Possible Cognates in Japanese and KoreanWe cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men. - Herman Melville
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Possible Cognates in Japanese and Korean

Possible Cognates in Japanese and Korean
Korean Linguistics

Are Japanese and Korean related languages? If you know one of these languages, you will find the other fairly easy to learn. Grammatically, they're remarkably similar. Both languages are verb-final and use postpositions. They also use honorific (for talking about others) and humble (for talking about yourself) forms to indicate the social status of the speaker, listener and people being talked about. But despite these similarities, linguists have not conclusively proven that both languages are related. One problem is that the basic vocabulary of both languages is quite different. If Japanese and Korean are sister languages (or even cousins), they would share a large number of cognate terms. This doesn't appear to be the case. Without a large number of cognates it's hard to make a case for a genetic relationship.

Linguists have come up with a number of theories about the origin of Japanese. Some claim that Japanese is an Austronesian or Dravidian language. One interesting theory is that Japanese is a Creole language that developed when Austronesian speakers learned an Altaic language. In Japan, the most popular theory is that Japanese is an isolate (it is unrelated to any other language.)

Possible Cognates in Japanese and Korean

One obstacle for researchers is the lack of early source material. The earliest Korean and Japanese scribes wrote in Chinese and the earliest Japanese records only go back to the seventh century. If you are interested in this topic, two scholars who have written about it are Samuel E. Martin and Roy Andrew Miller.

The words you see on this list are merely an attempt to match up words based on their sound. I've incorporated words suggested by Martin, Miller and others. Any relationship between these words is completely hypothetical. If you have any suggestions for this list, please send me an email.

 

Possible Cognates in the Altaic Languages
English Japanese Korean (Mongolian) (Turkish)
I mi, wanu na bi ben
you shi, sone nô, ne chi sen
we uchi uri bid biz
where iduku ôdi khaan nere
here koko kôgi (there) en bura
belly hara bae khevlii karïn
fingernail tsume top   tïrnak
eye me nun nüd göz
heart mune (chest) manyam zürk yürek
tooth ha i shüd diş
face iro (color) olgul zis yüz
body mi mom gii beden
English Japanese Korean (Mongolian) (Turkish)
foot ashi tal khöl ayak
bone hone ppyô yas kemik
arm ude pal agaar kol
water midu mul us su
house ihe jip ger ev
chicken tori (bird) talk takiya tavuk
fish sakana mulgoki zagas balïk
bear kuma kum baavgai ayï
tortoise kame kepup yast melkhii keplumbaga
year toshi tols jil yïl
before mahe ap ömön cephe, ön
woman onna omoni (mother) emegtei, xatun kadïn
English Japanese Korean (Mongolian) (Turkish)
small chiisai chagûn jijig küçük
mother omo (in 'omoya') omoni eej anne
big ookii kûn ikh büyük
good yoi chohta sain iyi
tall noppo (tall person) nopta öndör uzun
black kuro kômûn khar kara
new sara se shin yeni
sun hi hae nar güneş
moon tsuki tal sar ay
island shima sôm aral ada
fire hi bul gal ateş
morning asa achim öglöö --
English Japanese Korean (Mongolian) (Turkish)
mountain take tuk uul dag
field hata pat kheer tal tarla
forest mori moro -- orman
wine sake sul dars şarap
stone ishi tol chuluu taş
village mura maul khot köy
marsh numa nuep   bataklïk
bamboo take tae -- --
thing koto kôt yum şey
rain ame pi boroo boran (storm)
to see miru pol üzekh görmek
to do suru hal khii etmek
English Japanese Korean (Mongolian) (Turkish)
to eat taberu chapsul idekh yemek
question particle ka kka -- ma, mi
to, toward e e ruu e, ye
subject particle ga ga, i -- --
at, in de sô, esô t, d te, de
one hito hana neg bir
two tsure (pair) tul khoyor iki
English Japanese Korean (Mongolian) (Turkish)

Notes: 

I have used the conjunctive forms of the Korean verbs for ease of comparison with the Japanese.

In some cases I have used archaic forms of the Japanese to show clearer correspondence with the Korean terms.

The first person pronouns "mi" and "wanu" were used in the earliest Japanese texts. Their connection with Altaic was first suggested by Roy Andrew Miller.

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