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The Korean Alphabet: its Origin and System

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Korean alphabet vs. Chinese characters ... The purpose of devising the alphabet is summarized in the preface of the text Hunmin Jeongeum. ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: The Korean Alphabet: its Origin and System


1
The Korean Alphabet its Origin and System
  • Sung-ho Choi

2
I. Who speaks in Korean?
  • Korean people, living in Korean Peninsular ?
    Politically, South Korea and North Korea.
  • Population ? about 70 millions (48 M. of S.
    Koreans, 22 M. of North Koreans)
  • Korean immigrants living in America, Japan, China
    and Russia ? about 5 M.

3
Korean alphabet vs. Chinese characters
  • Koreans use mainly Hangeul (name of the Korean
    alphabet) for the written communication.
  • Chinese letters (e.g., ?? America, ? hand,
    ??? university, etc. ideographs) are the
    supplementary means of writing sino-korean
    words for the older generation of Koreans.
  • Chinese letters are more restricted in terms of
    function and people.

4
Hangeul Only Movement
  • Hangeul has been used only with limited purposes
    until recently (middle of the 20th century) ?
    Conservative government officials and intelligent
    people used only Chinese characters.
  • The Hangeul only movement, which is closely
    related with democratization of the Korean
    society, has accelerated the use of Hangeul,
    which helps to promote the literacy of the
    people.
  • The reason for the success of the movement is (1)
    Hangeul is very easy to learn, and (2) there is
    no problem whatsoever in writing and
    understanding sino-korean words in Hangeul. (??
    vs. ??)

5
II. Creation of the Korean alphabet Hangeul
  • Hangeul means the Great Writing.
  • The inventor of Hangeul is King Sejong, the 4th
    King of Josun dynasty.
  • King Sejong promulgated Hangeul to the public in
    the 15th century (1446), in the name of Hunmin
    Jeongeum The Correct Sounds to Instruct the
    People

6
Purpose Statement by King Sejong
  • The purpose of devising the alphabet is
    summarized in the preface of the text Hunmin
    Jeongeum.
  • The speech sounds of Korea are distinct from
    those of China and thus are not communicable with
    Chinese characters. Hence, many people having
    something to put into words are unable to express
    their feelings. To overcome such distressing
    circumstances, I have newly devised twenty-eight
    letters that everyone can learn with ease and use
    with convenience in daily life.

7
III. Design of the letters Consonants
  • Oriental philosophy
  • ? The universe is governed by the principle of
    Yin dark and Yang bright and the rotation of
    the Five Elements (wood, fire, earth, mental, and
    water).
  • ? Human speech sounds are also based on the same
    cosmological principles, i.e., the patterns of
    yin-yang (cf. Vowel-Consonant mother
    sound-son-sound) and the Five Elements (molar,
    tongue, lips, incisor, throat). ? So are the
    speech sounds of Korea.

8
Five basic letters
  • They symbolize five elements wood, fire, earth,
    metal, and water.
  • Hanguel Description
  • ? k molar sound wood (the molar is uneven and
    extended) depicts the shape of the root of
    the tongue blocking the throat
  • ? n tongue sound fire (the tongue is pointed
    and joined) depicts the shape of the tongue
    touching the alveo-dental area
  • ? m lips sound earth (the lips are squarish
    and yet joined) depicts the shape of the
    mouth (lips)
  • ? s incisor sound metal (the incisor is hard
    and cutting) depicts the shape of an incisor
  • ? ng throat sound water (the throat is deep
    moist) depicts the shape of throat

9
Derived letters featural system (adding a
stroke or a letter)
  • plain(lax) aspirated tensed
  • Velars
  • stop ?k ?kh ?kk
  • ? ? ??
  • Alveo-dentals
  • stop ?t ?th ?tt
  • ?? ??
  • fricative ?s ?ss
  • ??
  • affricates ?c ?ch ?cc
  • ?? ??
  • Labials
  • stop ?p ?ph ?pp
  • ?? ??

10
Vowel letters
  • Three basic vowel letters
  • ? The dot ( ?, which is deep) symbolizes
    heaven (short stroke in the current system).
  • ? The horizontal line (? ï, neither deep nor
    shallow) symbolizes earth.
  • ? Finally, the vertical line (?i, which is
    shallow) symbolizes man.
  • Non-basic derived vowel letters are combinations
    of these three elements. Examples. l a, l
    å.

11
Derived Vowel letters and sounds
  • letters Sound Description
  • ? o same as except that the mouth is
    contracted. (round)
  • ? a same as except that the mouth is spread.
    (unround)
  • ? u same as ? except that the mouth is
    contracted. (round)
  • ? å same as ? except that the mouth is spread.
    (unround)
  • On-glide diphthongs
  • ? jo same as ?, except that it arises from ?.
  • ? ja same as ?, except that it arises from ?.
  • ? ju same as ?, except that it arises from ?.
  • ? jå same as ?, except that it arises from ?.
  • Off-glide diphthongs (nowadays, monophthongs)
  • ? ö (??)
  • ? ä (??)
  • ? ü (??)
  • ? e (??)
  • w-diphthongs
  • ? wa (??)
  • ? w? (??)

12
IV. Writing words Principle of Syllable-block
  • CV(C) principle
  • ? go! CV.
  • ?? kid (C)V.(C)V
  • ?? student CVC.CVC
  • More examples
  • UNC Chapel Hill linguistics desk family
  • ??? ??? ??? ?? ??
  • your name
  • English George Washington
  • Korean ?? ???

13
V. Characteristics of Korean alphabet
  • Featural system
  • For consonants, addition of a stroke means
    aspiration, and repetition of a letter means
    tenseness.
  • For vowels, addition of a stroke means
    diphthongization.

14
  • Diagrammatic system
  • Diagrammatic relation between sounds and letters.
  • More complex sounds are depicted by more complex
    letter shapes.
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