Two Koreas divided by a fractured language

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stelingo
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Two Koreas divided by a fractured language

Postby stelingo » Fri Mar 08, 2019 8:04 pm

An interesting article about the differences in the language of the two Koreas. If you're studying Korean and you don't know who 'Fancy Man' and 'Ugly Female Bat Disgrace' are, this is a must read.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-47440041
Last edited by stelingo on Sat Mar 09, 2019 12:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Two Koreas divided by a fractured language

Postby Saim » Fri Mar 08, 2019 9:20 pm

North Korea's closed society means its language has changed little since the post-WW2 division of the peninsula. Meanwhile, the southern version has developed rapidly due to exposure to outside culture and technology.


All of the real examples given by the article show that this is absolutely not the case. All this shows is that North Korean language planners are generally more strict in in introducing neologisms based on Korean roots rather than direct borrowings from English. This sort of linguistic purism is not unheard of in liberal-democratic European states, and I don't think many would chalk up coinages like Finnish sähköposti (e-mail) to a "closed society". In fact, I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a European language where the words for shampoo and juice are direct English loans.

Although we see the claim that North Korean hasn't developed due to a "lack of exposure to technology", the article itself explicitly contradicts this by mentioning North Korean equivalents of words for technology, including one actual foreign loan word (not even a calque based on Korean roots): tteuraktoreu!

Having risked death by escaping through China - which hands back refugees it captures - defectors often find themselves at a loss to understand words for tax, homelessness and rent.

All are alien concepts to northerners used to state ownership of everything.


Are they alien concepts or do they have different words for these concepts? The article isn't very clear on what it's talking about, it starts out talking about language and then mentions this cultural difference without really going into it, as if they were fundamentally the same thing.

In any case even if it is true that an average North Korean might not be familiar with these concepts, that does not mean that they don't have their own term -- surely North Korean press has mentioned homelessness or rent at some point, even if only to point out how evil it is and how South Korea has problems with it.
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Re: Two Koreas divided by a fractured language

Postby ilmari » Sat Mar 09, 2019 2:11 am

Although the article may be a bit sensational - North and South Koreans can perfectly understand each other -, there is certainly a gap between the two variants of the language. To see more concrete examples, one could consult Alexander Arguelle's North Korean Reader, published by Dunwoody Press: https://www.dunwoodypublishing.com/product-page/north-korean-reader .
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Re: Two Koreas divided by a fractured language

Postby aokoye » Sat Mar 09, 2019 4:31 am

ilmari wrote:Although the article may be a bit sensational - North and South Koreans can perfectly understand each other -, there is certainly a gap between the two variants of the language. To see more concrete examples, one could consult Alexander Arguelle's North Korean Reader, published by Dunwoody Press: https://www.dunwoodypublishing.com/product-page/north-korean-reader .

I'm not sure how Arguelle's reader that you linked to would clear up much given that it's a compilation of research articles (not necessarily about linguistics I'm assuming). It also has a very high bar to entry given that it's $125, and it requires one to have a high proficiency in Korean.

That said, from various things I've read, there are dialectal differences that cause trouble with regards to understanding people. From this PRI story:
But accent differences are just the start of the linguistic frustration and confusion that many North Koreans feel when they first arrive in the South. An even bigger challenge is learning all the new words South Koreans have acquired in the seven decades since partition, many of them borrowed directly from English.“There’s been a lot of linguistic change, particularly in the South with the influence of globalization," says Sokeel Park, the director of research and strategy at Liberty in North Korea, a refugee support group in Seoul.


There's also an article in the Los Angeles Times:
One recent study by the National Institute of the Korean Language polled 200 people from the South — and 300 who defected from the North — who had experience communicating with someone from the other side. The study revealed that most of them could understand each other, generally, but that North Koreans struggled to comprehend South Koreans in situations where foreign-derived words were used.


And then there's this from the NYTimes referring to the vocabulary differences (sorry for the paywall):
Its enough of a problem that the authorities of both Koreas are bypassing their political differences and are compiling a joint dictionary of the Korean language, their first attempt to prevent their languages from drifting further apart.

"Our dictionary is not meant to replace dictionaries or established grammar in the North and South. Nevertheless, it represents our efforts to rediscover our common linguistic roots in preparation for reunification," said Lee Jae Kyu, secretary general of a South Korean government panel of linguists involved in the seven-year compilation of the joint dictionary.


