Friday, November 17, 2006

Korean chat

One good thing about Korean chat is that I actually have some familiarity with the language Korean, so, with some well-placed questions I can determine the degree of similarity or difference with English chat. Korean is also interesting in that in many ways Korea is more advanced technologically than we are; it has more people online, more people occupying online environments; more advanced technology, etc. Our students are heavily reliant on chat to stay in touch with their friends back home; I started up the conversations that enabled this post after seeing one of them, quiet as usual in class, rush over to the lab computers during break and get on "cyworld" - a Korean portal- to chat with his friends in Korean.

Getting Korean fontface on most computers is now commonplace; all our lab computers have it, so that they can now just go to almost any computer in the Faner environment and type in Korean with friends back home. I suspect that there was a time, maybe a long time, where this wasn't possible at this end; Korean speakers may have had an English-letter chat that is now unnecessary. And, in some places, it may still be necessary; presumably some Korean speakers are in places with older or monolingual computers and have to chat an English-letter variant.

Korean language is different than English in that normal writing of it requires making a syllable as a character- with a beginning consonant, a vowel, and an ending consonant. It was inconceivable to me that this writing form could be shortened or the vowels deleted. But my students assured me that Korean chat sometimes uses consonant-only forms; for example CHuh KHuh (two consonants) is a universally accepted short version of CHuKHamnida (congratulations).

Common greetings have short forms: pan-gap sumnida = pang ga, anyeong haseyo = what looks like oL - a kind of half ah, half n.

They assure me that the use of numbers is common. The sounds of numbers can thus represent common syllables just as we might use c u l8r or 2 die 4. 79 = friend (shin - ku); 7942= friends with binding relationship (shin - ku - sa - ri). 82 (ba - li) = quickly, common in advertising; 82 53 (ba - li - o - sam) = come quickly. Watch out for 18 (ship - phal) - that means SOB, roughly.

The ha-ha-ha has equivalent in Korean; they claim to have ha-ha-ha, he-he-he, and even h-h-h as well as KHuk KHuk KHuk or KH KH KH, all possibly having different meanings. I couldn't discern exactly what these meanings were.

They insisted that a lot of Korean chat is Korean slang, a young-person's language that has different endings, different words. anyeong ha-se-yo is anyeong ha-sam, and even an-yeong = anyohng (long o),

When I insisted that these chat forms were no shorter (in writing) than the formal forms, they agreed. They said that shorter wasn't important; slang was important. It was part of their identity as young to use that slang, and the fact that it was shorter in some cases didn't matter so much to them.

This I found interesting. I'd been under the impression that the online environment itself caused the necessity of shortening the language, but that may not be the case. I have seen some chat languages make words longer, or prefer longer ones as shorter ones go out of style, but often they just prefer different ones (kewl/cool) for no other reason than being different. slang has primacy over short- this is a testable hypothesis, maybe.


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