Old Korean

Old Korean
Old Korean
Spoken in Korea
Era Evolved into Middle Korean by the 10th century
Language family
Writing system Hanja
Language codes
ISO 639-3 oko
Old Korean
Hangul 고대 국어
Hanja 古代國語
Revised Romanization Godae gugeo
McCune–Reischauer Kodae kugŏ

Old Korean corresponds to the Korean language from the beginning of Three Kingdoms of Korea to the latter part of the Unified Silla,[1] of which period is roughly from 1 AD to 1000 AD. There are many theories to differentiate the Korean language histories.[2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9] It is distinct from Proto-Korean (원시 한국어), which is the reconstructed language from which Korean is hypothesized to have evolved. However, there is controversy whether the Korean language actually separated from the Altaic language family. Old Korean may have been a tonal language, although this has not been clearly established.[10] The old Korean languages are divided into two. It is assumed that the Sillan dialect has its roots to middle and modern Korean, while the Buyeo language, spoken by Goguryeo and Baekje and other Korean states before the Three kingdoms period and the ones that co-existed in the era has similarities with the Sillan dialect.

Only some literary records of Unified Silla, changed into Goryeo text, are extant and some texts (written in their native Writing system) of the Three kingdoms period are mostly available in form of inscriptions at present. Thus, the languages of the Three Kingdoms period are generally examined through official government names and local district names. The point at which Old Korean became Middle Korean is assessed variously by different scholars. The line is sometimes drawn in the late Goryeo dynasty, and sometimes around the 15th century in the early Joseon Dynasty. But it is usually thought that Middle Korea started at the establishment of Goryeo, and the standard language of Old Korean was changed from the Silla dialect to the Goryeo dialect.



There is very little literature for research of Old Korean. The first texts in Old Korean date from the Three Kingdoms period. They are written using Chinese characters to represent the sound and grammar of the native language. Various systems were used, beginning with ad hoc approaches and gradually becoming codified in the scribal idu system and the hyangchal system used for poetry.

Additional information about the language is drawn from various proper nouns recorded in Korean and Chinese records, and from etymological studies of the Korean pronunciations of Chinese characters, which are believed to have been first adapted into Korean in the late Three Kingdoms period.

Writing system

Classical Chinese was used as the main writing system. Phonetic systems were used, such as Hyangchal, Gugyeol or Idu. However, these were only arrangements of Chinese characters to represent the language phonetically, much like the Japanese Man'yōgana.


It has not been definitely proven that during the age of Three Kingdoms, all three kingdoms used the same language, but it is accepted by many scholars that the Three Kingdoms utilized similar languages, and that these may have been dialects of a single language.[11]

See also


  1. ^ 최기호, 국어사 서설(The History of Korean Language), 제8회 국외 한국어교사 연수회 (8th Research Conference of Korean Language Teacher in Abroad), 2004년
  2. ^ 김형규(1955), 국어사(History of Korean Language), 백영사
  3. ^ 최범훈(1985) 한국어발달사 (Developing History of Korean Language) 통문관
  4. ^ 김영황(1989) 조선민족어발전력사 (Developing History of Korean National Language), 김일성종합대학출판사
  5. ^ 류렬(1992) 조선말력사 2 (Korean Language History 2). 사회과학출판사
  6. ^ 이철수(1989) 한국어사 (Korean Language History) 개문사
  7. ^ 이기문(1980) 국어음운사 연구 (Phonetic History of Korean Language) 탑출판사
  8. ^ 박병채(1989) 국어발달사 (Developing Korean Language History), 세영사
  9. ^ 안병호 (1982) 조선어발달사(Developing Korean Language History), 료녕인민출판사
  10. ^ Kim (2004), p. 80.
  11. ^ 김수경(1989), 세나라 시기 언어 력사에 관한 남조선 학계의 견해에 대한 비판적 고찰(Criticism about the language opinion during three kingdoms of Korea)


  • Kim, Mu-rim (김무림) (2004). 국어의 역사 (Gugeo-ui yeoksa, History of the Korean language). Seoul: Hankook Munhwasa. ISBN 89-5726-185-0. 

External links

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