by 42 million people in South Korea. There is another 20 million speakers in
North Korea, and also another 16 million worldwide.
some scholars suggest that Korean and
Japanese are possibly distantly related to
Korean, which has been promoted since the 1930s, is based on a dialect
spoken in Seoul and is written in a native Korean alphabet, called Han'gul,
which was introduced in 1446. Before that time, Korean was written
- The native Korean writing system—called Hangul—is alphabetic and
phonetic. Along with Sino-Korean characters (Hanja), well over 50% of
the Korean vocabulary comes directly or indirectly from
- Korean has several dialects (called mal (literally speech),
bangeon, or saturi in Korean). The standard language (Pyojuneo or
Pyojunmal) of South Korea is based on the dialect of the area around
Seoul, and the standard for North Korea is based on the dialect spoken
around Pyongyang. These dialects are similar, and in fact all dialects
except that of Jeju (Cheju) Island are largely mutually intelligible.
The dialect spoken there 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 use stress very
little, and standard South Korean has a very flat intonation; on the
other hand, speakers of Gyeongsang Dialect have a very pronounced
intonation that makes their dialect sound more like a European
language to western ears.
- Korean is an agglutinative language and its
grammar is similar to that of the
Japanese language. The basic form of
a Korean sentence is Subject-Object-Verb (SOV), and modifiers precede
the modified word. Accordingly, whereas in English, one would say,
"I'm going to the store to buy some food,” in Korean it would be: *"I
food to-buy in-order-to store-to going-am."
- Unlike Romance languages, Korean does not conjugate verbs using
agreement with the subject, and nouns have no gender. Instead, verb
conjugations depend upon the verb tense and on the relation between
the people speaking. When talking to or about friends, you would use
one conjugate ending, to your parents, another, and to
nobility/honoured persons, another. This loosely echoes the T-V
distinction of most Indo-European languages.
- The core of the Korean vocabulary is made up of native Korean
words. More than 50% of the vocabulary, however, is made up of
Sino-Korean words, which are derived from
Chinese characters. Many of
these words were borrowed from
Chinese, although many modern-day
scientific terms come from
Japanese. To a much lesser extent, words
have also been borrowed from Mongolian,
Sanskrit, and other languages.
In modern times, many words have also been borrowed from Western
languages such as
German and, more recently,
- Modern Korean is written with spaces between words, a feature not
found in the other CJK languages (Chinese and
punctuation marks are almost identical to Western ones. Traditionally,
Korean was written in columns from top to bottom, right to left, much
as in other East Asian cultures. Korean is still sometimes written in
columns (especially in poetry), but is now usually written in rows
from left to right, top to bottom.