A Historical Approach to Korean Colloquial and Literary Style


Mihyoung Kim

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The purpose of this study is to explore the history of understanding in colloquial and literary styles of Korean. In the historical point of view, there are some very vague points in the method of understanding in the colloquial and literary styles.
For old Korean sentences (15c) to become modernized, they had to be reformed to be good. The main items needing reform were the sentence ending forms and sentence structure. But Korean people (especially the literary men or scholars of the early 20c) thought that the style of sentences needed to be changed. That is, they recognized that Korean sentences should to be changed to colloquial styles to be modernized. And they named this process to 'the unification of the written and spoken language'.
But there is a big misunderstanding in this opinion. The history of modernization of Korean writing styles is that from viewpoint of sentence endings, the colloquial style had been changed to literary. At that time (i.e. in the early 20c), the misunderstanding about colloquial and literary styles came into being in the history of Korean sentences.
The opening of Korean literary sentence originated from the translation of Chinese classics in the 15th century. At that time, the written Korean sentences were written through the attitude of meta-communicational translation and the equal value of structure. So it was no surprise that such awkward sentences were produced. The general ending of Korean written sentence became to '-ra', which is the typical colloquial (in all ages) style. And by the attitude of the equal value of structure, the structure became unnatural, which is not the problem of style.
Therefore this paper analyzes the character of our old sentence ending forms and structures from a historical perspective. This study is a task which can correct the misunderstanding of the unification of the written and spoken language.


 1. Introduction
 2. Characteristics of the formation of the Korean sentence
 3. The meaning of colloquial and literary Styles, and the unification of the written andspoken language
 4. Conclusion : Trends in the change of styles in Korean history


  • Mihyoung Kim Dept. of Korean Language & Literature, Sangmyung University


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