About 80 million people speak Korean worldwide. For over a millennium, Koreans wrote with adapted Chinese characters called hanja, complemented by phonetic systems like hyangchal,gugyeol, and idu. In the 15th century, Sejong the Great commissioned a national writing system called Hangeul, but it only came into widespread use in the 20th century, because of the yangban aristocracy 's preference for hanja. Historical linguists classify Korean as a language isolate. The former idea that Korean belongs to a putative Altaic language family has been generally discredited. The Korean language is agglutinative in its morphology and SOV in its syntax.
The majority of historical linguists classify Korean as a language isolate. There are still a small number who think that Korean might be related to the putative Altaic language grouping, but linguists agree today that typological resemblances cannot be used to prove genetic relatedness of languages, as these features are typologically connected and easily borrowed. Such factors of typological divergence as Middle Mongolian 's exhibition of gender agreement can be used to argue that a genetic relationship is unlikely.
Korean is the official language of South Korea and North Korea. It is also one of the two official languages of the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture in China.
Korean is an agglutinative language. The Korean language is traditionally considered to have nine parts of speech. For details, see Korean parts of speech. Modifiers generally precede the modified words, and in the case of verb modifiers, can be serially appended. The basic form of a Korean sentence is subject–object–verb, but the verb is the only required and immovable element.
The core of the Korean vocabulary is made up of native Korean words. A significant proportion of the vocabulary, especially words that denote abstract ideas, are Sino-Korean words, either
• directly borrowed from written Chinese, or
• coined in Korea or Japan using Chinese characters
The use of slang has become very popular in South Korea since the emergence of the Internet, and is particularly prevalent in social media. One of the main reasons why slang is used so much is its extensive use in media both social (such as Facebook and KakaoTalk) and more traditional (such as television and movies). The influence of slang can be seen as both positive and negative. Many Koreans use a particular style of slang in which longer words are shortened to save time, which is especially common when using chat services
There are two widely used tests of Korean as a foreign language: the Korean Language Proficiency Test (KLPT) and the Test of Proficiency in Korean (TOPIK). The Korean Language Proficiency Test, an examination aimed at assessing non-native speakers ' competence in Korean, was instituted in 1997; 17,000 people applied for the 2005 sitting of the examination. The TOPIK was first administered in 1997 and was taken by 2,274 people. Since then the total number of people who have taken the TOPIK has surpassed 1 million, with more than 150,000 candidates taking the test in 2012.
The relationship between a speaker or writer and his or her subject and audience is paramount in Korean, and the grammar reflects this. The relationship between speaker/writer and subject referent is reflected in honorifics, whereas that between speaker/writer and audience is reflected in speech level.
When talking about someone superior in status, a speaker or writer usually uses special nouns or verb endings to indicate the subject 's superiority. Generally, someone is superior in status if he/she is an older relative, a stranger of roughly equal or greater age, or an employer, teacher, customer, or the like.
Someone is equal or inferior in status if he/she is a younger stranger, student, employee or the like. Nowadays, there are special endings which can be used on declarative, interrogative, and imperative sentences; and both honorific or normal sentences. They are made for easier and faster use of Korean.
Honorifics in traditional Korea were strictly hierarchical. The caste and estate systems possessed patterns and usages much more complex and stratified than those used today. The intricate structure of the Korean honorific system flourished in traditional culture and society. Honorifics in contemporary Korea are now used for people who are psychologically distant. Honorifics are also used for people who are superior in status. For example, older relatives, people who are older, teachers, and employers.
There are seven verb paradigms or speech levels in Korean, and each level has its own unique set of verb endings which are used to indicate the level of formality of a situation. Unlike honorifics—which are used to show respect towards the referent (the person spoken of) —speech levels are used to show respect towards a speaker's or writer's audience (the person spoken to). The names of the seven levels are derived from the non-honorific imperative form of the verb (hada, "do") in each level, plus the suffix ("che", hanja: ), which means "style".
The highest six levels are generally grouped together as jondaenmal , whereas the lowest level is called banmal in Korean.
Nowadays, younger-generation speakers no longer feel obligated to lower their usual regard toward the referent. It is common to see younger people talk to their older relatives with banmal. This is not out of disrespect, but instead it shows the intimacy and the closeness of the relationship between the two speakers. Transformations in social structures and attitudes in today 's rapidly changing society have brought about change in the way people speak.
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