Dravido-Korean languages

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South Asia and Korea
Linguistic classification: Dravido-Koreanic
Glottolog: None

Koreanic-Dravidian or Dravido-Koreanic is a disputed[1] language family proposal which links the living or proto-Dravidian language to the Korean language. The hypothesis was originally proposed by Morgan E. Clippinger in his "Korean and Dravidian: lexical evidence for an old theory" published in 1984. This proposal was discarded when the Korean language was hypothetically linked to the Altaic languages.


Similarities between Tamil and Korean were first noted by French missionaries in Korea.[2] 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.[3] According to Homer B. Hulbert, many of the names of ancient colonies of southern Korea were the exact counterpart of Dravidian words. The Karak Kingdom of King Suro was named after the proto-Dravidian meaning 'fish'.[4][5]


Susumu Ōno,[6] and Homer B. Hulbert[7] propose that early Tamil people migrated to the Korean peninsula. 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.[8] This view was confirmed by the Centre for Korean Studies at the University of Hawaii.[9] Some of the common features are:[10]

  • both 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 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, the lack of anthropological and genetic links, and the fact that both regions are geographically isolated can be used to dismiss this proposal.[11]

List of potential 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) / Ajumeoni (아주머니)[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

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