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  • spoken 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 Altaic.
  • modern standard 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 exclusively in Chinese characters.
  • 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 Chinese.
  • 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, English.
  • Modern Korean is written with spaces between words, a feature not found in the other CJK languages (Chinese and Japanese). Korean 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.

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