. It is distinct from Proto-Korean , which is...

, Middle Korean and Modern Korean. Controversy remains over the proposed Altaic
Altaic languages
Altaic is a proposed language family that includes the Turkic, Mongolic, Tungusic, and Japonic language families and the Korean language isolate. These languages are spoken in a wide arc stretching from northeast Asia through Central Asia to Anatolia and eastern Europe...

 language family and its inclusion of Proto-Korean. Since the Korean War
Korean War
The Korean War was a conventional war between South Korea, supported by the United Nations, and North Korea, supported by the People's Republic of China , with military material aid from the Soviet Union...

, contemporary North-South differences
Korean language North-South differences
There are a small number of differences in the standard forms of the Korean language used in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and the Republic of Korea , due to the length of time Korea has been divided.-Overview:Korean orthography, as defined by the Korean Language Society in 1933 in the...

 in Korean have developed, including variance in pronunciation, verb inflection, and vocabulary.

Geographic distribution

Korean is spoken by the Korean people in North Korea
North Korea
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea , , is a country in East Asia, occupying the northern half of the Korean Peninsula. Its capital and largest city is Pyongyang. The Korean Demilitarized Zone serves as the buffer zone between North Korea and South Korea...

 and South Korea
South Korea
The Republic of Korea , , is a sovereign state in East Asia, located on the southern portion of the Korean Peninsula. It is neighbored by the People's Republic of China to the west, Japan to the east, North Korea to the north, and the East China Sea and Republic of China to the south...

 and by the Korean diaspora in many countries including the People's Republic of China
People's Republic of China
China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

, Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

, and the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. Korean-speaking minorities exist in these states, but because of cultural assimilation
Cultural assimilation
Cultural assimilation is a socio-political response to demographic multi-ethnicity that supports or promotes the assimilation of ethnic minorities into the dominant culture. The term assimilation is often used with regard to immigrants and various ethnic groups who have settled in a new land. New...

 into host countries, not all ethnic Koreans may speak it with native fluency.

Official status

Korean is the official language of South Korea
South Korea
The Republic of Korea , , is a sovereign state in East Asia, located on the southern portion of the Korean Peninsula. It is neighbored by the People's Republic of China to the west, Japan to the east, North Korea to the north, and the East China Sea and Republic of China to the south...

 and North Korea
North Korea
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea , , is a country in East Asia, occupying the northern half of the Korean Peninsula. Its capital and largest city is Pyongyang. The Korean Demilitarized Zone serves as the buffer zone between North Korea and South Korea...

. It is also one of the two official languages of the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture
Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture
Yanbian is a Korean Autonomous Prefecture in Jilin Province, in Northeastern China, above the border with North Korea. Yanbian is bordered to the north by Heilongjiang, on the west by Baishan City and Jilin City, on the south by North Hamgyong Province of North Korea, and on the east by Primorsky...

 in China.

In South Korea, the regulatory body for Korean is the Seoul
Seoul
Seoul , officially the Seoul Special City, is the capital and largest metropolis of South Korea. A megacity with a population of over 10 million, it is the largest city proper in the OECD developed world...

-based National Institute of the Korean Language
The National Institute of the Korean Language
The National Institute of the Korean Language is the language regulator of the Korean language.It was created on January 23, 1991, by Presidential Decree No. 13163 . It is based in Seoul, South Korea....

 , which was created by presidential decree on January 23, 1991. In North Korea, the regulatory body is the Language Institute of the Academy of Social Sciences .

Dialects

Korean has several dialect
Dialect
The term dialect is used in two distinct ways, even by linguists. One usage refers to a variety of a language that is a characteristic of a particular group of the language's speakers. The term is applied most often to regional speech patterns, but a dialect may also be defined by other factors,...

s (called mal [literally "speech"], saturi , or bang-eon in Korean). The standard language
Standard language
A standard language is a language variety used by a group of people in their public discourse. Alternatively, varieties become standard by undergoing a process of standardization, during which it is organized for description in grammars and dictionaries and encoded in such reference works...

 (pyojuneo or pyojunmal) of South Korea is based on the dialect of the area around Seoul
Seoul
Seoul , officially the Seoul Special City, is the capital and largest metropolis of South Korea. A megacity with a population of over 10 million, it is the largest city proper in the OECD developed world...

, and the standard for North Korea is based on the dialect spoken around P'yŏngyang
Pyongyang
Pyongyang is the capital of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, commonly known as North Korea, and the largest city in the country. Pyongyang is located on the Taedong River and, according to preliminary results from the 2008 population census, has a population of 3,255,388. The city was...

. All dialects of Korean are similar to each other and mutually intelligible, with the possible exception of the dialect of Jeju Island
Jeju-do
Jeju-do is the only special autonomous province of South Korea, situated on and coterminous with the country's largest island. Jeju-do lies in the Korea Strait, southwest of Jeollanam-do Province, of which it was a part before it became a separate province in 1946...

 (see Jeju dialect
Jeju dialect
Jeju dialect or Jeju language is the dialect used on the island of Jeju in Korea, with the exception of Chuja in the former Bukjeju County area of Jeju City. It differs greatly from the dialects of the mainland, and preserves many archaic words which have since been lost in other Korean dialects...

). The dialect spoken in Jeju is classified as a different language by some Korean linguists. One of the most notable differences between dialects is the use of stress: speakers of Seoul dialect
Seoul dialect
The Seoul dialect is the basis of the standard language of Korean in South Korea. It is spoken in the Seoul National Capital Area, which includes Seoul, Incheon, and Gyeonggi. The dialect does not merely mean 'a standard accent'. The exact form of the South Korea's standard accent is that of...

 use very little stress, and standard South Korean has a very flat intonation; on the other hand, speakers of the Gyeongsang dialect
Gyeongsang dialect
The Gyeongsang dialect is a dialect of the Korean language which is widely used in the Yeongnam region, which includes North and South Gyeongsang provinces. The Gyeongsang Dialect is considered the direct descendant of the Silla language by Korean linguists...

 have a very pronounced intonation.

It is also worth noting that there is substantial evidence for a history of extensive dialect levelling
Dialect levelling
Dialect levelling is the means by which dialect differences decrease. For example, in rural areas of Britain, although English is widely spoken, the pronunciation and grammar have historically varied. During the 20th century people have been moving into towns and cities, standardizing the English...

