Jeju language

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Korean 제주말
Native toSouth Korea
RegionJeju Province
Native speakers
5,000 (2014)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3jje
South Korea-Jeju alt.svg

Jeju (Cheju) or (Jejueo) 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]

According to the UNESCO Atlas of the World's Endangered Languages, the Jeju language is listed as critically endangered, the highest level of being endangered. Only 5,000–10,000 people speak the Jeju language, all of whom are above 70–75 years of age. Without a province-wide teaching mechanism of the Jeju language for the youth, the language may be extinct within 2–4 decades, making it a language in grave peril unless a teaching-mechanism is established by either the government or an educational institution in Jeju-do.[5]


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",[6] 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.[7] 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.[8] It has been recognized as a distinct language locally and by UNESCO.[9] 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.[10]


There are around 5,000–10,000 fluent speakers today.[9] 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.[11]

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.[12]

In January 2011, UNESCO added Jeju to its Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger as a "critically endangered language".[9]


The phonetic properties of obstruents in Jeju dialect is similar to Seoul Korean.[13] The unintelligibility of Jeju comes in larger part from other components of grammar such as morphosyntactic and/or lexical differences,[13], as well as differences in the vowel system.[14]

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. This is also what caused a further division of language between Jeju island and mainland Korea; Jejueo was dubbed inferior to the standard Korean because of its casual tone and lack of the formal morphemes such as 요 (yo) in 안녕하세요 (an-nyong ha-sae-yo "hello").[15]


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.[16]

Jeju Gloss Notes
Hangul RR
ᄒᆞᆫ저옵서예 hɒnjeo opseoye "Welcome!"
아방 abang "father" Cognate with Standard Korean abeoji "father" and South Gyeongsang dialect aba "father." Similar to Malayo-Polynesian (Taiwan) 'abang' (uncle).
어멍 eomeong "mother"
하르방 hareubang "grandfather; old man"
할망 halmang "grandmother; old woman" Added after many shamanistic deities, such as Samseung Halmang, Jeoseung Halmang, and Seolmundae Halmang.
아즈방 ajeubang "uncle"
아즈망 ajeumang "aunt"
삼춘 Samchun (middle-aged men and women) In Standard Korean, samchon refers to 'uncle'. However, in Jeju Island, 'Samchun' refers to all middle-aged men and women. For example, the title of a novel about the Jeju massacre, Suni Samchun means 'a woman named Suni', not 'Suni's uncle' or 'Uncle Suni.'
오라방 orabang "elder brother" (of a woman)
ᄄᆞᆯ ttɒl "daughter"
가시아방 gasiabang "father-in-law" (of a man) From Middle Korean gas "wife" + genitive suffix -ɒy + Jeju dialect abang "father," i.e. "wife's father."
ᄀᆞ를 gɒreul "powder, flour" Cognate with Standard Korean garu "powder, flour."
ᄀᆞ슴 gɒseum "material, stuff" Cognate with Standard Korean gām "material, stuff."
ᄉᆞ나이 sɒnai "man" Cognate with (somewhat vulgar) Standard Korean sanai ~ sanae "man, adult male human; husband."
지집빠이 jijib-bbai "woman" Cognate with Standard Korean gyējibai ~ gyējibae "girl," from Korean gyējib "woman, female" + Korean ai ~ ǣ "child."
비바리 bibari "maiden"
가물어 gamureo "not likely"
야개기 yagaegi "neck"
nang "tree, shrub, wood" Stem of the word for "tree, shrub, wood" was namg- in Middle Korean
굴묵낭 gulmungnang "zelkova tree"
태역 taeyeok "grass"
송키 songki "vegetable" Jeju songki is similar to Manchu sogi "vegetable"
지실 jisil "potato"
강생이 gangsaeng-i "puppy"
고냉이 gonaeng-i "cat"
노리 nori "Siberian roe deer"
도치 dochi "ax" The word for "ax" appeared variously as dosguy, dosgeuy, or dochɒy in Middle Korean
오름 oreum "mountain, hill, (esp.) parasitic cone" Jeju dialect oreum or orɒm is similar to Mongolian ūla ("mountain") and Manchu alin ("mountain"). Although it rather sounds closer to the literal meaning of oreum itself, oreum literally means "an elevation" or its implied meaning: "an elevated space."
고고리 gogori "ear of grain"
그디 geudi "there" Jeju language uses -di instead of -(eo)gi to form locational deictic pronouns
이디 idi "here"
깅이 ging-i "crab"
생이 saeng-i "bird"
놈삐 or 무수 nomppi or musu "radish" Jeju dialect musu is cognate with Standard Korean muu but descended from a different Middle Korean variant. Note similarity with Manchu mursa ("large, white, globular Chinese radish"). The etymology of Jeju dialect nombbi is obscure.
대비 daebi "sock" Jeju language daebi < Japanese tabi ("traditional Japanese socks")
도새기 dosaegi "pig"
돗괴기 dotgoegi "pork"
독새기 doksaegi "chicken egg"
부루 buru "lettuce"
주리 juri "change (at the end of a monetary transaction)" Jeju language juri < Japanese tsuri (id.)
jeol "wave" Jeju language jeol < Middle Korean gyeol (id.); cognate with the second syllable of Standard Korean mulggyeol
절간 jeolgan "Buddhist temple" Compare with Standard Korean jeol "Buddhist temple."
어욱 eouk "purple eulalia"
인칙 inchik "early"
개역 gaeyeok "powder of roast grain"
모물, 모몰, 모믈 momul, momol, momeul "buckwheat"
몬독 mondok "dust"
빙애기 bing-aegi "chick"
가사 gasa "umbrella" Compare with Japanese kasa ("wide-brimmed hat; umbrella, parasol") and Korean gat ("old-fashioned hat").
몽댕이 mongdaeng-i "walking stick, staff" Jeju language mongdaeng-i is cognate with Korean 몽둥이 mongdung-i ("club, cudgel, baton, stick").
몬딱 monttak "all, everything"
정지 jeongji "kitchen" The word jeongji is not unique to Jeju language, as it is also used in Gyeongsang and Jeolla dialect speaking regions.
하영 hayeong "much, lots"
호꼼, 호끔 hokkom, hogkkeum "a small quantity; a little"
테우리 teuri "rancher" 'Teuri' can refer to Jeongsunam, the shamanistic deity of ranching.



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. ^
  6. ^ '제주어' 유네스코 소멸위기 언어 등록, Yonhap News, 2011-01-17
  7. ^ Janhunen, Juha (1996). Manchuria: An Ethnic History. Finno-Ugrian Society. ISBN 978-951-9403-84-7.
  8. ^ "Did you know Jejueo is endangered?". Endangered Languages. Retrieved 2017-02-06.
  9. ^ a b c "New interactive atlas adds two more endangered languages". UNESCO. 12 August 2010. Retrieved 2017-10-29.
  10. ^ "Jejueo". The Endangered Languages Project. Retrieved 2017-02-10.
  11. ^ Korea, Republic of (South): Language Situation (2005). Keith Brown, ed. Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics (2 ed.). Elsevier. ISBN 0-08-044299-4.
  12. ^ "About the Jeju-eo Talking Dictionary". Retrieved 2017-02-09.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ Suyeon, Ju. (2014). "Jeju Island Dialect." Student Advocates for Language Preservation.Retrieved from
  16. ^ "Jeju". Retrieved February 10, 2017.

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