Everything You Wanted to Know about the Korean Language

Editor/Author Park Dong - geun Research Officer Jung Heewon Published by The National Institute of the Korean Language Published on 2010
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우리말 이모저모 How many languages are there in the world? Scholars say that there are between roughly 3,000 and 7,000 languages on the planet, though these figures vary depending on the criteria used in counting them. Among these world languages, Korean is used by approximately 77 million people, making it the thirteenth most commonly spoken language in the world. In addition, the Korean language is ranked the tenth most frequently used language on the Internet. In light of the number of its speakers, as well as its use as an international language for communication, the Korean language shares a global status similar to that of French or Italian. The steadily increasing number of foreign learners of the Korean language in recent years further illustrates its elevated status in the world. Foreigners’ interest in and enthusiasm for learning the Korean language have greatly increased thanks both to Korea’s economic growth and to the spread of Korean popular culture. However, there are still many people who do not know much about the Korean language. In fact, even some native speakers of the language are unaware of its distinctive characteristics as compared to other languages. Indeed, it is still difficult for many people to obtain accessible instructional and reference materials concerning the Korean language. Some have pointed out that the material written by professional researchers is too complex for the average reader to understand, and that, conversely, the content of guidebooks is too simple to satisfy readers’ needs. Therefore, the National Institute of the Korean Language has designed a book that it hopes will serve as a complete guide for both Korean and foreign readers who wish to learn about the Korean language. As indicated by its title, Everything You Wanted to Know About the Korean Language, this book provides a comprehensive guide to the Korean language, including information regarding who uses the language as well as an overview of its systems of sound, grammar, and vocabulary. It also delves into the language’s background, including an exploration of its invention and the fundamental principles of Hangeul. In addition, it aims to help readers better understand the distinctive characteristics of the Korean language by presenting information on its regional dialects and the extensiveness of its honorific system.