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Tuesday, March 02, 2004

(Korean language) Frequency of syllables and words in Korean

There have been surveys on the frequency of the use of Korean words since the 1950, the latest based on 90s' novels published this year by National Academy of Korean Language, says a column in Hankyoreh. (See the bottom of the article for a list of articles on language, mostly concerned with "purification"; or bringing forth the native elements of Korean.)
The most frequent word is -ida, "to be", which takes 3.34% of the all vocabulary frequency. After that prononun na (I), kôt (thing etc.), su (as in hal su itta, 'is able to do'), verbs itta (to be, to have), hada (to do), ôpta (to not be, to not have), toeda (to become), anida (to not be), katta (to be like). These are mostly words with a very wide meaning and usage. The highest position of a Chinese character (hanja) based word is yôja (女子) at 33; among the 100 most frequent, eight are hanja words.

The most frequent syllables are i, ta, nûn, ûl, ka, ko, , e, chi, ô (이 다 는 을 가 고 에 지 어) in that order. Of the sounds of language (or however that should be expressed), the most frequent are vowels a (ㅏ), i (ㅣ) and û (ㅡ), and consonants n (ㄴ) and k (ㄱ).It should be noted that the survey quoted in the column is based on literary works. What would be the results based on actual speech? How are words like ajôssi, ajumma, sajang(nim) placed on the frequency charts?

I tried to find a link to the survey at the Academy site, but didn't succeed. There's still tons of interesting material.Here's a notice of publication of a compiled Korean language purification (sunhwa) guidelines. There are some interesting examples of recommended expressions which have and have not taken root. Examples of the latter are computing words, which remain mostly English:
무른모 (← 소프트웨어)
굳은모 (←하드웨어)
셈틀 (←컴퓨터)
다람쥐 (← 마우스) (So the recommendation for "mouse" has been taramjwi, "squirrel")
딸깍 (←클릭)

My opinion on the purification? Use of pure Korean or more exact hanja expressions is a recommendable policy, but I don't expect that the association of "foreign" (read English-language) expressions with development and modernity is going to change soon, especially with administrative recommendations. Korean hasn't exactly been resistant towards non-Korean vocabulary throughout its history.

Categories at del.icio.us/hunjang:

Comments to note "(Korean language) Frequency of syllables and words in Korean" (Comments to posts older than 14 days are moderated)

<Anonymous Ron Wiles> said on 9.12.06 : 

Your article is very informative. When in Korea (1956/7) I created a 1-page guide to help learn Korean. It focused on the verbs hada (to do), ohda (to come) and kada (to go). I illustrated how ones vocabulary could increase quickly after learning how to conjugate these verbs - by preceding them with certain words, e.g. eel-hada to work; mal-hada to speak, etc.

Have you considered preparing a similar guide with the verbs ida, itta, and opta? I would find that very useful.

If you wish, I will send you the guide I have mentioned.

Thank you,

Ron Wiles

<Anonymous thbz> said on 21.11.14 : 

The report is available at http://www.korean.go.kr/09_new/data/report_list.jsp , where you should search for 한국 현대 소설의 어휘 조사 연구 . The report contains complete table for phonemes frequency, syllable frequency, word frequency and even grammatical patterns frequency... It's fascinating to see extremely rare syllables that appear only once in the corpus.

Unfortunately, the report was scanned, therefore the file is gigantic (75 MB) and the data cannot be imported in another software (which was my goal)...

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