Korean Linguistics the Korean Language Term Paper

  • Length: 12 pages
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  • Subject: Communication - Language
  • Type: Term Paper
  • Paper: #34342693

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Certain sound sequences within a morpheme are not permitted, such as s combined with k, although the reverse may occur when k is final in the preceding morpheme and s begins the succeeding morpheme. Certain consonants when in the final position in the morpheme become a strongly dentalized sound (Ramsey, 1977). Thus, t, tt fortis, unaspirated t, t' (fortis, aspired t), s, ch, and c6?, and ch' (fortis aspirated ch) all are pronounced as if they were t when they occur in the final position.

Intermorphemic Sound Change

Sound change between syllables is an important feature of the pronunciation of Korean morphemes. This feature, also true of Japanese, is made more difficult for the reader of Korean because it is an orthographic convention that the shape of the individual syllable (morpheme) should be preserved (Jakobson, 1971). Although the Korean alphabet itself is highly phonetic, the orthographic convention to preserve the written appearance of the syllable means that the reader must learn a large number of standardized sound changes that occur in the intersyllable position.

Intermorphemic Sound Movement

Sound movement between syllables also occurs. When a syllable that ends in a consonant is followed by a syllable beginning with a vowel, the final consonantal sound passes over to the next syllable. This passage of sound is not represented orthographically.

Nonclustering of Initial Consonants

Clusters of consonants at the beginning of a syllable are not characteristic, there being no equivalents of English sk, st, str, sb, and so on (Vovin, 1997).

Animacy, definiteness and gender.

The vowel system of Korean is as complex as the system of consonants. There arc three ranges of vowels: standard vowels (monophthongs), vowel sounds beginning with y (rising diphthongs), and a wide range of full diphthongs and diphthongs beginning with the sound w. The basic vowels of the monophthong series are pronounced similarly to the vowels of the Romance languages (Jakobson, 1971). The monophthongs are a, 6, o, u, and u. The y series of rising diphthongs are ya, yo, yo, yu. The principal diphthongs number 11, although other combinations are possible. Vowels are characterized by phonemic length, which refers to an alteration in tonal height. There is evidence of an earlier stage of vowel harmony that exists as a residual characteristic in certain linguistic contexts.

Grammar and Syntax

General Features

Korean is an agglutinative language with strong elements of fusion and analytical development. The morphological development of word derivation is a well-developed feature of the grammar of the language. Nouns possess a wealth of case forms, possess the grammatical category of specification, and do not possess grammatical gender (Gruzdeva, 1987). There are forms of demonstrative pronouns that indicate varying degrees of spatial relationship.


There are two types of numeral systems: the indigenous Korean system, and the Sino-Korean system that was borrowed as an entire loanword system (Hankwukhak, 1988). Along with the numeral system, there is a system of classifiers that are bound morphemes used as counting words to refer to objects, animals, or people.

Syntactical Markers

The predicative's, verbs, and adjectives of Korean do not have person, number, or gender. They do possess markers indicating social status, tense, and a sentence conclusion. There are three major bands of social status or reference that can be indicated with the special markers, each band containing within it possibilities for further refinements to indicate the precise degree of social relationship existing between the speakers, the listener, or the person spoken about (Hyen, 1995). Tense markers indicate three broad classes of time: the present, the past, and the future (more properly, supposition about the occurrence of an event). Sentence conclusion markers indicate a wide range of moods and meaning, including simple declaration, interrogation, request, demand, suggestion, and reflection. In addition, there are quotative constructions that may be added to the verb to indicate the quotation of a declaration, interrogation, demand, or request (Ramsey, 1977). The structure of the verb is verb stem + honorific infix + tense infix + sentence conclusion marker (vs. + hi + ti + scm). There is a separate lexical form of the verb that is used to place the verb in alphabetical order in dictionaries, lexicons, and word lists.

Verbal tense and aspect systems; mood and negation.

