UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

From ppēsŭppol to yagu : the evolution of baseball and its terminology in Korean Rivera, Natasha


Baseball has shaped not only the English language, but also American society. From the early development of professional sport, to spearheading integration with Jackie Robinson’s first appearance, to even deploying “baseball ambassadors” in Japan as wartime spies, baseball has been at the forefront of societal change even as its popularity declined in the United States. Nonetheless, the sport’s global presence remains strong, presenting us with an opportunity to examine how baseball has shaped language and society outside North America. Baseball has an extensive set of specialized terms. Whether these words are homonyms of other English terms, or idioms unique to the sport, each term is vital to the play of the game and must be accounted for when introducing baseball to a new country. There are various ways to contend with this problem: importing the terms wholesale as loanwords, or coining neologisms that correspond to each term. Contemporary Korean baseball terminology is the still-evolving product of a historically contingent competition between two sets of vocabulary: the English and the Japanese. Having been first introduced by American missionaries and the YMCA, baseball was effectively “brought up” by the already baseball-loving Japanese who occupied Korea as colonizers shortly after baseball’s first appearance there in 1905. With no professional league of its own until 1982, Korean would remain under the strongest influence from Japan. This thesis is an account of the evolution of baseball terminology in Korean. This process of change is intertwined with Japanese colonialism and the multilayered process of globalization, which shaped not only Korean baseball vocabulary but Korean language identities writ large. While baseball has never been Korea’s favourite sport, it has often been seen as a form of non-violent resistance to Japanese oppression. Why is it then that a large amount of Korea’s baseball terminology to this day remains Japanese in origin? Even as Japan itself shifts toward using more English baseball terms in Japanese, Korea and Korean have seen fewer changes. The socio-political climate in which Korean baseball evolved has likewise influenced the changes in terminology, which will be analysed here using new data gathered from primary sources.

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