Lit Lang Library
Lit Lang Library
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LINGUISTICS--Professor Young Keun Ko (Professor Emeritus, Seoul National University): "Standardization of the Korean language and writing system: A proposal for North-east Asian language-culture union"
Abstract--China, Japan, Korea, Okinawa, and Vietnam are regions traditionally influenced by Chinese culture. The region may also be called a Schrift-Sprachbund (script-language union) because of the pervasive use of Chinese characters. Owing to the above cultural background, the educated class in these five countries communicated through the so-called 'conversation by writing with common character,' or Hanzi, and through the common written language Hanmen. All diplomatic documents used to be written in Classical Chinese. After modernization Korea adopted Hangul, its native script, instead of Hanzi, as the official writing system. The exclusive use of Hangul in everyday documents has been spreading, beginning with newspapers. As a result, it is difficult to find out Hanzi in most documents these days. This trend has been increasing with the advance of computing technology. Vietnam adopted the Roman alphabet as its official writing instead of Zunam. Though the everyday use of Hanzi is widespread, the practice in Japan has been to write all documents in a manner that approaches spoken language. China tried to popularize Hanzi through establishing jiantizi. However, Taiwan is still adhering to the use of correct characters. The most important challenge which the countries of North-Eastern Asia face is to standardize Hanzi with different variants and to popularize their use in education. China should introduce correct characters with jiantizi as a transitional form; Japan should also teach correct characters along with simplified characters. Korea should intensify education of Chinese Characters by teaching Hanzi from elementary school as in Japan. If Hanzi education with correct characters is enforced from elementary school, citizens of three countries in North-Eastern Asia can create a new language-culture union in the new Millennium. Some scholars in Korea assert that Classic Chinese can qualify as an academic language in North-Eastern Asia. I propose that traditional Schrift-Sprachbund (script-language union) be rearranged in order to correspond to the needs of North-Eastern Asia of the 21st century.