This is a series of posts on compound words, which are polysyllabic words wherein the word can be understood by reading each character separately.
Combinative Compound Words
Combinative compound words (結合式 合聲語, 결합식 합성어) are polysyllabic words that are a combination of verbs and nouns that are treated as one word. Unlike associative compound words, these words do not refer to a different thing other than what are the meanings of the characters. For instance, take the word 作文(작문). This word can be interpreted as “to write text” by treating it as two different words or “composition” by treating it as one word. Whether these two characters will be treated as two different words or as one word depends on the context. For instance, in the phrase 深於作文(심어작문), 作文(작문) would be treated as one word and the whole phrase can be translated as “well versed in compositions.” On the other hand, in the phrase 我欲作文(아욕작문), 作文(작문) would be treated as two different words and the whole phrase can be translated as “I intend to write a book.” Even if it it cannot be translated as one word into English and may not have any ramifications in translating, readers should treat the characters as though it were one word.
These words are either a combination where the first character is a noun and the second character is a verb, or vice-versa.
Noun + Verb
In this case, the first character is a noun and the second character is a modifying verb.
周人尚赤, 大事斂用日出, 戎事乘騵, 牲用騂.
주인상적, 대사렴용일출, 융사승원, 희용변.
During the Zhou dynasty (周, 주, Ju, 1046-256 BC), they preferred the color red. For the great affair (mourning), they dressed the corpse at sunrise. For the affairs of war, they rode red horses, and their sacrifices were red lambs.
► Classic of Rites (禮記, 예기), Tan Gong (檀弓, 단궁, Dan Gung)
飛曰: “吾莊後有一桃園, 花開正盛”
비왈: “오장후유일도원, 화개정성”
Zhang Fei (張飛, 장비, Jang Bi, 168-221) said, “Behind my house, there is a peach tree garden, and the blossoming flowers are indeed flourishing.”
► Romance of Three Kingdoms (三國演義, 삼국연의), Three Heroes Swear Brotherhood In The Peach Garden; One Victory Shatters The Rebels In Battlegrounds (宴桃園豪傑三結義，斬黃巾英雄首立功).
And the ignorant children’s advanced age is fifteen and have yet to enter school, and they are all called debauchees.
► Daily Records of the Royal Secretariat of the Chosun Dynasty (承政院日記, 승정원일기), August 8, 1625, 3rd Year of King Injo’s reign (仁祖, 인조, 1594-1649, r. 1623-1649).
Verb + Noun
In this case, the first character is a modifying verb and the second character is a noun.
所謂修身在正其心者. 身有所忿懥, 則不得其正.
소위수신재정기심자. 신유소분치, 즉불득기정.
What is called “cultivation of the person” concerns rectifying one’s heart. If a man is angered and furious, then he will not have obtained what is rectified.
► Great Learning (大學, 대학).
韋丞相賢者, 魯人也. 以讀書術爲吏, 至大鴻臚.
위승상현자, 로인야. 이독서술위리, 지대홍려.
Prime Minister Wei (韋, 위) is a benevolent man and is a man of the Lu (魯, 노, No) State. With his book-reading and talents, he became a literati bureaucrat and reached [the position of] Grand Herald Minister (大鴻臚, 대홍려, Daehongryeo).
► Record of the Grand Historian (史記, 사기), Collective Biographies (列傳, 예전), Biography of Prime Minister Zhang (張丞相列傳, 장승상예전).
忠君與愛國兮 / 志專專其靡他
충군여애국혜 / 지전전기미타
Loyalty to the king and love for the country! / His will concentrates and devotes till his collapse of another.
► A Sad Autumn Lyric (哀秋夕辭, 애추석사) by Yi Sung’in (李崇仁, 이숭인,1347-1392).