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Gyeongsang dialect

Southeastern Korean
Native to South Korea
Region Yeongnam
Native speakers
10 million (date missing)
  • Gyeongsang
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Glottolog kyon1247[1]

The Gyeongsang dialects (also spelled Kyŏngsang), or Southeastern Korean, are dialects of the Korean language of the Yeongnam region, which includes North and South Gyeongsang provinces. There are approximately ten million speakers. Unlike standard Korean, some Gyeongsang dialects are tonal.

Gyeongsang dialects vary. A native speaker can distinguish the dialect of Daegu from that of Busan despite the two cities being less than 100 kilometers apart. Dialectal forms are relatively similar along the midstream of Nakdong River but are different near Busan, Jinju, and Pohang as well as along the eastern slopes of Mount Jiri.


  • Vowels 1
  • Consonants 2
  • Tone 3
  • Grammar 4
  • Recent history and social stigma 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


Most Gyeongsang dialects have six vowels, a (ㅏ), e (ㅔ), eo (ㅓ), o (ㅗ), u (ㅜ), i (ㅣ). In most areas, the vowels ㅐ(ae) and ㅔ (e) are conflated, as are ㅡ(eu) and ㅓ(eo). W and y are generally dropped after a consonant, especially in South Gyeongsang dialects. For example, soegogi (쇠고기) 'beef' is pronounced sogogi, and gwaja (과자) 'sweets' is pronounced gaja.

Vowel harmony differs from the standard language. For instance, oneul (오늘), meaning "today," is pronounced onal. The main difference is that e is considered a central vowel.

Vowels are fronted when the following syllable has a y or i, unless a coronal consonant intervenes. For example, eomi 'mother' is emi, and gogi 'meat' is gegi.[2]


Gyeongsang dialects lack the tense consonant ss (ㅆ). Thus, the speakers pronounce ssal (쌀), meaning rice, sal (살). Palatalization is widespread: gy and ky are pronounced j and ch, while hy is pronounced s. Many words have tense consonants where the standard is tenuis. Middle Korean z and β are preserved as s and b.[2]


Dialects are classified as North Gyeongsang or South Gyeongsang based on pitch accent. North Gyeongsang has high tone, low tone (short vowel), and low tone (long vowel), whereas South Gyeongsang has high, mid, and low tone.[3][4][5][6] For example, South Gyeongsang distinguishes sóni 'guest', sōni 'hand', and sòni 'grandchild'. Pitch accent plays a grammatical role as well, for example distinguishing causative and passive as in jép-pida 'make s.o. catch' and jepída 'be caught'.[2]

In North Gyeongsang, any syllable may have pitch accent in the form of a high tone, as may the two initial syllables. For example, in trisyllabic words, there are four possible tone patterns:[7]

  • 메누리[mé.nu.ɾi] ('daughter-in-law')
  • 어무이[ʌ.mú.i] ('mother')
  • 원어민[wʌ.nʌ.mín] ('native speaker')
  • 오래비[ó.ɾé.bi] ('elder brother')


The Gyeongsang dialect maintains a trace of Middle Korean: the grammar of the dialect distinguishes between a yes-no question and a wh-question, while Standard Modern Korean does not. With an informal speech level, for example, yes-no questions end with "-a (아)" and wh-questions end with "-o (오)" in the Gyeongsang dialect, whereas in standard speech both types of questions end in either "-i (이)" or "-eo (어)" without a difference between the types of questions. For example:

  • "밥 묵읏나?" (Bap mugeutna?) as opposed to "밥 먹었니?" (Bap meogeotni?) or "밥 먹었어?" (Bap meogeosseo?) — "Did you eat?"
  • "머 하노?" (Meo hano?) as opposed to "뭐 하니?" (Mwo hani?) or "뭐 해?" (Mwo hae?) — "What are you doing?"

Notice that the first question can be answered with a yes or no, while the latter question is to be answered otherwise.

This phenomenon can also be observed in tag questions, which are answered with a yes or no.

  • "Eopje, geujya?" (업제 그쟈?) as opposed to "Eopji, geureotchi?" (없지, 그렇지?) — "It isn't there, is it?"

Recent history and social stigma

From the Park Chung-hee to the Kim Young-sam governments (1961–1997), the Gyeongsang dialect had greater prominence in the Korean media than other dialects as all of the presidents (except Choi Kyu-hah) were natives of Gyeongsang province. That is why some South Korean politicians or high-rank officials have not tried to convert to the Seoul accent, which is considered standard in South Korea.

However, former president Kim Young-sam was criticised (when he was in office) for failing to pronounce precisely when giving a public speech. He once mistakenly pronounced '경제 (Gyeongje: meaning 'economy')' as '갱제 (Gaengje: a Gyeongsang pronunciation for '경제')' and '외무부 장관 (oemubu-janggwan: meaning 'foreign minister')' as '애무부 장관 (aemubu-janggwan: meaning 'love affairs minister')'. In addition, there was a rumour concerning one of his public speeches that audiences were surprised to hear that he would make Jeju a world-class 'rapist (관광 tourism > 강간 rape)' city by building up an 'adultery (관통하는 passing by > 간통하는 committing adultery)' motorway.

See also


  1. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Kyongsangdo".  
  2. ^ a b c Ho-min Sohn, 2006. Korean language in culture and society
  3. ^ Chung, Young-Hee (2002). "Contour tone in the North Kyungsang dialect: evidence for its existence" (PDF). Studies in Phonetics, Phonology and Morphology 8 (1): 135–47. 
  4. ^ Utsugi, Akira (2007). "The interplay between lexical and postlexical tonal phenomena and the prosodic structure in Masan/Changwon Korean" (PDF). 
  5. ^ Utsugi, Akira; Jang, Hyejin (2007). Lexical pitch accent and tonal targets in Daegu Korean (MS thesis). University of Edinburgh. 
  6. ^ Kenstowicz, Michael; Park, Chiyoun (2006). "Laryngeal features and tone in Kyungsang Korean: a phonetic study" (PDF). Studies in Phonetics, Phonology and Morphology. 
  7. ^ The Prosodic Structure and Pitch Accent of Northern Kyungsang Korean, Jun et al., JEAL 2005[]

External links

  • The characteristics of the North Gyeongsang Dialect (Korean)
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