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Let's learn about Korean alphabet, 한글

How was the Hanguel created? 

The Korean alphabet is called 'Hangeul.' Each letter in Hangeul indicates an individual sound or phoneme. Hangeul is an alphabetic system created by King Sejong in 1443 during the Joseon Dynasty. It was initially called 'Hunmingeongeum' and means the 'right sound to teach the common people.' 

Before that time, Korean had an oral language but not a native alphabet; Chinese characters, which were sometimes modified according to the structure of Korean sounds, were used. However, it needed to be better suited to the Korean structure, and it made writing very inconvenient.

Therefore, King Sejong conducted linguistic research to develop an alphabet that matched the structure of Korean and was easy to learn and write. 

How did they make the vowels?

The shape of the vowels is based on the three principal factors of the universe: 

The sky ( • ), earth (ㅡ), and people (ㅣ). 

These three shapes are combined alone to form the 21 vowels.

  • Single vowels : ㅏ ㅓ ㅗ ㅜ ㅡ l ㅐ ㅔ (8)

  • Diphthongs: ㅑ ㅕ ㅛ ㅠ ㅒ ㅖ ㅘ ㅙ ㅚ ㅝ ㅞ ㅟ ㅢ (13)

Korean vowels can be used alone or with other consonants to form syllables. 

When used alone, the silent consonant 'ㅇ' is attached before a vowel as a placeholder to complete the syllable.

How did they make the consonants?

There are five basic consonants in Korean. Consonants are made by copying the shape of a person's vocal organs. Furthermore, they added strokes to these basic consonants to make other consonants. Each consonant in Korean goes with a vowel.

Here are five basic consonants. 

  • Giyeok(ㄱ) is created by imitating the shape of the lingual root blocking the throat. 

  • Nieun(ㄴ) is created by imitating the shape of the tongue when its tip touches the upper gums. 

  • Mieum(ㅁ) is the shape of the lips put together, then apart.

  • Siot(ㅅ) is the shape of the front tooth.

  • Ieung(o) is created by imitating the shape of a throat.

Other consonants were created by adding stokes. There are 19 consonants. Each consonant in Korean goes with a vowel.

  • ㄱ ㅋ ㄲ

  • ㄴ ㄷ ㅌ ㄸ (ㄹ)

  • ㅁ ㅂ ㅍ ㅃ

  • ㅅ ㅈ ㅊ ㅆ ㅉ

  • ㅇ ㅎ


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