(Word Classes and) Nouns

Today is: 2017 6 6


안녕! Korean has the following word classes (read if you want, otherwise you can skip down to “Formation of Nouns”:

  • Nouns
  • Pronouns
  • Particles (indicate grammatical relationship or add a special meaning to words)
  • Numbers + Counters
  • Verbs
  • Adjectives
  • Copula (indicate an equational expression: 이다 “be” and it’s conjugations + 아니다 “be not” and it’s conjugations)
  • Adverbs
  • Pre-nouns (appear before a noun like demonstratives in English)

These words fall into 2 categories: inflected and uninflected

Inflection is the process of adding affixes in order to indicate grammatical features like tense, number,  aspect, and person. This is similar to how in English “go” becomes “goes” and “study’ becomes “studied.” In Korean, verbs and adjectives do the same thing.

Today, we’re going to be talking about Korean nouns.

Formation of Nouns

There are 3 categories that a Korean noun can go into: native Korean words (35%), Sino-Korean words (60%) and loan words (from English) (5%)

Korean nouns can be made up of either a single morpheme (meaningful unit)

  • 나무 = tree
  • 산 = mountain
  • 새 = bird
  • 물 = water

or multiple morphemes

  • 화산 “fire mountain” = volcano
  • 쇠고기 “cow meat” = beef

Nouns that have two or more morphemes are normally formed through either a derivational or compounding.

With derivation, the noun takes a prefix or suffix which normally appears in a noun and/or predicate. Derivation is a useful way to understand how a word can be developed into other words w/ an affix.

  • Derivational prefixes

    • Native Korean (ex. 맏 = first)
      • 아들 = the first son
      • 딸 = the first daughter
    • Sino-Korean (ex. 신 = new)
      • 학기 = new semester
      • 인 “new person” = newcomer
  • Derivational suffixes

    • Native Korean (꾼 = doer)
      • 장사 “business doer” = businessman/woman
      • “work doer” = worker
    • Sino-Korean (학 = study)
      • 한국 “Korean study”= Korean studies
      • “number study” = Mathematics
    • Nouns derived from verbs (이/기 = act)
      • “earn act” = income
      • “eat act” = eating
    • Nouns derived from adjectives (이/기 = quality)
      • “big quality” = size
      •  “long quality” = length

On the other hand, compounding a noun consists of having 2 or more independent morphemes. They are divided into Native Compound nouns and Sino-Korean compound nouns.

  • Native compound

    • noun + noun
      • eye water” = tears
      • water dog” = seal
    • adverb + noun
      • 곱슬 머리curled hair” = curly hair
      • 산들 바람gentle wind” = gentle breeze
    • noun + predicate +nominalizer
      • neck hang act” = necklace
      • example look act” = model
    • predicate + noun
      • late sleeping” = oversleeping
      • *straight ice” = icicle
        • 드 is an auditory combination of the end of 곧 (straight) and the beginning of 얼음 (ice)
    • clause + noun
      • = cold water
      • 못난ugly person” = idiot
  • Sino-Korean compound

    • Sino-Korean word + Sino-Korean word
      • (the auditory combination of pieces of 아지 (father) and 어니 (mother)) = parents
      • heaven earth” = universe

Korean also has a group of special nouns that always come before other nouns in order to modify/describe them. These are called pre-nouns.

  • 책 = this book
  • 남자 = that man
  • 어느 식당 = which restaurant
  • etc.

Another group of special nouns are bound nouns, or nouns that can only be used after a pre-noun. They cannot function alone.

  • = this place
  • = that person
  • = that thing
  • etc.

There are other ways to say “place,” and “person” but these are the bound nouns versions

Characteristics of Korean Nouns

Marking plurality

  • Korean nouns aren’t specific about the number of something in the sense that there is no grammatical category of number. 연필 can mean “pencil”, “a pencil”, “some pencils”, “the pencils”, or “pencils.”
    • Korean has the suffix 들 (that can be attached to the end of a countable noun) for indicating plurality; it isn’t mandatory to use, but you can use it if you really wish to highlight.

Position of nouns

  • Korean nouns can appear by themselves, before particles, before another noun, and before copula.

Noun Usage w/ Verbs

  • As w/ English, Korean nouns tend to collocate w/ certain verbs
    • 레베카농구해요. “Rebecca basketball does.” = Rebecca plays basketball.
      • 농구 doesn’t collocate with 놀마요 (play); it collocates with 해요 (do)
  • For musical instruments, a different verb (쳐요) is used instead of 놀마요 or 해요.
    • 레베카가 피아노를 쳐요. “Rebecca piano plays.” = Rebecca plays the piano.

And that sums up Korean nouns. It might seem like a lot but it’s actually quite simple.

읽어 주셔서 감사합니다! 


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