While Hangul writing may appear ideographic to the uninitiated, it is actually phonetic. Each Hangul syllabic block consists of several of the 24 letters (jamo)—14 consonants and 10 vowels. Historically, the alphabet had three more consonants and one more vowel (See Obsolete Jamo). For a table of phonological descriptions of each letters, see Phonology.
Table of contents
| History of the Alphabet|
|Georgian 5th c. BC|
|Orkhon 6th c.|
|Ogham 6th c.|
- The modern name Hangul (한글) is a term coined by Ju Si-gyeong in 1912 that means "great script" (in archaic Korean) and "Korean script" (in modern Korean) simultaneously. It cannot be written in Hanja, though the first syllable Han (한), if used in the sense of "Korean," may be written as 韓. It is pronounced [hanɡɯl] (IPA), and can be Romanized in the following ways:
- Hangeul or "Han-geul" in Revised Romanization of Korean; the Korean government uses this (official) spelling in all their English publications and encourages it for all purposes. Many recent publications have adopted this spelling.
- Han'gŭl in McCune-Reischauer (when used as an English word, it is often rendered without any diacritic: Hangul, or sometimes without capitalization: hangul, and it appears thus in English dictionaries)
- Hankul in Yale Romanization
- The original name was Hunmin Jeongeum (see History)
- North Koreans prefer to call it Chosŏn'gŭl (조선글), for reasons related to the different Names of Korea.
- Jeongeum, short for the official Hunmin Jeongeum (see History)
- Urigeul (우리글 "our script") is used in both the North and South, but not by non-Koreans.
Hangul has been occasionally denigrated by those who preferred the traditional Hanja writing at least until the early twentieth century, A.D:
- Eonmun (언문 諺文 "vernacular script"). This ancient name may need an explanation: when Hangul was first invented the nobility rather preferred the Chinese letters to the new script, and derogatively called it as Eonmun.
- Amkeul (암클 "females’ script"): 암 is a prefix to a noun that signifies it is feminine. Women were traditionally considered inferior to men in Korea.
- Ahaegeul (아해글 "children‘s script")
However the use of Hanja in writing has become very rare in the past several decades and those names are considered archaic.
Hangul was promulgated by the fourth king of the Joseon Dynasty, Sejong the Great, after being developed under his guidance by a team of researchers. (Sejong is often called the inventor of Hangul: he was more likely the "idea person" who commissioned and backed the researchers, consulted with them, and published the final report.) The system was completed in 1443 or January 1444, and published in 1446 in a document, Hunmin Jeongeum, after which the alphabet was named. The publication date of Hunmin jeongeum, October 9, is Hangul Day in South Korea (Its North Korean equivalent is on January 15).
An old legend holds that King Sejong visualized the written characters after studying an intricate lattice, but this story is likely apocryphal. The book explains the scientific principles of the original letter designs (see jamo design).
King Sejong intended Hangul to be a supplement to Hanja, to be used primarily to educate people who did not know Hanja (hence the name Hunmin Jeongeum, which means "Correct Sounds for the Education of the People" in Sino-Korean). At that time, only male members of the aristocracy (Yangban) learned to read and write Hanja; since all written material was only available in Hanja, most Koreans were effectively illiterate. Hangul faced heavy opposition by the literate elite, who believed Hanja to be the only legitimate writing system. The protest by Choe Man-ri and other Confucians in 1444 is a typical example. Later on, the government became apathetic to Hangul. Yeonsan-gun, the 10th king, forbade the study or use of Hangul and banned Hangul documents in 1504, and King Jungjong abolished the Ministry of Eonmun in 1506. Hangul had been used by women and uneducated people.
When the idea of nationalism was introduced from Japan to Korea, Hangul began to be considered as a national symbol by some reformists. As a result of the Gabo Reform(갑오개혁) by pro-Japanese politicians, Hangul was adopted in official documents for the first time in 1894. After Korea was annexed by Japan in 1910, Hangul was compulsorily taught in schools until Japan began the national mobilization policy in 1937.
"Jamo" (자모; 字母) are the letters that make up the Hangul alphabet. Ja means letter or character, and mo means mother; the name jamo signifies that the jamo are the building-blocks of Hangul.
