A multi-modal documentation of Jejuan conversations

A multi-modal documentation of Jejuan conversations

Language: Jejuan (제주어/제주돗말/제주방언) (ISO639-3:jje)
Depositor: Soung-U Kim (김성우)
Location: South Korea, Jeju Island (대한민국 제주특별자치도 제주도)
Deposit Id: 0351
ELDP Id: IGS0208
Level: Deposit

Summary of deposit

This project aims at building an annotated audio-video corpus of spoken Jejuan with a focus on conversational genres, supplementing existing documentation of narratives and songs. Jejuan is spoken on several islands of Jeju Province of South Korea, with a number of diaspora speakers in Osaka, Japan, and was recognised as a critically endangered language by UNESCO in 2010. There are approximately 5000 to 10,000 speakers, with fluent speakers all above the age of 70. The current corpus focuses on the Northeastern region of Jeju Island.

Group represented

This corpus records mainly elderly speakers of their early seventies to late nineties, residing in three different locations of Jeju Island, South Korea. The location where most recordings were taken is Jimnyeong (Gimnyeong, Gujwa-Eup, Jeju City) in the Northeast of the island, followed by Sukkun (Sinchon, Jocheon-Eup, Jeju City) North-North-East Jeju Island. A few recordings were made in Yeolluni (Onpyeong, Seongsan-Eup, Seogwipo City) in the Southeast. Jeju regional identity among islanders is fairly strong (especially among elderly inhabitants), although all islanders identify ethnically as Korean. Note that Jeju Island looks back to a complex historical relationship with the Korean peninsula, being incorporated into mainland kingdoms from 12th century BCE, and serving as a place of exile for several centuries. Treated as a colony, its inhabitants were regarded uncivilised and rebellious up until the 20th century when tensions culminated in an uprising and a devastating counter-insurgency known as the 4.3 incident, which were massacres killing large parts of the population, burning down almost all of villages inland, and driving many islanders to emigration. While reconciliation efforts are ongoing, these factors have crucially contributed to the demise of Jejuan.

Deposit contents

Most sessions have been recorded both on video and audio. Almost all such sessions deposited are accessible freely, except for cases such as jeju0045 where one of the speakers explicitly asked not be shown visually. The following types of content can be found in this collection:

  • Conversations
  • Songs and rituals
  • Grammatical elicitations
  • Stimulus-based elicitations
  • Procedural texts
  • Narratives and recollections

Targeted towards users either from the Korean-speaking realm or with active involvement in Korean studies, transcribed annotations focus on providing an IPA transcription, a Korean script transcription of Jejuan, and a Korean translation into Korean script. An expanding subset of these annotations is being enriched with English translations. A number of recordings have been fully annotated, including an interlinearisation process using FLEx.

Deposit history

The deposit material was collected on fieldwork between September 2014 and December 2014 (jeju0001-jeju0077), as well as June 2015 and January 2016. Annotations are being added continuously.

Other information

Due to the demographics of Jeju Island (partly due to socio-historical reasons), many speakers recorded are female. Also, note that many of the elicitation sessions are guided by the thesis work of the depositor on finiteness in Jejuan adverbial clause linkage.

Note that in annotations, names except for the depositor's one have been anonymised to '000', which is a practice that I kindly ask to maintain as an act of respect towards the speakers.


Special thanks to the Jimnyeong, Sukkun and Yeolluni communities who were so generous to spend their time, attention and valuable knowledge on this work. Moreover, I am grateful for the support of Yeong-Bong Kang, Sun-Ja Kim, Chang-Yong Yang, Mandana Seyfeddinipur, Peter Austin, Irina Nikolaeva, Jaehoon Yeon, Jenny Martin, Sophie Salffner and Vera Ferreira.

Users of any part of the collection should acknowledge Soung-U Kim as the principal investigator and researcher. Users should also acknowledge the Endangered Languages Documentation Programme as the funder of the project. Individual speakers whose words and/or images are used should be acknowledged by employing the three-letter code+number used in this corpus. This collection is to be cited as:

Kim, Soung-U. 2018. A multi-modal documentation of Jejuan conversations. London: SOAS, Endangered Languages Archive. URL: https://elar.soas.ac.uk/deposit/0351. Accessed on [insert date here YYYY-MM-DD].


