[KS] uri

Ross King jrpking at interchange.ubc.ca
Sun Jun 20 15:34:03 EDT 2010

I discuss this a bit in this chapter: 

2007a. Language and national identity in the Koreas. In: Andrew Simpson (ed.), Language and national identity in Asia. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 200-235 (references in back of book):

" Korean as an Embodiment of National Characteristics 
One important genre of the class of popular South Korean works on Korean language is
what might be called the ‘lexical fetish’ category, and within this one finds an
interesting sub-genre – a kind of psychoanalytical ‘pop etymology’ that attempts to
read Korean national traits from lexical semantics.
     For example, Ceng Howan (1991) is titled ‘The Imagination of Korean: the Nation’s
Emotions and Consciousness as seen through the Origins of Korean Vocabulary’, and
there are many other works of a similar orientation, linking national characteristics to
aspects of the Korean language. One particular word that attracts constant attention is
the first-person plural pronoun wuli ‘we; our’. This is the first member of the most
common designation for ‘Korean’ in much of this literature: wulimal – literally ‘our
language’, and is given special discussion in many essays, bringing to mind Silverstein’s
(2000: 115) reminder that ‘nationalism is an imaginative sense of Bakhtinian ‘‘we-voicing’’
’, serving to distinguish the in-group as nation from outsiders. Though this
general sub-genre is much less in evidence in the North than in the South, the everpresent
first-person plural pronoun interestingly shows up in works produced in
the North, too, for example ‘Wuli ‘‘we’’– the pronoun of love and faith’ (MH 2003
Vol. 2: 213)."

MH = Munhwae haksup, North Korea's popular/populist language planning journal. 

The Silverstein reference is: 

Silverstein, M. (2000), ‘Whorfianism and the Linguistic Imagination of Nationality’, in P.V.
Kroskrity (ed.), Regimes of Language: Ideologies, Polities, and Identities (Santa Fe, New Mexico: School of American Research Press; Oxford: James Currey), 85–138.

One can also find various little pseudo-etymological essays in popular South Korean works about language: 

Chen, Soyeng. 1994. Pukkulewun alilang: wulimal eyseyi [Shameful arirang: Essays on 
Korean]. Seoul: Hyenamsa, has an essay on 'the cozy blanket of wuli';

Pak, Kapchen (1974/1982). Ewen swuphil: mal uy kohyang ul chaca [Etymological essays: in 
search of the hometown of language] and Pak, Kapchen (1995). Caymiissnun ewen iyaki [Fun etymologies] both have a little essay on 'wuli'.

Yi, Otek (1995/1996, vol. 3) (a very conservative, ultra-nationalist language ideologue) has this: "5.4. Wuli cip and na uy cip" (which, if I recall correctly, says what you would expect re collectivism vs. individualism).

Si, Cengkon, Ceng Cwuli, Cang Yengcwun and Choy Kyengpong. 2003. Hankwuke ka salacintamyen [What if Korean were to disappear?]. Seoul: Hankyeley Sinmunsa, in Chapter 5, has a section on "Teasing out the meaning of ‘wuli’ in ‘wulimal’". 

Anyway, 'wuli' is a favorite of Korean language ideologues, and there are also fanciful etymologies connecting the pronoun to the Korean word for 'fence' (cf. wulthali).

Imho, wuli is a great example of a 1st-person plural pronoun in a language that does not have the occasionally-found inclusive/exclusive grammatical distinction for "we" (i.e., two different pronouns for "we," where one is "we = including you, my interlocutor," and "we = excluding you, my interlocutor), but nonetheless ends up _functioning_ like an exclusive 1st-person plural pronoun because of Korean ethnonationalism. 


-----Original Message-----

> Date: Sun Jun 20 00:52:16 PDT 2010
> From: "will pore" <willpore at gmail.com>
> Subject: [KS] uri
> To: "Korean Studies Discussion List" <Koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws>
> Dear List:
> For any comparative Asian linguists, Ural Altaic linguists (?), or, maybe even Korean linguists on the list, I would like to inquire if a pronoun similar to the Korean we (i.e. uri) occurs with the same frequency/prominence in any related languages to the same degree that it does in Korean. Should we accept the assertion that I nearly always have had that the prominence of that pronoun in Korean is due to a particular Korean mindset alone? I have never read a discussion of this phenomenon by a Korean language scholar, however. I am not presenting this question merely as a random thought of mine or as a puzzle for the illumination of others on the list, but as part of a larger study. 
> I will greatly appreciate any authoratative replies.
> Regards,
> Will   -- William F. PoreAssociate ProfessorGlobal Studies ProgramPusan National University
Ross King
Professor of Korean and Head,
Department of Asian Studies, 
University of British Columbia, 


Dean, Korean Language Village, 
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