Korean Linguistics the Korean Language Term Paper

Pages: 12 (3222 words)  ·  Style: APA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 7  ·  Level: Master's  ·  Topic: Communication - Language

Korean Linguistics

The Korean Language and Linguistics

The Korean language, a member of the Altaic family of languages, is spoken as a native language by peoples of Korean ethnic derivation living in the Korean peninsula, southern and eastern Manchuria, the Russian Far East (eastern Siberia), Kazakhstan, Japan, North America, and in other communities scattered throughout the world. The total number of speakers of the Korean language now numbers over 69 million persons, more than 67 million of whom live on the Korean peninsula (Kim, 1995). Based upon the sub-cultural regions of the Korean peninsula, there are six principal dialects, the dialects of the north- eastern, northwestern, central, southeastern, and southwestern regions plus the dialect spoken on the island of Cheju (Gruzdeva, 1987). The latter dialect shows marked differences from the language spoken on the Korean mainland. As the language spoken by a people of a culture stretching back for nearly two millennia, the Korean language possesses a rich body of literature. The Korean language is a non-tonal, polysyllabic, agglutinative language belonging to the Altaic family and probably closely related to the Manchu and Tungus members of that language family. The only modern, major language to which Korean would appear to be related is Japanese, but the two languages-although similar in most respects grammatically are significantly different phonologically. Korean and Japanese are therefore linguistic isolates because of the lack of source material to demonstrate the precise linguistic connections between themselves, and with the members of the Altaic family (Kim, 1995). Throughout the vocabulary of Korean, there exists a parallel set of Korean and Sino-Korean vocabulary. Mention must be made of the existence of two systems of counting. This feature carries throughout the entirety of the Korean lexicon. Often, but not exclusively by any means, Sino-Korean words are used to name objects or subjects of discourse, whilst Korean words have a descriptive function. On some occasions, there is no preference in the use of one or the other type of vocabulary, in other instances it is a matter of honorific or no honorific usage. With regard to time, hours are given in Sino Korean numbers, whilst minutes are given in Korean numbers. Again, duration of time (i.e., 'it took one hour to go home') is given using Korean numerals. Notwithstanding the enormous impact which Sinitic vocabulary has had on enriching the vocabulary of the Korean language, there has been virtually no influence from Chinese on the grammar of Korean. This is possibly because Chinese and Korean derive from two radically different language families (Hankwukhak, 1988).

Select one language and describe its features in typological terms constituent order universals

Although Korea is a full member of the Chinese cultural sphere, the language spoken in modern Korea and its ancient antecedents spoken in the early stages of Kogury6, Paekche, and Silla arc significantly distinct from both ancient and modern Chinese. Whereas ancient and modern Chinese are tonal, monosyllabic languages with a comparatively simple syntax, ancient and modern Korean are highly agglutinative, polysyllabic languages with an extra- ordinarily complex syntax (Hankwukhak, 1988). Two languages could hardly be more different than Chinese and Korean. Because of the prestige of Chinese civilization, when the ancient Korean states accepted the culture of their great neighbor, the canons of written Chinese and the Chinese writing system were both adopted. It was obvious from the first that considerable adaptations would have to be made to the Chinese writing system to make it suitable for transcribing the structure of Korean. The history of writing in Korea is essentially the attempt to write Korean using a script designed for a radically different language. Three systems were used for writing Korean before the development of a true alphabet in the fifteenth century.

B. Basic Constituent Order

These were the idu, hyangch'al, and katgyc-l scripts. These scripts were not, however, the first attempt to write Korean words. One of the oldest Korean historical sources before the advent of the early writing systems was the great stele erected in 414 to King Kwanggaet'o of Kogury6 (reigned 391-412) which is written with Chinese characters and uses Chinese syntax (Gruzdeva, 1987). What distinguishes this monument from Chinese monuments of the period is the occurrence of a set of more than 100 Chinese characters which are used to represent phonologically the sounds of personal names, place names, and official titles. Using Chinese characters in this way was not unique to Kogury6, as the Chinese themselves used a certain set or sets of characters for the purpose of transcribing foreign words and names. This type of system, however, is not a true transcription system for the Korean language (Kim, 1993). Significantly, the same set of characters used for transcription purposes on the Kwanggaet'o monument was used for the same purpose at a later date in Paekchc, Silla, and Japan.

