Korean language

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Korean (South Korea: 한국어, Han-guk-o; North Korea: 조선말, Jo-son-mal) is the language of the two Koreas and many communities around the world. Korean has about 72 million speakers.[1]

Writing system

Korean is written in the unique Hangeul alphabet, with some use of Chinese-derived Hanja characters in South Korea. Hangeul symbols are letters, representing phonemes, but they are arranged into groups of syllables, so the written language incorporates elements of both an alphabet and a syllabary.

Language family

Korean's relationship to other languages is yet to be precisely determined. Studies of vocabulary and grammar have tried to link it to the Altaic languages, a family which include Turkish and various others across Asia. Structural similarities with Japanese have also been highlighted, though the words and sound system are very different. A link with Japanese persists as a hypothesis partly because the Japanese and Korean peoples share deep cultural roots. A final view is that Korean has no relationship to any other surviving language; it is an isolate, with its nearest relatives long-dead.


  1. Sohn (1999/2001: 4).