, or even convergent evolution
Convergent evolution
Convergent evolution describes the acquisition of the same biological trait in unrelated lineages.The wing is a classic example of convergent evolution in action. Although their last common ancestor did not have wings, both birds and bats do, and are capable of powered flight. The wings are...

 or intermixture of two or more originally distinct linguistic stocks, within the Korean language and its dialects. Many Korean dialects have basic vocabulary that is etymologically distinct from vocabulary of identical meaning in Standard Korean or other dialects, such as South Jeolla dialect /kur/ vs. Standard Korean 입 /ip/ "mouth" or Gyeongsang dialect /t͡ɕʌŋ.ɡu.d͡ʑi/ vs. Standard Korean /puːt͡ɕʰu/ "garlic chives
Garlic chives
Garlic chives, Allium tuberosum, is a vegetable related to onion. The plant has a distinctive growth habit with strap-shaped leaves unlike either onion or garlic, and straight thin white-flowering stalks that are much taller than the leaves. The flavor is more like garlic than chives. It grows in...

". This suggests that the Korean Peninsula may have at one time been much more linguistically diverse than it is at present. See also the Buyeo languages
Buyeo languages
Buyeo or Fuyu languages are a hypothetical language family that consists of ancient languages of the northern Korean Peninsula and southern Manchuria and possibly Japan. According to Chinese records, the languages of Buyeo, Goguryeo, Dongye, Okjeo, Baekje—and possibly Gojoseon—were similar...

 hypothesis
Hypothesis
A hypothesis is a proposed explanation for a phenomenon. The term derives from the Greek, ὑποτιθέναι – hypotithenai meaning "to put under" or "to suppose". For a hypothesis to be put forward as a scientific hypothesis, the scientific method requires that one can test it...

.

There is a very close connection between the dialects of Korean and the regions of Korea
Regions of Korea
Korea has traditionally been divided into a number of unofficial regions that reflect historical, geographical, and dialect boundaries within the peninsula...

, since the boundaries of both are largely determined by mountains and seas. Here is a list of traditional dialect names and locations:
Standard dialect Where used
Seoul
Seoul dialect
The Seoul dialect is the basis of the standard language of Korean in South Korea. It is spoken in the Seoul National Capital Area, which includes Seoul, Incheon, and Gyeonggi. The dialect does not merely mean 'a standard accent'. The exact form of the South Korea's standard accent is that of...

Seoul
Seoul
Seoul , officially the Seoul Special City, is the capital and largest metropolis of South Korea. A megacity with a population of over 10 million, it is the largest city proper in the OECD developed world...

 (서울), Incheon
Incheon
The Incheon Metropolitan City is located in northwestern South Korea. The city was home to just 4,700 people when Jemulpo port was built in 1883. Today 2.76 million people live in the city, making it Korea’s third most populous city after Seoul and Busan Metropolitan City...

 (인천/仁川), most of Gyeonggi (경기/京畿)
P'yŏngan
Pyongan dialect
The Pyongan dialect is the basis of the standard language of Koreans in North Korea....

 (평양
/平壤)
P'yŏngyang
Pyongyang
Pyongyang is the capital of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, commonly known as North Korea, and the largest city in the country. Pyongyang is located on the Taedong River and, according to preliminary results from the 2008 population census, has a population of 3,255,388. The city was...

, P'yŏngan
Pyongan
P'yŏngan was one of the Eight Provinces of Korea during the Joseon Dynasty. P'yŏngan was located in the northwest of Korea. The provincial capital was P'yŏngyang.-History:P'yŏngan Province was formed in 1413...

 region, Chagang (North Korea)
Regional dialect Where used
Gyeonggi limited areas of the Gyeonggi region (South Korea)
Chungcheong
Chungcheong dialect
Chungcheong dialect is used in the Chungcheong region of South Korea, including the city of Daejon....

Daejeon
Daejeon
Daejeon is South Korea's fifth largest metropolis and the provincial capital of Chungnam. Located in the center of the country, Daejeon had a population of over 1.5 million in 2010. It is at the crossroads of Gyeongbu railway, Honam railway, Gyeongbu Expressway, and Honam Expressway. Within the...

, Chungcheong region (South Korea)
Gangwon Gangwon-do (South Korea)
Gangwon-do (South Korea)
Gangwon-do is a province of South Korea, with its capital at Chuncheon. Before the division of Korea in 1945, Gangwon and its North Korean neighbour Kangwŏn formed a single province.-History:...

/Kangwŏn (North Korea)
Gyeongsang
Gyeongsang dialect
The Gyeongsang dialect is a dialect of the Korean language which is widely used in the Yeongnam region, which includes North and South Gyeongsang provinces. The Gyeongsang Dialect is considered the direct descendant of the Silla language by Korean linguists...

Busan
Busan
Busan , formerly spelled Pusan is South Korea's second largest metropolis after Seoul, with a population of around 3.6 million. The Metropolitan area population is 4,399,515 as of 2010. It is the largest port city in South Korea and the fifth largest port in the world...

, Daegu
Daegu
Daegu , also known as Taegu, and officially the Daegu Metropolitan City, is a city in South Korea, the fourth largest after Seoul, Busan, and Incheon, and the third largest metropolitan area in the country with over 2.5 million residents. The city is the capital and principal city of the...

, Ulsan
Ulsan
Ulsan , officially the Ulsan Metropolitan City, is South Korea's seventh largest metropolis with a population of over 1.1 million. It is located in the south-east of the country, neighboring Busan to the south and facing Gyeongju to the north and the Sea of Japan to the east.Ulsan is the...

, Gyeongsang
Gyeongsang
Gyeongsang was one of the eight provinces of Korea during the Joseon Dynasty. Gyeongsang was located in the southeast of Korea....

 region (South Korea)
Hamgyŏng
Hamgyong dialect
Hamgyŏng dialect is a dialect of the Korean language used in the North Hamgyŏng, South Hamgyŏng, and Ryanggang Provinces of North Korea, as well as the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture of northeast China...

Rasŏn, Hamgyŏng
Hamgyong
Hamgyŏng was one of the Eight Provinces of Korea during the Joseon Dynasty. Hamgyŏng was located in the northeast of Korea. The provincial capital was Hamhŭng.-History:...

 region, Ryanggang (North Korea)
Hwanghae Hwanghae
Hwanghae
Hwanghae was one of the Eight Provinces of Korea during the Joseon Dynasty. Hwanghae was located in the northwest of Korea. The provincial capital was Haeju.The regional name for the province was Haesŏ .-History:...

 region (North Korea)
Jeju
Jeju dialect
Jeju dialect or Jeju language is the dialect used on the island of Jeju in Korea, with the exception of Chuja in the former Bukjeju County area of Jeju City. It differs greatly from the dialects of the mainland, and preserves many archaic words which have since been lost in other Korean dialects...

Jeju Island/Province
Jeju-do
Jeju-do is the only special autonomous province of South Korea, situated on and coterminous with the country's largest island. Jeju-do lies in the Korea Strait, southwest of Jeollanam-do Province, of which it was a part before it became a separate province in 1946...

 (South Korea)
Jeolla
Jeolla dialect
Jeolla dialect is used in the Jeolla region of South Korea, including the city of Gwangju.Along with Chungcheong dialect, it is considered non-standard by some Koreans. Perhaps the most obvious difference comes from common verb endings...

