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Article Some Old Paekche Fragments ROY ANDREW MILLER Jr recious little is known about any of the three Old Korean languages, Old Silla, Old KoguryS, or Old Paekche. Linguistic data, particularly data concerning specific linguistic forms and their meanings, are by and large lacking for these languages, especially linguistic data that may be documented with that degree of precision necessary for historical-comparative work. Even where we have fairly extensive literary texts, as with the Old Korean poetic corpus,1 these written records are, as luck would have it, too often obscure concerning precisely those details of the several Old Korean languages about which we would most like to know, and which would probably throw the most light upon the early, formative stages of the Korean language as a whole. Mostly because of the troubled circumstances of the transmission of these texts, the linguistic utilization of the complex orthography in which these texts have been preserved has too often become impossible, because so much of the reading tradition that would be essential for the linguistic interpretation of these written records has been interrupted. We have the texts and more often than not we know, at least in a general way, what they mean;2 1.As conveniently available, e.g., in the standard edition and study of Yang Chu-dong, ???£ß yon'gu (Seoul: Ilchogak, 1974), which not only edits and studies the received texts and their Chinese translations (when such are available), but also attempts to "reconstruct" an Old Korean text for the poems in question (more accurately, a Middle Korean text that will as far as possible reflect what can be recovered of Old Korean for these texts). 2.Hence it is possible to "translate" the Old Korean poems, and even, within certain limits, to study their literary structure and content, even though our control of their actual language leaves almost everything to be desired. For such a translation and study, see Peter Lee, Studies in the Saenaennorae: Old Korean Poetry, Serie Orientale Roma, vol. 22 (Rome: Istituto italiano per il medio ed estremo oriente, 1959). For a technical introduction to the linguistic problems 4 Journal ofKorean Studies but also more often than not we do not know enough about the languages behind these texts to make it possible to employ their data for historical-linguistic purposes. This situation is doubly unfortunate. Not only does it leave us largely in the dark about the linguistic situation on the Korean peninsula in the Old Korean period, but without more precise data concerning matters of Old Korean linguistic detail, we remain unable to do more than make general guesses when it comes to the delicate question of interpreting the statements of the Chinese histories about early Korean linguistic relationships. To flesh out the laconic statements of the Chinese sources, we need specific,linguistic data; but in early Korea, specific linguistic data is more often than not precisely what we are missing. This also means that any surviving linguistic forms that we may be able to recover from any of the three Old Korean languages will be of considerable interest, not only to the linguist but also to the historian, no matter how fragmentary some of them may be. Among the three Old Korean languages, the information available to us today concerning the Silla variety of Old Korean is comparatively rich—abundant, even, in comparison with the other two. Even the KoguryS variety of Old Korean has, in recent years, as a result of painstaking philological inquiry, begun to yield at least a few of its hitherto well-kept lexical secrets. It is the ancient language of the Paekche kingdom that continues most resolutely to resist our efforts. We still know less about it than we do about any of the other languages of the three Old Korean kingdoms, and so long as this involved with the utilization of these Old Korean texts, and in particular for a discussion of how much such texts tell us about the Old Korean language(s) as such, see my paper, "The Altaic accusatives in the light of Old & Middle Korean," in Altaica, Proceedings of the 19th Annual Meeting of the Permanent International Altaistic Conference, M...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2158-1665
Print ISSN
0731-1613
Pages
pp. 3-69
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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