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Yin and yang

Yang Vowels and Yin Vowels

This step we learned about the principles of creation behind Hangeul’s consonants and vowels. As we learned about the principles of vowel creation, we found out that there are characters which symbolize sky, land and human.

When creating the characters, King Sejong considered how they could best express sound, and took into account views on nature which were dominant at the time. The Neo-Confucian philosophy was prevalent during King Sejong’s time, and this philosophy explained Yin and Yang forces were opposing each other in the world. For example, day, sun, male, and sky are Yang (+) and night, moon, female and land are Yin (-).

The vowel character ‘ㆍ’ is modeled after the sky, so it is said have to Yang properties. On the other hand the vowel ‘ㅡ’ is modeled after the land so it has Yin characters. If ‘ㆍ’ is on top when combining ‘ㆍ’ and ‘ㅡ’ , the resulting vowels have Yang properties and are Yang vowels, and if ‘ㅡ’ is on top of the combination, the resulting characters have Yin properties and are called Yin vowels.

In fact, using a lot of Yang vowels gives you a bright and light feeling, and using many Yin vowels gives you a dark and heavy feeling. When you describe the sound of the waves with the onomatopoeia “chal-lang-chal-lang” versus “chool-loong-chool-long,” which one feels more heavy? The sound that uses the Yin vowel “chool-loong-chool-long” feels more heavy. This is how the sound of the vowel is reflected in its shape.

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This article is from the free online course:

The Korean Alphabet: An Introduction to Hangeul

Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU)