"... the argument is that we can never really know what a thing is in itself. To make this point, the argument assumes a transcendent point of view, for by its own premises, ordinary experience could never show anything about things as they are in themselves, as totalities with their own perspectives. Only by assuming a transcendent point of view can it be known that there are things in themselves, locked within their own perspectives and not accessible to ordinary means of knowledge. To assume a point of view is not the same thing as to argue a point of view" (Koller, J. 1987).

The above quote grants insight into an aspect of oriental philosophy, it also states that knowledge is subjective. Under this philosophy, it is a required precept for one to stand outside the realm of what is being studied. An external examination, dictated by subjective knowledge, provides a schema whereby an argument can be rationalised and construed. Endorsing this point further, the arguments within this thesis will be presented from a basis in subjective reality. Consequently an objective arises to pursue an aspect of knowledge in order to formulate and determine how and what constitutes a particular aspect of reality. With the methodology of gathering research data achieved by a field-study that spanned a period of nearly two years.

Aspects of the foundationalist approach as seen in pollock (1986), can also provide a provisional vehicle of justification for the arguments presented throughout this discourse. Whereby the researcher will attempt to incorporate the notion that "S is justified in believing P if and only if S instantiates an ultimately undefeated argument supporting P" (48). Where S is a sentient being and where P will form the premises underlying the research.

When following any line of reasoning it is impossible to hold the entire argument in mind at the same time, therefore by examining smaller areas of the argument in detail, a coherent understanding of the study can be developed. Then by incorporating holistic theory, these fragments can be analysed as a whole in order to show that their summation is greater than their initial value. (Smut, 1920). This will grant an overall perspective that will allow not only a developed understanding, but a clear insight into the intricacies and totality of what may be initially perceived as the muddy (paddy-field) waters of Konglish.


Unlike the rest of East Asia, the emergence of language in Korea is somewhat unique. This is particularly evident by examining the origins and development of their written script. It was only fairly recently in history, and after careful scholarly study of neighbouring languages, that a written phonemic character based script (now known as Hangul) was developed by King Sejong (r. 1418-1459) In 1443.

At what first appears atypical in the language of South Korea is the amount of borrowed terms or loan words from other languages. Initially due to geographical location loan words in particular filtered into the language from China. In the modern era with the rise of globalization, English has started to penetrate and maintain a high degree of influence on the evolution of the South Korean vernacular. It is here where a peculiarity emerges. South Koreans have come so far as to identify the use of English (or other European language loan-words) as an integral part of their speech, whereby they actually give this phenomenon its own term - "Konglish".

Another interesting facet stems from this, as it can be seen that even in the identification of the phenomenon and granting it a term, Konglish itself has impacted and come to play out its influence upon the language with the term formed by dropping syllables and phonemes from two distinct English language items. The two separate items have been placed together in order to coin new terminology. That is the initial syllable 'Ko' of the word 'Korean' has been maintained, whilst the initial phoneme 'E' of the word 'English' has been removed. The remaining two items (Ko + nglish) have been grafted on to each other in order to form the term `Konglish'. Hence the word is descriptive of the new terminology that it has come to represent, that is the use of English (and other European languages) within the interactive discourse carried out during native to native (N/N) Korean communication. With the term itself a pun, or play on words if you like, as such Konglish is Konglish.

In a response to the word 'Konglish' from the Usenet Newsgroup: soc.culture.korean, a natural thought for some of the native-English speaking participants was to prefer the term `Korglish'. This was probably due to the ease of vocalisation and not a result of premeditated thought. The same can be said about the Korean preference for the term 'Konglish'.

That is where the terms Korean, Koreans and the Korean language (throughout this thesis) are meant to mean the peoples of South Korea and their vernacular.

The Definition: 

A comprehensive definition for the linguistic process or ideological construct of Konglish is as follows:
  • Initially, words or phrases that have been taken from English (and other European languages) which are commonly used within the South Korean vernacular. This includes words that have maintained correct phonetical pronunciation, or words that have been phonetically modified in order to fit the pronunciative governing structure of the Korean language. In other words direct loan word adaption.

