Korean and Japanese as Chinese-Characters Cultural Spheres


  • Takuya OKIMORI Rikkyo University




Korean, Japanese, kun (semantic) reading, geographical notation, writing system


Korea and Japan belong to Chinese-characters cultural spheres. In the time of Han Dynasty and thereafter, tributary states connected with the monarchy of Chinese Kingdom and its surrounding countries. They imported Chinese state regulations, accepted and developed many thoughts and cultures by bringing in Chinese characters of Chinese classics. However, there have been some different points in the treatment of Chinese characters in each nation. The Korean modern writing system does not use Chinese characters in general, while on the contrary in Japanese, there is a tendency to increase the number of regularly-used Chinese characters, for example in the official list of jōyō kanji 常用漢字 announced by the Ministry of Education, with the latest increase in 2010. Therefore, it is necessary to observe more about some aspects of the languages to know why this different treatment occurred. The oldest Korean document is the History of the Three Kingdoms, Samguk Sagi 『三国史記』 that contains geographical proper names. The Buyeo-Kingdom languages were recorded there, including place names. It is no doubt that the use of Chinese characters of Silla have significantly affected Goguryeo and Paekche. The Silla and Buyeo-Kingdom languages have closed syllables with a consonant at the end of each syllable, while in Japanese, the syllables end with vowels as open syllables. There are further phonological characteristics as well. This article discusses how each language encountered Chinese characters, and how they related to their specific languages, and also how Chinese characters particularly reflected syllable structures of different languages. It can be said that the use of Chinese characters in proper names estranged the futures of Korean and Japanese in history. Focus is laid on the history of Korean and Japanese through Chinese characters, with their falsely similar language dispositions.


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How to Cite

OKIMORI, T. (2015). Korean and Japanese as Chinese-Characters Cultural Spheres. Acta Linguistica Asiatica, 4(3), 43–70. https://doi.org/10.4312/ala.4.3.43-70



Research articles