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Understanding Korean Honorifics (Jon-dae-mal)

Understanding Korean Honorifics (Jon-dae-mal)

Understanding Korean Honorifics (Jon-dae-mal)

Korean honorifics, also known as "jondaemal" or "josemal," are an important aspect of Korean language and culture. They are used to show respect and politeness when speaking to someone of higher social status, age, or authority. Honorifics are used to address and refer to others, and they play a significant role in maintaining social harmony and showing proper etiquette in Korean society.

There are various levels of honorifics in Korean, and the choice of honorifics depends on the context, the relationship between the speakers, and the relative social status of the individuals involved. Here are some common honorifics and their usage:

1. Levels of Speech:

Korean honorifics involve different levels of speech, which are used based on the social relationship between the speaker and the listener. The three main levels are:

1.1 - Formal (Jon-dae-mal):

Used to show respect to someone of higher social status, such as elders, superiors, or strangers.

1.2 - Informal (Ban-mal):

Used among close friends, family members, or those of equal or lower social status.

2. Verb Endings:

2.1 - 요 (yo):

This is the polite verb ending used in jondaemal. It is added to the verb stem when speaking politely to someone older or of higher status.

2.2 - 다 (da):

This is the plain verb ending used in banmal. It is used when speaking casually to friends, family members, or people of equal status.

3. Honorific Verb Forms:

3.1 - ~(으)시- (u-shi-):

This honorific verb form is used to show respect to the subject of the sentence. It is added before the verb stem. For example, "하다" (hada) becomes "하시다" (hasida) in the honorific form.

3.2 - ~시- (shi-):

This honorific verb form is used to show respect to the subject of the sentence. It is added before the verb stem. For example, "먹다" (meokda) becomes "드시다" (deusida) in the honorific form.

4. Honorific Nouns:

4.1 - 선생님 (seon-saeng-nim):

This honorific term is used to address teachers, professors, or someone in a respected position.

4.2 - 아버님 (a-beo-nim) / 어머님 (eo-meo-nim):

These are honorific terms for addressing someone else's father (abeonim) or mother (eomeonim).

4.3 - 대통령님 (dae-tong-nyeong-nim):

This term is used to address the President of South Korea.

4.4 - 교수님 (gyo-su-nim):

This term is used to address a professor.

5. Polite Expressions:

Polite Expressions

5.1 - 저 (jeo):

This is a polite way to refer to oneself, similar to "I" or "me" in English.

5.2 - 제 (je):

This is a polite possessive pronoun, similar to "my" in English.

5.3 - 존경합니다 (jon-gyeong-ham-ni-da):

This phrase means "I respect you" and is used as a polite expression to show respect.

6. Politeness in Requests:

Politeness in Requests

When making requests in Korean, it is polite to use honorific language. This includes using the appropriate speech level and adding honorific suffixes to the person's name or title.

7. Age-based Hierarchy:

Age-based Hierarchy

Age is highly respected in Korean culture, and it plays a significant role in determining the appropriate honorifics to use. Older individuals are generally addressed with more respect.

Honorific terms like "형" (hyeong) for older brother and "누나" (nu-na) for older sister are used by younger individuals to address older siblings or acquaintances.

8. Workplace Hierarchy:

Workplace Hierarchy

Korean honorifics are particularly important in the workplace, where hierarchical relationships are emphasized.

Honorifics such as "대표님" (dae-pyo-nim) for the company CEO, "사장님" (sa-jang-nim) for the company president, or "선배님" (seon-bae-nim) for senior colleagues are commonly used.

9. Politeness Markers:

Politeness Markers

9.1- "요" (yo):

Adding "요" at the end of a sentence makes it more polite and is commonly used in everyday conversations.

9.2 - "감사합니다" (gam-sa-ham-ni-da):

This phrase means "thank you" and is used to show gratitude politely.

10. Honorifics for Yourself:

When talking about oneself or one's actions to someone of higher status, humble speech is used. It involves using specific verb forms and expressions to downplay one's own achievements or abilities.

11. Honorifics for Others:

11.1 Honorific suffixes:

Suffixes like "-씨" (ssi) are used to address someone with respect. For example, "이름" (i-reum) means "name," but when addressing someone, you would use "이름씨" ([i-reum]-ssi) instead. ex) 민수씨 (Min-Su-ssi)

11.2 Titles:

Korean honorifics often involve using appropriate titles when addressing people based on their age, social status, or profession. For example, "선생님" (seon-saeng-nim) is used to address teachers, and "아줌마" (ajum-ma) is used to address middle-aged women.

12. Formality Levels:

Korean has different speech levels to express varying degrees of formality. The main levels are:

12.1 - 해요체 (Haeyoche):

The polite form used in everyday conversations.

12.2 - 합쇼체 (Hapsyoche):

A more formal form, often used in public speeches or formal situations.

12.3 - 하십시오체 (Hasipsioche):

The most formal level, typically used when addressing superiors or in very formal occasions

13. Honorific Gestures and Etiquette:

Honorific Gestures and Etiquette

In addition to verbal honorifics, there are also honorific gestures and etiquette in Korean culture. For example, bowing is a common way to show respect and is done with varying degrees of depth depending on the level of respect being shown. Using two hands when presenting or receiving objects is also a sign of respect.


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