|Revised Romanization (translit.)?||eun|
From Middle Korean 은〮/ᄋᆞᆫ〮 (Yale: -ún/-ón), from Old Korean 隱 (*-(u)n). Attested since the very beginning of Korean writing in the first millennium. The post-vocalic form 는 (-neun) is probably formed by pre-Middle Korean reduplication, with the original form ㄴ (-n) now relegated to colloquial speech.
은 • (-eun)
- The Korean topic marker, with various nuances according to context:
- Used to mark an already known topic, to which the subsequent statement applies.
- Used to mark the topic in statements of general fact.
- what about; Used without a predicate to demand new information about an already known topic.
- Used in contrastive constructions, often with an exclusive sense (i.e. this and not anything else).
- Used with an emphatic sense.
- Used to background previously known information, in order to highlight the importance of the statement which follows; the marked topic is omittable.
- 은 (-eun) can appear after bare nouns and pronouns, adverbs, certain verbal connective suffixes (e.g. 면 (-myeon, “if”), 어서 (-eoseo, “and then”)), and most case-marking particles. It is not compatible with nominative case markers 가 (-ga) and 이 (-i), or with accusative case marker 을 (-eul); if a noun in the nominative or accusative is topic-marked, the case-marking particle cannot appear.
- The distinction between topic-marking 은 (-eun) and subject-marking 가 (-ga) and 이 (-i) is often difficult for non-fluent speakers. Essentially, 은 (-eun) is explicitly topicalizing, i.e. marking previously known information as the topic to which the new information in the subsequent statement applies, while 가 (-ga) and 이 (-i) (by virtue of not being explicitly topicalizing) has a focalizing connotation, i.e. marking the preceding word as new information introduced into the discourse. Compare the context of the following:
- Accordingly, 은 (-eun) can only be used for a topic that is already shared knowledge to both discourse participants. In the first example below, topic-marked 오빠는 (oppa-neun) is ungrammatical because the identity of the person is not shared knowledge prior to the conversation. But once the presence of the older brother is shared knowledge, topic-marking can be used:
- Similarly, the use of 은 (eun) in statements of general fact can be explained by the fact that the existence of e.g. Korea or the sun is already common knowledge to all discourse participants.
- When a topic-marked word or phrase is at the beginning of the sentence, it is most commonly intended as either the topic or the background information of the rest of the sentence. When it appears within a sentence, it is almost always contrastive or emphatic.
In Old Korean, a (perhaps the) primary function of this suffix was to form verbal gerunds that could function as nouns, much as English -ing-forms serve as both independent nouns and to attribute nouns adjectivally; this nominalizing usage was only vestigial in Middle Korean and is wholly defunct today.
은 • (-eun)
- that, which; past adnominal suffix for verbal stems, often carries a perfect meaning.
- Synonym: (nonstandard, slightly different nuance) 었는 (-eonneun)
- Coordinate terms: 던 (-deon, imperfective), 는 (-neun, present), 을 (-eul, future)
- 네가 어제 빌린 사전 ― ne-ga eoje billin sajeon ― the dictionary which you borrowed yesterday
- 어제 먹은 빵 ― eoje meog-eun ppang ― the bread which I ate yesterday
- 퍼런 정장을 입은 남자 ― peoreon jeongjang-eul ibeun namja ― the man wearing (that put on) a deep blue suit
- Realis adnominal suffix for adjectival stems.