Posted by: rbbadger | February 9, 2010

Korea’s honorific speech

If you take up a language like Spanish, Italian, or German, you come into contact with something that is rather unusual to us as English speakers, namely polite verb forms.  Korean has taken honourific speech to levels no other language has done.  Not only are there honourific verb forms, but there are also honourific nouns as well.  It is all a part of that linguistic minefield which all learners of the Korean language must struggle with.  Where most European languages only have two levels of honourific speech, namely the ordinary speech one would use with one’s close friends and family and the other more elevated polite speech, Korean has about seven, though only about four are in common use.

The Korea Times recently did a story on how honourific speech has been on the decline.  Recently, a 69 year-old man was reprimanded by a 39 year old judge for being rude in his trial.  The judge used a verb form he ought not to have used, as this particular verb is used by an older person rebuking a younger one.  Apparently, government agencies are now the recipients of frequent complaints that such and such a government official didn’t use the correct honourific speech in addressing citizens.  So, apparently this sort of thing is one the rise.

You can read more about it here.


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