Alexander Vovin

Immigrants or Overlords?
Korean Influences on Japan in the Archaic Period: a Linguistic Perspective

  • Datum: Do., 14. Juni 2012, 18:00—19:30
  • Ort: Zentrum für Asienwissenschaften
    Seminarraum 1
  • Apostelgasse 23, 1030 Wien

Print Version of the Lecture (PDF)

Thema/ Topic


In this presentation I will concentrate on several names of deities, legendary emperors, and attested historical figures recorded in the Kojiki and the Nihonshoki. I will attempt to demonstrate that these names have solid Korean etymologies, while they cannot be satisfactorily explained through the prism of the Japanese language.

A good example is the personal name of the emperor Ōjin: Pömunda (Kojiki: 品陀、Nihonshoki: 誉田). The name Pömunda [pǝmunda] has no satisfactory etymology in Japanese. In addition, we have a major contradiction with Western Old Japanese phonology: neither kō-rui vowel /o/ nor otsu-rui vowel /ö/ can combine with /u/ within the same morpheme. However, we are extremely lucky to have its translational equivalent in Old Japanese (WOJ): tömö (鞆) ‘a protective cover placed on an archer’s left arm’ (Nihonshoki, vol. 10). Once we look into the Middle Korean (MK), the name becomes quite transparent: MK pʌrh ‘arm’ and mut- < *munt- ‘to cover’.

The etymologies I am going to present have important implications for the uncovering of the true role of Koreans in the early Japanese history: in my opinion they strongly suggest that at least some of the ‘dynasties’ that ruled Yamatö could be of a Korean provenance.

Vortragender/ Speaker


Alexander Vovin is Professor of East Asian Languages and Literatures at the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures, University of Hawai'i at Manoa. He is presently doing research at the National Institute for Japanese Language and Linguistics (NINJAL), Tachikawa-shi, Japan. Prof. Vovin's research interests focus on Japanese and Korean philology and historical linguistics, with an emphasis on earliest written texts, ancient languages and early ethnolinguistic history including the Ainu language, Altaic linguistics, the Manchu language, and Central Asian Linguistics in general.