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Counting words

From:Sanghyeon Seo <sanxiyn@...>
Date:Thursday, March 10, 2005, 3:34
In recent Tatari Farn McGuffey Readers thread, Roger Mills remarked:

> It has occurred to me more than once, w.r.t Tatari Faran, that your > complements might be compared to the use of "classifiers" in counting, > esp. in Asian languages. > (Malay, Japanese, Chinese mentioned)
Don't blame me for using this as a chance to introduce an elaborate system of Korean counting words. :-) First, some samples: (Hangul and pronunciation) 나무 두 그루, 종이 한 장, 버섯 다섯 송이, 사과 세 알, 개 네 마리, 사람 여섯 명 [namu tu k14u, coNi han caN, pVsVt tasVt soNi, sagwa se al, k& ne ma4i, sa4am yVsVt mjVN] Which can be translated as "two trees, one paper, five mushrooms, three apples, four dogs, six persons", or "two stumps of trees, a sheet of paper, five bunches of mushrooms, three grains of apples, four heads of dogs, six names of persons". Word order is always "things to be counted", "number", and then "counting unit". Flower and grape are counted in same unit as mushroom ([soNi]). Seed and rice, also egg are counted as apple ([al]). Most animals are counted in same unit ([ma4i]), but horses are counted in [p_hil]. Oops, that's not completely true, cattles may be counted in [gjV4i]. Some oddities: house, palanqueen, bedquilt, ginseng is counted in same unit, [c_h&]. Sword, gun, but also pen (rather, writing brush) is counted in same unit, [ca4u]. Vegetables and grass are counted in [p_hogi]. Age of person is counted in [sal]. Rooms are counted in [k_han]. There are specific units to count cuttlefish, octopus, mackerel. Generic counting unit is [g&]. I once saw an entire dictionary devoted to these stuffs in the bookstore. Diachronically, it seems there weren't *this* many counting words in Middle Korean around 15th century. It seems more and more counting units, especially loans from Chinese, were added one by one, until somewhat in 19th century. Interestingly, Modern Korean is slowly losing all these complexities, substituting [g&] for specific units in more cases. Seo Sanghyeon