Korean lessons: Lesson 1

Fundamental features of Korean Language   

The Korean language is spoken by more than 60 million people. It belongs to the group of Altaic languages together with Japanese, Ainu, and Mongolian, which were splitted one another several thousand years ago. Syntactically, Korean shares some common characteristics with these Altaic languages, while over 70% of its contemporary vocabulary came from Chinese.

1) SOV language

Korean is classified as an SOV language, which stands for <Subject-Object-Verb> word order. English on the other hand is an SVO language. A subject is the one who acts. An object is the one who receives the subjects action. For example:

<English> Bob loves Jenny.

Who loves Jenny? Bob does. Who is loved by Bob? Jenny is. In Korean this sentence will be in the the word order:

<Korean> Bob Jenny loves.

2) Topic-prominent language

Although we call it a subject, its position is not for subjects, the actor, only. A topic can also be in the position. A topic may not be an actor, but the one which the sentence is about. Let’s take an example: You bumped into a friend after lunch. Your friend asks you, “Hey, how about a lunch?” You might want to say, “Lunch? I already had it. How about a cup of coffee?” The first part of this speech can be understood, ‘As for (or, speaking of) lunch, I already ate it.’ In Korean, this can be stated simply:

<Korean> Lunch, I ate.


3) Agglutinating language

Now, you may have been confused, saying, “I don’t get it. How come no one interprets it ‘A lunch ate me.’?” This is where the powerful function of particles, endings, and conjugation comes in.  By attaching these little grammatical devices, you label each words, so that your words come into places without causing misunderstanding.

4) Basic Sentence Formation:

{Subject/Topic+particle}  +  {Object+particle}  +   {Verb/Adjective+conjugation}

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