  • Konglish can also be described as a combination of Korean and English (as well as some European) words used to portray a meaning similar to that found in either language. It can also be where English words are used to portray an ideological structure differing from the original term. This leads Koreans to incorrectly identify some terms as English, whereas in essence the terms have been coined by the Koreans themselves.

  • Finally, Konglish is the direct translation of Korean to English language. Thus allowing for the creation of pseudo loan-words.

It is essential to recognise, that the Konglish ideological construct did not emerge to identify what initially appears as the casual importing of terms from a foreign language. However, as the researcher suggests, the use and formation of the Konglish ideological construct has become so advanced as to be integral to the common communicative value of the South Korean vernacular. In fact it has actually emerged as a form and can be identified as a type of sub-language.

The East Asian Sphere: 

The researcher postulates that even though the other countries in Asia do possess a great deal of English terminology within their languages, this terminology has not been culturally identified as an integral language component by the users. Only in South Korea is a term (composed of the combination of loan-words) utilised within the vernacular to identify this process.

The terms Chinglish and Japlish are not used within the native languages of China or Japan (Lee, 1997). Although the Japanese language does identify the use of English loan words as "wa-sei eigo" (Miyazaki, 1997.,Reynolds, 1997). The aforementioned terms however have been applied by native English speaking students of these languages when justifying the mixing of English and their target language throughout the course of their study, and by native English speakers residing within these nations. It should also be noted that in China and Japan they do use English language loan words to the similar extent of Koreans in Korea. The essential point is that these loan words are not known as Chinglish or Japlish within the Chinese (Mandarin/Cantonese) and Japanese languages. Although the term Konglish can be found within Korean language. As such, it would appear that there is no single word used by the natives of China and Japan throughout the natural course of conversation within their nation, that parallels the term Konglish.


The Initial Insight: 

It was evident to the researcher that the English language was used to a large degree within the Korean lexis. That is after having taught English in a variety of settings throughout Korea including Taejon, Ok'Chon and Ch'onju. From here the researcher gained further interest into the notion of Konglish and soon discovered that most stores would phonetically reproduce English using the Korean script.

Words were modified by pronunciation and subtle changes in meaning before being adapted into Korean language as a `Korean', or more correctly a Konglish item. It was also discovered that when producing English a large amount of Koreans would rely on their store of Konglish knowledge, in order to produce a paradigm for English communication with a native English speaker.

Therefore the repertoire of Konglish could be structured by teachers and incorporated by students in order to produce a more effective and stimulating learning curve within the Korean EFL (English as a Foreign Language) classroom. As it would allow for the presentation of a clear dissemination between English, Konglish and Korean. The premise being that Korean students of English are already in possession of a large amount of general and technical English language vocabulary. Therefore this store of knowledge should be utilised and developed in a predetermined manner in order to facilitate initial and continued EFL acquisition.

As a result, the discourse of Konglish then lent itself to become an area demanding further research. A literature search was then undertaken showing that "Konglish" was an area of study not documented in loan word or English word adaption within the South Korean vernacular. It would appear that this thesis may well be the first study to incorporate, within English research, the term Konglish as an ideological construct. Keywords used in order to perform the literature search included a mix of such terms as linguistics, loan words, Korean, Konglish, Chinglish, Japlish, etc. No reference to Konglish appeared in journals on the 'Sociofile', 'ERIC' and 'LLBA' (1973-7/96) archive discs; 'Time (Magazine) Almanac' (Full text articles: 1989-1994); the 'Encarta' and 'Bookshelf' CD-ROMs; 'The Software Toolworks Multi Media Encyclopaedia v1.5'; 'The Grolier Multimedia Encyclopaedia v7.05'; 'The Australian Infopedia v2'; 'The Compton's Interactive Encyclopaedia'; nor on any university library catalogues in Sydney, Australia.

