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Koreo-Japonica: A Re-evaluation of a Common Genetic Origin

Copyright Date: 2010
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    The Japonic (Japanese and Ryukyuan) portmanteau language family and the Korean language have long been considered isolates on the fringe of northeast Asia. Although in the last fifty years many specialists in Japonic and Korean historical linguistics have voiced their support for a genetic relationship between the two, this concept has not been endorsed by general historical linguists and no significant attempts have been made to advance beyond the status quo. Alexander Vovin, a longtime advocate of the genetic relationship view, engaged in a reanalysis of the known data in the hope of finding evidence in support of this position. In the process of his work, however, he became convinced that the multiple similarities between Japonic and Korean are the result of several centuries of contact and do not descend from a hypothetical common ancestor.

    InKoreo-Japonica,Vovin carefully reviews recent advances in the reconstruction of both language families. His detailed analysis of most of the morphological and lexical comparisons offered so far shows that whenever the proposed comparisons are not due to pure chance, they can almost always be explained as borrowings from Korean into a central group of Japanese dialects from roughly between the third and eighth centuries A.D. The remaining group of lexical (but not morphological) comparisons that cannot be explained in this way is, he argues, too small to serve as proof of even a distant genetic relationship.

    In this volume, a leading historical linguist presents a significant challenge to a view widely held by Japonic and Korean historical linguistics on the relationship between the two language families and offers material support for the skepticism long espoused by general historical linguists on the matter. His findings will both challenge and illuminate issues of interest to all linguists working with language contact and typology as well as those concerned with the prehistory and early history of East Asia.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-3769-3
    Subjects: Linguistics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-VIII)
    (pp. IX-X)
    (pp. XI-XII)
    (pp. XIII-2)
    (pp. 3-8)

    This book attempts to critically re-evaluate the relationship between Korean and Japonic.¹ It is quite apparent that Korean and Japonic are very similar, often to the extent that a word-to-word translation is possible from one language to another. Such similarity is, however, purely typological and cannot be used as evidence for a common genetic origin. The theory that the two languages are genetically related was originally proposed in the eighteenth century by Fujii Teikan, a Japanese scholar. The following century saw very little scholarly activity on the matter, but the issue became a subject of scholarly works once again between...

    (pp. 11-44)

    Below, I will address the most important advances in the reconstruction of Proto-Korean that are of great importance to its comparison with Japonic.

    Ramsey (1991, 1993) and Yi Kimun (1991: 18) have demonstrated that the Middle Korean aspiratesph, th, ch,andkhhave a secondary origin resulting from clusters ofHCorCHtype, whereHstands for velar [k] or pharyngeal [h]. Ramsey’s and Yi Kimun’s idea is based predominantly on the analysis of gaps in the internal structure of Korean: there are no *CH or *HC (where C stands for a stop obstruent and H for a...

    (pp. 45-91)

    It goes without saying that common paradigmatic morphology represents better proof of a genetic relationship than common basic lexicon, because (a) it is much more stable than vocabulary, and (b)paradigmaticmorphology is never borrowed (except in the case of language mixing). Surprisingly enough, much less has been done in the area of comparative morphology between Korean and Japonic than in the comparison of their basic lexicons. This is not to say that there have been no attempts to find common morphological elements, for example, (Martin 1968, 1990; Whitman 1985; Vovin 2001; Frellesvig and Whitman 2003). But all have failed...

    (pp. 92-240)

    The Koreo-Japonic comparison has always been conducted mostly in the area of vocabulary, with grammatical comparison playing only a secondary role. This can be demonstrated by the fact that two seminal works that attempted to prove the genetic relationship between these two languages, Martin (1966) and Whitman (1985), dealt predominantly with lexical comparisons. I believe that the lexicon represents the most unstable part of a language, and that the ultimate proof of a genetic relationship can come only from the demonstration of common paradigmatic morphology (provided that the languages being compared do have morphology). But because lexical comparison has played...

    (pp. 241-250)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 251-278)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 279-281)