Re: Q.'s about hanja

From: Jungshik Shin (
Date: Tue Nov 07 2000 - 13:58:01 EST

On Tue, 7 Nov 2000, John Cowan wrote:

> SoHee Kim wrote:
> > What do you mean by genuinely Korean words?
> > We had our own words even before Hangul was made. But this doesn't
> mean these
> > words are derived from Chinese.

> Many Korean words, however, are unquestionably derived from Chinese. One example,
> given in the Unicode Standard at pp. 260-61, is *thangmyen* < Chinese *tanmen*
> 'soup noodles'. The question of whether a Korean *word* is derived from Chinese
> is quite separate from the question of whether it is *written* using a Chinese
> character at one period or another.

Nobody even in today disputes the word you took as an example was
derived from Chinese :-). We don't regard it as 'genuine Korean word'.
Every single Korean like any one person using any other language is well
aware that there are tons of words derived from foreign languages (in case
of Korean, Chinese and Japanese and recently English). Depending on how
you count, a fifth to half of Korean words are derived from Chinese or
imported from Chinese and Japanese. However, as time goes by, etymology
gets obscure and pronunication gets changed (just like Latin words in
European languages change over time) so that people no longer recognize
some of those words as derived from Chinese and have little idea how to
write them in Hanjas.

What SoHee Kim wanted to say is perhaps NOT that none of Korea words
was derived from Chinese BUT that there were 'genuinely Korean words'
in addition to words imported/derived from Chinese.

> > Before King SeJong made Hangul at 1446, since
> > we didn't have other characters to write, we used Hanja.
> > There are Korean words that can be written in Hangul or Hanja. And there are
> > some that can be written only in Hangul.
> So until five centuries ago, all words whether borrowed from Chinese or not had
> to be written with Chinese characters, no other writing being available.

See my previous replies to the question. There were a couple of writing
systems using Hanjas and *Hanjas-alikes* (which may have to be added
to Unicode/ISO-10646). In those writing systems, Hanja and Hanja-alike
can be read by 'meaning' or by 'pronunciation' (more or less how Kanji
characters are read in Japanese)

> The question is: Are the words that can be written in modern practice
> using Hanja exclusively those borrowed from Chinese?

Absolutely yes (if you add to 'those borrowed from Chinese' two more
categories: words invented in Japan using Hanja/Kanji and imported
to Korea and words invented in Korea using Hanjas. The latter is
NOT considered as 'genuinely Korean' even though they're invented in
Korea). Nobody uses the aforementioned writing systems - Idoo, Koo-gyeol,
Hyang-chal - any more.

Jungshik Shin

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