When performing searches on the 'Alta Vista', 'Excite', 'Hot Bot', 'Infoseek', 'Lycos' and 'Yahoo' databases, it was found that the Internet did have brief mentions to the words Chinglish, Japlish and Konglish. Two 'home pages' granted the recognition of Chinglish as the use of English loan words within Cantonese and Taiwanese (Diedrich, 1997. Su, 1997) and three articles mentioned the term (McGee, 1997. Jin, 1997. Shi, 1997). Several pages dealt with Japlish, yet largely by presenting how English is used within Japanese advertising (Aires, 1997., Chachich, 1997., Orme., Ushie, 1997). In reference to Konglish, only one 'home page' other than the author's, granted it linguistic recognition (Kent, 1996., Lee, 1996). This 'home page' represented a list of grammatically incorrect English sentences and the Korean translation.

After examining the existent knowledge base, it was seen that studies of loan word usage within the Korean language have been undertaken. These studies have largely been concerned with showing that Koreans "transliterate foreign loans to preserve phoneme correspondence" (Yu 1980), that these loans "generally conform to Korean phonological patterns" (Colhoun & Kim, 1976), and that "when there is conflict between the syllable structure of English & Korean words, native Korean speakers intuitively reject the word or change it to conform with Korean syllable structure conditions" (Nam & Southard, 1994). In addition it has been shown that "a shift from dependence on Chinese-character words to English loanwords" has occurred (Shim, 1994).

In light of these studies, the research undertaken here is a ground-breaking study in the sense that it will disseminate not only English loan words, but words that have been categorised as English although in fact are direct translations of Korean terms, along with pseudo-loan words that have arisen all of which can be described as Konglish. These will be presented within "The Kent Konglish Dictionary", and be broken down into areas of linguistic usage. E.g. commonly seen and heard, general, brand-name and technical terms.

Extensions of Insight: 

As a fixed and integrated linguistic structure, Konglish as a sub-language, has surpassed the stage of just simply being a fashion or trend of speech which inherently many slang or loan words can be. The problem posed for this research is to identify the loan and psuedo loan words that have become inaugurated into the South Korean dialect. The next step will be to examine the loan terms now integral to the further development and everyday common usage of that language into a paradigm useful for the purposes of TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language).

This study will not prove to be a simple examination of phonology, or a study to highlight a dependence paradigm shift. It will be a study undertaken to highlight the amount of English or pseudo-English used in the language of South Korea, and to show that the citizens are aware of the fact. Especially after having produced the term Konglish. As such the study will begin with an historical perspective that will move onto notions of determining how and why the acquisition of loan words occurs, before granting a breakdown of the various forms of Konglish. Thereby, allowing the study to determine a way to incorporate Konglish into the constructs of TEFL in light of current methodologies. As the nature of the sub-language affords the native English speaker a method to more easily identify the constructs and discourse of Konglish. A foreigner with linguistic origins in English then has a distinct advantage. An advantage of where the South Korean use of language can be viewed from a perspective that which to the native is too close, and too taken for granted to ever become perspicuous.

The research is all the more important since South Korea is obtaining increasing exposure to the West, and as the upcoming mini-dragon begins to rear it's head. This is particularly due to the force of the Korean political and economic endeavours to globalize the nation (discussed further under the final section of Chapter 2 entitled Globalization - The South Korean Model). After gaining access to expendable income, most of the Korean citizenry are now starting to adopt a philosophy similar to the 'Exoticism' of the 19th century Victorian era. Which has seen expeditions of Koreans travelling, for the first time outside their own nation, not only through Asia but the rest of the globe.

Additionally the Korean desire to learn English will result in an upsurgeance for the need of qualified teaching staff in the peninsula, who are not only specialists in TEFL but are aware of the needs and requirements of Korean students. These people should also be aware of aspects and models of teaching programs especially formulated to EFL in Korea. In this respect, this thesis will hold value for the TEFL specialist, as it presents an area of linguistic processing that in the (English) literature has not been made known, or was seemingly ignored. The reader can then gain insight into socio-linguistic variables (Konglish) that will impact upon the learning of English by Korean students, and therefore needs to be addressed and incorporated into the EFL classroom. The use of Konglish as an effective teaching tool and language learning stimulant is something that has not yet been achieved, prior to this thesis.

