August 2020
People > [Jeju Playbook] Jeju Dialect
[Jeju Playbook] Jeju Dialect

Hello, readers! This is Mr. Tangerine returning with the bimonthly column “Jeju Playbook” to fill you in on cultural tidbits about Jeju. Visitors to Jeju are bound to be greeted with honjeoopseoye, a local idiom for “welcome” that might leave you puzzled if you aren’t in the know—think of it as Hawaii’s “aloha.” Today’s column gives you a glimpse of Korea’s most idiosyncratic dialect, teaching you a common verb ending used by Jejuites of all ages in any situation.

A Jejuite asked to demonstrate Jeju dialect will have two phrases ready: “Bam meogeon?” for “Did you eat?” and “Mwo hamaen?” for “What are you doing?” or “What are you up to?” These are fail-proof conversation starters in Jeju. Used for both statements and questions, the Jeju dialect “mwo ha maen” covers ongoing action (similar to the present continuous-ing form in English) unlike the standard Korean “mwo hae.” The Jeju suffix -(eu)maen follows a few simple rules.

1. It’s used with verbs only.
Use -(eu)maen with verbs such as eat: Bam meogeumaen? (“Are you eating your meal?”)

2. It can’t be used with past or future tenses.
These are incorrect: Bam meogeonmaen? (past base -eon) Bam meogeulmaen? (future base -eul)

3. It’s used for statements and questions, both positive and negative.
You can use -(eu)maen to answer positively: Eung, meogeumaen. (“Yes, I’m eating.”)
You can use -(eu)maen to answer negatively: Ani, anmeogeumaen. (“No, I’m not eating.”)

Now that you’ve learned the basics, it’s time to use -(eu)maen like a Jejuite!
Follow these steps to add the Jeju suffix -(eu)maen to Korean verbs.

Step 1. Start by converting a verb into its noun (nominal) form ending in-m / -eum.
hada (“to do”) → ham
bam meokda (“to eat rice or a meal”) → bam meogeum

Step 2. Add -aen to the noun (nominal) form to complete the -(eu)maen suffix.
ham + aenhamaen
bam meogeum + aenbam meogeumaen

Are you figuring it out? Or as a Jejuite might ask, Ihaedoemaen? As a heritage of Korea’s richly diverse language, I hope to see Jeju dialect preserved for generations to come.

Written by Mr. Tangerine

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