Gwangju
Gwangju
Gwangju is the sixth largest city in South Korea. It is a designated metropolitan city under the direct control of the central government's Home Minister...

, Jeolla
Jeolla
Jeolla was a province in southwestern Korea, one of the historical Eight Provinces of Korea during the Joseon Dynasty. It consisted of the modern South Korean provinces of North Jeolla, South Jeolla and the Special City of Gwangju as well as Jeju Island...

 region (South Korea)

Consonants

Bilabial
Bilabial consonant
In phonetics, a bilabial consonant is a consonant articulated with both lips. The bilabial consonants identified by the International Phonetic Alphabet are:...

Alveolar
Alveolar consonant
Alveolar consonants are articulated with the tongue against or close to the superior alveolar ridge, which is called that because it contains the alveoli of the superior teeth...

Post-
alveolar
Postalveolar consonant
Postalveolar consonants are consonants articulated with the tongue near or touching the back of the alveolar ridge, further back in the mouth than the alveolar consonants, which are at the ridge itself, but not as far back as the hard palate...

Velar
Velar consonant
Velars are consonants articulated with the back part of the tongue against the soft palate, the back part of the roof of the mouth, known also as the velum)....

Glottal
Glottal consonant
Glottal consonants, also called laryngeal consonants, are consonants articulated with the glottis. Many phoneticians consider them, or at least the so-called fricative, to be transitional states of the glottis without a point of articulation as other consonants have; in fact, some do not consider...

Nasal
Nasal consonant
A nasal consonant is a type of consonant produced with a lowered velum in the mouth, allowing air to escape freely through the nose. Examples of nasal consonants in English are and , in words such as nose and mouth.- Definition :...

/m/ /n/ /ŋ/ (syllable-final)
Plosive 
and
Affricate
Affricate consonant
Affricates are consonants that begin as stops but release as a fricative rather than directly into the following vowel.- Samples :...

plain /b/ or /p/ /d/ or /t/ /t͡ɕ/ /ɡ/ or /k/
tense /p͈/ /t͈/ /t͡ɕ͈/ /k͈/
aspirated /pʰ/ /tʰ/ /t͡ɕʰ/ /kʰ/
Fricative
Fricative consonant
Fricatives are consonants produced by forcing air through a narrow channel made by placing two articulators close together. These may be the lower lip against the upper teeth, in the case of ; the back of the tongue against the soft palate, in the case of German , the final consonant of Bach; or...

plain /s/ /h/
tense /s͈/
Liquid
Liquid consonant
In phonetics, liquids or liquid consonants are a class of consonants consisting of lateral consonants together with rhotics.-Description:...

/l/


The IPA
International Phonetic Alphabet
The International Phonetic Alphabet "The acronym 'IPA' strictly refers [...] to the 'International Phonetic Association'. But it is now such a common practice to use the acronym also to refer to the alphabet itself that resistance seems pedantic...

 symbol ⟨◌͈⟩ (a subscript double straight quotation mark, shown here with a placeholder circle) is used to denote the tensed consonants /p͈/, /t͈/, /k͈/, /t͡ɕ͈/, /s͈/. Its official use in the Extensions to the IPA
Extensions to the IPA
The Extensions to the IPA are extensions of the International Phonetic Alphabet and were designed for disordered speech. However, some of the symbols are occasionally used for transcribing normal speech as well, particularly in certain languages.-Brackets:The Extended IPA for speech pathology has...

 is for 'strong'
Fortis and lenis
In linguistics, fortis and lenis are terms generally used to refer to groups of consonants that are produced with greater and lesser energy, respectively, such as in energy applied, articulation, etc....

 articulation, but is used in the literature for faucalized voice
Faucalized voice
Faucalized voice, also called hollow or yawny voice, is the production of speech sounds with an expanded laryngeal cavity. It contrasts with harsh voice, in which the larynx is compressed....

. The Korean consonants also have elements of stiff voice
Stiff voice
The term stiff voice describes the pronunciation of consonants or vowels with a glottal opening narrower, and the vocal cords stiffer, than what occurs in modal voice. Although there is no specific IPA diacritic for stiff voice, the voicing diacritic may be used in conjunction with the symbol for...

, but it is not yet known how typical this is of faucalized consonants. They are produced with a partially constricted glottis
Glottis
The glottis is defined as the combination of the vocal folds and the space in between the folds .-Function:...

 and additional subglottal pressure in addition to tense vocal tract walls, laryngeal lowering, or other expansion of the larynx.

Vowels


Monophthongs /i/ , /e/ , /ɛ/ , /a/ , /o/ , /u/ , /ʌ/ , /ɯ/ , /ø/
Vowels preceded by intermediaries,
or Diphthongs
/je/ , /jɛ/ , /ja/ , /wi/ , /we/ , /wɛ/ , /wa/ , /ɰi/ , /jo/ , /ju/ , /jʌ/ , /wʌ/

ㅏ is closer to a Near-open central vowel ([ɐ]), though ⟨a⟩ is still used for tradition.

Allophones

/s/ becomes an alveolo-palatal
Alveolo-palatal consonant
In phonetics, alveolo-palatal consonants are palatalized postalveolar sounds, usually fricatives and affricates, articulated with the blade of the tongue behind the alveolar ridge, and the body of the tongue raised toward the palate...

 [ɕ] before [j] or [i] for most speakers (but see North–South differences in the Korean language). This occurs with the tense fricative and all the affricates as well. At the end of a syllable, /s/ changes to /t/ (Example: beoseot (버섯) 'mushroom').

/h/ may become a bilabial
Bilabial consonant
In phonetics, a bilabial consonant is a consonant articulated with both lips. The bilabial consonants identified by the International Phonetic Alphabet are:...

 [ɸ] before [o] or [u], a palatal
Palatal consonant
Palatal consonants are consonants articulated with the body of the tongue raised against the hard palate...

 [ç] before [j] or [i], a velar
Velar consonant
Velars are consonants articulated with the back part of the tongue against the soft palate, the back part of the roof of the mouth, known also as the velum)....

 [x] before [ɯ], a voiced [ɦ] between voiced sounds, and a [h] elsewhere.

/p, t, t͡ɕ, k/ become voiced [b, d, d͡ʑ, ɡ] between voiced sounds.

/l/ becomes alveolar flap [ɾ] between vowels, and [l] or [ɭ] at the end of a syllable or next to another /l/. Note that a written syllable-final 'ㄹ', when followed by a vowel or a glide (i.e., when the next character starts with 'ㅇ'), migrates to the next syllable and thus becomes [ɾ].