There are 51 jamo, of which 24 are simple (not compounded) and equivalent to letters in the Roman alphabet. The remaining 27 are complex clusters formed by combining 2 or sometimes 3 jamo. Of the 24 simple jamo, 14 are consonants (ja'eum; 자음; 子音; literally, "child sound") and 10 are vowels (moeum; 모음; 母音; literally, "mother sound"). 5 of the consonants can be doubled to form 5 additional double consonants (see below), while another 11 complex consonantal clusters are formed by combining 2 different consonants. The vowels can be combined to form 11 additional diphthongs. Here is a summary of the numbers of jamo:
- 14 simple consonants
- 5 double consonants
- 11 complex consonants
- 10 simple vowels
- 11 diphthongs
Four of the simple vowels actually have shapes that are not elemental, but have extra short strokes signifying palatalization: ㅑ (ya), ㅕ (yeo), ㅛ (yo), and ㅠ (yu). These four are counted as part of the 24 rudimentary jamo (letters), because the palatalizing stroke taken out of context does not represent y at all. In fact, there is no separate jamo for y.
Of the basic consonants, ㅊ (chieut), ㅋ (kieuk), ㅌ (tieut), and ㅍ (pieup) are aspirated derivatives of ㅈ (jieut), ㄱ (giyeok), ㄷ (digeut), and ㅂ (bieup) respectively, formed by combining the parent consonant with the jamo ㅎ (hieut).
The doubled consonants consist of two identical consonants placed beside each other horizontally. They are: ㄲ (kk, ssang-giyeok; "ssang", 雙= double), ㄸ (tt, ssang-digeut), ㅃ (pp, ssang-bieup), ㅆ (ss, ssang-siot), and ㅉ (jj, ssang-jieut). Doubled consonants are not really pronounced twice, they are glottalized.
The sounds represented by the single and double consonantal jamo cannot be pronounced alone in normal speech.
There are three formal categories of jamo:
- Initials (초성 ; 初聲 choseong): consonant(s) before the vowel(s) in a syllable (the onset). They include all five double-consonant jamo.
- Position: Placed at the top, the left, or the upper-left corner of the block.
- See: Hangul consonant and vowel tables#Initials
- Medials or peaks (중성 ; 中聲 jungseong): All are vowels (the syllable nucleus)
- Position: usually in the middle of a syllable, but can be at the end as well.
- For a list of the medials, see #Vowel jamo design
- Finals (종성 ; 終聲 jongseong): consonant(s) after the vowel(s) in a syllable (the coda). All basic finals are also initials, except The zero initial ㅇ is pronounced ng in the final position. However, the only cluster jamo that are both initials and finals are two of the double consonantal jamo: ㅆ (ss) and ㄲ (kk).
- Position: Placed at the bottom, right or lower-right corner of the block.
- See: Hangul consonant and vowel tables#Finals
The Hunmin Jeong-eum account
The shapes of the consonants were designed scientifically, and the vowels philosophically.
Consonantal jamo design
The designs of the basic jamo consonant letters model the physical morphology of the tongue, palate, teeth and throat. The consonants can be divided into five homorganic groups, each with a basic shape, and one or more letters derived from this with additional strokes. The names in the brackets are the traditional Sino-Korean linguistic terminology.
- Velar consonants (아음 ; 牙音 ; a-eum; "molar sounds"):
- ㄱ g, ㅋ k
- Basic shape: ㄱ is the side view picture of the tongue back touching the velum (soft palate). (For illustration, access the external link below.) The ㅋ is derived from ㄱ, with an extra stroke for the burst of aspiration.
- Alveolar consonants (설음 ; 舌音 ; seol-eum; "lingual sounds"):
- ㄴ n, ㄷ d, ㅌ t, ㄹ r/l
- Basic shape: ㄴ is the side view picture of the tongue tip touching the alveolar ridge (toothridge). The other letters are pronounced with the same orientation of the tongue as ㄴ, and are derived from it. The line topping ㄷ represents the firm contact of the speech organs. The top of ㄹ represents the flap of the tongue.
