Over half of Korean vocabulary is recognizable as Chinese?

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  • Lugubert

    Senior Member

    Three classes of Korean vocabulary:
    •Sino-Korean (from Chinese): ~69%
    •Native Korean: ~24%
    •Recent Borrowings: ~6%
    (Among the most commonly used words, the percentage of Sino-Korean words and
    native Korean words is about the same; a lot of Sino-Korean words are “big” words)


    Although the Korean and Chinese languages are not related in terms of grammatical structure, more than 50 percent of all Korean vocabulary is derived from Chinese loanwords, a reflection of the cultural dominance of China over 2 millennia. In many cases there are two words--a Chinese loanword and an indigenous Korean word -- meaning the same thing. The Chinese-based word in Korean sometimes has a bookish or formal flavor.

    Unfortunately, neither of those (or some similar pages) point to references or examples. Above all, none of them seems to discuss how "recognizable" the loans arer to a modern speaker.


    Senior Member
    Above all, none of them seems to discuss how "recognizable" the loans arer to a modern speaker.
    Due to the differences in the phonological structures of the words, educated Korean speakers would be able to tell most of the time which are Chinese loan words and which are Korean native.


    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    Is it true that over half of Korean vocabulary is recognizable as Chinese?

    Sorry, this is a very old post.

    Be careful what you mean by "recognizable as Chinese".

    Being Korean, they probably wouldn't recognize which words were "Chinese" unless they were told.

    Don't expect a Chinese to recognize them either... being a Chinese, let me explain.

    The stats provided saying that 69% of Korean are of Chinese origin. If you randomly chose any of those words and blindly read them to a Chinese speaker, there's a good chance they would have no idea what you just said (without additional help). Therefore, "not recognizable as Chinese" anymore...

    The region of land we now refer to as "China" like Korea had a rich history dominated by people who don't necessarily speak the same oral language (today it is known as their dialects). Today we're all trying to speak Mandarin and although we're in much better shape than before, we've still got work to do. And although the written script was unified during the first Chinese dynasty, variations to the spoken language are as varied as Spanish is to French to Portugues to Italian (Roman empire being the Chinese empire, except the Chinese empire didn't fall).

    The 69% of Korean of Chinese origin were probably absorbed into the Korean culture at different periods of time during Chinese history. The pronounciations are not consistent and some were Korean-nized.

    Consider the following scenario which has happened to me before (how I got interested in Korean).

    If a Korean were to randomly speak to me one of those words of Chinese origin, i'd say ... Hmm.. that doesn't sound like Mandarin (main Chinese dialect). And when they showed me the Hanja equivalent, I'd say "Ahh". That sounds close to modern Cantonese (Hong Kong and nearby regions), or some other classical chinese dialect I know of...
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    New Member
    Hi, just to share some info, sometimes when I watch Korean/Japanese series, I notice that a whole lot of words are similar to Fookien dialect, some are similar to Cantonese, which is another dialect. I just find it very interesting to find the similar words. Therefore, it is easier for southern Chinese to learn Japanese/Korean. Maybe because Fookien is an old language and influenced Japan/Korea.
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