Korean language

한국어 / 韓國語 (South Korea)
조선말 / 朝鮮말 (North Korea)
The Korean language written in Hangul:
South Korean: Hangugeo (left)
North Korean: Chosŏnmal (right)
Pronunciation[ha(ː)n.ɡu.ɡʌ] (South Korea)
[tso.sɔn.mal] (North Korea)
Native toKorea
Native speakers
80.4 million (2020)[1]
  • Korean
Early forms
Standard forms
DialectsKorean dialects
Hangul / Chosŏn'gŭl (Korean script)
Korean Braille

Mixed script
Hanja / Hancha (Chinese Characters)
Official status
Official language in
 South Korea
 North Korea
 China (Yanbian Prefecture and Changbai County)
Regulated by
  • National Institute of the Korean Language (국립국어원)
  • The Language Research Institute, Academy of Social Science (사회과학원 어학연구소)
  • China Korean Language Regulatory Commission (중국조선어규범위원회 / 中国朝鲜语规范委员会)
Language codes
ISO 639-1ko
ISO 639-2kor
ISO 639-3kor
Map of Korean language.png
Countries with native Korean-speaking populations (established immigrant communities in green).
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Korean (South Korean: 한국어, hangugeo; North Korean: 조선말, chosŏnmal) is an East Asian language spoken by about 80 million people,[a] mainly Korean, as of 2020.[2] It is the official and national language of both North Korea and South Korea (originally Korea), with different standardized official forms used in each country. It is a recognised minority language in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture and Changbai Korean Autonomous County of Jilin Province, China. It is also spoken in parts of Sakhalin, Russia and Central Asia.[3]

Modern linguists generally classify Korean as a language isolate, and its connection to languages such as Japanese is unclear;[4][5][6] however, it does have a few extinct relatives, which together with Korean itself and the Jeju language (spoken in the Jeju Province) form the Koreanic language family. The linguistic homeland of Korean is suggested to be somewhere in Manchuria.[3]

Modern Korean is written in Hangul, a system developed in the 15th century for that purpose. Modern Hangul uses 24 basic letters and 27 complex letters. Originally, Korean was a spoken language, as written records were maintained in Classical Chinese, which is not mutually intelligible with either the historical or modern Korean languages, even in its spoken form. Hanja, Chinese characters adapted to the Korean language, are still used to a very limited extent in South Korea. Over the past 80 years of division, both have developed local accents.

  1. ^ Korean language at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  2. ^ Korean language at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  3. ^ a b Hölzl, Andreas (29 August 2018). A typology of questions in Northeast Asia and beyond: An ecological perspective. Language Science Press. p. 25. ISBN 9783961101023.
  4. ^ Song, Jae Jung (2005), The Korean language: structure, use and context, Routledge, p. 15, ISBN 978-0-415-32802-9.
  5. ^ Campbell, Lyle; Mixco, Mauricio (2007), "Korean, A language isolate", A Glossary of Historical Linguistics, University of Utah Press, pp. 7, 90–91, most specialists... no longer believe that the... Altaic groups... are related […] Korean is often said to belong with the Altaic hypothesis, often also with Japanese, though this is not widely supported.
  6. ^ Kim, Nam-Kil (1992), "Korean", International Encyclopedia of Linguistics, 2, pp. 282–86, scholars have tried to establish genetic relationships between Korean and other languages and major language families, but with little success.

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