Understanding Korea materials - Hangeul: Appendix/Various Hypotheses on the Creation of Hunminjeongeum
|Understanding Korea Series No.1|
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|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)|
Various Hypotheses on the Creation of Hunminjeongeum
There had been several hypotheses regarding the invention of Hunminjeongeum, particularly on the shapes of its letters until the discovery of Hunminjeongeum haerye explaining its letter design principle and method. Its origins variously included imitating an ancient script, the Old seal script, Sanskrit, the Phags-pa script, and even inspiration by Korean traditional window lattice. The most durable hypothesis among them insisted Hunminjeongeum’s relevance to the Phags-pa script.
Phags-pa script was the Mongol Empire’s official script created by a monk named Phags-pa, commissioned by the Yuan Dynasty’s Kublai Khan. Since its promulgation in 1269, it had been used in the official documents of the Yuan Dynasty, but it died out with the latter’s demise. This script was phonetic, based on the Tibetan and modified to fit Mongolian.
The hypothesis regarding the connection between the Phags-pa script and Hunminjeongeum stemmed from the similarities found in the shape of few characters of the two scripts. This was originally claimed by Yi Ik (1681~1763), a Silhak philosopher, in his book Seongho saseol and was reasserted by Gari K. Ledyard in 1966. Based on the statement “the letters [of Hunminjeongeum] were created after the Old Seal Script,” Ledyard argued that the Old Seal Script here referred to the Mongol seal script, namely the Phags-pa script. He cross-compared Phags-pa and Hunminjeongeum as shown in the table below, and claimed that the basic consonants of Hunminjeongeum were ㄱ, ㄷ, ㅂ, ㅈ, and ㄹ.
|Phags-pa script||Letter shape|
There are a few problems with this claim. Among the 38 Phags-pa scripts and 28 characters of Hunminjeongeum, he made comparisons only with those indicated in this table. Furthermore, he argued that the basic consonants were ㄱ, ㄷ, ㅂ, ㅈ, and ㄹ, but Hunminjeongeum haerye explains that the basic consonants of Hunminjeongeum are ㄱ, ㄴ, ㅁ, ㅅ, and ㅇ.
These hypotheses assert Hunminjeongeum’s similarity to various scripts that existed in East Asia at the time of the writing system’s invention. When Hunminjeongeum haerye was not available as a reference, these hypotheses were formed based upon the phrase, “the letters [of Hunminjeongeum] were created after the Old Seal Script.” which appears in a few records. After the discovery of Hunminjeongeum haerye, which clearly explains the letter design principle of Hunminjeongeum, however, all of these hypotheses were no longer convincing.
|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