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This content is taken from the Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU) 's online course, The Korean Alphabet: An Introduction to Hangeul. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 10 secondsHello everyone! Last class we covered what Hangeul, the Korean alphabet, is. In this class we will explore Hangeul’s characteristics. When we use language, written language is equally important as spoken language. Characters and symbols greatly influence us. Countless symbols surround our daily lives. Every day we meet, analyze, and use a variety of symbols. Of these, the most representative symbol is the written language. Today we will explore the different types of written languages, what kind of language Hangeul is, and what Hangeul’s characteristics are. You can express spoken language in various ways using characters. There are two kinds of language characters used around the world. There are broadly two kinds of characters, and they are classified by whether they express sound or meaning.

Skip to 1 minute and 27 secondsOf course not all characters are divided neatly into these two types. One type of character can have the characteristics of multiple language categories. Now let’s look at the characteristics of different characters. Let’s look at characters that express meaning. One of the best known examples of this type is Hanja (Chinese characters), used in China. 95% of Chinese characters are a combination of meaning and sound. In other words, Chinese characters are ‘meaning + sound.’ Look at this first example. The Chinese character ‘江’ (river) is formed by combining characters that express meaning and sound to create one character. In this type of character, the character itself is associated with meaning. Next let’s look at characters that express sound.

Skip to 2 minutes and 33 secondsThese are also broadly divided into two types. The first are characters that express syllables. The second are characters that express phonemes. The former is called a syllabic character and the latter is called a phonemic character. Let’s look at syllabic characters. Syllabic characters are made of syllable units of sound the speaker recognizes. A syllable is a unit of pronunciation having one vowel and one consonant sound. The Kana Japanese alphabet is an example of syllabic characters. For example, the character ‘ま’ expresses the sound [ma]. One character contains the combination of the [m] and [a] sound. People who use Japanese recognize the unit of sound that combines [m] and [a] as one sound and express it as one character.

Skip to 3 minutes and 50 secondsNext let’s look at phonemic characters. A phonemic character is when one phoneme corresponds with one character. A phoneme is the shortest unit of sound. Consonants and vowels are usually phonemes. Usually vowels or vowels + consonants combine to form one syllable. The English alphabet and Hangeul are examples of phonemic characters. Hangeul can be written in phonemic units. For example the sound [mal] is composed of characters ‘ㅁ-ㅏ-ㄹ’ that each represent a phoneme. If you write these as syllabic unit, it becomes 말 You can see there is a character for each phoneme. Hangeul characters are phonemic characters where there is a character for each phoneme. When Korean is spoken, the speech is analyzed by phonemic units, and each phoneme corresponds with a character.

Skip to 5 minutes and 13 secondsIn this lesson we covered the different types of languages and learned that with Hangeul you can write characters for each of the phonemes. The language you use will also belong to one of the language types we covered today. We learned Korean is a phonemic alphabet. I’d like you to think about which type your language belongs to. You can now determine how your language is different from other languages, and what type of language it is. This is the end of the class. Thank you and see you next time.

Characteristics of Hangeul

Hangeul can be written in phonemic units.

Hangeul characters are phonemic characters where there is a character for each phoneme.

When Korean is spoken, the speech is analyzed by phonemic units, and each phoneme corresponds with a character.


[KEY WORDS]

ㅁ + ㅏ + ㄹ → 말[mal]

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This video is from the free online course:

The Korean Alphabet: An Introduction to Hangeul

Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU)