Languages young and old are constantly evolving. Distinguished linguist Victoria Fromkin said in her book “An Introduction to Language,” that all languages change with time. This is also true of the Korean language, which has been spoken for millennia.
Some words that were spoken in the past are no longer used. For example, the word “chyeon” (meaning money) was used during the Goryeo Dynasty (918–1392) but has been replaced by the more modern word “don.”
New words also keep appearing, for example it has only been recently that the word “Olle” has been used in connection with the newly popular activity of walking Jeju Island’s trails.
In the similar spirit of an ever-evolving language, Korea recently gained a new word: “Dullegil.”
The word was formed by combining the two existing Korean nouns of dulle (둘레) and gil (길). “The Standard Korean Language Dictionary,” issued by The National Institute of the Korean Language, says that dulle means the edge, or circumference, of something. Gil is a road that has a standard width allowing for people or animals to walk on.
This kind of word formation — creating a new word by putting two existing ones together — is called a compound, according to one professor of Korean Language and Literature at Jeju National University who preferred to remain unnamed. He said another representative example of a compound word is Ollegil (an Olle walking trail).
The word dullegil was born in relation to Mt. Jiri, a mountain on the peninsula that spans the three southwestern provinces of Gyeongnam, North Jeolla, and South Jeolla. When a walking road connecting 80 villages around Mt. Jiri was created in 2008, the organization Foundation Pathway named it HwanJirisanGil (hwan is circle, Jirisan is Mt. Jiri, and gil is road), meaning the road circling Mt. Jiri. However, the foundation found that the road was christened with its more familiar nickname, Dullegil, by visitors and the press.
During an interview with The Weekly, Foundation Pathway Executive Director Lee Sang Yun said, “People called the road that we already named HwanJirisangil, Dullegil. [I think] that’s because the name is friendly and [more] easily understood [than the name we gave the road].”
He said that when both of the names were used, the committee consisting of the Foundation Pathway and the five cities and counties with jurisdiction over the Jirisan trail, had a meeting and decided on the name Dullegil. After two years of preparation for the legislation, when the Act on Forest Culture and Recreation was renewed in 2011, the nickname became the official title. Now the law includes the word Dullegil, with the definition of a road formed around the circumference of a mountain.
After that, the word spread to other trails, forming new names for roads like Bukhansan Dullegil and Gwanaksan Dullegil, and finally it came to Jeju in 2010 when the Jeju Special Self-Governing Province started a five-year, 3 billion won (US$2.6 million) project to create 80 kilometers of trekking roads around Mt. Halla. Acting on the guidance of the Act on Forest Culture and Recreation, the province named the road Hallasan Dullegil.
Nine kilometers of Hallasan Dullegil from Beopjeong Temple to Si Oreum in Seogwipo City opened on April 29. Trekking on this road, people can see beautiful scenery with many kinds of large trees. Also, the road passes some former military post sites used during the April 3rd Massacre. The province announced that it planned to build another five kilometers from Georinsaseum to Dol Oreum next year.
Seogwipo resident Oh Byeong Am has walked the Hallasan Dullegil three times. He said the name feels good. If more of the Dullegil is constructed, he is willing walk it, too.
Another Jeju citizen Lee Seong Eun, who had never heard of the word before, guessed at its definition: “Isn’t it a road on which people can travel round a spot like a mountain or village?”
The easy and friendly word Dullegil is from the mainland, but when it was combined with the word Hallasan, it has become one of Jeju’s own. Now it is expected that the word will be spoken more and more and contribute to promoting Jeju’s new trekking trails.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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