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Linguistics and language policies in North Korea Chin- Wu Kim UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS IN discussing the development of linguistics and language policies in North Korea since World War II, I will divide this article into the following three areas and discuss them in this order: general linguistics in North Korea, Korean linguistics in North Korea, and language policies in North Korea.1 1. General Linguistics in North Korea There is not enough evidence to indicate that general linguistics developed significantly or became a field of active interest in North Korea. Although I have come across a reference to two books in introductory linguistics with no information on date or place of publication, one by Song Sö-ryong and the other by R. A. Budagov (Korean edition), I have not seen a book in general linguistics, original or translated, published in North Korea since 1945.2 North Korean books and journal articles do not show any exposure to or influence of recent developments in linguistic theories in the West.3 Most references to and citations of foreign works are limited to those published in Europe and Russia prior to 1950. I have come across only two articles in comparative linguistics, one by Hong Ki-mun (1959b) and the other by Ch'oe Jöng-hu (1964). The former, titled "Relationship Between Korean and Mongolian," was presented to the first congress of Mongologists (in language and literature), held in P'yöngyang September 1-8, 1959. Participating were scholars from nine nations: China, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Mongolia, Poland, Rumania, the Soviet Union, and North Korea. This is the only international meeting in linguistics held in North Korea that I 160??? know of. I do not know whether subsequent congresses were ever held, either in North Korea or elsewhere. Hong cites some shared vocabulary between Korean and Mongolian and some Korean borrowings from Mongolian (an interesting example: Korean selleng-thang is said to be from the Mongolian sulu 'soup'). Hong also notes that among the four languages (Chinese, Japanese, Mongolian, and Yuchen) that were subjects of study and translation at the Sayök-wön (Office of Language and Translation), which was established in 1393 during the Yi dynasty, only Mongolian had an alphabetic, not syllabic, writing system. The implication is that han'gül, which King Sejong invented in 1443, may have been modeled after the Mongolian script in principle if not in form. Ch'oe's 1964 article, entitled "Problems in Ural-Altaic Hypothesis ," is an example of how much North Korean scholars are unaware of recent developments in the field. He accuses Ramstedt (the Finnish scholar who first proposed the Korean Altaic affinity) of having worn "Altaic glasses" biasing everything he saw, brands the view of such Japanese scholars as Kanazawa and Kono that Korean and Japanese are genetically related as "imperialistic and colonialistic," and concludes that the Ural-Altaic hypothesis has made no change or progress since Strahlenberg 's first postulation in 1930. He seems to be unaware that the UralAltaic hypothesis is no longer held by scholars and that Altaic linguistics has made significant progress. 2. Korean Linguistics in North Korea Due to the particular political environment of postwar North Korea, the only foreign publications to which North Korean linguistic scholars had access were Russian, and Russian studies served as a model in direction and methodology in linguistic studies. Thus, compared with Korean linguistics in South Korea, which was primarily concerned with genealogy, historical phonology (especially that of Middle Korean), and morphology, Korean linguistics in North Korea emphasized lexicology (word structure), grammatical categories and syntax. This trend is statistically borne out. Of 132 journal articles that I have been able to consult,4 nearly half (48.5 percent) are devoted to the latter areas, while phonological and morphological articles constitute only one-third of this number.3 There may also be a political current behind this trend in the sense that it reflects the party's policy that sought from the beginning to socialize the language, refine the vocabulary, and prescribe correct usage of the language, rather than to delve into the past of the language. In any case, it is worth mentioning that in the areas...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-1529
Print ISSN
0145-840X
Pages
pp. 159-175
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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