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Yonsei Korean Dictionary

Yonsei Korean Dictionary

The most extraordinary academic accomplishment of the Institute has been the publishing of the ‘Yonsei Korean Dictionary’. Not only the dictionary, which was published during the compilation of a grand dictionary and which took more than thirteen years and a huge workforce, but the institute also generated the concept of a corpus from contemporary lexicography.
The ‘Yonsei Korean Dictionary’(52,000 entries, single volume, 2144 pages) was compiled based on the Korean literature data from the 1960s to the middle of the 1990s, and it took 1.5 billion KRW from 1986 to its completion. In the first thirteen years of the production of the ‘Yonsei Korean Dictionary’, the Yonsei Institute of Language and Information Studies, for the first time in the nation, computerized a large scale corpus, extracted appropriate examples, developed a software and computerizing technology for analysis, and combined all areas of Korean linguistics, and it correctly defines the definitions of each word entry by searching various examples and lexicographies.

The History of Compiling the ‘Yonsei Korean Dictionary’

After thousands of years using Korean, in 1943, the language and thought forms of Korean was revealed through the completion of ‘Chosunmal Grand Dictionary’ (presently referred to as the Korean Grand Dictionary) by the Chosun Linguistics Association (currently, the Hangeul Association). However, the dictionary was finally published in 1957, its delay due to the Japanese invasion and the Korean War. The dictionaries published afterwards have either added more or have been partly corrected.

Since 1960, the Korean language has developed saliently along with the development of Korea. Such a change could not be fulfilled by simply just adding contents. An entirely new Korean dictionary had to be compiled.

In January 1986, a handful of professors at Yonsei University unified their ideas and decided that compiling a new dictionary was an academic and technological process and thus more than merely an editing work by publishers. Thus, they felt that Yonsei University, the center of Korean linguistics research and the Hangeul culture movement, should take the lead in the process. With the decision to continue their research on the principles and methods in contemporary lexicography, we asked our colleagues to contribute, and 290 professors volunteered to participate in this national project. In the same year, we established a committee to compile the Yonsei University Korean Dictionary, and initiated the project. In June 1989, Yonsei University selected this project as a university-sponsored project, and established the Department of Korean Dictionary Compilation. After some years, in 1997, the department expanded to become the Yonsei Institute of Language and Information Studies, and continues as this organization today.

Through research, we realized that contemporary lexicography needed a large scale corpus and more data computerization. A corpus is a large collection of various computerized writings and speeches. After years of effort, the committee finally compiled a large scale contemporary Korean corpus for the first time in the nation, and developed various computerizing tools. In the process, the committee conducted a frequency analysis of the vocabulary of contemporary Korean, and opened up a new world to the Korean linguistics field by implementing a ‘corpus’ and ‘corpus linguistics’.

The committee, prior to publishing a grand dictionary that would include the history of the Korean language, decided to publish a single volume dictionary on contemporary Korean since the 1960s, and in the midst of searching for a publishing company specializing in compiling dictionaries, Doosan Donga, the top publishing company, agreed to cooperate. For five years, from May 1993, the Department of Korean Dictionary Compilation at Yonsei University, with all its resources, was able to hand in the final draft to Doosan Donga on the 30th of April, 1998. After compiling a contemporary Korean dictionary since 1986, the first copy was finally revealed after 13 years. Almost fifty people were involved in developing and computerizing the dictionary.

Compilation Plan for the Yonsei Korean Dictionary

The Yonsei Institute of Language and Information Studies sought to complete Korean dictionaries by period from the time the Korean language was used until the present. This grand aim will be accomplished in conjunction with the astounding growth of Yonsei University. The first ‘Yonsei Korean Dictionary’ will enrich the content of the ‘grand dictionary’ by developing numerous kinds of specialized dictionaries such as electronic dictionaries, collocational dictionaries, ancient language dictionaries, and dictionaries for various technical fields. By referring back to each period, the Korean Dictionary that will honor Yonsei Korean studies will be completed.
The Yonsei Institute of Language and Information Studies took a big step toward the compilation of the Yonsei Korean Dictionary after the completion of the first Yonsei Korean Dictionary in 1999. The Yonsei Korean Dictionary focuses on the Korean language of the 20th century, and it will demonstrate the knowledge and technology applied to compile a dictionary through a new look. It will include 200,000 terms which live and breathe our life experiences, and which are derived from the spoken and written languages used after the independence in 1945, and today are used widely in everyday life, literature works and academic fields.
In order to compile a 20th century contemporary Korean grand dictionary, various corpus including that of the contemporary Korean language right after the independence, the spoken language and the overseas Koreans language should be included. Furthermore, a preparation period to train dictionary compilers and establish a grand dictionary model is needed.

Fundamental principles in compiling the Yonsei Korean Dictionary

1. Selection of entries by frequency

In order to examine the reality of the Korean language after the 1960s, a corpus composed of 180,000 pages of regular sized books was constructed, and the list of entries according to the frequency of each word was finalized. A total of 50,000 entries consisting of more than 14 frequencies were selected, and the dictionary had about 2,000 pages. This number of entries is almost equivalent to the number of entries in one of the popular single volume dictionaries such as Cambridge, Oxford, Cobuild and Longman. It is universal in the lexicography field to have as many entries as possible rather than having substantial content for each entry. However, we decided not to expand the number of entries by including dialects and the vocabularies that are not used any longer. By excluding the unnecessary or insignificant words, the Yonsei Korean Dictionary put more emphasis on explanation in detail than on the selected entries.

