[lg policy] Korea: Adults must take pride in Jejueo

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Thu May 14 19:28:55 UTC 2015


*Adults must take pride in Jejueo*Linguist Moon Soon-deok says transmission
begins at home
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     ▲ Adults must take pride in Jejueo says linguist Moon Soon-Deok. Photo
by The Jeju Weekly

Linguist Moon Soon-Deok believes the future of the Jeju dialect lies in the
home of each and every Jeju family, and adults must take the lead in
celebrating their linguistic heritage.

“Firstly, adults should be aware of the need to use Jeju dialect in the
home in conversation so children can learn,” she said. “Only by using it
can we transmit it [to our children]. That is the difficulty.”

As research fellow at Jeju Research Center within Jeju Development
Institute (JDI), Jejueo's survival is one of her chief concerns, and her
doctorate in local syntax, semantics and grammar make her a leading expert.
       ▲ Photo courtesy Mun Soon-deok

JDI didn’t even undertake linguistic research before Moon's arrival, it
having the broader remit of Jeju culture. From 2008, she pushed for more
research and she has since published three books.

Among these is ‘Jeju Iyagi,' co-authored with Oh Seung-hun. The book
introduces Jeju culture though simple Jejueo conversations alongside
English and standard Korean translations.

“The program originally started as a series in a magazine and then I
decided it would be beneficial as a book. As it was targeted to Koreans
outside of Jeju, the conversations introduce interesting local topics,” she
said.

In addition to visitors, she also hopes the book helps locals themselves
become more accustomed to seeing the language written as well as spoken.

Along with households, she also urges schools to create Jeju dialect zones
— “even if it is not in lesson time” — and for Jeju residents to use it
"whenever they see someone on the streets."

Like all vernaculars, it has a local earthiness and affection that the
centralized standard lacks, and Moon fears one day all that will be left
are the Jeju legends, known only through an archaic tongue.

“The key to Jeju culture is the Jeju language ... but if we don’t use these
words they will disappear. My main purpose is to bequeath our heritage,
because if people no longer use it, that [the legends] are all that we will
have left. That is all. Nothing else,” said Moon.


       ▲ Photo courtesy JDI

*Classification contention*
Despite her clear passion for the ‘language,’ she opposes such a
classification, reflecting an ongoing debate around whether it is a
language ("Jejueo") or a dialect ("Jeju bangeon").

Moon herself prefers "Jejumal" which can mean language, dialect and speech.

Linguistically speaking it is, she says, a dialect of Korean and should be
seen under the same umbrella as Gangwon and Gyeongsang dialects.

“That is to say, there is one mother, Korean, and [the other] dialects are
siblings. In linguistics, a language should be a distant relative, not a
sibling.”

This counters recent international research which considers Jejueo a sister
language of Korean due to mutual unintelligibility.

Not so, says Moon, adding that while such findings appeal to the current
zeitgeist for Jeju difference, she believes linguistically it is “a
misconception” (even if it has utilitarian value in promoting language use).

“It is only unintelligible because we haven’t heard it before, not because
it is a different language,” adding that Gangwon dialect is the same to
outsiders.

Perhaps there are echoes of the 1970s one nation, one language policy which
Moon cites for the decline in use since then. She was one of the children
told not to use Jejumal in school.

While impelling families to champion the language within the home, Moon is
thankful for the provincial support in culture, the arts and dialect
competitions.

UNESCO recognized Jejueo as an endangerd language in 2011 and added it to
its Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger, an essential catalyst for
increased support. Education superintendent Lee Seokmun has also supported
more Jejueo content in schools.

Although many have criticized the lack of concrete measures to protect
Jejueo, in the context of Korea, Moon sees plenty to be positive about.

“Luckily Jeju Island strongly supports [Jejueo] through policy. Therefore,
this province is unique nationally in that it is conserving the dialect. We
were the first, and we are leading,” said Moon.


*To download Jeju Iyagi in full in pdf form visit Jeju Studies at JDI visit
jdi.re.kr <http://jdi.re.kr>.*

http://www.jejuweekly.com/news/articleView.html?idxno=4744
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