- Bilabial consonants (순음 ; 唇音 ; sun-eum; "labial sounds"):
- ㅁ m, ㅂ b, ㅍ p
- Basic shape: ㅁ represents the outline of the lips. The other letters are derived from it. The top of ㅂ represents the release burst of the b.
- Dental sibilants (치음 ; 齒音 ; chieum; "dental sounds"):
- ㅅ s, ㅈ j, ㅊ ch
- Basic shape: ㅅ was originally shaped like a wedge /\, without the overlapping top slash. It signifies the side view of the teeth. The line topping ㅈ represents the firm contact of the speech organs. The dot topping ㅊ represents an additional burst of aspiration.
- Glottal consonants (후음 ; 喉音 ; hueum; "throat sounds"):
- ㅇ ng, ㅎ h
- Basic shape: ㅇ symbolizes the outline of the throat. Originally ㅇ was two letters, a simple circle for silence (no consonant), and a circle topped by a verticle line, ㆁ, for ng. A now obsolete letter, ㆆ, represented a glottal stop, which is pronounced in the throat and had closure represented by a top line, like ㄱㄷㅈ. The dot of ㅎ represents an additional burst of aspiration.
Vowel jamo design
Vowel letters, on the other hand, consist of three elements:
- Horizontal line (which signifies the flat Earth)
- point (the round Heaven), which later becomes a short stroke
- vertical line (the upright Human)
Together, they form various combinations and represent different vowel sounds:
- Simple vowels:
- Horizontally written vowels: these tend to be high back vowels.
- ㅗ o
- ㅜ u
- ㅡ eu (ŭ)
- Vertical written vowels: these tend to be mid/low central/front vowels.
- ㅏ a
- ㅓ eo (ŏ)
- ㅣ i
- Horizontally written vowels: these tend to be high back vowels.
- Compound (complex) vowels: combined simple vowels. the ㅣ here seems to be an indicator of umlauting.
- ㅐ = ㅏ + ㅣ
- ㅔ = ㅓ + ㅣ
- ㅘ = ㅗ + ㅏ
- ㅙ = ㅗ + ㅏ + ㅣ
- ㅚ = ㅗ + ㅣ
- ㅝ = ㅜ + ㅓ
- ㅞ = ㅜ + ㅓ + ㅣ
- ㅟ = ㅜ + ㅣ
- ㅢ = ㅡ + ㅣ
- Palatalized vowel: Romanized as y-, represented by an extra stroke attached to a line
- ㅑ = ㅏ + a stroke
- ㅕ = ㅓ + a stroke
- ㅛ = ㅗ + a stroke
- ㅠ = ㅜ + a stroke
- ㅒ = ㅐ + a stroke
- ㅖ = ㅔ + a stroke
The Ledyard account
Gari Ledyard, Sejong Professor of Korean History Emeritus at Columbia University, believes that the derivation in the Hunmin Jeong-eum is a mnemonic, and that hangul actually derives, at least in part, from the Mongol Phagspa alphabet (the 蒙古篆字 měnggǔ zhuānzì, or Mongol seal script) of the Yuan dynasty. Only six basic consonants were borrowed, with the rest derived from these, as in the Hunmin Jeong-eum account. However, the basic consonants differ. Whereas the Hunmin Jeong-eum credits the graphically simplest letters ㄱㄴㅁㅅㅇ as being basic, with the others derived from these by adding strokes, Ledyard believes the letters ㄱㄷㄹㅂㅈ were basic, with strokes either added or subtracted to derive the others. These six letters ultimately derive from Tibetan ག ད ལ བ ས, and thus may be cognate with Greek Γ Δ Λ Β and the letters C D L B of the English alphabet. (The history of the S sounds is difficult to reconstruct.) An additional basic letter, ㅇ, was invented ex nihilo, as in the Hunmin Jeong-eum account.
In the two accounts the derivation of the vowels is the same, though the motivations differ.
