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Dravido-Koreanic, sometimes Dravido-Koreo-Japonic, is a controversial[1] language family proposal which links the living or proto-Dravidian languages to Korean and (in some versions) to Japanese. A genetic link between the Dravidian languages and Korean was first hypothesized by Homer B. Hulbert in 1905.[2] The hypothesis later gained "popularity" as a result of the work of Morgan E. Clippinger in his "Korean and Dravidian: lexical evidence for an old theory", published in 1984, and Susumu Ōno in his "The origin of the Japanese language" in 1970.

South Asia, Japan and Korea
Linguistic classificationProposed language family

In 2011, Jung Nam Kim, president of the Korean Society of Tamil Studies, mentioned that the similarities between Korean and Dravidian are strong, but he also said that this does not prove a genetic link between Dravidian and Korean, and that more research needs to be done. He is sure that a genetic or areal connection exists, because the similarities are too strong to be only coincidence.[3]


Early recognition of language similaritiesEdit

Similarities between the Dravidian languages and Korean were first noted by French missionaries in Korea.[4] In 1905, Homer B. Hulbert wrote a comparative grammar of Korean and Dravidian in which he hypothesized a genetic connection between the two.[2] Susumu Ōno caused a stir in Japan with his theory that Tamil constituted a lexical stratum of both Korean and Japanese, which was widely publicized in the 1980s but quickly abandoned. However, Clippinger's method was professional and his data reliable; hence, Ki-Moon Lee, Professor Emeritus at Seoul National University, opines that his conclusion could not be ignored and that it should be revisited.[5] According to Homer B. Hulbert, many of the names of ancient cities of southern Korea were the exact counterpart of Dravidian words.[6] For example, the Karak Kingdom of King Suro was named after the proto-Dravidian meaning fish.[7][8] Samguk yusa describes Heo Hwang-ok who was the first queen of the Geumgwan Gaya — which was a statelet of the Gaya confederacy — came from Indian's Ayuta kingdom. However, given its mythical narratives, historical reliability of Samguk yusa is questionable.


Susumu Ōno,[9] and Homer B. Hulbert[10] propose that early Dravidian people, especially Tamils, migrated to the Korean peninsula and Japan. Clippinger presents 408 cognates and about 60 phonological correspondences. Clippinger found that some cognates were closer than others leading him to speculate a genetic link which was reinforced by a later migration.[11][12] The Japanese professor Tsutomu Kambe found more than 500 similar cognates between Tamil and Japanese.[13] There are two basic common features:[14]

  • all three languages are agglutinative,
  • all three follow SOV word order, and consequently modifiers always precede modified words and particles are post-positional.

However, typological similarities such as these could easily be due to chance; agglutinative languages are quite common, and half of the languages in the world follow SOV word order. The lack of a statistically significant number of cognates and the lack of anthropological and genetic links can be adduced to dismiss this proposal.[1]

Comparative linguist Kang Gil-un found 1300 Dravidian Tamil cognates in Korean. He insisted that the Korean language is based on the Nivkh language and was influenced later.[15]

List of potential Korean-Tamil cognatesEdit

Personal pronounsEdit

Korean Meaning Tamil Meaning Notes
na (나) (naneun 나는, naega 내가) I nāṇ (நான்)/ nāṇu (நானு) I Nā நா is informal in both languages. In Korean naneun 나는, na 나 is the first person singular pronoun, whereas -neun 는 is a marker of the topic. In colloquial Korean speech, naneun 나는 may be shortened to nan 난.
neo (너) (neoneun 너는, nega 네가) you nī (நீ)/ nīnga (நீங்க) you Nī நீ is informal in both languages. Nīnga நீங்க is formal in Tamil. Korean nega 네가 is an irregular form of neo 너 (second person singular pronoun) + -ga 가 (marker of the nominative case). In colloquial Korean speech, neoneun 너는 may be shortened to neon 넌, and nega 네가 may be pronounced as niga 니가.


