UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Korean as a transitional literacy : language education, curricularization, and the vernacular-cosmopolitan interface in early modern Korea, 1895-1925 Pieper , Daniel Oliver


This study argues that language and literacy during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (1895-1925) were formed through several interactive processes, including the development of “modern” literature and writing styles, processes of translation, dictionary compilation, and the circulation and functioning of language ideologies and discourses on linguistic modernity. Because Japanese engaged with the above processes vis-à-vis Western languages before Korean, Korean intellectuals found in the Japanese language a ready-made model for reform and modernization. Western notions of linguistic modernity—what modern language and literature “ought to be”—as well as the inundation of Korean with Japanese terms due to Korea’s late engagement with dictionary compilation and translation resulted in a Korean language that increasingly came to resemble Japanese. This facilitated the shift to higher Japanese literacy when combined with a colonial curriculum aimed at truncated Korean literacy and expansive Japanese. The convergence of the above processes with the political will engendered in education policy during a period of instability and flux in the orthographical development of Korean from that encoded in Literary Sinitic (hanmun) to Sino-Korean Mixed Script (kukhanmun) combined to lay the foundations for a shift from semi-literacy in Korean to literacy in Japanese, with Korean acting as a transitional literacy, and the sinograph (hancha) functioning as a mediating agent. Whereas pre-colonial language textbooks from various educational streams represented alternative pronouncements on vernacular literacy as well as laboratories for vernacular-cosmopolitan differentiation, Japanese-produced textbooks codified the official vision of colonial literacy, demonstrating a continued commitment to Mixed-Script orthography, directing the gradual diminution of Literary Sinitic, employing the sinograph as a diachronic and translingual mediating agent, and actualizing bilingual literacy transitioning.

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