Native speakers
76 million (2007)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-1ko
ISO 639-2kor
ISO 639-3kor
Korean dialects in Korea and neighbouring areas

A number of Korean dialects are spoken on the Korean Peninsula. The peninsula is extremely mountainous and each dialect's "territory" corresponds closely to the natural boundaries between different geographical regions of Korea. Most of the dialects are named for one of the traditional Eight Provinces of Korea. One is sufficiently distinct from the others to be considered a separate language, the Jeju language.

Dialect areas

Dialect zones identified by Shinpei Ogura (1944)[2]
Dialect zones identified by Shinpei Ogura (1944)[2]
Dialect zones in the National Atlas of Korea[3]
Dialect zones in the National Atlas of Korea[3]
Distribution of tone and length in Korean dialects:[4] .mw-parser-output .legend{page-break-inside:avoid;break-inside:avoid-column}.mw-parser-output .legend-color{display:inline-block;min-width:1.25em;height:1.25em;line-height:1.25;margin:1px 0;text-align:center;border:1px solid black;background-color:transparent;color:black}.mw-parser-output .legend-text{}  tone   length   no length or tone
Distribution of tone and length in Korean dialects:[4]
  tone   length
  no length or tone

Korea is a mountainous country, and this could be the main reason why Korean is divided into numerous small local dialects. There are few clear demarcations, so dialect classification is necessarily to some extent arbitrary. A common classification, originally introduced by Shinpei Ogura in 1944 and adjusted by later authors, identifies six dialect areas:[5][6]

Hamgyŏng (Northeastern)
Spoken in the Hamgyong Province (Kwanbuk and Kwannam) region, the northeast corner of Pyongan Province, and the Ryanggang Province of North Korea as well as the Jilin, Heilongjiang of Northeast China; Russia, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan of former Soviet Union. Nine vowels: the eight of the standard language plus ö.[citation needed]
Pyongan (Northwestern)
Spoken in Pyongyang, Pyongan Province, Chagang Province, and neighboring Liaoning, of China. The basis of the standard language for North Korea.[citation needed]
Central dialects
Commonly divided along provincial boundaries:
Central dialect, Hwanghae, Gyeonggi, Gangwon(Yeongseo) and Chungcheong are usually grouped together. However, many view that only Hwanghae, Gyeonggi, and Gangwon(Yeongseo) dialects are included in the central dialect, while Chungcheong dialect is considered as separate dialect.
Gyeongsang (Southeastern)
Spoken in Gyeongsang Province (Yeongnam) of South Korea, including the cities of Busan, Daegu and Ulsan. This dialect is easily distinguished from the Seoul dialect because its pitch is more varied. Six vowels, i, e, a, eo, o, u.[citation needed]
Jeolla (Southwestern)
Spoken in the Jeolla Province (Honam) region of South Korea, including the city of Gwangju. Ten vowels: i, e, ae, a, ü, ö, u, o, eu, eo.[citation needed]
Spoken on Jeju Island off the southwest coast of South Korea and is sometimes considered a separate Koreanic language.[10] The nine vowels of Middle Korean, including arae-a (ɔ). May have additional consonants as well.

Several linguists have suggested that a further dialect area should be split from the Northeastern dialects:[11]

Ryukchin (Yukchin)
Spoken in the historical Yukchin region which is located in the northern part of North Hamgyong Province, far removed from P'yŏng'an, but has more in common with P'yŏng'an dialects than with the surrounding Hamgyŏng dialects.[9] Since it has been isolated from the major changes of Korean language, it has preserved distinct features of Middle Korean. It is the only known tonal Korean language.[12]

A recent statistical analysis of these dialects suggests that the hierarchical structure within these dialects are highly uncertain, meaning that there is no quantitative evidence to support a family-tree-like relationship among them.[13]

Some researchers classify the Korean dialects in Western and Eastern dialects. Compared with Middle Korean, the Western dialects have preserved long vowels, while the Eastern dialects have preserved tones or pitch accent.[14] The Jeju language and some dialects in North Korean make no distinction between vowel length or tone.[14] But the Southeastern dialect and the Northeastern dialect may not be closely related to each other genealogically.

The standard language

Despite North–South differences in the Korean language, the two standards are still broadly intelligible. One notable feature within the divergence is the North's lack of anglicisms and other foreign borrowings due to isolationism and self-reliancepure/invented Korean words are used in replacement.[15]

Outside of the Korean peninsula

See also


  1. ^ Nationalencyklopedin "Världens 100 största språk 2007" The World's 100 Largest Languages in 2007
  2. ^ Ogura 1944, Map 10.
  3. ^ National Geography Information Institute 2017, p. 37.
  4. ^ Lee & Ramsey 2000, p. 316, Map 3.
  5. ^ Lee & Ramsey 2000, pp. 311–313.
  6. ^ Yeon 2012, p. 168.
  7. ^ 대전 사람들은 사투리를 안 쓴다? [People in Daejeon don't speak in dialect?] (in Korean). 중도일보. 2019.
  8. ^ Lee & Ramsey 2000, pp. 313–314.
  9. ^ a b c Lee & Ramsey 2000.
  10. ^ Janhunen 1996.
  11. ^ Lee & Ramsey 2000, p. 313.
  12. ^ 朝鲜语六镇话的方言特点
  13. ^ Lee 2015, pp. 8–9.
  14. ^ a b Yeon 2012.
  15. ^ Seo, Dong-shin (December 18, 2005). "North Chides South for Dirtying Korean Tongue". The Korea Times. Seoul, South Korea. Archived from the original on January 1, 2006. Retrieved October 23, 2019.

Further reading