Traditionally, /l/ was disallowed at the beginning of a word. It disappeared before [j], and otherwise became /n/. However, the inflow of western loanword
Konglish
Konglish is the use of English words in a Korean context. The words, having initially been taken from the English language, are either actual English words in Korean context, like 모터사이클 , or are made from a combination of Korean and/or English words which are not used in English-speaking...

s changed the trend, and now word-initial /l/ (mostly from English loanwords) are pronounced as a free variation of either [ɾ] or [l]. The traditional prohibition of word-initial /l/ became a morphological rule called "initial law" (두음법칙) in South Korea, which pertains to Sino-Korean vocabulary. Such words retain their word-initial /l/ in North Korea.

All obstruent
Obstruent
An obstruent is a consonant sound formed by obstructing airflow, causing increased air pressure in the vocal tract, such as [k], [d͡ʒ] and [f]. In phonetics, articulation may be divided into two large classes: obstruents and sonorants....

s (plosives, affricates, fricatives) are unreleased
Unreleased stop
An unreleased stop or unreleased plosive is a plosive consonant without an audible release burst. That is, the oral tract is blocked to pronounce the consonant, and there is no audible indication of when that occlusion ends...

 [p̚, t̚, k̚] at the end of a word.

Plosive stops /p, t, k/ become nasal stops [m, n, ŋ] before nasal stops.

Hangul
Hangul
Hangul,Pronounced or ; Korean: 한글 Hangeul/Han'gŭl or 조선글 Chosŏn'gŭl/Joseongeul the Korean alphabet, is the native alphabet of the Korean language. It is a separate script from Hanja, the logographic Chinese characters which are also sometimes used to write Korean...

 spelling does not reflect these assimilatory pronunciation rules, but rather maintains the underlying, partly historical morphology
Morphology (linguistics)
In linguistics, morphology is the identification, analysis and description, in a language, of the structure of morphemes and other linguistic units, such as words, affixes, parts of speech, intonation/stress, or implied context...

. Given this, it is sometimes hard to tell which actual phonemes are present in a certain word.

One difference between the pronunciation standards of North and South Korea is the treatment of initial [r], and initial [n]. For example,
  • "labor" – north: rodong (로동), south: nodong (노동)
  • "history" – north: ryŏksa (력사), south: yeoksa (역사)
  • "female" – north: nyŏja (녀자), south: yeoja (여자)

Morphophonemics

Grammatical morphemes may change shape depending on the preceding sounds. Examples include -eun/-neun (-은/-는) and -i/-ga (-이/-가). Sometimes sounds may be inserted instead. Examples include -eul/-reul (-을/-를), -euro/-ro (-으로/-로), -eseo/-seo (-에서/-서), -ideunji/-deunji (-이든지/-든지) and -iya/-ya (-이야/-야). However, -euro/-ro is somewhat irregular, since it will behave differently after a rieul consonant.
Korean particles
After a consonant After a rieul After a vowel
-ui (-의)
-eun (-은) -neun (-는)
-i (-이) -ga (-가)
-eul (-을) -reul (-를)
-gwa (-과) -wa (-와)
-euro (-으로) -ro (-로)


Some verbs may also change shape morphophonemically.

Grammar

Korean is an agglutinative language
Agglutinative language
An agglutinative language is a language that uses agglutination extensively: most words are formed by joining morphemes together. This term was introduced by Wilhelm von Humboldt in 1836 to classify languages from a morphological point of view...

. The Korean language is traditionally considered to have nine parts of speech. For details, see Korean parts of speech
Korean parts of speech
Korean grammarians have been classifying Korean words to parts of speech for centuries, but the modern standard is the one taught in public schools, chosen by South Korea's 1963 Committee on Education. This is the 9 품사 pumsa system, which divides words into nine categories called pumsa...

. Modifiers generally precede the modified words, and in the case of verb modifiers, can be serially appended. The basic form of a Korean sentence is subject–object–verb, but the verb is the only required and immovable element.
A:   가게-에   갔어-요? (가았어요?)
kage-e kasseo-yo
store + [location marker (에)] [go (verb root) (가)]+[past (ㅆ)]+[conjunctive (어)]+ [polite marker (요)]
"Did [you] go to the store?" ("you" implied in conversation)

B:   예.
ye
yes
"Yes."

Speech levels and honorifics

The relationship between a speaker or writer and his or her subject and audience is paramount in Korean, and the grammar reflects this. The relationship between speaker/writer and subject referent is reflected in honorific
Honorific
An honorific is a word or expression with connotations conveying esteem or respect when used in addressing or referring to a person. Sometimes, the term is used not quite correctly to refer to an honorary title...

s
, while that between speaker/writer and audience is reflected in speech level.

Honorifics

When talking about someone superior in status, a speaker or writer usually uses special nouns or verb endings to indicate the subject's superiority. Generally, someone is superior in status if he/she is an older relative, a stranger of roughly equal or greater age, or an employer, teacher, customer, or the like. Someone is equal or inferior in status if he/she is a younger stranger, student, employee or the like. Nowadays, there are special endings which can be used on declarative, interrogative, and imperative sentences; and both honorific or normal sentences. They are made for easier and faster use of Korean.

Honorifics in traditional Korea were strictly hierarchical. The caste and estate systems possessed patterns and usages much more complex and stratified than those we have now. The intricate structure of the Korean honorific system flourished in traditional culture and society. Honorifics in contemporary Korea are now used for people who are psychologically distant. Honorifics are also used for people who are superior in status. For example, older relatives, people who are older, teachers, and employers.

Speech levels

There are seven verb paradigm
Paradigm
The word paradigm has been used in science to describe distinct concepts. It comes from Greek "παράδειγμα" , "pattern, example, sample" from the verb "παραδείκνυμι" , "exhibit, represent, expose" and that from "παρά" , "beside, beyond" + "δείκνυμι" , "to show, to point out".The original Greek...

s or speech levels in Korean, and each level has its own unique set of verb endings which are used to indicate the level of formality of a situation. Unlike honorifics—which are used to show respect towards the referent (who you are talking about) —speech levels are used to show respect towards a speaker's or writer's audience (who you are talking to). The names of the seven levels are derived from the non-honorific imperative
Imperative mood
The imperative mood expresses commands or requests as a grammatical mood. These commands or requests urge the audience to act a certain way. It also may signal a prohibition, permission, or any other kind of exhortation.- Morphology :...

 form of the verb 하다 (hada, "do") in each level, plus the suffix 체 ("che", hanja
Hanja
Hanja is the Korean name for the Chinese characters hanzi. More specifically, it refers to those Chinese characters borrowed from Chinese and incorporated into the Korean language with Korean pronunciation...

: ), which means "style".

The highest six levels are generally grouped together as jondaenmal (존댓말), while the lowest level (haeche, 해체) is called banmal (반말) in Korean.

Nowadays, younger-generation speakers no longer feel obligated to lower their usual regard toward the referent. It is common to see younger people talk to their older relatives with ban-mal (반말). This is not out of disrespect, but instead it shows the intimacy and the closeness of the relationship between the two speakers. Transformations in social structures and attitudes in today's rapidly changing society have brought about change in the way people speak.