Consonantal jamo design
The Hunmin Jeong-eum credits the 古篆字 "Gu Seal Script" as being the source King Sejong or his ministers used to create hangul. This has traditionally been interpreted as the Old Seal Script, and has confused philologists because hangul bears no functional similarity to the Chinese seal scripts. However, 古 gǔ had more than one meaning: besides meaning old, it could be used to refer to the Mongols (蒙古 Měng-gǔ). Records from Sejong's day played with this ambiguity, joking that "no one was more gu than the Meng-gu". That is, Gu Seal Script may have been a veiled reference to the Mongol Seal Script, or Phagspa alphabet. (Phagspa has been called a seal script because both it and the Chinese seal scripts have a somewhat similar blockish appearance.) There were certainly plenty of Phagspa manuscripts in the Korean palace library, and several of Sejong's ministers knew the script well. However, after the fall of the Yuan dynasty, all things Mongol were verboten in China, and relations with the Ming dynasty were important enough for Korea not to want to overtly credit the Mongols with an important cultural development.
Although several of the basic concepts of hangul came from the Phagspa script with its origin in Indic phonology, such as the relationships of homorganic jamo and, of course, the alphabetic principle itself, Chinese phonology also played a major role. Besides the grouping of jamo into syllables, along the lines of Chinese characters, it was Chinese phonology, not Indic, that determined which consonants were basic, and therefore to be borrowed from Phagspa. These were the tenuis (non-voiced, non-aspirated) plosives ㄱ [k], ㄷ [t], ㅂ [p], ㅈ [ts], as well as the liquid ㄹ [l]. (ㅈ was pronounced [ts] in the 15th century.)
The aspirate plosives, ㅋㅌㅍㅊ, were then derived by added a stroke to indicate the aspiration. The corresponding non-plosives, nasal ng (see below) ㄴㅁ, and fricative ㅅ, were derived by removing the top of the tenuis letter. (No letters were derived from ㄹ.) This clears up a few points. For example, it's easy to derive ㅁ from the bottom part of ㅂ, but it's not clear how you'd get ㅂ from ㅁ, since ㅂ doesn't have the same vertical top stroke that the other plosives do.
Sejong also needed a null symbol for the lack of a consonant, and chose the circle, ㅇ. The subsequent derivation of the glottal stop ㆆ, by analogy with the other plosives, and aspirate ㅎ parallels the account in the Hunmin Jeong-eum.
The ng is the odd letter out here, as it is in the Hunmin Jeong-eum. However, this may reflect its variable behavior. Hangul was designed not just to write Korean, but also to accurately represent Chinese. Besides the letters covered here, there were quite a few more used only to represent Chinese etymology. Now, many Chinese words began with ng, at least historically, but this was being lost in several regions of China by Sejong's day: that is, etymological ng was either silent or pronounced [ŋ] in China, and was silent when borrowed into Korean. The expected shape of ng had the additional problem that, by being just the vertical line left by removing the top stroke of ㄱ, it would have been easily confused with the vowel ㅣ i or with an extra stroke added to various consonants and vowels. Sejong's solution solved both these problems: the vertical stroke from ㄱ was added to the null symbol ㅇ to create ᇰ, graphically representing both regional pronunciations as well as being easily legible. (If your computer doesn't display this, it's a circle with a vertical line on top, like an upside-down keyhole or lollipop.) Thus ᇰ was pronounced ng in the middle or end of a word, but was silent at the beginning. Eventually the graphic distinctions between silent initial ㅇㆆᇰ were lost.
Two other details lend credence to Ledyard's theory. For one, the composition of obsolete ᇢᇦᇴ w, v, f, from ㅁㅂㅍ m, b, p, by adding a small circle under them, seems to parallel Phagspa f, which was similarly derived from Phagspa h by adding a small loop under it. This small loop also represented w after vowels, functionally identical to hangul ᇢ. However, hangul ᇢ also represented m as a regional variant of w in some Chinese dialects, so it includes ㅁ as one of its elements. Not only is the composition of these hangul letters similar to Phagspa f, but here we have a second letter composed of two elements to represent two regional pronunciations, as we did with ᇰ.
