[KS] Variable Romanization of 년(年) in McCune-Reischauer

Frank Hoffmann hoffmann at koreanstudies.com
Wed Feb 26 01:40:29 EST 2014

Okay -- here I have some acoustic jewels for you -- handle with care 
and respect.

Werner Sasse wrote:
> Hi Bob,
> thanks, yours is the second posting with Kangwon-do coming in, so 
> there must be something here. 

Nothing from Kangwŏn-do, but here a recording from 1923 and another 
from 1928. The first one, the 1923 one from Berlin, has unfortunately 
little to offer in terms of 외 and 의, but is still interesting. 


This is Kim Chung-se 金重世 in December 1923, reading the beginning of 
the _Lunyu_ 論語, I to VI of the _Xue Er_ 學而. You find the text with 
English translation (not that it matters here) in Legge:
(search for  學而第一  to find the beginning)
Kim Chung-se comes from a yangban family in Kaesŏng, grew up in both 
Kaesŏng and Seoul, visited the Confucian Academy, then went for a short 
time to Japan, still before the annexation, and then on to Berlin, 
where he studied and worked for about ten years for the Royal Prussian 
Academy of Sciences. He is basically trained as a Sinologist, and a big 
part of his daily work consisted of comparing classical Buddhist texts 
from India (in Sanskrit) to Chinese editions. So, we do have here 
someone who day in day out works with different languages on an 
academic level (he also used his own transcription system for Korean, 
and he worked on a Sanskrit-German dictionary using Han'gŭl as an 
additional means to show the pronunciation - was never published).  

子曰、 學而時習之、
為仁[sic 人]之本與。

The next piece is by someone far better known, Yi Kŭng-no 李克魯 (Kolu 
Li), the deadbeat dad of Korean studies in Germany (he left too early). 
Yi comes from Kyŏngsangnam-do, but already left his home with 17 to 
join the anti-Japanese fighters in Manchuria. He joined the Tan’gun’
gyo (later named Taejonggyo) and worked from some time as a teacher at 
a small Korean school right on the Chinese side of the Paektu-san. He 
then went on to Shanghai and Beijing, worked for the Korean Government 
in Exile, the Ŭiyŏltan, assisted Sin Ch'ae-ho and Yi Tong-hwi, finished 
a German college, and finally went to Russia on political mission as an 
interpreter, where Wilhelm Pieck (co-founder of the German Communist 
Party and later the first EAST German president) invited him to study 
in Berlin. From 1924 to 1927 (when he finishes his doctoral thesis in 
economics) he also works as the lecturer for Korean at the Seminar for 
Oriental Languages at Berlin University. At the time of this recording, 
1928, he is therefore already well accustomed to the problems of Korean 
language teaching, of transcription, missing orthographic rules in 
Korean, and of other inconsistencies -- he has through his job been 
confronted with Sinologists, Japanologists, and linguists and the 
various grammars then available for these languages, and that is also 
reflected in several of his writings. Although he is not a trained 
linguist, he was a true (leftist) intellectual, someone who was widely 
interested in many areas and who produced high standard studies (e.g. 
his economics thesis on Chinese economics is pretty amazing for the 
time). As you all know Yi played a pivotal role in establishing the 
Chosŏnŏ Hakhoe and the Korean Dictionary Compilation Committee right 
after his return. So, what I am GUESSING, what I am trying to hint at 
-- taking into account what I just learned from Werner and others 
posting here -- is that as early as 1928 (in these recordings from 
Paris) we possibly already have a nice example of someone "pushing" for 
STRUCTURES and RULES that may not necessarily mirror actual usage. 
(Consider the fact Yi did after his return spent a lot of time and 
effort to revise the orthographic rules that the Japanese had already 

Here are tree recordings ... two made for language learners the third 
one a typical Tan’gun’gyo text that reflects Yi's Marxist conviction 
and his historical training and influence from Sin Ch'ae-ho and Pak 
Ŭn-sik. To me and others interested in Korean HISTORY (rather than 
linguistics) THAT is highly interesting .... if you allow me the mini, 
half-sentence excursion, because it shows a true and very thorough, 
solid modernization of thought and intellectual models, here paired 
with a Marxist understanding of society, economics, and education. (But 
that needs further discussion elsewhere.) Anyway, here are the 
recordings at the Bibliothèque nationale de France:

==> The Korean alphabet and the sound of the Korean language (1) (조선 
글씨와 조선 말소리, 1)
==> click the *small start triangle* icon, right of "Track 1," top 

==> The Korean alphabet and the sound of the Korean language (2) (조선 
글씨와 조선 말소리, 2)
==> click the *small start triangle* icon, right of "Track 1," top 

==> "God and Men" (신과 인간) 
==> click the *small start triangle* icon, right of "Track 1," top 

This is fun ... learning a lot from you!

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