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

Frank Hoffmann hoffmann at koreanstudies.com
Tue Mar 11 04:18:09 EDT 2014

Werner Sasse wrote:
> I should have said more precisely: "this problem arises only 
> in Sino-Kor words in contemporary Korean as spoken in South Korea."

Gary Ledyard's point was different. QUOTE:
> I'm pretty sure that the process of dropping ㄴ(and also ㄹ) did not
> originate in Sino-Korean. Rather it must surely have started in
> ordinary vernacular Korean speech.

These are *both* interesting assumptions.
As a convinced non-linguist, I am again intrigued by the question that 
this brings up about script, culture, and POSSIBLY even pre-modern and 
modern state formation. This last point is, agreed, a quite a bold and 
ambitious hypothesis (depending on the answer to the above).
To simplify the question: 
*If* Professor Ledyard is correct and this late Chosŏn period "trend" 
of dropping the initial ㄴ (and ㄹ) did not discriminate between pure 
Korean and Sino-Korean, given that the Chinese pronuciation of 年 (in 
THIS example) was/is nien in Chinese and that Koreans *emulated* that 
Chinese pronunciation by trying to get close (as they did with all 
other characters also) by pronouncing it more or less like nyŏn 년, and 
if in the later Chosŏn period they started to drop the initial n ㄴ, 
then is this not an indication of a "Koreanization" of Sino-Korean that 
comes exactly at the same period we see nationalization trends in art 
and literature? Pre-17th century painting styles, for example, are hard 
to differentiate from Chinese ones, but that changes in the later 
Chosŏn period, some styles take on a more distinctive Koreanness. 
As I said, this is a very bold assumption -- a thought I would 
appreciate to get your feedback on. So, before you raise your hands, 
this is indeed no more than a thought and a question by someone only 
interested in getting the tasty juice out of linguistics (while I 
happily leave the squeezed skin to you).


Frank Hoffmann

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