Korean Meaning Tamil Meaning
Appa (아빠, informal) / Abeoji (아버지, formal)[dubious ] Father Appā (அப்பா)/ Appuchchi (அப்புச்சி, grand-pa) Father
Eomma (엄마) / Eomeoni (어머니)[dubious ] Mother; middle-aged lady; aunt Ammā (அம்மா) / Ammuṇi (அம்முனி, grand-ma) Mother; milady (honorific for young women)
Eonni (언니) Elder sister (females for their elder sisters); but note that the term historically meant elder sibling of either sex. Aṇṇi (அன்னி) Elder sister-in-law
Nuna (누나) Elder sister (males for their elder sisters) Nungai (நுங்கை) Younger sister (Old Tamil)
Agassi (아가씨) Young lady; however this term is most likely a compound of "aga" (baby) + "-ssi" (suffix for politely calling someone) Thankachi/Thangai

|| Younger Sister


Korean Meaning Tamil Meaning Notes
Mettugi (메뚜기) grasshopper Vettukkili (வெட்டுக்கிளி) grasshopper
Pul (풀) grass Pul (புல்) grass
Ippal (이빨) tooth Pal (பல்) tooth
-boda (-보다) than Vida (விட) than
gada (가다) to go Gada (கட) to go
Wa (와)[dubious ] an inflected form of the verb o-(오-) "to come" Vā (வா) come
olla (올라)[dubious ] an inflected form of the verb oreu-(오르-) "to climb" Yeḷḷa (எழ)/Yeḷḷa(எழு) Rise Yellu/yella
Aigu (아이구) - Aiyō (ஐயோ) - Expression of surprise, disgust or disregard
Igeot (이것) this: a compound made of i ("this") + geot ("(some)thing") Itu (இது) this
Nal (날) day Nāḷ (நாள்) day
jogeum-jogeum (조금 조금) - konjam-konjam (கொஞ்சம் கொஞ்சம்) - Literally 'little-bit little-bit'
eoneu (어느) one/what (as in "one day" or "what day") onnu (ஒண்ணு) one
kungdengyi/gungdengi (궁뎅이) buttocks (궁디 or kungdee/gungdi in slang) kundy (குண்டி) backside


  1. ^ a b "Origin Theories of the Korean Language". Retrieved 2013-12-15.
  2. ^ a b Hulbert, Homer B. (1905). A Comparative Grammar Of The Korean Language and the Dravidian Languages of India.
  3. ^ "Tamil and Korean link".
  4. ^ Hulbert, Homer B. (1906). The passing of Korea. Doubleday, Page & Co. p. 28.
  5. ^ Lee, Ki-Moon; Ramsey, S. Robert (2011). A History of the Korean Language. Cambridge University Press. p. 15. ISBN 978-1-139-49448-9.
  6. ^ Hulbert (1906), p. 29.
  7. ^ Barnes, Gina Lee (2001). State formation in Korea: historical and archaeological perspectives. Routledge. p. 185.
  8. ^ Kim, Choong-Soon (2011). Voices of Foreign Brides: The Roots and Development of Multiculturalism in Contemporary Korea. Rowman & Littlefield.
  9. ^ Ohno, Susumu (1970). The Origin of the Japanese Language. Journal of Japanese studies.
  10. ^ Paek, Nak-chun (1987). The history of Protestant missions in Korea, 1832-1910. Yonsei University Press.
  11. ^ Clippinger, Morgan E. (1984). "Korean and Dravidian: Lexical Evidence for an Old Theory". Korean Studies. 8: 1–57. doi:10.1353/ks.1984.0011. JSTOR 23717695.
  12. ^ Sohn, Ho-Min (2001). The Korean Language. Cambridge University Press. p. 28. ISBN 978-0-521-36943-5.
  13. ^ "Researchers find Tamil connection in Japanese - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 2017-05-19.
  14. ^ Sohn (2001), p. 29.
  15. ^ Kang, Gil-un (1990). 고대사의 비교언어학적 연구. 새문사.

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