Resources online and curated


Soung-U Kim (김성우)
Affiliation: SOAS University of London

Deposit Statistics

Data from 2018 July 22 to 2018 July 22
Deposit hits:2
Downloaded files
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Showing 1 - 10 of 156 Items

After another elicitation session, HYJ1 HGS1 and SUK1 chat with each other while SUK1 is packing his recording equipment.

Recorded on: 2015-12-21

On the first December day of the year, HYJ1 came over to HGS1's place to share news about other people in the village. The recording can be especially interesting to see how speakers quote speech in Jejuan. Jeju0056-09 is a short recording that was done after HYJ1 had left, where HGS1 explains why there exists the Jejuan joke of saying t͡ɕəkoli ne kɛ pan t͡ɕʰak, lit. 'jacket four things half side', meaning 'four (traditional Hanbok) jackets and a half' when one says komapsʰuta or komauta both meaning 'thank you': Both expressions of gratitude sound similar to either kom ahop sʰuuta, 'ribbon nine number_is', 'it's nine ribbons', or kom ahop iuta, 'ribbon nine it_is', 'there are nine ribbons' when said quickly, which is why one says 'four jackets and a half' as a jokey response, assuming two ribbons per jacket.

Recorded on: 2015-08-18

HYJ1 tells SUK1 about a big, yellow flower that is blossoming in HGS1's yard, and is absolutely riveted by its beauty, as she has never seen such a flower before. She explains to SUK1 where she got her injured ankle from. SUK1 leaves the recording at the beginning of jeju0121-04 after he has set up the video equipment, and returns to have a snack and prepares coffee for the ladies. He tells them about his earlier recording session jeju0119 singing Jejuan songs, and the ladies talk about the folk songs they know of. When SUK1 leaves because of a phone call from his family, the ladies comment on his long-distance call, and talk about the relevance of advanced communication for their own lives. After he's got back into the recording, HYJ1 later tells the others about the importance of walking around a lot instead of taking busses and cars. SUK1 leaves again at 35:00, and comes back shortly before the recording ends, the ladies continuing to chat. jeju0121-01 until jeju0121-03 run without accompanying video recording, but audio only since SUK1 had turned on the audio recorder first, and later decided to build up the video camera. So about 05:53 of jeju0121-03 is the beginning of jeju0121-04. The rest of jeju0121 then corresponds to jeju0121-04 up to jeju0121-08.

Recorded on: 2015-09-25

This is a fairly long session where HGS1 and HYJ1 casually talk with SUK1 about a range of things. It begins with the ladies talking about raising children in woven baskets called ɛkikutək, about the ways the are made and what they look like and how people took care of them (jeju0058-01). The gestures the speakers are using are quite interesting here. In jeju0058-03, HYJ1 recounts how people used to use cows in the past for their farmwork, and what that meant them in terms of social contexts. SUK1 takes advantage of the casual nature of the conversation and discusses a couple of expressions he had learnt from HGS1 outside a recording setting, including a Jejuan expression of Schadenfreude, and 'old ways' of saying 'sorry' (jeju0058-04, 05:19) - in fact, the latter one is very interesting, as it used only in restricted contexts by elderly people nowadays, and people in their 40s usually do not know this expression. They further talk about youngsters and their usage (or rather lack of usage of Jejuan), and how with the current granchildren's generation, things seem to be changing in terms of children learning a bit of Jejuan at school. Further expressions SUK1 had come across are discussed in jeju0058-06 and jeju0058-07, and in jeju0058-08, the ladies talk about learning the connection with Chinese zodiac signs and the days of a month. Different animal names are mentioned here (some in Korean, some in Jejuan), and especially the discussion of t͡ɕ͈okt͡ɕepi, a kind of Siberian weasel (Mustela sibirica), but probably rather a subspecies endemic to Jeju Island (Mustela sibirica quelpartis - 'Quelpart' being an early francophone toponym for the island).

