A Brief History of Korean language

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Karavinka
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A Brief History of Korean language

Postby Karavinka » 2005-10-03, 0:57

The History of Korean language can be divided into roughly 4 stages: Ancient (1st millenium), Medieval (~19C), Early Modern (late 19C~early 20C) and Modern (after 1945). Korean alphabet was invented in 1444; the spoken vernacular wasn't scribed and codified before. There were some efforts to create a writing system for Korean using Chinese characters, but they were too complex and unsuccessful.

'Ancient' period refers to the era of the Three Kingdoms of Korea. Korean peninsula and southern Manchuria was divided by many tribal states in early half of the 1st millenium AD. Among these, Buyeo, Okjeo, Dongye, and Goguryo formed a distinct linguistic group and Jinhan, Mahan, Byeonhan formed another. Among these, the three most important states- Goguryeo, Baekje(Mahan), Silla(Jinhan) are called the 'Three Kingdoms.'

Whether the Three Kingdoms of Korea spoke the same language or not is still a subject of controversy, since only a few hundred words are reconstructed at this point. By the time of Goryeo dynasty the peninsula did speak more or less same language, but whether Goryeo was based on Goguryeo or Silla variety is another issue of controversy. Generally South Korean linguists consider Medieval Korean to be based on Sillan, and the North Korean linguists consider it to be Goguryeo-based.

Vernacular language was scribed only after the creation of Hangul in 1444, and it slowly gained its status as literary language ever since. The written vernacular belonged to the commons and women; the language of education, administration, and academics was still Chinese. This Medieval Korean differs a lot from the Modern Korean, both in terms of grammar and vocabulary. Medieval Korean had three extra consonants and one extra vowel. It can be compared as Chaucer to the Modern English; moderns can't read it without special education. A variety of Medieval Korean is still spoken in Jeju Island, where its language remained relatively unchanged from 15C Korean. It's mutually unintelligible with the mainland dialects, but it's labeled as a 'dialect' because of political reasons.

As the Confucian Fundamentalist Joseon Dynasty fell, the usage of Chinese as literary langauge significantly decreased, and Korean gained its status as nationl symbol again. In late 19C a new wave of literature called 'New novella' spreaded throughout the country, and some of them had eduational or political motives. The demand for the standardization increased as Korean became a major literary language again, and the first "standard" Korean appeared in 1930s, despite the efforts of Japanese Colonial Government to sabotage it. The language of this period is 'understandable' for most modern Korean population, but most of them will find it somehow 'different.'

Modern Korean starts after the liberation and Korean War. Two 'standard' forms appeared as the country divided into half; "Standard Language" of South Korea and "Cultural Language" of North Korea. Both standard languages were primarily based on 1930s Korean Institute standardization, and they remained relatively unchanged. But the new influx of foreign loanwords from English (in South Korea) and Russian (in North Korea) and different idiomatic usages make clear distinction between 'Modern' and 'Early Modern' Korean.


Any comments/questions are welcome.
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그건 아니라고 봅니다.

Postby Ellif » 2005-10-09, 7:57

일반적으로, 한국에서는 다음과 같이 시기를 구분하고 있습니다:

고대 : 후삼국시대까지
중세 : 고려
근세1 : 조선 초기
근세2 : 임진왜란이후 조선 후기
근대 : 대한제국 - 일제강점기
현대 : 대한민국

참조가 되시기 바랍니다.

p.s If you are non-corean, I'm sorry for wrote in Corean. -_-;

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Postby Karavinka » 2005-10-09, 9:20

한국사가 아니라 한국어사입니다. 한국어의 역사는 보통 고대국어, 중세국어, 근현대 국어로 구분합니다. 한국사 자체의 시대구분도 고대를 남북국까지로 보느냐 고려까지로 보느냐, 중세를 고려까지로 보느냐 조선까지로 보느냐에 대한 컨센서스는 없는 걸로 알고 있습니다. 어차피 고-중-근 시대 구분은 헬라스-로마, 중세, 르네상스 이후로 나눠지는 유럽사의 시대구분을 위해 만들어진 용어기 때문에 한국사에 정확히 들어맞진 않습니다. 아, 그리고 한국어로 쓰셔도 전 별 상관 없습니다.

