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Friday, May 19, 2006

article serial on Korean proper terms of address

Donga Ilbo published a 14-part serial on proper terms of address in early 2004 under the title "Let's call each other properly" (우리 서로 제대로 불러요). I missed it back then as I don't visit the Donga site practically at all, and got to know of it only when checking something else.

The serial is a wonderful example of the normative aspects of Korean language and language policies as well, and of the sense that something would be happening to how people call each other compared to the good old times when people knew their place in the family and society and terms of address and reference accordingly. The introduction of the serial:
Terms of address and reference are breaking down. Among couples terms like oppa [woman's older brother] and appa ("dad") are common, and there are women who call their husband appa in front of their children. There are also opposing voices. There are also a lot of those who would like to use terms of address and reference correctly but don't know how to, and there are those who know the correct terms but just find it difficult to use them. We print this article serial to show the advisable terms of address and reference.
The following quote is an example of how the problem is perceived:
Several surveys have shown that 20% of wives in their 20s and 30s call their husband oppa (older brother). On top of that, many called their husband oppa even if he was younger. Many specialists see that the level of the breakdown in the use of terms of address is severe. Especially the bad use (p'agoe) of terms of address in TV dramas has contributed to the breakdown. [translation AL]

Almost all of the articles are about terms of address between relatives, or as we anthros would say, about kinship terminology, which we have been so fond of and which has given us so much stuff to collect and analyse. And especially the Korean terminology is so good as there is so much of it and it's detailed and reflects the formal, ideological aspects of kinship, which may not find so much support in the lifestyles of contemporary Koreans. So there might be a sense of "collapse" when people are seeking new ways to express relations to their nearest people. Thinking how the principle of using specific terms of address and reference instead of personal names seems to be well intact despite of some terminology falling out of use or finding new contexts of use, the talk about "collapse" is premature, but if one thinks of proper use of terminology as a "ritual" expression of proper societal order and at the same time a "ritual" which creates that order, the collapsicist thinking makes some sense. My own view of this kind of terminology is of course descriptive or even perhaps analytical in some other places than blog notes, as I'm not in a position to give normative advice on these terms like the article serial is doing. These language masters tell not to use ajôssi ("uncle") when referring to one's husband; my task is to note that it is nevertheless used very widely, in certain contexts and among certain kind of people.

This is a table from the first article, which advises how husband and wife should address each other.
부부의 시기별 바람직한 호칭
시기아내-->남편남편-->아내
신혼여보, ○○씨, 여봐요여보, ○○씨, 여봐요
자녀가 생기면여보, ○○아버지(아빠)여보, ○○엄마(어머니)
장 노년기여보, 영감, ○○아버지,
○○할아버지
여보, 임자, ○○어머니(엄마), ○○할머니

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Comments to note "article serial on Korean proper terms of address" (Comments to posts older than 14 days are moderated)

<Blogger Mark Jung> said on 1.6.06 : 

동아일보가 부부 사이에 부적절한 호칭 사용을 지적한 것은 적절한 지적입니다. 하지만, "부부의 시기별 바람직한 호칭"은 적절하지 않습니다.

부부 사이에 서로를 부를 때 시기별로 구분하는 것은 옳지 않고 시기와 상관없이 '여보', 혹은 '당신', 혹은 '여보 당신'이라고 부르는 것이 적절합니다.

또, 나이나 취향에 따라서는 존칭 혹은 친근감의 표현으로 '서방님', '마누라', '임자', '영감'을 쓸 수 있습니다.

하지만, 부부 사이에 ○○아버지(아빠), ○○엄마(어머니)에 자녀를 매개로 하여 호칭하는 것은 옳지 않으며, 그런 호칭은 오직 웃어른 앞에서 배우자를 호칭할 때 사용하는 것으로 제한해야 합니다.

또, 배우자를 지칭할 때는 자녀를 직함이나 직위로 호칭할 때와 똑같이 손아랫사람, 그리고, 친족 이외의 사람에 대해선만 적절한 표현입니다.


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