Within Korea, the spread and dissemination of Konglish has promoted a social reality that has lead to the development of changed social relations. Seeing not only Koreans realising that their language has been impacted by an external force but also looking to this external force for knowledge. Immediate examples can be found within the commercial economy where Konglish is most evident in menus and on storefronts. It is also interesting to note at this point that no Korean language can be found within cars. There are only symbols or written English. The reason for this may stem from aid granted to the South after the Korean war (1950-53), where all aid packages had English or some form of romanized script printed on them. The products given in aid were of a higher quality compared to those that could be found within Korea at the time. Koreans then began to associate romanized letters attached to objects as the indication of a good product (Shaffer, 1996).

With continued education in the English language, the South Koreans will develop their vernacular by producing pseudo loan-words and assimilating more loan words into common use, implicating Konglish as an area of socio-linguistic study. This gives rise to the notion of English as a 'language virus' as it has incorporated itself into Korean (a host language). It has replicated in terms of further loan words, and mutated to produce terms that are in effect psuedo-loan words. This sentiment will be discussed further in Chapter 3. 


To perform the research tasks of this thesis it will prove essential to hold on to the definition of what Konglish actually is. The World-Wide Web and Usenet Newsgroups like sci.lang and soc.culture.korean will open up a means of continuing the research and a method for gathering data, maintaining contacts with virtual members of the Korean community and the TEFL field.

The following chapter shall begin with a short review of the emergence of language, augmented by an examination of the Korean script. A comparison will be made between the impact of the region's historical lingua franca (Chinese) and the modern day lingua franca (English), to show that Chinese has had a similar impact upon Korean as English has in recent times. The marked difference being, Chinese impacted largely upon the written script whilst the major dominance of English influence has held sway over spoken terminology. The linguistic derivation and impact of Konglish can then be depicted in light of historical-linguistic aspects.

The key here is that written Chinese language was essentially imposed upon the Koreans as there was, until recently, no native script that they could turn to. English, on the other hand, has been readily absorbed and accepted by the South Koreans and incorporated within their language as Konglish. An understanding of the trends in Korean language acquisition can be processed from this data. The over riding theme of this chapter will be the notion that cultural evolution impacts upon the linguistic functions of a nation and its language.

The third chapter examines the process of how English was assimilated into the Korean language and to what extent derivatives were formed and how. The generic assimilation of English language terms into the main languages of East Asia (Chinese, Japanese and Korean) can then be discussed. Through this exploration contrastive and comparative highlights can be laid down to provide foundation knowledge attesting the process of loan-word assimilation that has been undertaken in Korea.

Particular aspects of concentration will be the examination of new generation or pseudo loan-words, that portray themselves in a manner termed "morphguistics". The ideology of English as not only a lingua franca but as a 'language virus' will also be portrayed.

Deconstruction of the Konglish Lexus will comprise the fourth chapter of the thesis, granting recognition to the several different forms that this linguistic ideological construct possesses. Part of the deconstruction process will involve highlighting street-level research, indicating transliteration within product names, store fronts, restaurants, coffee shops, and the like. A discussion of 'beeper language' in relation to the themes of the study will then be made, so that a realisation can be formulated concerning the relationship between the two "modal languages". The results of student surveys on the use of Konglish will also be brought into the research and examined.

The final chapter will then examine the development of Konglish to a state where it can be intertwined with the acquisition of EFL. It will be determined as to how the existent knowledge base of Konglish can be spun into a useful formulation for developing a process where English language learning by Korean students can be enhanced. An integral section of analysis for this point of the study shall prove to be the formation and analysis of "The Kent Konglish Dictionary". As appropriate, current TEFL methodologies shall be incorporated to provide a stand-point from which to construct a "Konglish Curriculum", ramifications for the Korean EFL classroom can then be examined.

In order to provide totality to this research a final section will grant a review of the main points uncovered from the study, the implications of the research and the practical values that were achieved as a result of the inquiry. So too, areas of research obstruction and further areas of possible analysis will be highlighted.