Open main menu

Koreanic languages

The Koreanic languages are a language family consisting of the modern Korean language together with extinct ancient relatives.

Korean peninsula, Northeastern China, Far Eastern Russia
partially also in Central Asia and Ukraine
Linguistic classificationOne of the world's primary language families
Three Kingdoms of Korea Map.png
During the 5th century AD, the languages of or related to those of the Korean peninsula were spoken in the Three Kingdoms of Korea – a wider area than modern Korea.

The language of Jeju Island, considered by some as a dialect of modern Korean, is distinct enough to be considered a language in its own right by other authorities. This would make Korean and Jeju a small language family.

Koreanic is suggested to have originated somewhere in Manchuria and later migrated into the Korean Peninsula.[2]

External relationshipsEdit

Among extant languages, Korean is considered by most linguists to be a language isolate, though it is commonly included by proponents of the now generally rejected Altaic family.[3] Alexander Vovin (2015)[4] notes that Koreanic shares some typological features with the four Paleosiberian language families (e.g. lack of phonemic voiced stops, verb compounding, earlier ergativity), and suggests that it actually has more in common with "Paleosiberian" (which is a geographical and areal grouping rather than a genetic one) than with the putative Altaic group. Koreanic also has some loanwords from Paleosiberian languages.[5] Vovin notes that Koreanic has some Tungusic loanwords, but is not genetically related to Tungusic.

Some place names in at least Goguryeo and Silla territory, as well as on Jeju Island, are explicable as Japonic, but loans from the Goguryeo language, and texts of the Silla language, do not share these Japonic elements, suggesting that the attested languages of the Korean peninsula were all Koreanic, and that Koreanic languages displaced Japonic languages throughout the peninsula.[6] (See also Gaya language.)

The unclassified Khitan language has some vocabulary similar to that of Korean and not found in the Mongolian or Tungusic languages. This suggests a strong Korean presence or influence on Khitan.[7]

The possibility of a genetic relation between Turkic languages and Korean, independently from Altaic, is suggested by some linguists.[8][9][10] Barış Kabak (2004) of the University of Würzburg states that Turkic and Korean share similar phonology as well as morphology.[citation needed] Yong-Sŏng Li (2014)[11] suggest that there are several cognates between Turkic and Old Korean. Choi Han-Woo[12] suggested already in 1996 a close relationship between Turkic and Korean regardless of any Altaic connections.


The periodization of the historical stages of Korean is as follows:

  • Before 1st century: Proto-Korean
  • 1st to 10th century: Old Korean
  • 10th to 16th century: Middle Korean
  • 17th century to present: Modern Korean

Ancient Koreanic languagesEdit

Several ancient languages of the Korean peninsula—Silla, Buyeo, Goguryeo, Dongye, Okjeo, Baekje, Gojoseon and Ye-Maek—may have been ancestral to, related to, or part of Old Korean. Two branches are sometimes posited, Koguryoic and Han.[13]

In ancient times, Koreanic languages, then established in southern Manchuria and the northern Korean peninsula, expanded southward to the central and southern Korean peninsula, displacing the Japonic languages spoken there and possibly causing the Yayoi migrations.[14][15][16][17][18] There is disagreement over the protohistorical or historical period during which this expansion occurred, ranging from the Korean Bronze Age period to the Three Kingdoms of Korea period.

Modern Koreanic languagesEdit

Modern Korean is traditionally considered a single language. However, Jeju (Cheju) is sometimes classified as a distinct language, for example in the UNESCO atlas on endangered languages. If that is accepted, there are two modern Koreanic languages, Jeju and Korean proper.[19]


  • Koreanic Languages (한국어족, 韓國語族)
    • Ye-Maek (예맥어, 濊貊語) – unattested, said to have been ancestral to the Koguryoic and Han languages
    • Koguryoic languages (부여어파, 夫餘語派)
    • Han languages (한어파, 韓語派)
      • Sillan (신라어군, 新羅語群)
        • Korean (한국어/조선어, 韓國語/朝鮮語)
        • Jeju (제주어, 濟州語)
      • Baekje (백제어, 百濟語)
      • Gaya (가야어, 伽耶語) – only one word known

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Koreanic". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. ^ Hölzl, Andreas (2018-08-29). A typology of questions in Northeast Asia and beyond: An ecological perspective. Language Science Press. ISBN 9783961101023.
  3. ^ Kim, Chin-Wu (1974). The Making of the Korean Language. Center for Korean Studies, University of Hawai'i.
  4. ^ Vovin, Alexander (2015). "Korean as a Paleosiberian Language". 알타이할시리즈 2. ISBN 978-8-955-56053-4. Retrieved 2016-11-06.
  5. ^ Vovin, Alexander. 2003. ‘Etymological notes on some Paleosiberian and Tungusic loanwords in Korean’, in Proceedings for Korean Language and Culture 5/6: 57-60, St. Petersburg, Russia.
  6. ^ Vovin, Alexander (2013). "From Koguryǒ to T'amna: Slowly riding to the South with speakers of Proto-Korean". Korean Linguistics. 15 (2): 222–240. doi:10.1075/kl.15.2.03vov.
  7. ^ Vovin, Alexander (June 2017). "Koreanic loanwords in Khitan and their importance in the decipherment of the latter". Acta Orientalia Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae. 70 (2): 207–215. doi:10.1556/062.2017.70.2.4. ISSN 0001-6446.
  8. ^ SIBATA, TAKESI (1979). "SOME SYNTACTIC SIMILARITIES BETWEEN TURKISH, KOREAN, AND JAPANESE". Central Asiatic Journal. 23 (3/4): 293–296. ISSN 0008-9192. JSTOR 41927271.
  9. ^ SOME STAR NAMES IN MODERN TURKIC LANGUAGES-I - Yong-Sŏng LI - Academy of Korean Studies Grant funded by the Korean Government (MEST) (AKS-2010-AGC-2101) - Seoul National University 2014
  10. ^ A Comparative Study of Korean and Turkic - Choi Han-Woo (Hoseo University)
  11. ^ SOME STAR NAMES IN MODERN TURKIC LANGUAGES-I - Yong-Sŏng LI - Academy of Korean Studies Grant funded by the Korean Government (MEST) (AKS-2010-AGC-2101) - Seoul National University 2014
  12. ^ A Comparative Study of Korean and Turkic - Choi Han-Woo (Hoseo University)
  13. ^ Young Kyun Oh, 2005. Old Chinese and Old Sino-Korean
  14. ^ Bellwood, Peter (2013). The Global Prehistory of Human Migration. Malden: Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 9781118970591.
  15. ^ Vovin, Alexander (2013). "From Koguryo to Tamna: Slowly riding to the South with speakers of Proto-Korean". Korean Linguistics. 15 (2): 222–240.
  16. ^ Lee, Ki-Moon; Ramsey, S. Robert (2011). A History of the Korean language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-66189-8.
  17. ^ Whitman, John (2011). "Northeast Asian Linguistic Ecology and the Advent of Rice Agriculture in Korea and Japan". Rice. 4 (3–4): 149–158. doi:10.1007/s12284-011-9080-0.
  18. ^ Unger, J. Marshall (2009). The role of contact in the origins of the Japanese and Korean languages. Honolulu: University of Hawai?i Press. ISBN 978-0-8248-3279-7.
  19. ^ Janhunen, Juha, 1996. Manchuria: an ethnic history