Han-gul

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Han-gul

 

There are historical evidences, though uncorroborated, that suggest that ancient Koreans used their own system of writings. Some scholars regard inscriptions on the stone walls in Namhae inland as ancient Korean characters. The Samguksagi (history of the Three Kingdoms) says : "letters were first used in the beginning of the Koguryo Kingdom." Notwithstanding the historical evidence, it is true that the Koreans wrote exclusively in Chinese characters until the 15th century. Then in 1443, King Sejong of the Chosun Dynasty, with the help of several scholars (Chong In-ji, Song Sam-mun and Shin Suk-chu), invented a phonetic alphabet called Han-gul which has since been in use.

The Korean alphabet is so simple that anybody can master it. In a Korean encyclopedia compiled in about 1770, a reference was made to the simplicity of Han-gul, saying that "the possibility of interchanging letters is unlimitedly simple, but that the language is very efficiently neat and comprehensive enough for any combinations." The Korean alphabet consisted originally of 28 letters, according to Hunminjongum, the book of the authorized alphabet first promulgated. It was reduced later to 24 letters. In the Korean alphabet there are 10 vowels (originally 11) and 14 consonants. Two principles were followed in devising the forms of vowels and consonants. The 14 consonants symbolize either the organs of speech or the manner of articulation. The 11 vowels are devised to symbolize heaven, earth and man, the three elements constituting the universe in the Oriental view of the universe.

By taking a consonant sound like K and putting it before each of the vowels, various syllables begin to take shape. If the syllable should begin with a vowel sound, the consonant NG precedes the vowel. The NG has no sound when used in that way. The shape of the vowel determines whether the consonant should be placed above it or to the left of it. Currently 24 letters are in use. They represent the phonemes of the Korean language. ® (k or g), (n), (t or d), (r or l), (m), © (p or b), (s), (ch or j), (ch or ch), (k or k), (t or t), (p or p), (h), (ng), (a), A (ya), A(o), A (yo), C (o), E (yo), I (u), (yu), N (u), O(i)(See the New Romanization System for Korean Words) In the Hunminjongum, 28 original letters were classified as follows :17 consonants (initial sounds) ;

Molar(®, , )
Lingual(, , )
Labial(©, , )
Dental(, , )
Glottal( , , )
Semi-lingual()
Semi-dental(®I)
11 vowels(medial sounds); A A A C E I N O

 

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