The problem of the affinity between Korean and Chinese and the relation of the two languages

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Abstract

The goal of this article is to demonstrate the linguistic relation between Korean and Chinese. This article examines the view that Korean and Chinese are genetically related, as proposed by Pan (2006; 2013) and O (2005; 2017). It points out that their examples of apparent cognates were selected without solid ground in many cases. In addition, their view on the affinity between the two languages was evaluated against other theories on the genealogy of East Asian languages. Accordingly, this article compares the number of similar words between Korean and Chinese in Swadesh’s first 100 words and second 100 words in his 200 list, as slightly modified by Chen (1996). Chen claims that if more similar words are found in Swadesh’s first 100 words than in the second 100, they are cognates, otherwise they are loanwords. Interestingly enough, the similar words between Korean and Chinese number nine in both groups. According to Chen, when the similar words are evenly distributed in both lists, the quantity of the similar words is crucial to determine their relations. If the number is high, they are cognates, while if the number is low, they are loanwords. Following Chen’s theory, the author claims that Korean and Chinese are not genetically related but are neighboring languages that share a small number of fundamental words in Swadesh’s list due to language contact.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)131-147
Number of pages17
JournalLanguage and Linguistics
Volume20
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 2019 Apr 5

Keywords

  • Cognate
  • Indigenous Korean
  • Language family
  • Loan word
  • Old Chinese
  • Swadesh list

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