Linguistic elements whose primary function is to modify the target noun are called “modifiers”. Modifiers in Korean include prenouns, adjectives, and relative clauses. The focus of this unit is on prenouns. The sole function of prenouns is to modify and/or delimit the meaning of the nouns that they follow.
There are four groups of prenouns in Korean. The first group of prenouns are those that specifically delimit the quality or status of certain nouns. Consider the following example:
Notice that 옛(old) is a prenoun that delimits the quality or status of the noun 이야기(story).
옛 appears to be an adjective. However, prenouns differ from adjectives. A chief distinction between prenouns and adjectives is whether they are subject to morphological variations. Prenouns are nouns and they are not subject to any inflectional variation. On the other hand, adjectives are subject to variations. For example, in Korean, “a different school” can be written with a prenoun 딴(another), or with an adjective 다른(different).
Notice that 다른 is the conjugated form of 다르다(to be different). How to change an adjective stem into a noun-modifying form will be discussed in detail in the intermediate Korean. Here are some more examples of prenouns.
The second group of prenouns are numbers. Consider the following examples:
Notice that these numbers come before the noun (or counters) that they modify.
The third group of prenouns includes demonstratives. Appearing before a noun that they modify, demonstratives indicate the speaker’s physical as well as psychological distance relative to the listener or a referent. English has two demonstratives “this” and “that”. However, Koreans make three referential locations: 이(this, near the speaker), 그(that, near the listener), and 저(that over there, away from both the speaker and the listener).
Differing from English demonstratives, which can be used independently, as in “I like this”, the Korean demonstratives cannot be used alone and must be followed by a noun. In other words, Korean demonstratives are always used with nouns, as in 이 친구(this friend), 이 책(this book) and so on.
Meanwhile, Korean has two dependent nouns that are often used with the demonstratives: 것(or 거, thing), and 곳(place).
Since 것 or 거 are dependent nouns which cannot be used by themselves, they are always used with a modifier such as a prenoun or an adjective.
The fourth group includes question prenouns such as 어느(which), and 무슨(or 어떤, what kind of).
Notice that these question prenouns cannot be used by themselves, and they modify the nouns that they appear after.
* Click to read related posts.
Grammar for Intermediates
Numbers & Ordinals (숫자와 서수)
Counter Nouns (Numeral Classifier, 분류사)
Question Words(의문사) & Indefinite Pronouns(부정대명사)
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