Recorded on: 2015-08-19

HYJ1 visits HGS1 to eat Persimmon (Diospyros kaki) fruits that were sent from the mainland as a gift. In this short recording, they talk about doing gymnastics, the cold wind that blows through their houses during winter, and food. SUK1 occasionally joins the conversation.

Recorded on: 2015-08-19

SUK1 did a short recording on a couple of words containing the mysterious, culturally highly valued, low, back rounded arae-a vowel, as he had learnt them new that day, and he also wanted to have short recordings that show to interested people what this vowel sounds like, as it may be quite uncommon in East Asia. To note, people of Jeju origin highly value their local idiom, saying that only in Jejuan, the old arae-a vowel is alive, whereas in other parts of Korea it has died out. It is so important to many people, as the modern, graphemic representation of this vowel goes back to Middle Korean writing, in which it was seemingly abundant. On the basis of this vowel that is still allegedly preserved in Jejuan (although it is not sure what the actual sound value of that grapheme was centuries ago), people take a lot of pride, some even saying that Jejuan is the old standard language of Korea.

Recorded on: 2015-08-15

SUK1 asked HYJ1 to make him a couple of trousers made of typically Jejuan, persimmon-died cloth. They discuss how the trousers should look like, with SUK1 trying on different sizes of existing trousers and HYJ1 thinking about which one to take as a model (lexical elicitation, grammatical elicitaion, narrative elicitation).

Recorded on: 2015-07-10

GOH1 and BMJ1 chat about different things, ranging from the importance of doing exercise, to how GOH1 used to dive for seafood in the past. This conversation is especially interesting, as BMJ1 would usually be clearly identified as a mainlander throug her speech, yet people know that she's been living on Jeju Island for decades now, and GOH1 as a friend speaks to her in Jejuan, which is not the usual practise. BMJ1 on the other hand, speaks a very interesting mixture between Jejuan and the South Jeolla variety, resorting to South Jeolla prosody and morphosyntax, yet sometimes using distinct Jejuan morphology. This linguistic behaviour is very unusual for immigrants to Jeju Island who have come during recent years, yet it has been observed fairly regularly with immigrants who came to the island decades ago like BMJ1 did. Contentwise, this recording is interesting, as GOH1 gives us a rare insight into her life as a diver, and into every-day work during times when South Korea was slowly evolving into an industrial country. SUK1 is present only in parts of this recording, and most parts are unobserved.

Recorded on: 2015-08-28

HYJ1, HGS1 and SUK1 chat to each other while SUK1 is preparing the next elicitation session. They talk about their health, such as water drinking habits, and when HGS1 mentions her past splenectomy, HYJ1 mentions the Jejuan saying where one says that 'someone has no spleen' when one wishes to say that somebody is heartless. SUK1 then asks the ladies about the classifier t͡ɕum (줌), which is used for measuring units of loose, uncooked rice, or handfuls of other, little-ish, round vegetables and cereals, such as little onions. They also teach him about the counting unit musʰ (뭇) which (also in Korean) is used to count cereal plants such as barley or rice seedlings, and wood sticks. tapul (다불/다발) is a counting word for other long objects bound to bunches, such as for hay. They then teach SUK1 about different types of measuring and ladling objects, t͡ɕakpak (작박), a little calabass ladle, and sʰolp͈ak (솔박), a bigger ladle, and tɛjaksʰeki (대약세기), which is a measure used to measure units of rice called tɛ (대). They explain that tɛjaksʰeki and t͡ɕakpak used to be used interchangeably by their relatives. Also, they mention that in Western villages (seen from Jimnyeong, for example in Sukkun) they say t͡ɕompʰak (좀팍). They reminisce in their memories about wartimes in the 50s, when people who didn't possess any workable lands suffered from starvation. SUK1 then asks them about sizes and structures of Jejuan house compounds. While SUK1 is preparing last bits, HYJ1 and HGS1 talk about people in the village.

Recorded on: 2015-12-29

Before SUK1 starts discussing serial verbs with HJG1, JOS1, the three joke around the whole recording setting. It is interesting to see how HJG1 and JOS1 are using the word for 'shop sign' metaphorically for their face, saying that with "that face" they will go all the way to England. Then they shortly talk about how many expressions are not used anymore nowadays among the youth.

Recorded on: 2015-10-09