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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 12 secondsHello everyone. In the past two classes we have covered the principle of Hangeul’s character creation. Hangeul’s basic characters were made following the principle of image modeling. The rest of the characters were made by the principle of adding strokes. This class we will explore all the rest of the characters. In Korean pronunciation, there are some consonant sounds where you have to tense the speech organ muscles in order to pronounce them. These are called “double consonants” or “strong consonant sounds.” There are characters to represent these double consonants. Let’s take a look. The double consonant [ㄲ] uses the same speech organ as [ㄱ] but, the muscles are tensed more to pronounce [ㄲ].

Skip to 1 minute and 14 secondsThe pronunciation of the [ㄱ] sound (written as ‘ㄱ’) is amplified to make the [ㄲ] sound. Therefore the double consonant sound [ㄲ] of the [ㄱ] sound is written by doubling ‘ㄱ’. The double consonant of ‘ㄱ’ is written as ‘ㄲ’. Likewise, the double consonant sound [ㄸ] is pronounced by using the same speech organs as [ㄷ], but the muscles are tensed more than [ㄷ] to pronounce it. Therefore the double consonant sound of [ㄷ] (written as ‘ㄷ’) is [ㄸ], and it is written by doubling ‘ㄷ’ to form ‘ㄸ’. The rest of the double consonants are the same. The double consonant pronunciation [ㅃ] is the double consonant sound of [ㅂ] (written as ‘ㅂ’) and it looks like ‘ㅃ’.

Skip to 2 minutes and 10 secondsThe double consonant pronunciation [ㅆ] is the double consonant sound of [ㅅ] (written as ‘ㅅ’) and it looks like ‘ㅆ’. The double consonant pronunciation [ㅉ] is the double consonant sound of [ㅈ] (written as ‘ㅈ’) and it looks like ‘ㅉ’. Therefore the ‘ㄱ, ㄷ, ㅂ, ㅅ, ㅈ’ characters are written side-by-side to form the ‘ㄲ, ㄸ, ㅃ, ㅆ, ㅉ’ characters. There are all formed writing the basic characters side-by-side, applying the principle of double consonant letters. The principle of Hangeul’s character creation is characterized by first creating the basic characters, and then either adding strokes or combining them create new characters. The same principles exist in modern science or math. Furthermore the shapes of the characters have phonetic and phonemic characteristics.

Skip to 3 minutes and 16 secondsThe consonants with the same place of articulation share the same basic character shapes. For example the sounds that are created by the back of the tongue getting closer to the back of the roof of the mouth are expressed by derivations of the basic character ‘ㄱ’. The [ㄱ] sound is written as ‘ㄱ’. And the tongue is tensed more in the same place of articulation to pronounce [ㄲ] which is written as ‘ㄲ’. Releasing air harder out of the same place of articulation to pronounce the [ㅋ] sound is written as ‘ㅋ’. All these are derived from the basic character ‘ㄱ’.

Skip to 4 minutes and 0 secondsThe sounds pronounced from the same place of articulation are all formed by adding strokes to basic characters (Principle of adding strokes) or writing the basic characters side-by-side (Principle of double consonants). There is no precedent in the history of alphabets where the basic characters are modeled after the speech organs and the rest of the characters are made based off the basic characters. For example the shapes of Roman characters do not reflect the sound (phoneme) of the characters. Furthermore, the shapes of the ‘g’ and ‘k’ letters do not have any relation to how their sounds (phonemes). However, in Hangeul, related sounds are written in a similar way. This is the reason why Hangeul is unique and scientific compared to other alphabets.

Skip to 5 minutes and 5 secondsIn other words one Hangeul character represents one phoneme. Hangeul characters are phonemic characters, but Hangeul has unusual properties of phonemic characters. The consonant and vowel characters all show consistent relations. ‘ㅋ’ and ‘ㄲ’ are not unrelated, but rather are derived by adding a stroke to and doubling the basic character ‘ㄱ’. Considering the systematic features of Hangeul, there are some academics who say it is not simply a phonemic writing system, but a new category called a featural writing system. In featural writing systems the characters reflect the sounds of the characters; it is considered to be the most developed and advanced system of writing of all the ones humans have created.

Skip to 6 minutes and 8 secondsOver the past three classes we have covered the principle of Hangeul’s character creation. We learned that Hangeul was created based on phonetic and phonemic knowledge. At the time of its creation, there was already knowledge of phonemes and discernment of the commonalities and differences between sounds. Hangeul was created based on this type of knowledge. The British linguist G. Sampson said, “Hangeul must be unquestionably ranked as one of the greatest intellectual achievements of humankind.” Through today’s class I hope you understand better why Hangeul is evaluated so highly. This concludes today’s lesson.

Principles of Hangeul’s Character Creation 3

The principle of Hangeul’s character creation is characterized by first creating the basic characters, and then either adding strokes or combining them create new characters.

The consonant and vowel characters all show consistent relations.

ㄱ - ㄲ - ㅋ Hangeul’s character creation is characterized by first creating the basic characters, and then either adding strokes or combining them create new characters.

The consonant and vowel characters all show consistent relations.


[KEY WORDS]

ㄲ(쌍기역), ㄸ(쌍디귿), ㅃ(쌍비읍), ㅆ(쌍시옷), ㅉ(쌍지읒)

ㄱ - ㄲ - ㅋ

ㄷ - ㄸ - ㅌ

ㅂ - ㅃ - ㅍ

ㅅ - ㅆ

ㅈ - ㅉ - ㅊ

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This video is from the free online course:

The Korean Alphabet: An Introduction to Hangeul

Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU)