한국말 (Hangungmal), aka the Korean language

Faithful readers may recognize the title of this post from a couple of months ago. I decided to retitle the previous post to “Practice the Korean Alphabet” since that better described what the post was about, and to use this title for a post that actually describes the Korean language. (Sorry if that confuses anyone. In the beginning I was trying to be creative with my headlines. Now I’ve decided it’s better to be practical.)

The Korean language, which has been in use for thousands of years, is today spoken by more than 70 million people worldwide, including of course those residing in both North Korea and South Korea.

While the Korean language has always been distinct, it’s written form hasn’t. Prior to the 15th century, Koreans would write using “hanja,” meaning Chinese characters. The creation of a unique Korean alphabet was done by commission of King Sejong in the 15th century. Korean alphabet, which includes 10 vowels and 14 consonants, made it easier for everyone to learn to read and write.

Korean sentences are formed differently from how we in the U.S. structure sentence. In Korea sentences are structured in a Subject Object Verb order. Other differences are that in Korean verbs don’t change to agree with the subject and nouns have no gender. But verb endings are different depending on your relationship to the person to whom you are speaking.

The majority of the Korean vocabulary is made up of words native to the Korean language. But you will at times see the term “Sino-Korean,” which describes those words borrowed from the Chinese.

I’ll go in-depth about some of the distinctives of the language in future posts. Until then you might want to check out this site for further explanation: http://wikitravel.org/en/Korean_phrasebook

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