Gender and Korean language

In traditional society, Korean women often place themselves in a position of powerlessness, and this in turn is observed in their everyday speech patterns. Some examples of this can be seen in: (1) a woman’s use of softer tone in order to minimize conflict or aggression; (2) a married woman introducing herself as someone’s mother or wife, not with her own name; (3) the presence of gender differences in titles and occupational terms (for example, a sajang is a company president and yŏsajang is a female company president.); (4) and females sometimes using more tag questions and rising tones in statements, much like the way that young children talk.

In western societies, individuals will avoid expressions of power asymmetry, mutually addressing each other by their first names for the sake of solidarity. Between two people of asymmetrical status in a Korean society, people tend to emphasize differences in status for the sake of solidarity. Koreans prefer to use kinship terms rather than any other terms of reference. In traditional Korean society, women have long been in disadvantaged positions. Korean social structure consists of a royal monarch, a patriarchically dominated family system that emphasizes the maintenance of family lines. This structure has tended to separate roles of women from those of men.

Vocabulary

The core of the Korean vocabulary is made up of native Korean words. A significant proportion of the vocabulary, especially words that denote abstract ideas, are Sino-Korean words, either
  • directly borrowed from written Chinese, or
  • coined in Korea or Japan using Chinese characters,

in a similar way European languages borrow from Latin and Greek.

The exact proportion of Sino-Korean vocabulary is a matter of debate. Sohn (2001) stated 50–60%. Later, the same author (2006, p. 5) gives an even higher estimate of 65%. However, Jeong Jae-do, one of the compilers of the dictionary Urimal Kun Sajeon, asserts that the proportion is not so high. He points out that Korean dictionaries compiled during the colonial period
Korea under Japanese rule
Korea was under Japanese rule as part of Japan's 35-year imperialist expansion . Japanese rule ended in 1945 shortly after the Japanese defeat in World War II....

 include many unused Sino-Korean words. In his estimation, the proportion of native Korean vocabulary in the Korean language might be as high as 70%.

Korean has two numeral systems
Korean numerals
The Korean language has two regularly used sets of numerals, a native Korean system and Sino-Korean system.-Construction:For both native and Sino- Korean numerals, the teens are represented by a combination of tens and the ones places...

: one native, and one borrowed from Sino-Korean.

To a much lesser extent, some words have also been borrowed from Mongolian
Mongolian language
The Mongolian language is the official language of Mongolia and the best-known member of the Mongolic language family. The number of speakers across all its dialects may be 5.2 million, including the vast majority of the residents of Mongolia and many of the Mongolian residents of the Inner...

, Sanskrit
Sanskrit
Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

, and other languages. Conversely, the Korean language itself has also contributed some loanwords to other languages, most notably the Tsushima dialect of Japanese.

The vast majority of loanwords other than Sino-Korean come from modern times, 90% of which are from English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

. Many words have also been borrowed from Japanese
Japanese language
is a language spoken by over 130 million people in Japan and in Japanese emigrant communities. It is a member of the Japonic language family, which has a number of proposed relationships with other languages, none of which has gained wide acceptance among historical linguists .Japanese is an...

 via Western languages such as German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

 (areubaiteu "part-time job", allereugi "allergy", gibseu or gibuseu "plaster cast used for broken bones"). Some Western words were borrowed indirectly via Japanese, taking a Japanese sound pattern, for example "dozen" > dāsu > daseu. Most indirect Western borrowings are now written according to current Hangulization rules for the respective Western language, as if borrowed directly. There are a few more complicated borrowings such as "German(y)" (see names of Germany), the first part of whose endonym
Exonym and endonym
In ethnolinguistics, an endonym or autonym is a local name for a geographical feature, and an exonym or xenonym is a foreign language name for it...

 [ˈd̥ɔɪ̯t͡ʃʷ.la̠ntʰ] the Japanese approximated using the kanji
Kanji
Kanji are the adopted logographic Chinese characters hanzi that are used in the modern Japanese writing system along with hiragana , katakana , Indo Arabic numerals, and the occasional use of the Latin alphabet...

  doitsu that were then accepted into the Korean language by their Sino-Korean pronunciation:  dok +  il = Dogil. In South Korean official use, a number of other Sino-Korean country names have been replaced with phonetically oriented Hangulizations of the countries' endonyms of English names.

Because of such a prevalence of English in modern Korean culture and society, it is only inevitable that a sense of diglossia
Diglossia
In linguistics, diglossia refers to a situation in which two dialects or languages are used by a single language community. In addition to the community's everyday or vernacular language variety , a second, highly codified variety is used in certain situations such as literature, formal...

 emerges. It is not rare to find instances where one would mix both English and Korean in the same sentence. The vocabulary of the Korean language is roughly 5% loanwords (excluding Sino-Korean vocabulary); people often use English words and end up code-switching
Code-switching
In linguistics, code-switching is the concurrent use of more than one language, or language variety, in conversation. Multilinguals—people who speak more than one language—sometimes use elements of multiple languages in conversing with each other...

 without even realizing it. This is often referred to as konglish
Konglish
Konglish is the use of English words in a Korean context. The words, having initially been taken from the English language, are either actual English words in Korean context, like 모터사이클 , or are made from a combination of Korean and/or English words which are not used in English-speaking...

.

As in Japanese, Korean uses words adapted from English in ways that may seem strange to native English speakers. For example, in soccer heading is used as a noun meaning a 'header', while fighting is a term of encouragement like 'come on'/'go (on)' in English. Something that is 'service' is free or 'on the house'. A building referred to as an 'apart' is an 'apartment' and a type of pencil that is called 'sharp' is a mechanical pencil.

North Korean vocabulary shows a tendency to prefer native Korean over Sino-Korean or foreign borrowings, especially with recent political objectives aimed at eliminating foreign influences on the Korean language in the North. In the early years, the North Korean government tried to completely eliminate Sino-Korean words from the language used in the society. By contrast, South Korean may have several Sino-Korean or foreign borrowings which tend to be absent in North Korean.

Writing system

Formerly the languages of the Korean peninsula were written using hanja, using hyangchal
Hyangchal
Hyangchal is an archaic writing system of Korea and was used to transcribe the Korean language in hanja. Under the hyangchal system, Chinese characters were given a Korean reading based on the syllable associated with the character. The hyangchal writing system is often classified as a...

 or idu. Such systems relied on principles of rebus
Rebus
A rebus is an allusional device that uses pictures to represent words or parts of words. It was a favourite form of heraldic expression used in the Middle Ages to denote surnames, for example in its basic form 3 salmon fish to denote the name "Salmon"...

, and were lost, later in history. Writing became confined to the ruling elite, who used hanja to write in Classical Chinese.

