Indo-Pacific language family

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South Asia, Japan and Korea
Linguistic classification One of the world's primary language families
Glottolog None

Dravido-Koreo-Japonic, Dravido-Koreanic or Indo-Pacific is a disputed[1] language family proposal which links the living or proto-Dravidian language to Korean, Japanese, the Ainu language and several other small languages. The hypothesis was originally proposed by Morgan E. Clippinger in his "Korean and Dravidian: lexical evidence for an old theory" published in 1984 and Susumu Ōno in his "The origin of the Japanese language" in 1970. This proposal was seen as discredited during the time where the Korean language was hypothetically linked to the Altaic language family , which was later refuted. In 2011, Jung Nam Kim, president of the Korean Society of Tamil Studies, mentioned that the similarities between Korean and Dravidian are stronger than with any Altaic language, but he also said that this does not prove a genetic link between Dravidian and Korean and that more researches need to be done. He is sure that a genetic or areal connection exists because the similarities are too strong to be only coincidence.[2] The Japanese linguists Susumu Ōno, Susumu Shiba and Akira Fujiwara are supporting a genetic relation between Japanese and Austronesian with an big Dravidian admixture in the early phase of the Japanese language.

Some linguists also propose distant relations to Papuan and Australian Aboriginal languages.


Similarities between Tamil and Korean were first noted by French missionaries in Korea.[3] Susumu Ōno caused a stir in Japan with his theory that Tamil constituted a lexical strata of both Korean and Japanese, which was widely publicized in the 1980s but quickly abandoned. However, Clippinger's method was professional and his data reliable; hence, Ki-Moon Lee, Professor Emeritus at Seoul National University, opines that his conclusion could not be ignored and that it should be revisited.[4] According to Homer B. Hulbert, many of the names of ancient cities of southern Korea and parts of Japan were the exact counterpart of Dravidian words and in some extent of Sanskrit. The Karak Kingdom of King Suro was named after the proto-Dravidian meaning 'fish'.[5][6]


Susumu Ōno,[7] and Homer B. Hulbert[8] propose that early Indian people/Dravidian people, especially Tamils, migrated to the Korean peninsula and Japan. Clippinger presents 408 cognates and about 60 phonological correspondence pairs. Clippinger found that some cognates were closer than others leading him to speculate a genetic link which was reinforced by a later migration.[9] This view was confirmed by the Centre for Korean Studies at the University of Hawaii.[10] The Japanese professor Tsutomu Kambe found more than 500 similar cognates between Tamil and Japanese.[11] Some of the common features are:[12]

  • all three languages are agglutinative,
  • follow the SOV order,
  • nominal and adjectives follow the same syntax,
  • particles are post-positional,
  • modifiers always precede modified words.

However, typological similarities like can happen by chance; for instance, if two languages were agglutinative by random chance most of the other typological features like SOV order, post-positional particles, modifiers preceding modified words might also be similar (this is the general trend seen in most known agglutinative languages). The lack of a statistically significant number of cognates and the lack of anthropological and genetic links can be used to dismiss this proposal.[13] But recent genetic studies show an early South Asian genetic input in Korean and especially in Japanese people.

Comparative linguist Kang Gil-un found 1300 Dravidian Tamil cognates in Korean.[14] He mentioned that many of them sound even more similar than own Korean local dialects. He insisted that the Korean language is based on the Nivkh language and mingled with lots of Dravidian, Tungusic and Ainu vocabulary. The Dravidian cognates in Korean significantly outnumbers that of Tungusic, or of Ainu.

List of potential Korean-Tamil cognates[edit]

Personal pronouns[edit]

Korean Meaning Tamil Meaning Notes
Na/naneun I Nān/nānu I Nā is informal in both languages; in Naneun, only "Na" means "I" and "neun" is the topic marker.
Nega (네가)[citation needed] You Nī/Ninga You Nī is informal in both languages; Nega is an irregular form of "neo"(you)+"ga"(subject marker).


Korean Meaning Tamil Meaning
Appa (아빠, informal) / Abeoji (아버지, formal)[dubious ] Father Appā (அப்பா)/அப்புச்சி(grand-pa) Father
Eomma (엄마) / Eomeoni (어머니)[dubious ] Mother/middle-aged lady;aunt Ammā(அம்மா) / Ammuni(grand-ma) Mother/milady; honorific for young ladies
Eonni (언니) Elder sister (females for their elder sisters); but note that the term historically meant elder sibling of either sex. Aṇṇi Elder sister-in-law
Nuna (누나) Elder sister (males for their elder sisters) Nungai Younger sister (Old Tamil)
Agassi (아가씨) Young lady; however this term is most likely a compound of "aga" (baby) + "-ssi" (suffix for politely calling someone) Akka (அக்கா)/ Akkaachi (அக்காச்சி) Elder Sister


Korean Meaning Tamil Meaning Notes
Wa (와)[dubious ] an inflected form of the verb o-(오-) "to come" Vā (வா) come
olla (올라)[dubious ] an inflected form of the verb oreu-(오르-) "to climb" uḷḷa (உள்ள) in Ulle/Ulla
Aigu (아이구) - Aiyō (ஐயோ) - Expression of surprise, disgust or disregard
Igeo (이것) this: a compound made of i ("this") + geo ("(some)thing") Itu (இது) this
Nal (날) day Nāḷ (நாள்) day
jogeum-jogeum (조금 조금) - konjam-konjam (கொஞ்சம் கொஞ்சம்) - Literally 'little-bit little-bit'
eoneu (어느) one/what (as in "one day" or "what day") onnu (ஒண்ணு) one
kungdengyi (궁뎅이) buttocks (궁디 or kungdee in slang) kundy (குண்டி) backside

Some more cognates Min-Sohn, Ho (2001). The Korean Language. Cambridge University Press. p. 28. 


  1. ^ "Origin Theories of the Korean Language". Retrieved 2013-12-15. 
  2. ^ "Tamil and Korean link". 
  3. ^ Hulbert, Homer B. (1909). The passing of Korea. Doubleday, Page & Co. p. 28. 
  4. ^ Lee, Ki-Moon (2011). A History of the Korean Language. Cambridge University Press. 
  5. ^ Barnes, Gina Lee (2001). State formation in Korea: historical and archaeological perspectives. Routledge. p. 185. 
  6. ^ Kim, Choong-Soon (2011). Voices of Foreign Brides: The Roots and Development of Multiculturalism in Contemporary Korea. Rowman & Littlefield. 
  7. ^ Ohno, Susumu (1970). The Origin of the Japanese Language. Journal of Japanese studies. 
  8. ^ Paek, Nak-chun (1987). The history of Protestant missions in Korea, 1832-1910. Yonsei University Press. 
  9. ^ Min-Sohn, Ho (2001). The Korean Language. Cambridge University Press. p. 28. 
  10. ^ Korean studies: Volume 8. University of Hawaii (Honolulu). Center for Korean Studies. 1984. 
  11. ^ "Researchers find Tamil connection in Japanese - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 2017-05-19. 
  12. ^ Min-Sohn, Ho (2001). The Korean Language. Cambridge University Press. p. 29. 
  13. ^ "Origin Theories of the Korean Language". Retrieved 2013-12-14. 
  14. ^ Kang, Gil-un (1990). 고대사의 비교언어학적 연구. 새문사.