Secondly, most of the basic hangul letters were originally simple geometric shapes. For example, ㄱ was the corner of a sqare, ㅁ a full square, ㅅ was a caret like ^, ㅇ was a circle. In the Hunmin Jeong-eum, before the influence from Chinese calligraphy on hangul, these are purely geometric. However, ㄷ was different. It wasn't a simple half square, like we'd expect if Sejong had simply created it ex nihilo. Rather, even in the Hunmin Jeong-eum itself, it had a small lip protruding from the upper left corner. This exactly duplicates the shape of Phagspa d, and the source of this lip can be seen in the Tibetan letter d, ད. (Remember, Phagspa was a square script, and so was much closer to the shapes of the hangul jamo than Tibetan is today.)
Vocalic jamo design
The vowels were not taken from Phagspa, at least not directly, but rather seem to have been invented by Sejong or his ministers to represent the phonological principles of Korean. (Several Phagspa vowels were simple lines, like hangul, but this doesn't tell us much.)
Middle Korean had vowel harmony (that is, some vowel sounds changed into each other according to their environment), which was described in terms of yin and yang. The "neutral" vowels, which did not change, ㅡㅣ丶 (the last now obsolete), were written with a single stroke. The vowels which did change (ㅏ with ㅓ, and ㅗ with ㅜ, which can still be seen in some grammatical processes today) were derived from the neutral vowels according to the principles of yin and yang.
As for the choice of ㅡ as the base for ㅜㅗ, and ㅣ as the base for ㅓㅏ, this was also phonetic: ㅡㅜㅗ are all high-back vowels ([ɯ, u, o]), and, in the 15th century at least, ㅣㅓㅏ were all low or front vowels ([i, e, a]). Central 丶 ([ə]) was neither, and so didn't form the basis for either of the pairs of harmonic vowels. (That is presumably why it was written with a dot instead of a line like the other two neutral vowels.)
Ledyard, Gari K. The Korean Language Reform of 1446. Seoul: Shingu munhwasa, 1998.
Ledyard, Gari. "The International Linguistic Background of the Correct Sounds for the Instruction of the People." In Young-Key Kim-Renaud, ed. The Korean Alphabet: Its History and Structure. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 1997.
The alphabetical order of jamo does not mix the consonants and the vowels like the Western alphabets (Latin alphabet and Cyrillic alphabet). The consonants are placed before the vowels. The modern order was set by Choi Sejin in 1527.
South Korean order
The modern order of the consonantal jamo is:
ㄱ ㄲ ㄴ ㄷ ㄸ ㄹ ㅁ ㅂ ㅃ ㅅ ㅆ ㅇ ㅈ ㅉ ㅊ ㅋ ㅌ ㅍ ㅎ
Double consonantal jamo are placed immediately after its source simple jamo.
Medials' order is:
ㅏ ㅐ ㅑ ㅒ ㅓ ㅔ ㅕ ㅖ ㅗ ㅘ ㅙ ㅚ ㅛ ㅜ ㅝ ㅞ ㅟ ㅠ ㅡ ㅢ ㅣ
The fundamental (not necessarily basic) medials come first, with derived forms inserted in between, according to their types: 'additional stroke', 'palatalized', then 'palatalized with additional stroke'. For vertical vowels, the derived forms are listed in the order: w- (symbolically represented by ㅏ or ㅓ), then adds a stroke to w- (ㅐ), then just a stroke, without w-.
North Korean order
ㄱ ㄴ ㄷ ㄹ ㅁ ㅂ ㅅ ㅇ ㅈ ㅊ ㅋ ㅌ ㅍ ㅎ ㄲ ㄸ ㅃ ㅆ ㅉ ㅇ
The first ㅇ represents the final sound /ng/. The second ㅇ represents the zero initial. Note that the double jamo are placed at the very end, before the zero ㅇ, but after all other jamo, rather than immediately after their respective source jamo as is done in South Korea.
ㅏ ㅑ ㅓ ㅕ ㅗ ㅛ ㅜ ㅠ ㅡ ㅣ ㅐ ㅒ ㅔ ㅖ ㅚ ㅟ ㅢ ㅘ ㅝ ㅙ ㅞ
ㅐ and ㅔ are placed after all basic vowels, not after ㅏ and ㅓ.
The sequence of jamo is called "the ganada order" (가나다順), named after the first three consonant jamo of the arrangement (g, n, and d) affixed to the first vowel (a). They were named by Choi Sejin in 1527. North Korea has later changed the jamo names.
