Korean language

Korean
한국어/韓國語 (South Korea)
조선말/朝鮮말 (North Korea)
Hangugeo-Chosonmal.svg
Pronunciation[tso.sʌn.mal] (North Korea)
[ha(ː)n.ɡu.ɡʌ] (South Korea)
Native toKorea
EthnicityKoreans
Native speakers
77.2 million (2010)[1]
Early forms
Standard forms
Munhwa'ŏ (North Korea)
Pyojuneo (South Korea)
DialectsKorean dialects
Hangul/Chosŏn'gŭl
Korean Braille
Hanja/Hancha
Official status
Official language in
 South Korea
 North Korea

 China

Recognised minority
language in
 Russia (Primorsky Krai)
 China (excluding Yanbian Prefecture and Changbai County)
Regulated byThe Language Research Institute, Academy of Social Science (사회과학원 어학연구소/社會科學院 語學研究所) (Democratic People's Republic of Korea)
National Institute of the Korean Language (국립국어원/國立國語院) (Republic of Korea)
China Korean Language Regulatory Commission (중국조선어규범위원회/中国朝鲜语规范委员会) (People's Republic of China)
Language codes
ko
kor
ISO 639-3Variously:
kor – Modern Korean
jje – Jeju
okm – Middle Korean
oko – Old Korean
oko – Proto-Korean
kore1280[2]
Linguasphere45-AAA-a
Map of Korean language.png
Countries with native Korean-speaking populations (established immigrant communities in green).
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The Korean language (South Korean: 한국어/韓國語 hanguk-eo; North Korean: 조선말/朝鮮말 chosŏn-mal) is an East Asian language spoken by about 77 million people.[3] It is a member of the Koreanic language family and is the official and national language of both Koreas: North Korea and South Korea, with different standardized official forms used in each country. It is also one of the two official languages in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture and Changbai Korean Autonomous County of Jilin province, China. It is also spoken in parts of Sakhalin, Russia, and Central Asia.[4][5]

Historical and modern linguists classify Korean as a language isolate;[6][7][8] however, it does have a few extinct relatives, which together with Korean itself and the Jeju language (spoken in the Jeju Province and considered somewhat distinct) form the Koreanic language family. The linguistic homeland of Korean is suggested to be somewhere in Manchuria.[4]

History

Modern Korean descends from Middle Korean, which in turn descends from Old Korean, which descends from the Proto-Koreanic language which is generally suggested to have its linguistic homeland somewhere in Manchuria.[9][10] Whitman (2012) suggests that the proto-Koreans, already present in northern Korea, expanded into the southern part of the Korean Peninsula at around 300 BC and coexisted with the descendants of the Japonic Mumun cultivators (or assimilated them). Both had influence on each other and a later founder effect diminished the internal variety of both language families.[11]

The oldest Korean dictionary.(1920)

Chinese characters arrived in Korea (see Sino-Xenic pronunciations for further information) together with Buddhism during the Proto-Three Kingdoms era in the 1st century BC. It was adapted for Korean and became known as Hanja, and remained as the main script for writing Korean through over a millennium alongside various phonetic scripts that were later invented such as Idu, Gugyeol and Hyangchal. Mainly privileged elites were educated to read and write in Hanja. However, most of the population was illiterate. In the 15th century, King Sejong the Great personally developed an alphabetic featural writing system known today as Hangul.[12][13] He felt that Hanja was inadequate to write Korean and that this was the cause of its very restricted use; Hangul was designed to either aid in reading Hanja or replace Hanja entirely. Introduced in the document "Hunminjeongeum", it was called "eonmun" (colloquial script) and quickly spread nationwide to increase literacy in Korea. Hangul was widely used by all the Korean classes but often treated as "amkeul" (script for female) and disregarded by privileged elites, whereas Hanja was regarded as "jinseo" (true text). Consequently, official documents were always written in Hanja during the Joseon era. Since most people couldn't understand Hanja, Korean kings sometimes released public notices entirely written in Hangul as early as the 16th century for all Korean classes, including uneducated peasants and slaves.[14] By the 17th century, Korean elites Yangban and their slaves exchanged Hangul letters; that indicates a high literacy rate of Hangul during the Joseon era.[15] Today, Hanja is largely unused in everyday life due to its inconvenience, but it is still important for historical and linguistic studies. Neither South Korea or North Korea opposes the learning of Hanja, though they are not officially used in North Korea anymore, and their usage in South Korea is mainly reserved for specific circumstances, such as newspapers, scholarly papers, and disambiguation.

Since the Korean War, through 70 years of separation, the North–South differences have developed in standard Korean, including variations in pronunciation and vocabulary chosen, but these minor differences can be found in any of the Korean dialects and still largely mutually intelligible.