The Gyeongsang dialect is a dialect of Korean used throughout the Yeongnam region, which corresponds to present-day Gyeongsangbuk-do and Gyeongsangnam-do. The Gyeongsang Dialect is considered the direct descendant of the Silla language by Korean linguists. A highly pronounced intonation distinguishes the Gyeongsang dialect from the standard language. Approximately 10 million Koreans use the Gyeongsang dialect.
The Gyeongsang dialect also differs from area to area within the Yeongnam region. A native speaker can distinguish the dialect of Daegu from that of Busan. Dialectal forms are relatively similar along the midstream of Nakdong River but are different near Pusan, Jinju, and Pohang as well as along the eastern pastures of Jirisan.
The Gyeongsang Dialect lacks some of the vowels that are present in the standard dialect. For example, it lacks the vowels ㅟ(y) and ㅚ(oe). Thus, in the Gyeongsang Dialect, soegogi (쇠고기), meaning beef is pronounced sogogi. Furthermore, there is very little difference between the vowels ㅐ(ae) and ㅔ (e). In some areas of the Yeongnam region, there is very little difference between the vowels ㅡ(eu) and ㅓ(eo). This limits the vowels of dialect down to: a, e, eo, o, u, and i. The speakers of this dialect also have a tendency to leave out medial yoderised vowels and medial-diphthongs. For example, Gwaja (과자), meaning sweets, is pronounced Gaja. Unlike the standard Seoul Dialect, the lengths of vowels in the Gyeongsang dialect indicate the word's or postfix's definition.
The speakers of the Gyeongsang Dialect loosely follow vowel harmony. For instance, oneul (오늘), meaning "today," is pronounced onal in the dialect. The main difference between the standard dialect vowel harmony and the Gyeongsang Dialect vowel harmony is that e is considered a "central" or "middle" vowel in the latter.
The Gyeongsang Dialect lacks some of the tensed consonants, most notably the ss (ㅆ) consonant. Thus, the speakers of the dialect pronounce ssal (쌀), meaning rice, sal (살).
The Gyeongsang dialect maintains a trace of Middle Age Korean: the grammar of the dialect distinguishes between a yes-no question and a wh-question, while Standard Modern Korean doesn't. With an informal speech level, for example, yes-no questions end with "a" and wh-questions end with "o" in the Gyeongsang dialect, whereas in standard speech both types of questions end with "i". For example:
- Bap mugeutna? as opposed to Bap meogeotni? - Did you eat?
- Meo hano? as opposed to Mwo hani? - What are you doing?
Notice that the first question can be answered with a yes or no, while the latter question is to be answered otherwise.
This phenomenon can also be observed in tag questions.
- Eopje, geujya? as opposed to Eopji, geureotchi? - It isn't there, is it?
During the military dictatorship (1960-1992) the Gyeongsang dialect had an informal supremacy over other dialects as all of the presidents were natives of Gyeongsang province. This bias towards the dialect ended with the democratization of South Korea.
The dialect is featured in the movies 친구 (Friend) and 첫사랑 사수 궐기대회 (Crazy First Love). It also appears on a quiz show, available on YouTube, of various Korean dialects (available here).