C. Morphemes

The earliest writing system for which there is firm evidence is idu. This system was used primarily for the purpose of prose transcription, whereas hyang- ch'al and kugyol were used for poetic transcription and transcription for translation and interpretative functions, respectively. The twelfth-century historical work, the Sarnguk sagi ('History of the Three Kingdoms'), indicates that the hvangch'al writing system was used from at least the ninth century, and it is entirely probable that it may have been used much earlier. Nonetheless, the earliest extant examples of this system of writing occur in an eleventh-century eulogy of a Buddhist monk, the Kvlrnyo jon (Hankwukhak, 1988). The kugvo! system attempted to give a complete and accurate representation of the underlying Kor- can sentence and as such this system of transcription was used especially for the elucidation and interpretation of Buddhist scriptures and Confucian philosophical works. As with hyangch'al, there is no extant documentation for the early use of this transcription system, although its use as far back as the seventh century has been postulated by some authorities. The earliest records of kugyol are marginal notes in a copy of the Buddhist scripture, the lnn-ang-gyong (Chinese, Jennorng Ching, 'Sutra of the Benevolent King'), dated to the fifteenth century. A text which is rendered in the kiigj, (51 system has two elements: the Chinese character textual material itself and a marginal system of annotation to transform the textual material into a piece of Korean prose. The latter element is the Icugypl system proper. In this system of writing, parts of Chinese characters are used for phonetic purposes to transcribe Korean morphemes and to annotate a given text (Ramsey, 1991). This is obviously a development from the original use of Chinese characters to provide the phonetic values of Korean words, but in this case the characters have been abbreviated to provide a set of phonetic symbols. This system resembles the Japanese kana syllabaries both in function and in form and, indeed, the kanhun lcundoku system of annotation in Japanese for which there is documentary evidence from 828, is very similar to the Korean lcugyol writing system (Ramsey, 1993).

D. Morphological Typological

The Korean language is a nontonal, polysyllabic, ag-glutinative language belonging to the Altaic family and probably closely related to the Manchu and Tungus members of that language family. The only major modern language to which Korean would appear to be related is Japanese, but the two languages, although similar in most respects grammatically, are significantly different phonologically (Kim, 1993). Korean and Japanese are therefore linguistic isolates due to the lack of sources to demonstrate the precise linguistic connections between them and with other members of the Altaic family. Unlike Chinese, Korean lacks true tonal sounds, although it does have vowel stress. The morphological structures of Korean are extremely complex. Korean vocabulary items are built up of multiple morphemes into a highly polysyllabic composition. Like all members of the Altaic family of languages, Korean uses certain morphemes as functional markers to indicate the role of a word within the sentence, as well as mood, tense, location, and the social relationship between the speaker, listener, and the person spoken about.

Triple Consonantal Structure

The consonants of the Korean language are unusual for the triple distinction that is made between soft consonants (lenis consonants), hard, unaspirated consonants, and hard, aspirated consonants. The consonants of the lenis series are?, n, t, I, 111, p, s, and cb. The hard, unaspirated consonants are kk, tt, pp, ss, and tch. The hard, aspirated consonants are k', t', p', ', ch', and / ? (Kim, 1993). (These transcriptions follow the orthographic conventions of the McCune-Reischauer System of Romanization, the standard system of scholarly transcription.) the sound of I becomes a strongly flapped r when placed in an intervowel context. Usually consonants of any of the three series of consonants are pronounced as voiceless, with the exception that the soft consonants k, t, p, and ch are pronounced g, d, h, and when they occur between voiced sounds (Kim, 1995).

2. Case and Agreement

What are the case and agreement systems in the language? Case and agreement hierarchies.

A principal phonological feature of Korean is the extreme restriction of consonant [END OF PREVIEW]

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