Word order in sentences for both independent and dependent clauses is always in the sequence of subject, object, and predicate. Modifiers, whether of the adjectival or adverbial type, are always in the preposition modifying the word to which they refer (Ramsey, 1991). Syntactic relations between words may be expressed by postpositional) markers, particles, syntactic nouns, adverbial particles, participles, and the infinitive form of predicative's. Thus, a sentence may consist of a series of clauses, such as an extended adjectival clause modifying a noun, which contains its own subject, object, and predicative with tense and honorific markers attached.

Speech Levels and Honorifics

As a key characteristic of the use of the Korean language is an appropriate use of the system of honorifics that show deference, a sentence must take into consideration three dimensions of speech relationship: (a) the nature of the relationship between the speaker and the listener, (b) the nature of the relationship between the speaker and the per- son spoken about, and (c) the appropriate way to speak of or about oneself (Jakobson, 1971). Any complete sentence will take into account at least one of these dimensions in addition to considerations of tense and mood. Pronouns, especially for the second person, are very seldom used, the subject of the sentence being understood from the linguistic context.

Sentence Linkage

In sentences containing two independent clauses, the two clauses are linked together through a connection marker attached to the predicative of the first clause. The predicate of the final independent clause will contain markers for honorifics, tense, mood, and sentence conclusion. Where the initial clause is de- pendent, the connection marker attached to the predicative will indicate the precise relationship of the dependent clause to the independent and principal clause.



Korean vocabulary is of three types: indigenous Korean vocabulary, Sinitic vocabulary, and loan- words from European languages. Indigenous Korean vocabulary is highly polysyllabic in structure, a feature that is put to good use in sound imitation (Hyen, 1995). Of the world's languages, Korean is one of the most highly onomatopoetic languages. Sinitic vocabulary consists of three subtypes: (a) uniquely Korean terms created by using Chinese characters, (b) direct loan- words from Chinese, and (c) Sino-Japanese loanwords. Sinitic vocabulary consists of terms that are in both ordinary and learned usage, and constitutes more than half of the entire Korean lexicon. European languages, particularly English, have contributed a number of words, both to the speech of the ordinary person and to the technical speech of professional persons. French, German, Spanish, and Portuguese have also made small contributions to the vocabulary of Korean (Ramsey, 1977). There are, or were, a small number of pure Japanese loanwords, but most of these have fallen into disuse through a movement for the purification of the language.

Syntactic structures: complex clauses in Korean subordination and coordination.

Word Creation

It is still common to use Chinese characters to create new items of technical vocabulary, for example, nokhwa-gi, for 'videotape recorder.' Most Sinitic items of vocabulary enter the language as nouns. By attaching the verb hada 'to do' in the postposition of the noun, loanwords of this type may be transformed into verbs. By using one of several constructions, such verbs may then be made into adjective or adverbial constructions (Hyen, 1995). By adding ki (carrying a sense of continuous action) or umlm (carrying an abstract sense) to a verb stem, a verb may be nominalized. Dictionary definitions are often given using umlrn attached to the final verb.

Parallel Vocabulary Sets

Throughout the vocabulary of Korean, there exists a parallel set of Korean and Sino-Korean vocabulary. Mention was made earlier of the existence of two systems of counting. This feature carries throughout the entire Korean lexicon. Often, but not exclusively, Sino-Korean words are used to name objects or subjects of discourse, while Korean words have a descriptive function (Jakobson, 1971). 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 non-honorific usage. With regard to time, hours are given in Korean numbers, while minutes are given in Sino-Korean numbers. Again, duration of time (i.e., 'it took 1-hour to go home') is given using Korean numerals. Notwithstanding the enormous impact that Sinitic vocabulary has had on enriching the vocabulary of the Korean language, there has been virtually no influence on the grammar of Korean, possibly because Chinese and Korean derive from two radically different language families (Ramsey, 1978).


Modern Korean may be written in one of two forms, either by using only the Korean alphabet (known as Han'gul in the Republic of Korea) or a mixed script of Han'gul and Chinese characters. In North Korea, the Korean alphabet is used exclusively. In…

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