Kore-what?19 August 2015
Prepositions like ‘in’ and ‘on’ are taken for granted by us English speakers. We use them when referring to just about anything. Consider the following phrases:
1) Man in a van.
2) Woman on a man.
Imagine a language in which these two prepositions, ‘on’ and ‘in’ simply don’t exist and you will arrive at Korean. Now I’d like to give a little disclaimer before I continue: I do not speak Korean, I do not understand Korean and frankly I know next to nothing about the language but I did write a 3,000 word essay about it around two and a half weeks ago so I’m going to go with it.
Instead of using ‘in’ and ‘on’, Korean uses specific verbs to categorise how items (and on that note, people) interact with each other in terms of ‘looseness’ and ‘tightness’ of fit. That is to say if we use my examples from above, the sentence would read to an English speaker as 1) ‘Man (tight fit) van’ to indicate a large-ish man who snugly fits into the seat of his van and 2) ‘Woman (loose fit) man’ to indicate a woman who is, well, loosely lying on top of a man.
In explaining such interaction between objects, Korean uses the verbs kkita for tight-fitting and nehta for loose-fitting relations. What’s even more interesting about Korean is that it uses many other verbs for extremely specific interactions. The verb pwuchita is used to talk about juxtaposing surfaces, for example, a magnet on a fridge, and the verb ssuta is used for wearing accessories on the face, say, a hat on my head, even though in English, we just use the preposition on for both of these scenarios.
As someone who doesn’t speak, read or write Korean I thoroughly recommend learning it, and to those who do know it, congrats on knowing such a linguistically fascinating language.