Buyeo languages

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Puyo, Fuyu
Korea, Japan, Southern Manchuria
Linguistic classification: Koreanic?
  • Buyeo
Glottolog: (not evaluated)
The Three Kingdoms of Korea, associated with the Goguryeo, Silla, Baekje, and Gaya (Kara) languages; Buyeo had been the northern portion of Goguryeo on this map.

Buyeo or Fuyu languages (부여 in Korean, Fúyú (扶餘) in Chinese) are a hypothetical language family that consists of ancient languages of the northern Korean Peninsula and southern Manchuria and possibly Japan. According to Chinese records, the languages of Buyeo, Goguryeo, Dongye, Okjeo, Baekje—and possibly Gojoseon—were similar. Ye-Maek may have been ancestral.

Classification of the Buyeo languages[edit]

The relationships of the poorly attested Buyeo dialects are disputed.

Japanese–Koguryoic hypothesis[edit]

The Korean state of Baekje was founded by Goguryeo princes, and considered itself descended from Buyeo.[1][2][3] Baekje subsequently had close relations with Yamato period Japan; Christopher Beckwith suggests that at that point the Japanese may have still recognized a relationship to Buyeo. Beckwith reconstructs about 140 Goguryeo words, mostly from ancient place names, including Gaya.[4] Many include grammatical morphemes which appear to be cognate with morphemes of similar function in Japanese, such as genitive -no and attributive -si.

Buyeo–Silla hypothesis[edit]

A number of linguists such as Kim Banghan, Vovin, and Unger classify Goguryeo as Old Korean. They note that the toponyms which resemble Japanese are mostly found in the central part of the Korean peninsula, and theorize that they don’t reflect the Goguryeo language but rather the pre-Goguryeo population of the central and southern parts of the Korean peninsula. Since a number of Japanese-like toponyms found in the historical homeland of Silla[5] were also distributed in the southern part of the Korean peninsula, these linguists propose that there was once a Japonic language spoken in Korean peninsula, perhaps Gaya, which forms a substratum of the Silla language; Unger suggests that the ancestors of the Yayoi people would have settled in Japan from the central or southern part of Korea. None of the Japanese cognates have been found in the historical homeland of Buyeo and Goguryeo in the northern part of the Korean peninsula or south-western Manchuria. Koreanic toponyms, on the other hand, are distributed across the entire territory of the Three Kingdoms, from Manchuria to the southern Korean peninsula.

Additionally, Shoku Nihongi, an ancient Japanese record, implies the close relationship between the Balhae language, the descendant of the Goguryeo language, and Silla language: a student sent from Silla to Japan for an interpreter training in Japanese language assisted a diplomatic envoy from Balhae in communicating during the Japanese court audience.

Distinction from Tungusic[edit]

According to Chinese records, the Buyeo languages appear to have been different from ancient Tungusic languages like Mohe.[6][7]


Some of the grammatical case endings are similar between the Buyeo languages and Japanese and Korean.

Grammatical particle / suffix
Case Goguryeo Old Japanese Silla Middle Korean
nominative -i -i¹ -i
genitive -nə -nə
(modern -no)
-n ~ -nɔn ~ -nïn4 
genitive si -si²
-ɔy ~ -ïy
locative nʌrʌ -nite nʌr


¹ According to Vovin (2004, 2006), nominative -i was a loan from Old Korean into Western Old Japanese.
² predicative suffix for adjectives
³ formal or fossilized genitive
4 Korean -n ~ -nɔn ~ -nïn is a suffix for the attributive form of verbs (used to create relative clauses).

The genitive has possible wider Altaic extensions, with JurchenManchu -ŋgV, Middle Mongolian -iyn/-y/-n, and Turkish -nIn.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 三國志卷三十-魏書十-烏丸鮮卑東夷傳 第三十高句麗傳,"言語諸事,多與〈夫餘〉同" (Chinese)
  2. ^ 梁書百済傳,"今言語服章略與高驪同" (Chinese)
  3. ^ 三國史記卷第二十三, "百濟本紀第一 百濟始祖溫祚王,其父,鄒牟, 或云朱蒙.自北扶餘逃難,至卒本扶餘" (Chinese)
  4. ^ Christopher Beckwith, 2004. Koguryo, the language of Japan's continental relatives
  5. ^ Blažek 2006, p. 6.
  6. ^ 三國志卷三十-魏書十-烏丸鮮卑東夷傳第三十挹婁傳 "其人形似夫餘,言語不與夫餘句麗同" (Chinese)
  7. ^ 北史勿吉傳, "勿吉國在高句麗北, 一曰靺鞨. … 言語獨異" (Chinese)

Other references[edit]

  • 2006. "Methodological Observations on Some Recent Studies of the Early Ethnolinguistic History of Korea and Vicinity." Altai Hakpo 2006, 16: 199-234.
  • Alexander Vovin, 2005. "Koguryǒ and Paekche: Different Languages or Dialects of Old Korean?" Journal of Inner and East Asian Studies, 2005, Vol. 2-2: 108-140.
  • Blažek, Václav. 2006. "Current progress in Altaic etymology." Linguistica Online, 30 January 2006
  • Hong, Wontack (2005). "Tripolar Interaction: Mongolian Steppe, Manchuria and Mainland China The Tripolar Framework of Analysis". East Asian History: A Korean Perspective 1 (4). 

External links[edit]