Korean writing (cf. hangeul / wikipedia ) is an alphabetic and syllabic script.
Korean writing is very recent and modern. The most remarkable is its effectiveness.
Structure of writing
The hangeul uses an alphabet and a syllabic system: the sentence is written horizontally from left to right, the words are separated by spaces, the words are cut into syllables (until then everything is fine), but the syllables are written with letters arranged vertically and in blocks.
Each syllable is thus constituted of a Consonant-Vowel (CV) or Consonant-Vowel-Consonant (CVC).
Thus, Samsung is written in Korean:
which could be transcribed approximately :
This method of writing has several considerable advantages:
- The separation of the syllables is immediate (one finds these disposition in the books of learning of the reading of english to the children)
- The pronunciation of the syllables is regular and stems from an unfailing logic.
- The learning of reading is therefore not only extremely rapid, but the major problem of linear writing has disappeared : the syllables are individualized, their easy reading gives directly the correct word.
The Transparency of Hangeul and Korean Writing
The notion of transparency of a language is a measure of the quality of the association ‘sound’ <==> ‘written coding’: this must be simple and perfectly bijective and there is only one interpretation one pronounces as it is written and reciprocally).
The Korean writing illustrates to the extreme the notion of quality of transparency of writing.
English (and French)is at the opposite extreme of this principle (cf for example this video ), with its complex alphabet, its accents, and its links. Not only is the separation of the syllables difficult, but the sound of the syllable depends on the context (cf. the word “seek”). Hence the difficulties of many English (and French) children in the reading of writing.
The result is impressive:
- Korean children learn to read a year before English or French children on average.
- Dyslexia is an almost unknown phenomenon in Korea.
- The notion of dictation for spelling is simple
- Teaching can only be devoted to the learning of knowledge.
This leads to a high efficiency of teaching and also of the economy that we see today.
A very eventful history
Beyond the technical characteristics, the story of the hangeul is so unusual and eventful that it is worth telling.
In 1392, Korea emerged from a troubled and complex period of 150 years of successive Mongolian and Chinese occupations.Korea then uses Chinese writing, the access of which was reserved for the scholars, but which did not allow the people to read the royal edicts. King Sejong the Great invents the Hangeul writing around 1443 to promote the literacy of the people and promulgated it in 1446. Much later, having been unable to have children of his first wife, he remarries and has a son Yeonsangun . His new wife, having a very possessive idea of the king, had the other concubines executed. But the latter, when discovering it, exiled his wife and then poisoned it.
A few years later, about 1494 , when his father died, Yeonsangun ascended the throne, and began to eliminate the old paternal entourage. Then he transformed the royal university into a palace of personal pleasures, and demolished the dwellings of 20,000 people to make it a hunting ground.As he learned the circumstances of his mother’s death, his authoritarianism worsens and he begins to reign by force and terror. The protest wins the people, who insults and mocks him with signs and posters written in Hangeul. This puts him in great fury and he banishes the Hangeul writing in 1504 , barely 60 after its creation. The bloodthirsty despot is finally dismissed from office two years later by a conspiracy, without regrets for anyone! Let’s jump over almost 400 years of complex history, where Korea is successively occupied in various capacities by Chinese and Mongolian, and finally Japanese. It was then in 1894 that the Hangeul writing was again put into use , under the impulse of the Japanese occupiers, to replace Chinese writing and the Chinese language. But this writing is again prohibited during the Japanese occupation from 1920 to 1945 , but used by the Koreans as an act of resistance.
It was only in 1945 after the end of World War II and the liberation of the country that it can finally be generalized and allow Korea to become the country with the highest literacy of the world.
Finally, Korea celebrates its alphabet on a national holiday on 9 October !
Can Korean writing be transposed to English?
The hangeul is perfectly adapted to the Korean language. English has more complex sounds (more consonants, accents), connections between words. As in German, there are sometimes successions of consonants or vowels (ex “Christian”) which do not allow the use of the hangeul as such. Finally in English culture, words are also etymological markers and complex spelling an intellectual marker … English remains a complex language and writing system. (cf video here )
Even if we would decide to change, we would also have to also review all word processing software, books, teaching … A major challenge!