Jeju language

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Native to South Korea
Region Jeju Province
Native speakers
5,000–10,000 (2012)[1][2]
(all born before 1950)
Language codes
ISO 639-3 jje
Glottolog jeju1234[3]
Jeju Province highlighted in South Korea

Jeju (Cheju) is a Koreanic language spoken in Jeju Province in South Korea. It differs greatly from the Korean dialects of the mainland.


The name is transcribed Jeju in Revised Romanization and Cheju in McCune–Reischauer. In Korean, it is known as 제주 방언 (濟州方言) Jeju bang-eon or 제주 사투리 Jeju sathuri "Jeju dialect", as 제주어 (濟州語) Jejueo "Jeju language",[4] or as 제주말 Jejumal "Jeju speech". The last term, mal means both "language" and "dialect".


Although many South Koreans, including those who speak Jeju, consider it a dialect of the Korean language, it can be considered a separate language because it is mutually unintelligible with the Korean dialects on the mainland.[5] It has been recognized as a distinct language locally and by UNESCO.[6]


There are 5,000–10,000 fluent speakers,[6] all born before 1950.[citation needed] Jeju was once spoken across Jeju Island, apart from the Chuja islands in the former Bukjeju County (currently Jeju City), where the Chuja dialect, a variety of the Jeolla dialect, is spoken. It also survives in diasporic enclaves in Japan.[7]

In January 2011, UNESCO added Jeju to its Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger as a "critically endangered language".[6]


There are 9 vowels:

i ɨ u
e ə o
ɛ a ɒ

Jeju maintains the arae-a vowel ㆍ [ɒ], which has been lost from standard Korean.

Historical changes
  • Middle Korean *kj > Jeju [t͡ɕ] (e.g. *kjər > [t͡ɕər] 'wave')
  • Middle Korean *əːj > Jeju [i] (e.g. *kəːj > [ki] of [kiŋi] 'crab')


A notable difference between Jeju and the dialects of mainland Korea is a lack of speech formality or honorific deference. For example, while a speaker of the Gyeonggi dialect might say 안녕하세요 annyeong haseyo ("Hello") or 반갑습니다 ban'gapseumnida ("Pleasure to meet you") to an older person, a speaker of the Jeju dialect would say 반갑수다 ban'gapsuda, which is roughly equivalent to "Howdy" or "Nice meetin' ya". In mainland Korea, it would be inappropriate for a child to say this to an adult, but this usage is acceptable in Jeju.


Jeju preserves many archaic words which have been lost elsewhere, and has borrowed foreign words that are not found in standard Korean. There are also many words which have not been traced to external sources, and which possibly derive from the language of the ancient kingdom of Tamna.[citation needed]



Present tense

Jeju honorifics differ from Standard Korean. Where the standard has declarative ㅂ니다 -mnida, Jeju has 암/엄수다 -amsuda or -eomsuda. Where Korean has interrogative ㅂ니까? -mnikka?, Jeju has 암/엄수과? -a/eomsugwa?

Root Jeju Korean gloss
적다 jeokda 적엄수다 적습니다, 적고 있습니다 writing.
적엄수과? 적습니까, 적고 있습니까? writing?

Stative verbs ("adjectives") are similar. Where standard has ㅂ니다/까 -mnida/mnikka or 습니다/까 -seumnida/seumnikka, Jeju has 우다/꽈 -uda/uggwa or 수다/꽈 -suda/suggwa.

Root Jeju Standard gloss
적다 jeokda 적수다 적습니다 (they) are few.
적수꽈? 적습니까? are (they) few?
Past tense

Jeju past declarative 앗/엇수다 -assuda/eossuda corresponds to standard 았/었습니다 -asseumnida/eusseumnida and interrogative 앗/엇수과? -assugwa/-eossugwa to standard 았/었습니까? -asseumnikka/eosseumnikka.

Root Jeju Korean gloss
알다 alda 알앗수다. 알았습니다 understood.
알앗수과? 알았습니까? understood?


  1. ^ UNESCO: Concerted efforts for the revitalization of Jeju language
  2. ^ "Jeju". In Moseley, Christopher (ed.) 2010. Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger, 3rd ed. Paris, UNESCO Publishing.[1]
  3. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Jejueo". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  4. ^ '제주어' 유네스코 소멸위기 언어 등록, Yonhap News, 2011-01-17
  5. ^ Janhunen, Juha (1996). Manchuria: An Ethnic History. Finno-Ugrian Society. ISBN 978-951-9403-84-7. 
  6. ^ a b c New interactive atlas adds two more endangered languages
  7. ^ Korea, Republic of (South): Language Situation (2005). Keith Brown, ed. Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics (2 ed.). Elsevier. ISBN 0-08-044299-4. 
  • National Institute for the Korean Language, JEJU National University, South Korea

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