Consonant jamo names
The modern consonants have two-syllable names, with the consonant coming at the beginning and end of the name, as follows:
|Letter||South Korean Name||North Korean name|
|ㄱ||giyeok (기역)||gieuk (기윽)|
|ㄷ||digeut (디귿)||dieut (디읃)|
|ㅅ||siot (시옷)||sieut (시읏)|
All but three jamo are named in the format of letter + i + eu + letter (note that in North Korea there are no exceptions; all jamo are of the aforementioned form). For example, t is tieut. The "letter + i" component makes up the first syllable, and "eu + letter" the second. For example, Choi writes bieup as 非 (bi) and 邑 (eup). The jamo g, d, and s are exceptions because there are no Hanja for euk, eut, and eus. Yeok (役) is used in place of euk. And since there is no Hanja that end in t and s, Choi chose two Hanja to be read in the native Korean gloss: 末 (kkeut "end") and 衣 (os "clothes"). Originally, Choi gave j, ch, k, t, p, and h the irregular one-syllable names of ji, chi, ki, ti, pi, and hi. But they were changed to the present regular forms in 1933.
The double consonants precede the parent consonant's name with the word ssang (쌍), meaning "twin" or "double", or with doen (된) in North Korea, meaning "strong". Thus:
|Letter||South Korean Name||North Korean name|
|ㄲ||ssanggiyeok (쌍기역)||doengieuk (된기윽)|
|ㄸ||ssangdigeut (쌍디귿)||doendieut (된디읃)|
|ㅃ||ssangbieup (쌍비읍)||doenbieup (된비읍)|
|ㅆ||ssangsiot (쌍시옷)||doensieut (된시읏)|
|ㅉ||ssangjieut (쌍지읒)||doenjieut (된지읒)|
In North Korea, an alternative way to refer to the jamo is by the name letter + eu (ㅡ), for example, 그 (geu) for the jamo ㄱ, 쓰 (sseu) for the jamo ㅆ, etc.
Vowel jamo names
The vowels' names are simply the syllable formed by taking the letter ㅇ (ieung) and adding the vowel being named. Thus:
The original additional jamo, called archaic or obsolete, are:
- ㆍ or 丶 (arae-a or araea 아래 아): Pronounced as (IPA ʌ, similar to eo.
- Typically seen on its own, or in the syllable ㆎ (area-ae) The word for "Hanja" was originally written using this letter.
- ㅿ (bansios, 반시옷) [z] (If your browser doesn't show it, the letter looks like an equilateral triangle.)
- ㆆ (yeorinhieuh, 여린히읗 or 된이응 "light hieuh" or "doubled ieung") [glottal fricative/stop]: "lighter than ㅎ and harsher than ㅇ".
- ㆁ (yetieung, 옛이응) [ŋ]: Now merged into ㅇ (ieung), it is the traditional symbol for [ŋ]. With some computer fonts, yetieung is shown as a less round version of ieung. The proper way of representing yetieung, however, is by showing a long peak, longer than what you would see on a serif version of ieung.
In addition, there are two obsolete derived (in form) jamo representing one single sound:
- ㅸ (gabyeoun bieup, 가벼운 비읍) [β]
- ㆅ (ssanghieuh, 쌍히읗) [xʲ]
Modified versions of the dental consonants existed to denote two kinds of dentals used in Chinese language: plain dental and retroflex. Plain dentals have longer left stems, while retroflexes have longer right stems.
|Chidu-eum (plain dental)||ᄼ||ᄽ||ᅎ||ᅏ||ᅔ|
|Jeongchi-eum (retroflex dental)||ᄾ||ᄿ||ᅐ||ᅑ||ᅕ|
The sounds that these "obsolate jamo" respresent, however, are still present in regional dialects.
To be able to be pronounced, some Hangul jamo must form blocks together, sometimes called "characters". Each Hangul block is a syllable consisting of two to three jamo (simple or cluster). The modern pattern is consonant + medial + (consonant). If a syllable ends with a vowel, then the syllable-final jamo is omitted altogether in writing. If a syllable starts with a vowel, however, ㅇ (ieung) is used as a filler instead of omitting the syllable-initial jamo. This is sensible, since modern Korean lacks a syllable-initial [N].