Korean is now mainly written in Hangul, the Korean alphabet promulgated in 1446 by Sejong the Great. While South Korean schools still teach 1,800 hanja characters, North Korea abolished the use of hanja decades ago.

Below is a chart of the Korean alphabet's symbols and their canonical IPA
International Phonetic Alphabet
The International Phonetic Alphabet "The acronym 'IPA' strictly refers [...] to the 'International Phonetic Association'. But it is now such a common practice to use the acronym also to refer to the alphabet itself that resistance seems pedantic...

 values:
Consonants
Hangul
Hangul
Hangul,Pronounced or ; Korean: 한글 Hangeul/Han'gŭl or 조선글 Chosŏn'gŭl/Joseongeul the Korean alphabet, is the native alphabet of the Korean language. It is a separate script from Hanja, the logographic Chinese characters which are also sometimes used to write Korean...

   
RR
Revised Romanization of Korean
The Revised Romanization of Korean is the official Korean language romanization system in South Korea proclaimed by Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, replacing the older McCune–Reischauer system...

b d j g pp tt jj kk p t ch k s h ss m n ng   r,l  
IPA
International Phonetic Alphabet
The International Phonetic Alphabet "The acronym 'IPA' strictly refers [...] to the 'International Phonetic Association'. But it is now such a common practice to use the acronym also to refer to the alphabet itself that resistance seems pedantic...

p t t͡ɕ k t͡ɕ͈ t͡ɕʰ s h m n ŋ w r j

Vowels
Hangul
Hangul
Hangul,Pronounced or ; Korean: 한글 Hangeul/Han'gŭl or 조선글 Chosŏn'gŭl/Joseongeul the Korean alphabet, is the native alphabet of the Korean language. It is a separate script from Hanja, the logographic Chinese characters which are also sometimes used to write Korean...

RR
Revised Romanization of Korean
The Revised Romanization of Korean is the official Korean language romanization system in South Korea proclaimed by Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, replacing the older McCune–Reischauer system...

i e oe ae a o u eo eu ui ye yae ya yo yu yeo wi we wae wa wo
IPA
International Phonetic Alphabet
The International Phonetic Alphabet "The acronym 'IPA' strictly refers [...] to the 'International Phonetic Association'. But it is now such a common practice to use the acronym also to refer to the alphabet itself that resistance seems pedantic...

i e ø ɛ a o u /ə/ or /ɔ/ ɯ ɰi je ja jo ju /jə/ or /jɔ/ wi we wa /wə/ or /wɔ/


Modern Korean is written with spaces between word
Word
In language, a word is the smallest free form that may be uttered in isolation with semantic or pragmatic content . This contrasts with a morpheme, which is the smallest unit of meaning but will not necessarily stand on its own...

s, a feature not found in Chinese or Japanese. Korean punctuation
Punctuation
Punctuation marks are symbols that indicate the structure and organization of written language, as well as intonation and pauses to be observed when reading aloud.In written English, punctuation is vital to disambiguate the meaning of sentences...

 marks are almost identical to Western ones. Traditionally, Korean was written in columns from top to bottom, right to left, but is now usually written in rows from left to right, top to bottom.

Differences between North Korean and South Korean

The Korean language used in the North and the South exhibits differences in pronunciation, spelling, grammar and vocabulary.

Pronunciation

In North Korea, palatalization
Palatalization
In linguistics, palatalization , also palatization, may refer to two different processes by which a sound, usually a consonant, comes to be produced with the tongue in a position in the mouth near the palate....

 of /si/ is optional, and /t͡ɕ/ can be pronounced [z] between vowels.

Words that are written the same way may be pronounced differently, such as the examples below. The pronunciations below are given in Revised Romanization
Revised Romanization of Korean
The Revised Romanization of Korean is the official Korean language romanization system in South Korea proclaimed by Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, replacing the older McCune–Reischauer system...

, McCune-Reischauer
McCune-Reischauer
McCune–Reischauer romanization is one of the two most widely used Korean language romanization systems, along with the Revised Romanization of Korean, which replaced McCune–Reischauer as the official romanization system in South Korea in 2000...

 and Hangul, the last of which represents what the Hangul would be if one writes the word as pronounced.
Word Meaning Pronunciation
North (RR/MR) North (Hangul) South (RR/MR) South (Hangul)
읽고 to read
(continuative form)
ilko (ilko) 일코 ilkko (ilkko) 일꼬
압록강 Amnok River
Yalu River
The Yalu River or the Amnok River is a river on the border between North Korea and the People's Republic of China....

amrokgang (amrokkang) 암록깡 amnokkang (amnokkang) 암녹깡
독립 independence dongrip (tongrip) 동립 dongnip (tongnip) 동닙
관념 idea / sense / conception gwallyeom (kwallyŏm) 괄렴 gwannyeom (kwannyŏm) 관념
혁신적* innovative hyeoksinjjeok (hyŏksintchŏk) 혁씬쩍 hyeoksinjeok (hyŏksinjŏk) 혁씬적


* Similar pronunciation is used in the North whenever the hanja "的" is attached to a Sino-Korean word ending in ㄴ, ㅁ or ㅇ. (In the South, this rule only applies when it is attached to any single-character Sino-Korean word.)

Spelling

Some words are spelled differently by the North and the South, but the pronunciations are the same.
Word Meaning Pronunciation (RR/MR) Remarks
North spelling South spelling
sunshine haeppit (haepit) The "sai siot" ('ㅅ' used for indicating sound change) is almost never written out in the North.
cherry blossom beotkkot (pŏtkkot)
cannot read monnikda (monnikta) Spacing.
Hallasan
Hallasan
Hallasan is a shield volcano on Jeju Island of South Korea. Hallasan is the highest mountain of South Korea. The area around the mountain is a designated national park, the Hallasan National Park...

hallasan (hallasan) When a ㄴ-ㄹ combination is pronounced as ll, the original Hangul spelling is kept in the North, while the Hangul is changed in the South.
rules gyuyul (kyuyul) In words where the original hanja is spelt "렬" or "률" and follows a vowel, the initial ㄹ is not pronounced in the North, making the pronunciation identical with that in the South where the ㄹ is dropped in the spelling.

Spelling and pronunciation

Some words have different spellings and pronunciations in the North and the South, some of which were given in the "Phonology" section above:
Word Meaning Remarks
North spelling North pronun. South spelling South pronun.
ryeongryang (ryŏngryang) yeongnyang (yŏngnyang) strength Initial rs are dropped if followed by i or y in the South Korean version of Korean.
rodong (rodong) nodong (nodong) work Initial rs are demoted to an n if not followed by i or y in the South Korean version of Korean.
wonssu (wŏnssu) wonsu (wŏnsu) mortal enemy "Mortal enemy" and "head of state" are homophones in the South. Possibly to avoid referring to Kim Il-sung
Kim Il-sung
Kim Il-sung was a Korean communist politician who led the Democratic People's Republic of Korea from its founding in 1948 until his death in 1994. He held the posts of Prime Minister from 1948 to 1972 and President from 1972 to his death...

