Korean Modifiers!

I’m often overwhelmed (and simply stunned) when reading Korean sentences that can get as long as… forever.

Anyway, I’ve been trying to read a simple article about 씨름, for intermediate learners and I just can’t move on with this one simple sentence:

승자 진출 방식으로 진행되는 씨름 경기에서 최종적으로 이긴 장사에게는 상으로 황소를 주었다.

After looking up new words in the dictionary I do get that this sentence means “The winner gets a cow.” Period. I know I can move on and proceed with my reading. But the obsessive-compulsive me doesn’t want to let go and I spent all my breaks today to figure, not just the meaning, but how this sentence was structured.

I almost gave up and was about to ask a friend to translate it for me in English, once and for all. But after typing the sentence in kakao, I gave it one more try and this time I attempted to break the sentence into parts or “blocks” and I think it did work for me.

I started with 황소.

An ox (황소를) was given (주었다).

Given as a what? As a prize (상으로).

상으로 황소를 주었다 – an ox was given as a prize.

To whom? To the strong man (aka contestant/participant that has to be a strong man) (장사에게(는)).

What about the participant / What kind of participant? What participant?

A participant that won (이긴 장사).

So an ox was given as a prize to the participant who won (이긴 장사에게는 상으로 황소를 주었다).

Won what? What kind of win? An ultimate win (최종적으로) aka grand prize aka grand champion (after playoffs/elimination games).

So, an ox was given as a prize to the participant who won as the champion. (최종적으로 이긴 장사에게는 상으로 황소를 주었다)

Where? Champion where?

In a Ssireum match (씨름 경기에서).

So, one more time, an ox was given as a prize to the participant who won as the champion in a ssireum match (씨름 경기에서 최종적으로 이긴 장사에게는 상으로 황소를 주었다).

But… what kind of ssireum match / what kind of match/game is a ssireum / what is ssireum? Aka how does the game proceeds?

A ssireum game that proceeds by the method of knock-out rounds (승자 진출 방식으로 진행되는 씨름 경기).

I want to interpret it like this:

sentence

The above pseudo tree structure may not be linguistically correct, but it’s how I can easily see how I interpreted this long sentence. The simplest sentence I can form here is:

[   [씨름 경기에서]    [이긴 장사에게는]    [황소를 주었다]   ]

And the rest of the words that goes in between modifies each “block”.

[  [((승자 진출 방식으로) 진행되는) 씨름 경기에서]   [(최종적으로0 인긴 장사에게는]    [(상으로) 황소를 주었다] ]

So, one last time:

The ultimate champion in a ssireum match, that (usually) proceeds in (a series of) knock-out rounds, was given an ox as a prize.

Not a good translation. But I don’t really want to translate the sentence. I want to understand what are the functions of each of the elements of this sentence.

Now this is actually one of the shortest “long Korean sentences” (shortest long? Go figure!). It can go on and on and on and on… as they add more and more modifiers to describe each “block”.

It took me hours to analyze a sentence as short as this one! Must practice reading more (because these types of sentences doesn’t usually appear on my dramas XD) so that I can analyze faster and eventually, hopefully, can analyze long sentences in real time (without having to draw tree structures! OTL).

9 thoughts on “Korean Modifiers!

  1. How did you even come across that sentence?😀 A news article? An intermediate book? I sure hope I won’t have to write an essay about wrestling in order to win a bull when I sit the intermediate TOPIK. I wouldn’t know where to start! ㅋㅋㅋ

  2. Wow. That’s intense. I don’t even know how to draw those trees. These days when I read in Korean, I just try to understand the sentence and if I don’t I just move on.🙂 I’ll only look something up if I get really curious. I’m simple.

    But, yeah, Korean sentences are often really long. They’re almost like paragraphs.

    • Haha! They made us do tree structures all the time in school (my major is linguistics). I also usually just move on, but that day I was just being nit-picky.🙂

  3. Wow, I study Linguistics in English, and now thanks to you, I know how to apply it to Korean Translation. The labeled and bracketed analysis of a sentence is really effective ^^

    • Eeek! A linguist! *facepalm*😄 hahaha! What I did was not a proper bracketing. I also wanted to label the tree structure but I don’t know how to properly label them. Hehehe. But it helped me “visualize” a Korean sentence in my head. Glad you found this effective too.🙂

  4. Pingback: Analyzing a Korean Sentence Linguistically | My Korean Corner

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