Dravido-Korean languages

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South Asia, Japan and Korea
Linguistic classification Proposed language family
Glottolog None

Dravido-Koreo-Japonic or Dravido-Koreanic is a disputed[1] language family proposal which links the living or proto-Dravidian language to Korean and (in some versions) Japanese. The hypothesis was originally proposed by Morgan E. Clippinger in his "Korean and Dravidian: lexical evidence for an old theory" published in 1984 and Susumu Ōno in his "The origin of the Japanese language" in 1970.

In 2011, Jung Nam Kim, president of the Korean Society of Tamil Studies, mentioned that the similarities between Korean and Dravidian are stronger than with any Altaic language, but he also said that this does not prove a genetic link between Dravidian and Korean and that more research needs to be done. He is sure that a genetic or areal connection exists because the similarities are too strong to be only coincidence.[2] The Japanese linguists Susumu Ōno, Susumu Shiba and Akira Fujiwara support a genetic relation between Japanese and Dravidian.

Early recognition of language similarities[edit]

Similarities between the Dravidian languages and Korean were first noted by French missionaries in Korea.[3] Susumu Ōno caused a stir in Japan with his theory that Tamil constituted a lexical stratum of both Korean and Japanese, which was widely publicized in the 1980s but quickly abandoned. However, Clippinger's method was professional and his data reliable; hence, Ki-Moon Lee, Professor Emeritus at Seoul National University, opines that his conclusion could not be ignored and that it should be revisited.[4] According to Homer B. Hulbert, many of the names of ancient cities of southern Korea were the exact counterpart of Dravidian words.[5] For example, the Karak Kingdom of King Suro was named after the proto-Dravidian meaning fish.[6][7]


Susumu Ōno,[8] and Homer B. Hulbert[9] propose that early Dravidian people, especially Tamils, migrated to the Korean peninsula and Japan. Clippinger presents 408 cognates and about 60 phonological correspondences. Clippinger found that some cognates were closer than others leading him to speculate a genetic link which was reinforced by a later migration.[10][11] The Japanese professor Tsutomu Kambe found more than 500 similar cognates between Tamil and Japanese.[12] Some of the common features are:[13]

  • all three languages are agglutinative,
  • follow the SOV order,
  • nouns and adjectives follow the same syntax,
  • particles are post-positional,
  • modifiers always precede modified words.

However, typological similarities such as these could have arisen by chance; for instance, if a given pair of languages were agglutinative, most of the other typological features like SOV order, post-positional particles, modifiers preceding modified words might have evolved to be similar by mere chance (this being the general trend observable in most known agglutinative languages). The lack of a statistically significant number of cognates and the lack of anthropological and genetic links can be adduced to dismiss this proposal.[1] Recent genetic studies, however, have revealed an early South Asian genetic input in the development of the Korean people and, to an even greater degree, in that of the Japanese, which could conceivably add weight to such a theory.

Comparative linguist Kang Gil-un found 1300 Dravidian Tamil cognates in Korean. He insisted that the Korean language is based on the Nivkh language and was influenced later.[14]

List of potential Korean-Tamil cognates[edit]

Personal pronouns[edit]

Korean Meaning Tamil Meaning Notes
na (naneun, naega) I nān/nānu I is informal in both languages. In Korean naneun, na is the first person singular pronoun, whereas -neun is a marker of the topic. In colloquial Korean speech, naneun may be shortened to nan.
neo (neoneun, nega) you nī/ninga you is informal in both languages. Korean nega is an irregular form of neo (second person singular pronoun) + -ga (marker of the nominative case). In colloquial Korean speech, neoneun may be shortened to neon, and nega may be pronounced as niga.


Korean Meaning Tamil Meaning
Appa (아빠, informal) / Abeoji (아버지, formal)[dubious ] Father Appā (அப்பா)/அப்புச்சி(grand-pa) Father
Eomma (엄마) / Eomeoni (어머니)[dubious ] Mother; middle-aged lady; aunt Ammā(அம்மா) / Ammuni(grand-ma) Mother; milady (honorific for young women)
Eonni (언니) Elder sister (females for their elder sisters); but note that the term historically meant elder sibling of either sex. Aṇṇi Elder sister-in-law
Nuna (누나) Elder sister (males for their elder sisters) Nungai Younger sister (Old Tamil)
Agassi (아가씨) Young lady; however this term is most likely a compound of "aga" (baby) + "-ssi" (suffix for politely calling someone) Akka (அக்கா)/ Akkaachi (அக்காச்சி) Elder Sister


Korean Meaning Tamil Meaning Notes
Wa (와)[dubious ] an inflected form of the verb o-(오-) "to come" Vā (வா) come
olla (올라)[dubious ] an inflected form of the verb oreu-(오르-) "to climb" uḷḷa (உள்ள) in Ulle/Ulla
Aigu (아이구) - Aiyō (ஐயோ) - Expression of surprise, disgust or disregard
Igeo (이것) this: a compound made of i ("this") + geo ("(some)thing") Itu (இது) this
Nal (날) day Nāḷ (நாள்) day
jogeum-jogeum (조금 조금) - konjam-konjam (கொஞ்சம் கொஞ்சம்) - Literally 'little-bit little-bit'
eoneu (어느) one/what (as in "one day" or "what day") onnu (ஒண்ணு) one
kungdengyi (궁뎅이) buttocks (궁디 or kungdee in slang) kundy (குண்டி) backside


  1. ^ a b "Origin Theories of the Korean Language". Retrieved 2013-12-15. 
  2. ^ "Tamil and Korean link". 
  3. ^ Hulbert, Homer B. (1906). The passing of Korea. Doubleday, Page & Co. p. 28. 
  4. ^ Lee, Ki-Moon; Ramsey, S. Robert (2011). A History of the Korean Language. Cambridge University Press. p. 15. ISBN 978-1-139-49448-9. 
  5. ^ Hulbert (1906), p. 29.
  6. ^ Barnes, Gina Lee (2001). State formation in Korea: historical and archaeological perspectives. Routledge. p. 185. 
  7. ^ Kim, Choong-Soon (2011). Voices of Foreign Brides: The Roots and Development of Multiculturalism in Contemporary Korea. Rowman & Littlefield. 
  8. ^ Ohno, Susumu (1970). The Origin of the Japanese Language. Journal of Japanese studies. 
  9. ^ Paek, Nak-chun (1987). The history of Protestant missions in Korea, 1832-1910. Yonsei University Press. 
  10. ^ Clippinger, Morgan E. (1984). "Korean and Dravidian: Lexical Evidence for an Old Theory". Korean Studies. 8: 1–57. doi:10.1353/ks.1984.0011. JSTOR 23717695. 
  11. ^ Sohn, Ho-Min (2001). The Korean Language. Cambridge University Press. p. 28. ISBN 978-0-521-36943-5. 
  12. ^ "Researchers find Tamil connection in Japanese - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 2017-05-19. 
  13. ^ Sohn (2001), p. 29.
  14. ^ Kang, Gil-un (1990). 고대사의 비교언어학적 연구. 새문사. 

External links[edit]