What You Most Probably Don’t Know About The Korean Language
The Korean Language is recognized as the formal means of communication for over 77 million nationals in North and South Korea. It settles as the 17th most used languages globally and it is also spoken in a few provinces in China, some cities in Russia and some parts of central Asia. Having quite an interesting ancient background, it is fun delving into the foundations of this language. This can come in handy especially for those looking to take up Korean lesson in Singapore.
Varieties of name
The Korean language is referred to in various nomenclatures according to the names of Korea used in North Korea and South Korea. In English, the generally known word ‘Korean’ was derived from Goryeo, perceived to be the premier Korean dynasty in the nations of the West and is used in international contexts by both North and South Korea.
In North Korea and also in China, it is called Joseon-o or Joseon-mal. This is largely because, in North Korea, Joseon translates to Korea in direct relation to the Joseon dynasty while in South Korea, Hanguk-eo, Uri -mal or Hanguk-mal which translates literally to ‘Korean language’, ‘Our language’, and ‘Korean speech’ are also used to refer to the language.
Korean immigrants that resided in USSR (now Russia) call it Koryo-mal with ‘Koryo’ directly translating to ‘Korea’. Most of the current speakers, probably due to the influence of the Russian language have a different dialect which is now acknowledged to be endangered as native speakers of the Korean language find it incomprehensible.
No historical relationship
Unlike any other international language, the Korean language has been categorized by linguists from past and present generations as “language isolate”. In the strictest sense, in the event where a living, natural language has no established relatives or parental languages, one should only refer to it as language isolates. This simply means that it does not share any ancestral or genealogical relationship with another language.
Though some reports claim it has a few non-extant languages related. Without any doubt, it is the broadest language in the world without any relations to another language. Although they have various dialects in South Korea, it is often touted as the only living relative of the language which is very distinct from it that even native Korean speakers find it incomprehensible.
‘Respect and formality’
Culturally, Koreans appropriate respect and politeness for people, places and things. Formality and honour are accorded to different people based on status. In fact, when communicating to someone about another person, respect is given to both the person you are talking to and the person you are talking about and this is usually imbibed in words through special nouns, verb conjugations, and usage of vocabulary that depends on your personal relationship to who you are communicating with. Getting it right literally translates to excellent communication skills and good respect for people.
The Korean vocabulary is derived from a number of sources. The Chinese language had influenced the Korean language in the form of Sino-Korean words, identical to the Japanese and Vietnamese languages. Even though Korean has no grammatical relationship whatsoever with any other language, Native Korean words make up about 35% of the Korean vocabulary, while Chinese-Korean words make up about 60% of the Korean vocabulary. The remaining 5 per cent comes from several other languages, of which 90 per cent come from English.