 / Kim Jong-il
Kim Jong-il
Kim Jong-il, also written as Kim Jong Il, birth name Yuri Irsenovich Kim born 16 February 1941 or 16 February 1942 , is the Supreme Leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea...

 as the enemy, the second syllable of "enemy" is written and pronounced 쑤 in the North.
rajio (rajio) radio (radio) radio
u (u) wi (wi) on; above
anhae (anhae) anae (anae) wife
kkuba (kkuba) kuba (k'uba) Cuba
Cuba
The Republic of Cuba is an island nation in the Caribbean. The nation of Cuba consists of the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos. Havana is the largest city in Cuba and the country's capital. Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city...

When transcribing foreign words from languages that do not have contrasts between aspirated and unaspirated stops, North Koreans generally use tensed stops for the unaspirated ones while South Koreans use aspirated stops in both cases.
pe (p'e) pye (p'ye), pe (p'e) lungs In the case where ye comes after a constant, such as in hye and pye, it is pronounced without the palatal approximate. North Korean orthography reflect this pronunciation nuance.


In general, when transcribing place names, North Korea tends to use the pronunciation in the original language more than South Korea, which often uses the pronunciation in English. For example:
Original name North Korea transliteration English name South Korea transliteration
Spelling Pronunciation Spelling Pronunciaton
Ulaanbaatar
Ulaanbaatar
Ulan Bator or Ulaanbaatar is the capital and largest city of Mongolia. An independent municipality, the city is not part of any province, and its population as of 2008 is over one million....

울란바따르 ullanbattareu (ullanbattarŭ) Ulan Bator 울란바토르 ullanbatoreu (ullanbat'orŭ)
København 쾨뻰하븐 koeppenhabeun (k'oeppenhabŭn) Copenhagen
Copenhagen
Copenhagen is the capital and largest city of Denmark, with an urban population of 1,199,224 and a metropolitan population of 1,930,260 . With the completion of the transnational Øresund Bridge in 2000, Copenhagen has become the centre of the increasingly integrating Øresund Region...

코펜하겐 kopenhagen (k'op'enhagen)
al-Qāhirah 까히라 kkahira (kkahira) Cairo
Cairo
Cairo , is the capital of Egypt and the largest city in the Arab world and Africa, and the 16th largest metropolitan area in the world. Nicknamed "The City of a Thousand Minarets" for its preponderance of Islamic architecture, Cairo has long been a centre of the region's political and cultural life...

카이로 kairo (k'airo)

Grammar

Some grammatical constructions are also different:
Word Meaning Remarks
North spelling North pronun. South spelling South pronun.
doeyeotda (toeyŏtta) doeeotda (toeŏtta) past tense of 되다 (doeda/toeda), "to become" All similar grammar forms of verbs or adjectives that end in ㅣ in the stem (i.e. ㅣ, ㅐ, ㅔ, ㅚ, ㅟ and ㅢ) in the North use 여 instead of the South's 어.
gomawayo (komawayo) gomawoyo (komawŏyo) thanks ㅂ-irregular verbs in the North use 와 (wa) for all those with a positive ending vowel; this only happens in the South if the verb stem has only one syllable.
halgayo (halkayo) halkkayo (halkkayo) Shall we do? Although the Hangul differ, the pronunciations are the same (i.e. with the tensed ㄲ sound).

Vocabulary

Some vocabulary is different between the North and the South:
Word Meaning Remarks
North spelling North pronun. South spelling South pronun.
munhwajutaek (munhwajut'aek) apateu (ap'at'ŭ) Apartment (appateu/appat'ŭ) is also used in the North.
joseonmal (chosŏnmal) han-gugeo (han'gugeo) Korean language
gwakbap (kwakpap) dosirak (tosirak) lunch box
dongmu (dongmoo) chingu (chingoo) Friend 동무 literally means "comrade" as distinct from "friend," and thus the northern use of 동무 reflects political/ideological tendencies.

Others

In the North, guillemets and are the symbols used for quotes; in the South, quotation marks equivalent to the English ones, “ and ”, are standard, although and are sometimes used in popular novels.

Study by non-native learners

The United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

' Defense Language Institute
Defense Language Institute
The Defense Language Institute is a United States Department of Defense educational and research institution, which provides linguistic and cultural instruction to the Department of Defense, other Federal Agencies and numerous and varied other customers...

 places Korean in Category IV, which also includes Arabic, Japanese
Japanese language
is a language spoken by over 130 million people in Japan and in Japanese emigrant communities. It is a member of the Japonic language family, which has a number of proposed relationships with other languages, none of which has gained wide acceptance among historical linguists .Japanese is an...

, and Chinese
Chinese language
The Chinese language is a language or language family consisting of varieties which are mutually intelligible to varying degrees. Originally the indigenous languages spoken by the Han Chinese in China, it forms one of the branches of Sino-Tibetan family of languages...

. This means that 63 weeks of instruction (as compared to just 25 weeks for French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

, Spanish
Spanish language
Spanish , also known as Castilian , is a Romance language in the Ibero-Romance group that evolved from several languages and dialects in central-northern Iberia around the 9th century and gradually spread with the expansion of the Kingdom of Castile into central and southern Iberia during the...

, Portuguese
Portuguese language
Portuguese is a Romance language that arose in the medieval Kingdom of Galicia, nowadays Galicia and Northern Portugal. The southern part of the Kingdom of Galicia became independent as the County of Portugal in 1095...

, and Italian
Italian language
Italian is a Romance language spoken mainly in Europe: Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City, by minorities in Malta, Monaco, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia, and by immigrant communities in the Americas and Australia...

) are required to bring an English-speaking student to a limited working level of proficiency in which he or she has "sufficient capability to meet routine social demands and limited job requirements" and "can deal with concrete topics in past, present, and future tense." Furthermore, the study of the Korean language in the United States is dominated by Korean American
Korean American
Korean Americans are Americans of Korean descent, mostly from South Korea, with a small minority from North Korea...

 heritage language students
Heritage language learning
Heritage language learning or heritage language acquisition is the act of learning a language by someone from the family heritage. According to a generally accepted definition by Valdés , heritage language is the language someone learns at home as a child which is a minority language in society,...

; they are estimated to form over 80% of all students of the language at non-military universities.

However, Korean is considerably easier for speakers of certain other languages, such as Japanese; in Japan, it is more widely studied by non-heritage learners. The Korean Language Proficiency Test
Korean Language Proficiency Test
The Korean Language Proficiency Test, or KLPT, tests people who are not native speakers of Korean on their grasp of the language. The goal is to determine whether the test-taker is proficient enough to live in Korea, work as an employee at a Korean company, etc...

