Jeju道 and Jeju岛
I’ve got this idea that I will obsess about for short periods of time, and have done so for years. It goes back to my past life as a philosophy student studying the concept of meaning (see Nelson Goodman’s book “The Languages of Art” to get an idea), taking classes with names like “The Meaning of Meaning”.
The basic focus of this obsession is about utterances and how they are intended versus how they are understood, but narrowed down to the level of phonetic ambiguity. I hear a statement, we’ll call it X, which has meaning and pronunciation similar to a different statement Y. You heard Y. What was actually said? In reality the result will be the same, so it really doesn’t matter. Communication was accomplished, and the two parties may never realise there was a minor misunderstanding.
The recent example that brought this back up was in talking to someone about Korea. Just south of the peninsula there is a large island called Jeju, which is also a province. The word for island (岛, 도) sounds the same as the word for province (道, 도). So you hear “제주도” (je ju do), but which was actually said? Is meaning up to the creator or the audience? This is an unending debate. There are cases where context will make it plainly obvious, but not always.