|Era||Evolved into Middle Korean by the 10th century|
|Revised Romanization||Godae gugeo|
Old Korean is the historical variety of the Korean language or Koreanic languages dating from the beginning of Three Kingdoms of Korea to the latter part of the Unified Silla, roughly during the 4th to 10th centuries CE. It is distinct from Proto-Korean (원시 한국어), the ancestral language reconstructed from comparison of Korean dialects. Some linguists propose that Old Korean may have been one of the Altaic languages, although this claim has been controversial.
The extent of Old Korean is unclear. It is generally accepted as including Sillan, which is thought to be the direct ancestor of Middle and Modern Korean, and may also have included Buyeo, Goguryeo, and Baekje. If so, Old Korean was a language family, not a single language. (See Buyeo languages, Koreanic languages.)
Only some literary records of Unified Silla, changed into Goryeo text, are extant and some texts (written in their native Writing system) of the Three Kingdoms period are mostly available in form of inscriptions at present. Thus, the languages of the Three Kingdoms period are generally examined through official government names and local district names. The point at which Old Korean became Middle Korean is assessed variously by different scholars. The line is sometimes drawn in the late Goryeo dynasty, and sometimes around the 15th century in the early Joseon Dynasty. But it is usually thought that Middle Korean started at the establishment of Goryeo, and the standard language of Old Korean was changed from the Silla dialect to the Goryeo dialect.
The first texts in Old Korean date from the Three Kingdoms period. They are written using Chinese characters (Hanja) to represent the sound and grammar of the native language. Various systems were used, beginning with ad hoc approaches and gradually becoming codified in the scribal idu system and the hyangchal system used for poetry, and in a later phase (leading up to Middle Korean) gugyeol. Additional information about the language is drawn from various proper nouns recorded in Korean and Chinese records, and from etymological studies of the Korean pronunciations of Chinese characters, which are believed to have been first adapted into Korean in the late Three Kingdoms period.
- Korean language
- Goguryeo language
- Silla language
- Buyeo language
- Middle Korean
- Modern Korean
- Idu script
- List of extinct languages of Asia
- 최기호, 국어사 서설(The History of Korean Language), 제8회 국외 한국어교사 연수회 (8th Research Conference of Korean Language Teacher in Abroad), 2004
- Kim (2004), p. 80.
- It has not been proven that during the age of Three Kingdoms of Korea that all three kingdoms used the same language, but it is accepted by many scholars that the Three Kingdoms utilized similar languages, and that these may have been dialects of a single language. 김수경(1989), 세나라 시기 언어 력사에 관한 남조선 학계의 견해에 대한 비판적 고찰 ("Criticism about the language opinion during three kingdoms of Korea)
- Kim, Mu-rim (김무림) (2004). 국어의 역사 (Gugeo-ui yeoksa, History of the Korean language). Seoul: Hankook Munhwasa. ISBN 89-5726-185-0.
- (Korean) A review of various theories on the languages of the Three Kingdoms period
- (Korean) In Korean language online encyclopedias: