Understanding Korea materials - Hangeul: 3.3 The Phonological Features of the 28 Letters of Hunminjeongeum
|Understanding Korea Series No.1|
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|Appendix: Special Features of the Korean Alphabet(called Hunminjeoneum or Hangeul)||3) The Phonological Features of the 28 Letters of Hunminjeongeum||Appendix: The Philosophical Background of Hunminjeongeum|
3. The Creation of Hunminjeongeum
3) The Phonological Features of the 28 Letters of Hunminjeongeum
The phonological features of 17 consonants and 11 vowels of Hunminjeongeum are explained in Hunminjeongeum haerye. This book explains that the consonants are classified into molars, linguals, labials, incisors, laryngeals according to the places of articulation, and depending on their phonetic features, they are divided into wholly clear, partly clear, wholly muddy, neither clear nor muddy. These explanations of classifying consonants by the places of articulation and phonetic features are identical to modern phonology. From the latter point of view, it can be assumed that molars represent velar, labials represent bilabial, laryngeals represent glottal, linguals represent apical, and incisors represent dental sound. Wholly clear is plain or voiceless, partly clear is aspirated, wholly muddy is reinforcement/glottalization/tensity, and neither clear nor muddy is sonorant.
Additional explanation is required for wholly muddy. Hunminjeongeum haerye defined six characters ㄲ, ㄸ, ㅃ, ㅆ, ㅉ, and ㆅ as wholly muddy. These letters are geminates: doubling ㄱ, ㄷ, ㅂ, ㅅ, ㅈ, and ㅎ. They were not included in the 17 initial consonants and were chiefly used in the artificial readings of Chinese characters at the time of the invention of Hunminjeongeum. On very rare occasions, ㅆ and ㆅ were used in Korean transcriptions. There are also examples of ㄲ, ㄸ and ㅉ being used in Korean transcriptions, but the usage was extremely uncommon and strictly limited to the medial position of words.
The following table arranges the 17 consonants of Hunminjeangeum according to the classification methods explained in Hunminjeongeum haerye.
|Wholly clear||ㄱ[k]||ㄷ[t]||ㅂ[p]|| ㅈ[ts}
|Neither clear nor muddy||ㆁ[ŋ]||ㄴ[n]||ㅁ[m]||ㅇ[ɦ]||ㄹ[l]||ㅿ[z]|
According to Hunminjeongeum haerye’s explanation, vowels are classified by four criteria. First, does the tongue retract or not? Second, is the sound deep or shallow? Third, is the mouth contracted or spread? Finally, does it start with the vowel ㅣ[i]? The first and second criteria correspond to the basic vowels, ㆍ[ʌ], ㅡ[i], and ㅣ[i]’.
- With ㆍ, the tongue retracts and pronunciation is deep.
- With ㅡ, the retracts a little and pronunciation is neither deep nor shallow.
- With ㅣ, the tongue does not retract and pronunciation is shallow.
These can be inferred as vowel backness and vowel height, respectively, from the modern phonological point of view.
The second criterion explains ㅗ[o], ㅏ[a], ㅜ[u], and ㅓ[ə]. In modern phonology this may correspond to roundedness.
- ㅗ is the same as ㆍ, only the mouth is contracted.
- ㅏ is the same as ㆍ, only the mouth is spread.
- ㅜ is the same as ㅡ, only the mouth is contracted.
- ㅓ is the same as ㅡ, only the mouth is spread.
The third criterion explains ㅛ[yo], ㅑ[ya], ㅠ[yu], and ㅕ[yə]. In modern phonology, this may be inferred as the explanation for the features of diphthong.
- ㅛ is the same as ㅗ, only it arises from ㅣ.
- ㅑ is the same as ㅏ, only it arises from ㅣ.
- ㅠ is the same as ㅜ, only it arises from ㅣ.
- ㅕ is the same as ㅓ, only it arises from ㅣ.
The following Table arranges the 11 vowels of Hunminjeongeum after the classification methods explained in Hunminjeongeum haerye.
|Don't Retract||Retract A Little||Retract|
|Neither Deep Nor Shallow||ㅡ[i]|
- For further explanation on wholly muddy, refer to annotation 6 of Lee Ki-Moon & Ramsey (2011: 129).
- This method is called gakja byeongseo (Horizontal Doubling Combination of Same Consonants); refer to Section 3.4 for details
- The following translation regarding the explanation of vowels is from Lee Ki-Moon & Ramsey (2011: 120).
|Understanding Korea Series No.1 Hangeul|
3. The Creation of Hunminjeongeum · 3.1 King Sejong and Hunminjeongeum · Appendix: King Sejong and Jiphyeonjeon(The Academy of Worthies) · 3.2 The Design Principles of Hunminjeongeum Letters · Appendix: Various Hypotheses on the Creation of Hunminjeongeum · Appendix: Special Features of the Korean Alphabet(called Hunminjeoneum or Hangeul) · 3.3 The Phonological Features of the 28 Letters of Hunminjeongeum · Appendix: The Philosophical Background of Hunminjeongeum · 3.4 Letter Usage
4. Changes of Hangeul · 4.1 Changes in the Name: From Hunminjeongeum to Hangeul · 4.2 Changes of Letters
5. History of Hangeul Usage · 5.1 Records Written in Hangeul · 5.2 Establishment of Korean Orthography · Appendix: Korean Romanization · 5.3 The Script Reform: Mixed Script to Hangeul-only Script