- Two jamo: an initial + a medial (vowel)
- Three jamo: an initial + a medial (vowel) + a final
The placement, or stacking, of jamo in the block follow set patterns:
- Syllables that end in a vowel are written either vertically or horizontally, depending on the vowel.
- Vertical jamo: initial left of the vertical vowel: →
- Horizontal jamo: initial on top of the horizontal vowel: ↓
- The zero initial is called a "placeholder", as regard to patterns
- batchim (받침 – "supporting floor") When a syllable has an additional jamo (final), it adds to the above pattern, with the final at the bottom ("floor"):
- Syllables which have a vertical vowel and end in a final are written clockwise.
- Syllables which have a horizontal vowel and end in a final are written in a vertical stack.
There once were over 2,500 Hangul blocks, many of which have been eliminated. One of the deleted ones is ㅵ (bsd), entirely consonantal.
There was a very minor movement in the twentieth century to abolish syllabic blocks and write the jamo individually in a row. This would be difficult to read, because syllable ambiguity arises, namely, it becomes unclear when a syllable ends and another begins. Presumably the abolishment of syllabic blocks would necessitate inserting spaces in between all syllables. However, spaces are already presently employed in the Korean script to separate words. (See Writing) This movement has gained very little support.
Until the 20th century, no orthography of Hangul had been established. Due to liaison, heavy consonant assimilation, dialectical variants and other reasons, a Korean word can be spelt in several different ways. King Sejong seemed to prefer morphophonemic spelling rather than phonemic one. However, since it was mainly used by uneducated people, Hangul was dominated by phonemic and inconsistent spelling.
After much trial and error, the Japanese Government-General of Chosen established the writing style of a mixture of Hanja and Hangul, modeled on the Japanese writing system. The government revised the rule for spelling in 1912, 1921 and 1930, which was relatively phonemic.
The Hangul Society, originally found by Ju Si-gyeong, announced a proposal for a new morphophonemic orthography in 1933, which became the prototype of the contemporary orthographies in the North and South. After Korea was divided, the North and South revised orthographies separately. The guiding text for Hangul orthography is the called the Hangul Matchumbeop, whose last South Korean revision was published in 1988 by the Ministry of Education.
Hangul can be written both horizontally and vertically. The latter method is traditional, akin to the Chinese style. The former style was promoted by Ju Si-gyeong, and has become overwhelmingly preferred.
Hangul's first appearance was in Hunmin Jeongeum, the 14th-century book that first described the script. At that time, Hangul were printed in lines of even thickness and without short serifs (beginning brushstrokes). This style can be found in books published before about 1900, and also today when Hangul is carved in stone (on statues, for example).
Over the centuries, as people slowly began to use Hangul and write it by hand, an ink-brush style developed, and calligraphers employed the same style of the lines and bending angles as they did in writing Chinese characters, to achieve a similar look. (This style is called Myeongjo in Korean, a translation of the Chinese Mingcho, which name is used to describe a Chinese computer font today.) The Myeongjo style is used today in the body of books, newspapers, and magazines. Some computer fonts, such as Mac Korean, reflect the ink-brush style.
In longhand writing, ink brushes have given way to ballpoint pens, and a square style has once again emerged. This style (lines of equal width and few curves) is widespread in computers, and most Web browsers have a square font like Microsoft GulimChe as their default, leading to a large amount of text that is now read and written in non-calligraphic fonts.
Pronunciation of the Hangul writing is occasionally not based strictly on Hangul jamo, but also follow specific irregular phonetic rules (see Korean language#Phonology). Until the twentieth century, Hangul was written in the surface form (as is pronounced), but now it is written in the deep form (as is etymologically).
- The Korean Ministry of Culture and Tourism's article on Hangul
- Hangul lessons
- List of syllables and Romanization: Wikisource
- Browser and Hangul
- Description of Hangul
- Korean alphabet and pronunciation
- Jamo in Unicode (177 KByte PDF)
- Hangul syllables (7 MByte PDF)
- The Revised Romanization of Korean
- Korean language
- Korean language and computers
- writing system
- Korean romanization
- Languages of China
- List of Korea-related topics