Monday, November 14, 2005

Why does "가" change 너 & 저 to 네 & 제?

In Korean, 가 and 이 are subject markers that Koreans attach to a noun or pronoun to show that the noun or pronoun is the subject of the sentence. 가 attaches to nouns and pronouns that end in vowels, and 이 attaches to nouns and pronouns that end in consonants. Between the two subject markers, 이 is the older one since Koreans did not start using 가 until a couple of hundred years ago. Before that, 이 was attached to all nouns and pronouns, regardless of whether they ended in vowels or consonants.

The new grammar rule must have caused a bit of confusion in Korea because some Koreans in some regions, even today, mark the subject of a sentence by using 이 and 가 together, maybe just to be safe. Consider the following sentence:
당신 너 딸이가 찾아왔습니다.
Your daughter is here looking for you.

Notice how 이 and 가 are both used to mark the subject?

I have read that 네가 and 제가 are probably abbreviated forms of 너이가 and 저이가.


  1. I thought the "이가 " thing was used only with names. "Daughter" is not a name, but it is a person. Have you heard of an examples where 이가 was used with inanimate objects?

  2. "ga"(が) is also the subject marker for Japanese. I wonder where it originated from and whether they are related?

  3. Sonagi, here are a few more example sentences from the book I got my infomation:

    * 이렇게 된 책임이가 누구겠소?
    (이렇게 된 책임이 누구[한테 있]겠소?)

    * 오늘이가 어메 제삿날이오.
    (오늘이 어머니 제삿날입니다.)

    * 성님이가 은제 올라카당아?
    (형님이 언제 오려고 하든?)

    Keep in mind that the double subject marker thing is non-standard Korean.

    Tae Kim,

    The book I have also mentions the similarity between the Japanese subject marker and the Korean. The writer wonders if it may have been imported from Japan, but says that there is no evidence to support that. Here is what is in my book:

    본디 중세 한국어의 주격 조사는 '이' 하나였다. 폐음절 뒤에선 그 '이'가 온전히 형태를 보존했고, ㅣ 모음 이외의 모음으로 끝난 체언 뒤에선 앞의 모음과 어울려 이 중 모음을 이루었으며, ㅣ 모음 뒤에선 제로 형태를 지녔다. 즉 ㅣ 모음 뒤에서 생략됐다. 이 '이'가 개음절 뒤에서 '가'라는 이 형태를 취하게 된 것은 17세기 중반 이후다. 개음절 뒤에서 ㅣ 가 청각적으로 또렷하지 않았다는 것이 '가'의 등장을 초래한 한 원인이었는지도 모른다. '가'의 등장이 일본어의 영향 때문이라는 증거는 전혀 없지만, 일본어에서도 주격 조사가 '가'인 것이 재미있다.


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