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Invention of Hangeul

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Individual Letters of hangeul and Its Principles

‘Hunminjeongeum’ the original of Hangeul, was created by the following principles and those two principles clearly show the superiority of Hangeul.

1. The inventor reproduce the shapes of letters from the shapes of pronunciation organs and three materials: sky, earth, and human.

2. The rest of letters were made based on the several basic letters to enhance its systematic feature.

The composition of Hangeul

Hangeul is a phonemic writing system, and it consists of letters for consonants and vowels. Unlike general phonemic writing systems such as the Roman Alphabet, it was uniquely designed to combine consonant letters and vowel letters into syllabic units. Because of this, we can say that it has something in common with syllabic writing systems.

The current spelling system of Hangeul is based on a draft for unified Hangeul spelling system proposed by Chosun Language Institution in 1933. This was partly revised in 1988 but, the basic features remain almost the same. Hangeul consists of consonant letters and vowels letters. Even though Hangeul is a phonemic writing, its letters are uniquely composed in a syllable unit.

For example, a word, ‘꿀벌(bee)’ is written like '꿀벌' not like 'ㄲ ㅜ ㄹ ㅂㅓㄹ'. The syllable as a letter is divided into three positions: the initial sound, the medial sound, and the final consonant. Any one among 19 consonant letters can be an initial sound. 'ㅇ’ among those 19 letters does not have a sound. For example, in case of '우유(milk)', two 'ㅇ’s are just there filling the space without making any sound in '우’ and ‘유’. Any one among 21 vowel letters can be a medial sound. One out of 16 single consonant letters and 11 double consonant letters can fill the final consonant location.

1. Basic Consonants and Vowels (24 letters)

Basic Consonants and Vowels (24 letters) = Consonants(14 letters) + Vowels(10 letters)

Basic Consonants and Vowels
Consonants Vowels
Letter Pronunciation Letter Pronunciation
giyeok a
nieun ya
digeut eo
rieul yeo
mieum o
bieup yo
siot u
ieung yu
jieut eu
chieut l i
2. Compound Consonants and Vowels (16 letters)

Compound Consonants and Vowels(16 letters)=Consonants(5 letters)+Vowels(11 letters)

Compound Consonants and Vowels
Consonants Vowels
Letter Pronunciation Composition Letter Pronunciation Composition
ssang-giyeok ㄱ+ㄱ ae ㅏ+ㅣ
ssang-digeut ㄱ+ㄱ yae ㅑ+ㅣ
ssang_bieup ㅂ+ㅂ e ㅓ+ㅣ
ssang-siot ㅅ+ㅅ ye ㅕ+ㅣ
ssang_jieut ㅈ+ㅈ wa ㅗ+ㅏ
wae ㅗ+ㅐ
oe ㅗ+ㅣ
wo ㅜ+ㅓ
we ㅜ+ㅓ+ㅣ
wi ㅜ+ㅣ
ui ㅡ+ㅣ
3. Hangeul Spelling System:

The initial sound letters
ㄱ ㄴ ㄷ ㄹ ㅁ ㅂ ㅅ ㅇ ㅈ ㅊ ㅋ ㅌ ㅍ ㅎ ㄲ ㄸ ㅃ ㅆ ㅉ ( 19 letters )

The medial sound letters
ㅏ ㅑ ㅓ ㅕ ㅗ ㅛ ㅜ ㅠ ㅡ ㅣ ㅐ ㅒ ㅔ ㅖ ㅘ ㅙ ㅚ ㅝ ㅞ ㅟ ㅢ ( 21 letters )

The final consonant letters
Single final consonant : ㄱ ㄴ ㄷ ㄹ ㅁ ㅂ ㅅ ㅇ ㅈ ㅊ ㅋ ㅌ ㅍ ㅎ ㄲ ㅆ ( 16 letters )
Double final consonant : ㄳ ㄵ ㄶ ㄺ ㄻ ㄼ ㄽ ㄾ ㄿ ㅀ ㅄ ( 11 letters )

The National Institute of the Korean Language