, an examination aimed at assessing non-native speakers' competence in Korean, was instituted in 1997; 17,000 people applied for the 2005 sitting of the examination.

Glossary

Administrative divisions
  • gun = county, e.g. Sangwon
    Sangwon
    Sangwon-gun is a county of North Hwanghae, formerly one of the four suburban counties located in east Pyongyang, North Korea. Prior to 1952, Sangwon was merely a township of Chunghwa County. In 1952 it was separated as a separate county, and in 1963 it was added as a county of Pyongyang...

    -gun
  • ri = village, e.g. Chang
    Sangwon
    Sangwon-gun is a county of North Hwanghae, formerly one of the four suburban counties located in east Pyongyang, North Korea. Prior to 1952, Sangwon was merely a township of Chunghwa County. In 1952 it was separated as a separate county, and in 1963 it was added as a county of Pyongyang...

    -ri
  • up = town, e.g. Sangwon
    Sangwon
    Sangwon-gun is a county of North Hwanghae, formerly one of the four suburban counties located in east Pyongyang, North Korea. Prior to 1952, Sangwon was merely a township of Chunghwa County. In 1952 it was separated as a separate county, and in 1963 it was added as a county of Pyongyang...

    -up

See also

  • Hangul
    Hangul
    Hangul,Pronounced or ; Korean: 한글 Hangeul/Han'gŭl or 조선글 Chosŏn'gŭl/Joseongeul the Korean alphabet, is the native alphabet of the Korean language. It is a separate script from Hanja, the logographic Chinese characters which are also sometimes used to write Korean...

  • Korean romanization
    Korean romanization
    Korean romanization is a system for representing the Korean language using the Roman alphabet. In Korea, the Korean language is written using hangul, and sometimes hanja....

    • Revised romanization of Korean
      Revised Romanization of Korean
      The Revised Romanization of Korean is the official Korean language romanization system in South Korea proclaimed by Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, replacing the older McCune–Reischauer system...

    • McCune-Reischauer
      McCune-Reischauer
      McCune–Reischauer romanization is one of the two most widely used Korean language romanization systems, along with the Revised Romanization of Korean, which replaced McCune–Reischauer as the official romanization system in South Korea in 2000...

    • Yale Romanization#Korean
    • SKATS
      SKATS
      SKATS stands for Standard Korean Alphabet Transliteration System. It is also known as Korean morse equivalents. Despite the name, SKATS is not a true transliteration system. SKATS maps the hangul characters through Korean Morse code to the same codes in Morse code and back to their equivalents in...

  • Korean numerals
    Korean numerals
    The Korean language has two regularly used sets of numerals, a native Korean system and Sino-Korean system.-Construction:For both native and Sino- Korean numerals, the teens are represented by a combination of tens and the ones places...

  • Korean phonology
    Korean phonology
    This article is a technical description of the phonetics and phonology of Korean.Korean has many allophones, so it is important here to distinguish morphophonemics from corresponding phonemes and allophones .-Consonants:The following are phonemic transcriptions of Korean consonants.# are voiced ...

  • Korean count word
    Korean count word
    Like Chinese and Japanese, Korean uses special measure or counting words to count objects and events, in Korean: 수분류사 .In English, one must say, "two sheets of paper" rather than "two papers". In Korean, the term jang is used to count sheets, or paper-like material in general...

  • Korean particles
    Korean particles
    Korean particles are suffixes or short words in Korean grammar that immediately follow the modified noun, verb, adjective, or sentence.-Particles:-References:...

  • Korean language and computers
    Korean language and computers
    This article addresses how computers are used to read and write Korean, using Hangul.-Character encodings:In RFC 1557, a method known as ISO-2022-KR for a 7-bit encoding of Korean characters in email was described.  Where 8 bits are allowed, the EUC-KR encoding is preferred.  These two...

  • Hanja
    Hanja
    Hanja is the Korean name for the Chinese characters hanzi. More specifically, it refers to those Chinese characters borrowed from Chinese and incorporated into the Korean language with Korean pronunciation...

  • Sino-Korean vocabulary
  • Korean mixed script
    Korean mixed script
    Korean mixed script is a form of writing that uses both Hangul and hanja .The script has never been used for languages other than Korean. In North Korea, writing in mixed script was replaced by writing only in Hangul in the middle of the 20th century and has not been used since...

  • List of English words of Korean origin
  • Altaic languages
    Altaic languages
    Altaic is a proposed language family that includes the Turkic, Mongolic, Tungusic, and Japonic language families and the Korean language isolate. These languages are spoken in a wide arc stretching from northeast Asia through Central Asia to Anatolia and eastern Europe...

  • List of Korea-related topics
  • Vowel harmony
    Vowel harmony
    Vowel harmony is a type of long-distance assimilatory phonological process involving vowels that occurs in some languages. In languages with vowel harmony, there are constraints on which vowels may be found near each other....


Further reading

(Volume 4 of the London Oriental and African Language Library).
  • Hulbert, Homer B. (1905): A Comparative Grammar of the Korean Language and the Dravidian Dialects in India. Seoul.
  • Lee, Ki-Moon Lee and S. Robert Ramsey. A History of the Korean Language (Cambridge University Press; 2011) 352 pages.
  • Martin, Samuel E. (1966): Lexical Evidence Relating Japanese to Korean. Language 42/2: 185–251.
  • Martin, Samuel E. (1990): Morphological clues to the relationship of Japanese and Korean. In: Philip Baldi (ed.): Linguistic Change and Reconstruction Methodology. Trends in Linguistics: Studies and Monographs 45: 483-509.
  • Miller, Roy Andrew (1971): Japanese and the Other Altaic Languages. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-52719-0.
  • Miller, Roy Andrew (1996): Languages and History: Japanese, Korean and Altaic. Oslo: Institute for Comparative Research in Human Culture. ISBN 974-8299-69-4.
  • Ramstedt, G. J. (1928): Remarks on the Korean language. Mémoires de la Société Finno-Oigrienne 58.
  • Rybatzki, Volker (2003): Middle Mongol. In: Juha Janhunen (ed.) (2003): The Mongolic languages. London: Routledge. ISBN 0-7007-1133-3: 47–82.
  • Starostin, Sergei A.; Anna V. Dybo; Oleg A. Mudrak (2003): Etymological Dictionary of the Altaic Languages, 3 volumes. Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers. ISBN 90-04-13153-1.
  • Sohn, H.-M. (1999): The Korean Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Song, J.-J. (2005): The Korean Language: Structure, Use and Context. London: Routledge.
  • Trask, R. L. (1996): Historical linguistics. Hodder Arnold.
  • Vovin, Alexander: Koreo-Japonica. University of Hawai'i Press.
  • Whitman, John B. (1985): The Phonological Basis for the Comparison of Japanese and Korean. Unpublished Harvard University Ph.D. dissertation.

External links

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