(probably spurious)
South India, Japan and Korea
Linguistic classificationProposed language family

Dravido-Koreanic, sometimes Dravido-Koreo-Japonic, is an abandoned proposal linking the Dravidian languages to Korean and (in some versions) to Japanese.[1] A genetic link between the Dravidian languages and Korean was first hypothesized by Homer B. Hulbert in 1905.[2] In his book The Origin of the Japanese Language (1970), Susumu Ōno proposed a layer of Dravidian (specifically Tamil) vocabulary in both Korean and Japanese. Morgan E. Clippinger gave a detailed comparison of Korean and Dravidian vocabulary in his article "Korean and Dravidian: Lexical Evidence for an Old Theory" (1984), but there has been little interest in the idea since the 1980s.[1]

Recognition of language similarities

Similarities between the Dravidian languages and Korean were first noted by French missionaries in Korea.[3] In 1905, Homer B. Hulbert wrote a comparative grammar of Korean and Dravidian in which he hypothesized a genetic connection between the two.[2] According to Hulbert, the endings of many names of ancient settlements of southern Korea can be traced to Dravidian words.[4] Later, Susumu Ōno caused a stir in Japan with his theory that Tamil constituted a lexical stratum of both Korean and Japanese, which was widely publicized in the following years but was quickly abandoned. However, Clippinger applied the comparative method systematically to Middle Korean forms and reconstructed Dravidian forms.[5] Lee Ki-Moon, Professor Emeritus at Seoul National University, argued in 2011 that Clippinger's conclusion should be revisited.[1]

The Samguk yusa describes Heo Hwang-ok, who was the first queen of Geumgwan Gaya—a statelet of the Gaya confederacy—as coming from Ayuta in India.[6] Since the Samguk yusa was compiled in the 12th century, and contains mythical narratives, it is not strong evidence. However, contact with Tamil merchants and a limited inflow of immigrants may have influenced the formation of the Gaya confederacy.[7] According to the historian Kim Byung-ho, the Karak Kingdom of King Suro was named after an old Dravidian work meaning 'fish'.[8][9]

In 2011, Jung Nam Kim, president of the Korean Society of Tamil Studies, mentioned that the similarities between Korean and Dravidian are strong, but he also said that this does not prove a genetic link between Dravidian and Korean, and that more research needs to be done.[citation needed]


Susumu Ōno,[10] and Homer B. Hulbert[11] propose that early Dravidian people, especially Tamils, migrated to the Korean peninsula and Japan. Hulbert based his theories of language relationships and associated migration patterns on the Turanian language hypothesis, which has been obsolete since the early 20th century.[12] Morgan E. Clippinger presented 408 putative cognates and derived about 60 phonological correspondences from them. Clippinger proposed that some cognates were closer than others leading him to speculate a genetic link which was reinforced by a later migration.[5][13] Comparative linguist Kang Gil-un identifies 1300 Dravidian Tamil cognates in Korean. He suggests that Korean is probably related to the Nivkh language and influenced by Tamil.[14] There are two basic common features:[15]

However, typological similarities such as these could easily be due to chance; agglutinative languages are quite common, and half of the languages in the world follow SOV word order. The lack of a statistically significant number of cognates and the lack of anthropological and genetic links can be adduced to dismiss this proposal.[16]

Moreover, because no regular sound correspondences have been identified between Korean and Dravidian, the hypothesis that they are genetically related is not considered by most historical linguists.


  1. ^ a b c Lee & Ramsey (2011), p. 15.
  2. ^ a b Hulbert (1905).
  3. ^ Hulbert (1906), p. 28.
  4. ^ Hulbert (1906), pp. 28–29.
  5. ^ a b Clippinger (1984).
  6. ^ The ancient Ay kingdom was based in modern Kanyakumari) in Tamil Nadu.
  7. ^ 이거룡. 2017, "가락국(駕洛國)과 고대 남인도(南印度)의 문화적 접촉에 관한 고찰: 물고기숭배를 중심으로" [A Study on the Cultural Contacts between Garak Kingdom and Ancient South India: With Special Reference to 'Fish Worship'], 인도연구, vol. 22, no. 1, pp. 85–121. doi:10.21758/jis.2017.22.1.85
  8. ^ Barnes, Gina Lee (2001). State formation in Korea: historical and archaeological perspectives. Routledge. p. 185.
  9. ^ Kim, Choong-Soon (2011). Voices of Foreign Brides: The Roots and Development of Multiculturalism in Contemporary Korea. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 174.
  10. ^ Ohno, Susumu (1970). The Origin of the Japanese Language. Journal of Japanese studies.
  11. ^ Paek, Nak-chun (1987). The history of Protestant missions in Korea, 1832-1910. Yonsei University Press.
  12. ^ Hulbert (1906), pp. 28, 300–302.
  13. ^ Sohn (1999), pp. 28–29.
  14. ^ Kang, Gil-un (1990). 고대사의 비교언어학적 연구. 새문사.
  15. ^ Sohn (1999), p. 29.
  16. ^ "Origin Theories of the Korean Language". Retrieved 15 December 2013.

Works cited