It's not a history of Korea, but a history of Korean language, which is usually divided into Ancient Korean, Medieval Korean, and Modern Korean. And there is no general consensus about the periods of Korean History either, some include Goryeo into the Ancient and Joseon into the Middle Ages. This Ancient-Medieval-Modern concept was created for describing the Graeco-Roman, the Medieval and the Renaissance periods of European history, and it doesn't really fit well with the Korean history. Ah, and it's okay with me if you want to write in Korean.
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재반론

Postby Ellif » 2005-10-09, 13:04

1. 제가 썼던 내용은 분명히 한국어사에 대한 내용임을 밝히는 바입니다.

2. 실제 저 내용은 한국의 고등학교 교과서의 있는 내용을 일부 수정한 것입니다. 저는 중세가 너무 오래 잡혀져 있는 것에 대한 문제를 제기하고 싶습니다. 오늘이 한글날이라서 말인데, 만약 한글이 창제되지 않았더라면, 어떻게 되었을지는.. -_-; 모르겠네요. 기원전의 내용도 있고 하니, 저걸로는 조금 정확하다고 하기는 어렵겠습니다. 참고로 근세 1과 2를 구분한 이유는 '임진왜란' 때문입니다 -_-; 임진왜란때부터 언어가 혼란해 졌다고들 하죠. 한국사 안에서도 중세는 고려때고, 근세는 역시 나눠서 조선으로 가르칩니다. 참조하시기 바랍니다.

For Unilang Peoples. I'm always sorry for writing for Corean. -_-;

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Postby Karavinka » 2005-10-10, 19:59

Again, there is no universally accepted way of defining different periods of the history of Korean language. Different literature will show you different definitions.

I have adopted this classification because of two reasons:

1. Many references on 'Medieval Korean(Jungse Gukeo)' define 'Medieval Korean' as the language spoken/written in Joseon Dynasty.
2. It fits better with the actual history of Korea.

What does this Ancient-Middle-Modern mean, after all? They don't represent mere changes of dynasties, they represent paradigm shifts in the philosophy and the spirituality. In Western histories, 'Ancient' refers to Graeco-Roman, 'Middle' refers to Medieval/Feudal Europe, and 'Modern' to the history after the Renaissance. This does not merely reflect the changes of dynasties, but the changes of philosophy: Hellenism(Ancient) - Hebraism/Judeo-Christian(Medieval) - Hellenism/Humanism(Modern). If we apply this concept of Ancient-Middle-Modern to Korean history, we need to look for the paradigm shifts, not changes of dynasties!

There were only two points in Korean history where such changes took place. Korea had a mixture of Buddhism, Taoism, and Shamanism until the end of the Goryeo Dynasty but it changed to strict fundmental Confucianism upon the foundation of Joseon Dynasty. Another point is the influx of Western ideas in 20th Century. This is the reason I consider Joseon as 'Medieval' in the course of Korean history. It's between two periods: Ancient(Buddhist-Taoist-Shamanist) - Medieval(Confucian) - Modern(Western influenced).

'Geundae' means 'Early Modern.' What makes Joseon Dynasty 'Early Modern'? Does the contemporary Korea (either DPRK/ROK) succeed the philosophical traditions of Joseon Dynasty? No, the lineage has been cut and the researches on Neoconfucianism(Xinglixue, Seonglihak) are now more historical than philosophical. ROK/DPRK is not a continuation of Joseon Dynasty in terms of its philosophical/spiritual traditions, and therefore calling Joseon 'Early Modern' is totally inappropriate.
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Postby Karavinka » 2005-11-21, 2:33

A Brief History of Korean Language

The history of Korean language can be divided into roughly 4 stages: Ancient (1st millennium), Medieval (~19C), Early Modern (late 19C~early 20C) and Modern (after 1945). Medieval period can be divided into Early and Later Medieval again; Early Medieval ends and Later Medieval starts with the foundation of Joseon Dynasty in 1392 and the invention of Korean alphabet in 1444. The spoken vernacular began to be written, and eventually standardized written language emerged. Although there were some efforts to create a writing system for Korean using Chinese characters, but they were too complex and made little success.

