Wednesday, February 02, 2005

What does 더불어 mean?

더불어 has three meanings, but it usually means "together" (함께). Here is my dictionary's definition:
1 [함께] together; […과 함께] with; together[along] with; in company with; […에 따라서] as; with. ¶ 나이와 더불어 with(the) years/with one's years/as one grows older. 더불어 살다 live together/live under the same roof. 그와 더불어 고락을 같이하다 share joy and sorrow with him. 더불어 운명을 같이하다 share one's fate/cast in one's lot . 시대와 더불어 나아가다 keep pace with[abreast of] the times.

2 [한가지로] alike; equally. ¶ 남녀[노소]가 더불어 men and women[young and old] alike.

3 [상대로 하여] with; against. ¶ 적과 더불어 싸우다 fight with[against] the enemy. 그와 더불어 다툴 필요가 없다 need not quarrel with him.
Notice that 함께 can substitute for 더불어 in all the examples in the first definition, so why do Koreans use 더불어, given that 함께 sounds so much better? Personally, I think they use it to confuse foreigners who are studying Korean. However, maybe foreigners are not the only ones confused since I have seen some Koreans use 더불어 and 함께 together, as in "더불어 함께," which is redundant.

As with 함께, 더불어 is usually preceded by 와 or 과; however, you may notice that it is used without 와 and 과 when it is used to mean "alike," as shown in the second definition.

I cannot rememeber ever hearing 더불어 used in conversation, though I see it all the time in written Korean. I suspect that Koreans like to use 함께 in conversation, and 더불어 in written Korean, possibly in an attempt to sound more intelligent?


  1. Hahaha... they're doing it to confuse us! Hahaha.

    Seriously, I think "possibly in an attempt to sound more intelligent" is a little unfair. The written diction of English is different from spoken diction, too. As a writer, I'd be annoyed if someone said I was using different diction in my writing because I was trying to sound smarter. Why use "quarrel" or "bicker" when you can just say "argue"? Why use "bicker" when you can use "quarrel" or "have a tiff"? Because it's just how one writes when one is a good writer. That's different from writing like Derrida because it sounds smart because only a few hundred people in the world can decode what the hell you're saying, isn't it?

  2. Gord,

    Yes, it may be unfair to say that "all" Koreans use 더불어 to sound more intelligent, but I do not think it is unfair to say that "some" Koreans "might."

    In regard to the first definition of 더불어, my dictionary does not distinguish between 더불어 and 함께. In other words, there are no usage notes. This tells me they can be used interchangeably. Therefore, if a person always uses 함께 when speaking, why would he or she suddenly switch to 더불어 when writing? Maybe, because 더불어 seems more formal, or something? Does the word "함께" seem unscholarly?

    There are usage differences between "argue" and "bicker," so I do not think that is a good example. Both words are also common in spoken and written English. Actually, I think a better English comparison might be when someone uses "in the event that," instead of "if."

    I am not a native Korean, so I am only rambling here. My point is not to "argue" one way or the other, but to simply focus attention on a word that has always annoyed me, and annoyed me one time too many this morning when I came across it in something I was reading. Even the sentence it was in annoyed me:

    "이러한 인식과 더불어 인간의 능력이 재발견되고, 부정되었던 인간의 창조력이 긍정됨으로써 인간은 다시 태어난 존재라는 의식이 생존의 전 분야에 걸쳐 확산되었다."

  3. Gerry,

    Hey, no offense intended, by the way. I only wish my Korean was as good as yours. Probably I was more reacting to that, "You're just writing diff'rent from how ya talk 'cuz you wanna look smart," crap that some people I've known spout from time to time—which of course is not really what you said.

    As for the fine-tuned meaning, from what I found in asking around, most people seemed to find the third meaning given the most sensible. One claim was that 함께 connotes a positive connection or "togetherness" where 더불어 does not necessarily carry a positive connotation.

    This does not at all help me understand why some people would write "더불어 함께," though.

    And I think it's amusing how you note that 함께 "sounds so much better" than 더불어... it reminds me of when I was a kid and my francophone mother was surprised I couldn't tell, just by hearing a French noun, whether it was masculine or feminine. To her, it was just obvious. I'm far from having such a feel for Korean as to really honestly prefer the sound of one word to another, except in cases where a certain grammatical form has concretized and I'm shown another way to say the same thing: then I prefer the former.

    Once again, no offense intended. Thanks for this great stream of stuff...

  4. Gord,

    Sorry for the late reply. I am on vacation at the moment and do not have easy access to a computer. I was not at all offended by your post, which, by the way, made a good point.

    I do not have access to my Korean-Korean dictionary right now, but I think I remember it saying that the third definition is now somewhat archaic, which, I assume, means the word is now rarely used with that meaning. I think the first definition is the one most often used, which is probably why it is listed first.

    By the way, my saying that one sounds better than the other was just my personal opinion. I was half joking when I wrote it, so do not take it seriously.

    Thanks for the encouragement.


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