And here's a final link from Language Log. Given that the two countries have been divided for the past 70+ years, it makes a ton of sense why the there are linguistic differences. All languages that aren't dead change and Korean as spoken in North Korea has changed in forced near isolation. I agree that the idea of language planners trying to control language in such a way that they try to avoid various linguistic borrowings isn't at all unique to North Korea - not at all. That said, the political situation is one of the reasons why the situation in North Korea is different than many other countries.
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Re: Two Koreas divided by a fractured language

Postby Purangi » Sat Mar 09, 2019 4:13 pm

From what I witnessed, Seoul speakers have no problem understanding Pyongyang speakers. Jeju and Yanbian dialects, on the other hand, are much harder to understand.
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Re: Two Koreas divided by a fractured language

Postby nooj » Sat Mar 09, 2019 4:55 pm

Jeju variety is classified by many linguists as a Koreanic language and is critically endangered. The majority of native speakers are over 70 years old.

All the old people in this video are Jeju language speakers, but there has been a break in the intergenerational transmission...young Jeju speakers are extremely rare. It's unbelievably sad, the recent history of Jeju is violent, bloody and now they're swamped by mainlanders and legions of Chinese tourists. Also, all education and media is in standard Korean.

My mother (native speaker of a Gyeongsang dialect) has far more difficulty with Jeju speakers than with North Korean speakers. Also it should be noted that the vast majority of North Korean media that we get is in standard Pyeongyang dialect, we never hear any of the other Korean dialects spoken in North Korea.

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Re: Two Koreas divided by a fractured language

Postby David1917 » Sat Mar 09, 2019 5:24 pm

Saim wrote:
North Korea's closed society means its language has changed little since the post-WW2 division of the peninsula. Meanwhile, the southern version has developed rapidly due to exposure to outside culture and technology.


All of the real examples given by the article show that this is absolutely not the case. All this shows is that North Korean language planners are generally more strict in in introducing neologisms based on Korean roots rather than direct borrowings from English. This sort of linguistic purism is not unheard of in liberal-democratic European states, and I don't think many would chalk up coinages like Finnish sähköposti (e-mail) to a "closed society". In fact, I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a European language where the words for shampoo and juice are direct English loans.

Although we see the claim that North Korean hasn't developed due to a "lack of exposure to technology", the article itself explicitly contradicts this by mentioning North Korean equivalents of words for technology, including one actual foreign loan word (not even a calque based on Korean roots): tteuraktoreu!

Having risked death by escaping through China - which hands back refugees it captures - defectors often find themselves at a loss to understand words for tax, homelessness and rent.

All are alien concepts to northerners used to state ownership of everything.


Are they alien concepts or do they have different words for these concepts? The article isn't very clear on what it's talking about, it starts out talking about language and then mentions this cultural difference without really going into it, as if they were fundamentally the same thing.

In any case even if it is true that an average North Korean might not be familiar with these concepts, that does not mean that they don't have their own term -- surely North Korean press has mentioned homelessness or rent at some point, even if only to point out how evil it is and how South Korea has problems with it.


Thank you for this summary. So, less a language article, more the British state-owned media writing a hit piece on an adversarial country and how awful the citizens' lives are.
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Re: Two Koreas divided by a fractured language

Postby rdearman » Sat Mar 09, 2019 5:29 pm

Politics are against the rules. I am giving a general warning here about the political direction.
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Re: Two Koreas divided by a fractured language

Postby Iversen » Sun Mar 10, 2019 7:07 am

Saim wrote:In fact, I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a European language where the words for shampoo and juice are direct English loans.


Not too hardpressed to find one: Danish! And I think professur Arguelles has a final s in his name.

Apart from that I have been to Jeju without even knowing that they had a dying language or dialect there.

F1641a04_very-old-grandpa-statue-from-Jeju.jpg
F1641a04_very-old-grandpa-statue-from-Jeju.jpg (6.34 KiB) Viewed 140 times
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Re: Two Koreas divided by a fractured language

Postby Saim » Sun Mar 10, 2019 9:02 am

Iversen wrote:Not too hardpressed to find one: Danish! And I think professur Arguelles has a final s in his name.


You're right: this is true of most languages, it turns out it's a Hindi-Urdu loan that passed into European languages through English. Oops.

In any case, I still stand by my broader point.
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