'Ancient' period refers to the era of the Three Kingdoms of Korea. Korean peninsula and southern Manchuria were divided by many tribal states in the beginning of the 1st millennium AD. Among these, Buyeo, Okjeo, Dongye, and Goguryo formed a distinct linguistic group and Jinhan, Mahan, Byeonhan formed another. Among these, the three most important states- Goguryeo, Baekje(Mahan), Silla(Jinhan) are called the 'Three Kingdoms.'

Whether the Three Kingdoms of Korea spoke the same language or not is still a subject of controversy, since only a few hundred words are reconstructed at this point. However it is generally agreed that the peninsula spoke the same language by the time of Goryeo dynasty. Whether Goryeo was based on Goguryeo or Silla variety is another issue of controversy. Generally South Korean linguists consider Medieval Korean to be based on Sillan, and the North Korean linguists consider it to be Goguryeo-based.

Korean language was scribed in large quantity only after the creation of Hangeul in 1444, and it slowly gained its status as literary language ever since. The written vernacular belonged to the commons and women while the language of education, administration, and academics remained Chinese; Classical Chinese had similar status as Latin in Medieval Europe. Recorded Medieval Korean shows a lot of differences from the Modern Korean in terms of grammar, vocabulary, and phonetics: Medieval Korean had three extra consonants and one extra vowel. Nowadays people find it difficult to understand Medieval Korean unless they received special education: It can be compared as Chaucer to the Modern English.

A variety of Medieval Korean is still spoken in Jeju Island, where its language remained relatively unchanged from 15C Korean. Jeju dialect in its ‘purest’ form is mutually unintelligible with the mainland dialects, but it’s labeled as a ‘dialect’ by more political reasons than linguistic reasons; many linguists claim Jeju is a language on its own. However, the distinct features of Jeju is rapidly disappearing due to the public education and mass media; majority of people speak more or less ‘standardized’ form of Jeju.

As the Confucian Fundamentalist Joseon Dynasty declined and fell, the Chinese as the language of Confucian Classics lost its status as literary language rapidly, and written Korean gained its status as national symbol. In late 19C a new wave of literature called ‘New Novella’ was spread throughout the country, and some of them had educational or political motives. The demand for the standardization increased as Korean became a major literary language again, and the first “standard” Korean appeared in 1930s, despite the efforts of Japanese Colonial Government to sabotage it by confiscating materials or even arresting the researchers. The language of this period is 'understandable' to most people nowadays, but many will find it somewhat ‘different’ from modern language.

Modern Korean starts after the liberation and Korean War. Two 'standard' forms appeared as the country divided into half; "Standard Language" of South Korea and "Cultural Language" of North Korea. Both standard languages were primarily based on 1930s Korean Institute standardization, and they remained relatively unchanged. But the new influx of foreign loanwords from English (in South Korea) and Russian (in North Korea) and different idiomatic usages make clear distinction between 'Modern' and 'Early Modern' Korean.

In addition, 3 different streams of evolution of Korean language arose in 20th century: Korean as spoken in Diasporas in Japan, China and Central Asia. These groups had relatively little contact with the mainland Korea, and were influenced by the dominant language of their respective regions. Korean spoken in China is under heavy Chinese influence but it is still a living language in Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture of PRC, and it’s still mutually understandable to the Koreans in peninsula. Korean spoken in Japan went more changes in phonetics and vocabularies, and became almost unintelligible to the mainlanders due to the smaller number of speakers. Korean spoken in Central Asia underwent its own course of development as well, but it’s on the verge of extinction now.

-----
Revised, spell-checked, and slightly updated to be submitted to the Articles page on Unilang.
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Postby parousia » 2005-11-21, 10:11

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Last edited by parousia on 2005-11-21, 20:43, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Mantaz » 2005-11-21, 10:59

Is this the fancy Korean script? :D

Image

[/ignorantjoke] ;)

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Postby Karavinka » 2005-11-25, 22:31

Mantaz, you know the picture is too big and it distorts the layout. Make it smaller, please.

Yes, that's exactly the way Korean scripts look like. They look a lot like question marks, but there are very small subtle differences that unskilled eyes can't quite grasp. 8)
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