Korean count word

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The Korean language uses special measure or counting words for specific objects and events. These suffixes are called Hangul수분류사; Hanja數分類詞; RRsubullyusa in Korean. They are similar to ones employed in Chinese and the Japanese language.

In English it is "two sheets of paper" not "two papers". Analogously, in Korean jang (장/) is used to count sheets or anything that is a paper-like material, for example "ten bus tickets" is beoseu pyo yeol jang (버스 표 열 장 / 버스 票 열 張), literally, "bus ticket ten 'sheets'". In fact, the meanings of counter words are frequently extended in metaphorical or other image-based ways. For instance, in addition to counting simply sheets of paper, jang in Korean can be used to refer to any number of thin, paper-like objects. Leaves (namunnip 나뭇잎) are counted using this count word. In this way, a particular count word may be used generally in a very open-ended manner and up to the construal or creativity of the speaker.

There are two systems of numerals in Korean: native Korean and Sino-Korean. Native Korean numerals are used with most counter words. yeol gwa (열 과 / 열 課) would mean 'ten lessons' while sip gwa (십과/十課) would mean 'lesson ten.' Sino-Korean numerals are used with many (but not all, particularly si (시/), meaning "hour") time counters.

Examples[edit]

Some counter words taking Native Korean numerals:

  • Hangul; Hanja; RRgae; lit. 'things' in general, often used as a coverall when the specific count word is unknown (for example, by children)
  • Hangul; MRbŏl; lit. items of clothing
  • Hangul: ; RRbun; lit. people (honorific)
  • Hangul: ; MRch'ae; lit. houses
  • Hangul: ; Hanja: ; MRch'ŏk; lit. boats and ships
  • Hangul: 다발; RRdabal; lit. bunches of flowers or plants
  • Hangul: ; Hanja: ; RRdae; lit. vehicles (cars, airplanes, &c.) and machinery (incl. computers)
  • Hangul: ; RRdan; lit. bunches of Welsh onions, green onions, newspaper columns
  • Hangul: ; Hanja: ; RRdong; lit. buildings
  • Hangul: 그루; MRgŭru; lit. trees, shrubs
  • Hangul: ; Hanja: ; RRgwa; lit. lessons (if paired with Sino-Korean numeral, lesson number)
  • Hangul: ; Hanja: ; MRgwŏn; lit. books
  • Hangul: ; Hanja: ; RRjang; lit. papers
  • Hangul: 자루; RRjaru; lit. things with long handles (writing instruments, shovels, swords, and rifles), and by extension knives and pistols
  • Hangul: ; MRjŏm; lit. paintings, pieces of sliced or ripped-off flesh, wisps of clouds or wind
  • Hangul: ; RRjul; lit. lines or things aligned in a row (kimbap, desks, chairs, etc.)
  • Hangul: 켤레; MRkyŏlle; lit. gloves and socks (pairs)
  • Hangul: 마리; RRmari; lit. animals
  • Hangul: ; Hanja: ; RRmun; lit. cannons, big guns
  • Hangul: ; Hanja: ; MRmyŏng; lit. people (informal)
  • Hangul: ; Hanja: ; MRp'il; lit. uncut fabric, horses
  • Hangul: 포기; MRp'ogi; lit. Chinese cabbages
  • Hangul: ; MRp'un; lit. pennies
  • Hangul: ; RRsal; lit. years
  • Hangul: 송이; RRsong-i; lit. picked flowers, bunches of fruit (grapes, bananas, &c.)
  • Hangul: ; Hanja: ; RRsu; lit. poems, songs
  • Hangul: ; MRt'ol; lit. grains of rice (not cooked), stones
  • Hangul: ; Hanja: ; MRt'ong; lit. letters, telegrams, telephone calls, e-mails
  • Hangul: ; MRt'ong; lit. watermelons

Some counter words taking Sino-Korean numerals:

  • Hangul: ; Hanja: ; RRgwa; lit. lesson number
  • Hangul: 학년; Hanja: 學年; MRhaknyŏn; lit. school year, grade level (2학년)
  • Hangul: ; Hanja: ; RRil; lit. day (for dates)
  • Hangul: ; Hanja: ; MRjŏm; lit. grade (100점)
  • Hangul: ; Hanja: ; MRnyŏn; lit. year (for dates; 2014년, 1998년)
  • Hangul: ; Hanja: ; MRwŏl; lit. month (for dates; 일월: January, 이월: February, ...)
  • Hangul: ; MRwŏn; lit. won

Some nouns can also function as counter words:

  • Hangul: ; Hanja: ; MRbyŏng; lit. bottles
  • Hangul: ; Hanja: ; MRch'ŭng; lit. floors (of a building), layers
  • Hangul: ; Hanja: ; RRgok; lit. songs
  • Hangul: 그릇; MRgŭrŭt; lit. bowls
  • Hangul: ; Hanja: ; RRjan; lit. cups and glasses
  • Hangul: 마디; RRmadi; lit. phrases, joints, musical measures, words
  • Hangul: 상자; RRsangja; lit. boxes
  • Hangul: 사람; RRsaram; lit. people (informal)
  • Hangul: ; Hanja: ; MRt'ong; lit. containers, buckets

Some words are used for counting in multiples:

  • Hangul: 바리; RRbari; lit. 2,000 fish
  • Hangul: ; MRch'uk; lit. 20 cuttlefish
  • Hangul: 다스; RRdaseu; MRt'asŭ; lit. dozen (abbreviated from English)
  • Hangul: ; MRjŏp; lit. 100 fruits (for example, dried persimmons), radishes, cabbages, or bulbs of garlic
  • Hangul: ; MRk'o; lit. twenty dried pollock
  • Hangul: ; Hanja: ; MRp'an; lit. thirty eggs
  • Hangul: ; RRson; lit. handfuls of fish (2 large, 4-5 small), typically mackerels or yellow croakers
  • Hangul: ; MRt'ot; lit. one hundred sheets of laver
  • Hangul: 우리; RRuri; lit. 2,000 tiles

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  • Martin, Samuel E. A Reference Grammar of Korean. Tuttle Publishing, 2006.