The Korean alphabet, known as Hangul, is truly one of the great achievements of human invention. Developed (1443) and promulgated (1446) by the Korean monarch Sejong (1397-1450) himself, this alphabet demonstrates principles of design so far ahead of its time that only now, more than 550 years after its invention, are its remarkable qualities beginning to be appreciated.
Long admired by linguists for its uncanny rational spirit, the Korean script is unique for its central idea of "rectification," exemplified by the official name of the Korean alphabet, Hwunmin Cengum, which means "The Orthophonic Alphabet for the Instruction of the People." The originator of Hwunmin Cengum (1443) and Hwunmin Cengum Haylyey (1446)—meaning "Explanations and Examples of the Orthophonic Alphabet for the Instruction of the People"—established a threefold correlation between the articulatory-acoustic patterns of the Korean alphabet and their corresponding letter shapes. In designing the graphemes, the originator ensured that each constituent graphic stroke was made to visualize and portray an associated articulatory-acoustic feature. The genius of this design lies not only in its lucidly rational structure but also in its use of a "generative rule" as its basis. This permits the design to develop an unlimited number of graphic shapes, thus offering universal applicability.
This superb scholarly edition by Korean language scholar Sek Yen Kim-Cho contains the original texts of Hwunmin Cengum and Hwunmin Cengum Haylyey (with photocopies of the originals in the appendices) and a complete, fully annotated translation in modern English. Beyond her analysis of historical texts, Dr. Kim-Cho critically expounds Sejong's design principle and also demonstrates that the Korean Orthophonic Alphabet is so versatile that it is ideally suited to promote and accelerate information processing and globalization as a universal script. Its great adaptability makes it a perfect multilingual transcribing system for voice-recognition and voice dictation.
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THE KOREAN ALPHABET OF 1446
Expositions of Hwunmin Cengum
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acoustic added affricate alveolar ridge articulatory-acoustic correlates Articulatory-Acoustic Information basic grapheme bilabial Ceng Chinese characters College of Assembled compilers constriction degraphed depicts and represents depicts the outline design principle diacritical mark diplogram distinctive features Entering Tone explicative rules extra strokes Five Agents frication glottal fricative graphic design graphic shape Hangul Heaven and Earth heavy aspiration homorganic Hwunmin Cengum incisor grapheme incisors increased harshness initially uttered phoneme invention King Sejong Korean alphabet Korean language labial labial grapheme labial innunciant laryngeal laryngeal grapheme letter shape lips mid-consonant structure nasal Neo-Confucian Number of frames occlusion Old Seal characters origin Orthophonic Alphabet palatal Pattern Phonetic symbol place of articulation produced rationale script segmental stroke semi-lingual Sino-Korean speech organs speech production speech sounds tense terminal throat Tone tongue tip turbulence Twelve Semi-tones twenty-eight letters unaspirated velum vocal fold vocal tract voiced voiceless vowels writing system Yin-Yang zero cipher