The oldest Korean wordlist from Mr. Eibokken,
written down by Witsen, translated into English.


This article is copyrighted and published in the "Transactions Volume L 1975" of the Royal Asiatic Society (RAS), reprinted in "Hamel's Journal" (1998) by Jean Paul Buys, also published by the RAS, and published on the web with their permission.
 

Nicolaas Witsen, a 17th century Korean studies scholar and Dutch politician, interviewed Mattheus Eibokken, member of the group of Dutch sailors, whose adventure in Korea was immortalized by the publication of Hamel's Journal .




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Eibokken's information contains several valuable additions to Hamel's "Description of the Kingdom of Corea". His most important contribution to Witsen's work, however, is his vocabulary of 143 Korean words as listed below. Following this list, additionally commentary is given for the words that are underlined, following the hyperlink. The underlined numerals provide links to the list. Please use your browser's 'back' button to return to the text.

He uses the following Dutch transcriptions for Korean vowels and diphthongs: a or ae for, a or e for , ey for  or  e for , and , o for or  , oo for , oe (occasionally ou) for , i, ie or y for . Dutch j (and sometimes i) corresponds to English y, e.g. Jang = yang  (nr. 75 ), piaer pyol (64). For k as a medial or final he nearly always writes ck. Instead of n he sometimes writes d (cf. nrs. 4, 14, 108 ). Because of typographical errors an original u may have been rendered as n (cf. nrs. 16, 19 ). Several items in Eibokken's vocabulary evoke rather interesting speculations and observations.




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To the wordlist

Part I: the Numerals Part II: Some other words

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From this vocabulary we may draw the following conclusions:
a. It is evident that Master Eibokken lived for many years (1656-1666) in Cholla Namdo (cf. nrs. 8, 58, 72, 86 ).
b. Several words may be identified as belonging to Middle Korean or to Cholla-do dialect (cf. nrs. 73, 79, 85, 107 ).
c. Eibokken must have been able to read, and probably also to write, han'gul . From the fact that a word like ttae (time) was written as  around 1590, as  in 1617 and 1632, and afterwards again as , it becomes clear that the consonant clusters  and  were pronounced in the same way -i.e. as tt - in the 16th and 17th centuries. Since Eibokken spells ppam (107 ) and ttk (110 ) as spaem and stock, he must have known the old spelling of these words. Other evidence of his ability to read (and write?) the Korean alphabet is furnished by his renderings of as hay (62 ), as sio (74 ), as tiarck (80 ), as zooy (92 ), and as aickie .
d. That he had no notes at his disposal, but quoted from memory becomes clear from such strange items as moolhoot (59 ), koely (81 ), yangsey (119 ) as well as from his wrong translations of more (120 ) and odsey (121 ). It is remarkable and regrettable that Eibokken's early contributions to Korean studies, and especially his pioneer vocabulary, have not attracted more attention in the scholarly world, but this is probably due to the fact that Witsen's work appeared only in Dutch.
 




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A collection of discussions related to this wordlist and other Korean studies topics, can be consulted. I want to thank the people of the Maritime Museum in Amsterdam for their help to get access to the works of Witsen and Frits Vos. Also I want to credit Jan Boonstra for his elaborate html design of this page and the hanja/hangul GIFs he made.
 



Henny Savenije
 

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