2. Direction to present entries
[Presenting predicates]
In presenting predicates such as '?? (to eat)' and '???? (be beautiful)', the ending part ‘-?’ is indicated in small letters, and this format differs from that of other dictionaries. Such an ending part is marked in smaller letters in order to express the characteristics as an artificial structure, so that various types of endings can be attached to the space.

Also different from the existing dictionaries is the fact that forms of utilization of the predicates are presented in three representative types, such as ‘??, ??, ????’, in order to allow the users to immediately understand how to use the vocabulary.

[Presenting the word origins for Sino-Korean characters and foreign words]
In the case in which the entry is a Sino-Korean word, relevant Chinese characters are written inside of the parenthesis. This is to show that the Chinese characters may be used inside or outside the parenthesis. In addition to Sino-Korean words, foreign words are also spelled out in the reference section. However, the Japanese language, which is being studied by many Koreans, is written in Japanese characters, and other languages are written by using the Roman alphabet. Especially Japanese terms in Chinese characters that are subject to refinement are clarified, so that these terms refer to a Japanese dialect.

[Phonetic transcription]
Nouns, and a combination of a noun and a particle that is pronounced as a representative sound, are presented according to the standard pronunciations. Some predicates carry long vowels or are difficult to pronounce because of final double consonants, thus both the entry word and its other forms are explained thoroughly. Since the pronunciation of Korean today is very flexible, the act of discriminating the length of the vowel is becoming extinct. Thus, reflecting such a characteristic, psychologically prolonged sound (:) is reflected in the work.

[Grammar and usage explanations]
In principle, the criteria for word categorization and morphological analysis follow school grammar. However, the explanations for a few vocabulary entries that do not fit into the existing category system because of their characteristics reflect the entries’ characteristics and usages. In the case in which the entry needs a long explanation, such as for wrong usages or grammar explanations, the dictionary provides a separate reference box to offer more tips in addition to its definition. The reference box is one of the unique features of this dictionary.

3. Principles for selecting definitions and sample sentences
Departing from the existing custom in compiling dictionaries, which reflects the writer’s bias, the Yonsei Korean Dictionary describes the definition and usage of a vocabulary entry according to the examples extracted from the corpus. Thus, some definitions and descriptions differ very much from the definitions in the existing dictionaries. This may also reflect the fact that the Korean language has changed greatly.

Definitions for all of the vocabulary entries include one to three sample sentences from the Yonsei corpus, and the sample sentences are being used by Koreans naturally. Thus, a large portion of the dictionary is written by Korean users today. Most of the sample sentences listed in the existing dictionaries are artificially created by the compilers to match the definitions; therefore, the sentences may differ from the actual usage and sound unnatural.

4. Philosophy

[A Dictionary for Learning]
This dictionary is compiled for everyone including the 70 million Koreans and foreigners who want to study Korean, one of the world’s significant languages. The dictionary attempts to help the users easily learn the language by suggesting each entry’s definition, grammar and its usage, along with appropriate sample sentences.

["Real-Name System" Dictionary]
The reason why it’s called the ‘Yonsei Korean Dictionary’ is to let the users be aware that the Yonsei Institute of Language and Information Studies took responsibility in planning and producing the dictionary. The dictionary does not follow the custom of anonymity and having only the supervisor’s name in the dictionary. It seems a rather natural custom for the dictionaries published in other countries, such as the Oxford English Dictionary, the Webster Dictionary, and Le Robert Dictionary, to follow the ‘real-name system’.
Finally, we would like to note that we are open to the pointing out of any shortcomings or to suggestions by users of the dictionary.

Compilation Process of the ’Yonsei Korean Dictionary’

- January 1986, Started a movement to initiate the compilation of the ‘Yonsei Korean Dictionary’
- 1986-1993, Established the Yonsei Corpus (30 million words) for the first time in the nation.
- May 1993, Initiated the compilation of the ‘Yonsei Korean Dictionary’

- 1993-1998 Completed the compilation of the ‘Yonsei Korean Dictionary’
- February 1998, Held the 11th Workshop(Theme: Development and Application of Language and Information)
- April 1998, Completed the 1st review of the ‘Yonsei Korean Dictionary’ draft
- June 1998, 2ndreview, July 1998, 3rdreview
- July 1998, Completed full pagination
- July 1998, 4threview, August 1998, 5threview
- September 30, 1998, Article printed in Culture Section of ‘Chosun Media’
- October 1, 1998, Article printed in ‘The Yonsei Chunchu’
- October 2, 1998, Published the ‘Yonsei Korean Dictionary’
- October 2, 1998, Article printed in Society section of ‘Donga Ilbo’
- October 2, 1998, Article printed in Book & World sections of ‘Segye Ilbo’
- October 2, 1998, Article printed in Culture section of ‘YeonHap News’
- October 5, 1998, Article printed in ‘Publication Journal’
- October 7, 1998, Article printed in Literature/Publication section of ‘Hankyoreh Media’
- October 8, 1998, Article printed in Publication section of ‘The Kyunghyang Shinmun’
- October 9, 1998, Published first edition of the ‘Yonsei Korean Dictionary’
- October 12, 1998, Article printed in ‘The Yonsei Chunchu’
- October 21, 1998, Article printed in Book Review section of ‘Munhwa Ilbo’
- October 22, 1998, Article printed in Publication section of ‘Daily UNN’
- October 23, 1998, Published 2nd print of first edition

- November 10, 1998, Publication Celebration
- December 23, 1998, Awarded 39th Korea Book Award in Librarian Field
- January 16, 1999, Published 3rd print of first edition

- May 7, 1999, Published 4th print of first edition