Chejuan language

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Korean 제주말
Native to South Korea
Region Jeju Province
Native speakers
5,000 (2014)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 jje
Glottolog jeju1234[2]
South Korea-Jeju alt.svg

Jeju (Cheju) is a Koreanic language spoken in the Jeju Province of South Korea. It differs greatly from the Korean dialects of the mainland. Standard Korean is the most common form of communication in Korea, whereas the Jeju dialect is considered a very local language. The Jeju language is mainly understood and spoken by the older generation. As of October 2014, the Jeju National University Foreign Language Institute has made efforts to save the fading language.[3] Currently, only a relatively small group, consisting of around, or even fewer, than ten thousand individuals actively speak the language.[4]


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 saturi "Jeju dialect", as 제주어 (濟州語) Jejueo "Jeju language",[5] 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.[6] Japanese and Mongolian are also incorporated into Jeju, indicating further separation from Standard Korean.[3] Jeju is characterized by a heavy accent containing many informal words and phrases, considered to be Korean slang.[7] It has been recognized as a distinct language locally and by UNESCO.[8] Glottolog also classifies it as a distinct language. Government support of this language is provided through the Jeju Ministry of Education, and institutional support is provided by the Jeju Preservation Society.[9]


There are around 5,000–10,000 fluent speakers today.[8] 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.[10]

Domestic efforts have been carried out in an attempt to revitalize the language, such as the publication of a Jeju-eo-to-Korean dictionary and the establishment of the Jeju Development Institute. However, it has been difficult to see progress due to a widening cultural and generational gap.[11]

In January 2011, UNESCO added Jeju to its Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger as a "critically endangered language".[8]


The phonetic properties of obstruents in Jeju dialect is similar to Seoul Korean.[12] The unintelligibility of Jeju comes in larger part from other components of grammar such as morphosyntactic and/or lexical differences,[12] e.g. differences in the vowel system.[13]

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.

Presumably pronounced similar to modern ㅓ, but with less opening at the back of the throat.

Theㆍvowel formed a medial of its own, or was found in the diphthong ㆎ arae-ae, written with the dot under the consonant and ㅣ to its right.

This vowel is not entirely obsolete outside of Jeju, as it can be found in various brand names. It is often just an aesthetic replacement for the ㅏ vowel in standard Korean.

Historical changes[edit]

  • Middle Korean *kj > Jeju [t͡ɕ] (e.g. *kjər > [t͡ɕəl] '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 would be roughly equivalent to "Howdy" or "Nice ta meet ya" in Gyeonggi dialect. In mainland Korea, it would be inappropriate for a child to say this to an adult, but this usage is normative in Jeju.


Jeju preserves many archaic words which have been lost elsewhere, and has borrowed foreign words that are not found in standard Korean. Many words come from the Japanese, Chinese, Manchu and Mongolian languages.[14]



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. ^ Jeju at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Jejueo". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  3. ^ a b "Jeju Island Dialect". Student Advocates for Language Preservation. Retrieved 2017-02-10. 
  4. ^ "About the Jeju-eo Talking Dictionary". Retrieved 2017-02-10. 
  5. ^ '제주어' 유네스코 소멸위기 언어 등록, Yonhap News, 2011-01-17
  6. ^ Janhunen, Juha (1996). Manchuria: An Ethnic History. Finno-Ugrian Society. ISBN 978-951-9403-84-7. 
  7. ^ "Did you know Jejueo is endangered?". Endangered Languages. Retrieved 2017-02-06. 
  8. ^ a b c "New interactive atlas adds two more endangered languages". UNESCO. 12 August 2010. Retrieved 2017-10-29. 
  9. ^ "Jejueo". The Endangered Languages Project. Retrieved 2017-02-10. 
  10. ^ Korea, Republic of (South): Language Situation (2005). Keith Brown, ed. Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics (2 ed.). Elsevier. ISBN 0-08-044299-4. 
  11. ^ "About the Jeju-eo Talking Dictionary". Retrieved 2017-02-09. 
  12. ^ a b Cho, Taehong; Jun, Sun-Ah; Ladefoged, Peter (2002). "Acoustic and aerodynamic correlates of Korean stops and fricatives". Journal of Phonetics. 30 (2): 193–228. doi:10.1006/jpho.2001.0153. 
  13. ^ Cho, Taehong; Jun, Sun-Ah; Jung, Seung-Chul; Ladefoged, Peter (2001). "The Vowels of Cheju". Korean Journal of Linguistics. 26 (4): 810–816. ISSN 1229-4039. 
  14. ^ "Jeju". Retrieved February 10, 2017. 

External links[edit]