Korean/Tamil/Hindi (was Re: Query on var.nabheda)

Narayan S. Raja raja at galileo.IFA.Hawaii.Edu
Thu Mar 6 21:15:20 UTC 1997

My two paise, based on my limited
knowledge of the Korean language...

I don't even know if this is relevant,
but "varna" reminds me that in Korean,
some vowels ("aw" and "u") are classified
as "dark", whereas other vowels ("a"
and "o") are classified as "light".

Then, a rule of light/light and dark/dark
harmony is used to determine which vowel
can follow which, e.g. when conjugating a verb.

E.g., the root verb "bo" ("to see"), ending in
the "light vowel" "o", must be combined with "a" 
(a light vowel) to conjugate it, i.e., it
becomes "bo" + "a" (= bwa, "see").  But the
root verb "ju" ("to give"), ending in the
"dark vowel" "u", must be combined with "aw"
(a dark vowel), i.e., it becomes "ju" + "aw"
(= jaw, "give").

Please excuse the simplified discussion above,
but that's the general idea.  So much for "varna".

Interestingly, Korean is the only East-Asian
language that has a phonetic alphabet.  At
least one book that I've read about the subject
claims that its inventors (in the 15th century)
were familiar with Indian scripts (and their
implicit phonological theories).

Of course, Korean is unrelated to Chinese.
But you know how it is... all of us orientals
look the same... so I thought I'd mention it.

Another remarkable fact about Korean... in some
elusive way, it is very similar to my mother tongue,
Tamil.  In most cases, I can plug in Tamil words 
into a Korean sentence and get a perfect Tamil 
sentence (and vice versa).  Even some of the
complex sentence forms are closely parallel, e.g.,
the general sentence form to say "do X for me".
E.g., to say "teach me" in Tamil, you would say "solli
tha" (literally, "teach and give").  Same thing in
Korean: "garuchyo juseyo" ("teach and give").
This general pattern works for many sentences.

Now that I think about it, the same pattern 
can be applied in modern Indian non-Dravidian languages
like Hindi ("teach me" = "sikha de", i.e., teach and give).
But you can also say it without the "give", i.e.,
just "sikhao".  But in Tamil you MUST say "solli tha",
i.e., teach and give.  In Indo-European languages
from Europe, e.g., English or German, you don't add
the "give".  Nor in Sanskrit (?)

Anyway, learning Korean has left me with a new
appreciation of:  1) how much there is in COMMON between
Indo-European languages from India and Europe
(the basic mental logic);  1) how much there
is in COMMON between MODERN Indian Indo-European
and Dravidian languages, e.g., Tamil and Hindi;
3) how little there is in common between, say,
English and Korean (no surprise!); and most surprisingly,
4) how much there is in COMMON between Korean and Tamil.

Despite the surprising similarity of "flavour", however, 
I've only found about 15 words that sound similar
in Tamil and Korean.

Just having fun... just an amateur, don't roast me,

Xie xie,

Narayan Sriranga Raja.

More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list