SOAS University of London

Department of the Languages and Cultures of Japan and Korea

Simon Barnes-Sadler

BA (Cambridge); MA (SOAS, University of London)
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Centre of Korean Studies

Research Fellow

Simon Barnes-Sadler
Email address:
Thesis title:
Diaspora varieties of Korean: a comparative study
Year of Study:
Internal Supervisors


During a BA in Modern and Medieval Languages at Cambridge University, I developed a strong
interest in Korea. After spending a year in Korea learning the language I took an MA at SOAS,
focussing on Korea dialectology. With the support of the Korea Foundation, I am continuing to
examine variation in Korean, specifically in the language used by Koreans living in diaspora.

Other research interests include Korean visual language, namely writing systems and Korean Sign
Language, Korean language pedagogy and the history of the Korean language.

I am currently involved in promoting Korean education in the UK with the Korean Education Centre,
both by teaching at a secondary school one day per week and producing teaching materials, such as

PhD Research

Although the Korean Wave has raised the global profile of Korean markedly in recent times, the
internationalisation of the Korean language is, in fact, much older than that. Koreans living in
diaspora have tended to retain their language, although, as Korean communities have formed
outside of the Korean peninsula, new varieties of Korean have emerged. In most Korea diaspora
communities, use of their non-standard variety of Korean is currently in decline.

My research focusses on large Korean diaspora communities in Central Asia and China and has
two main goals. The first is to add to the somewhat sparse documentation and description of
these overseas varieties of Korean, to ensure that there is an adequate record of them in the event
of either their falling out of use or the diaspora communities choosing to revitalise their variety
of Korean. Second, I seek to account for the variation which can be observed in international
varieties of Korean which, we may speculate, is caused by contact with other languages, retention of
archaism in diaspora varieties or independent innovation among diaspora variety speakers.

By examining and comparing the language used by these communities I hope to gain some insight
into earlier stages of the Korean language and the breadth of variation which Korean can exhibit.
This research may also shed some light on the pre-history of Korean by giving us some clue as
to how the language may have interacted with earlier forms of Altaic or Chinese, for example.
Finally, by carrying out this project I hope to contribute to the understanding of language contact
phenomena in general.