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How Korean was developed!

Discussion in '한국어 (Korean)' started by ShakeyX, Dec 19, 2012.

  1. ShakeyX Senior Member

    British English
    Okay I'll try and word this best I can with the limited knowledge I have. I have tried to read about the development of hangul on wikipedia but it doesn't really put how it happened in perspective, just says very vague things such as "Korean language originally used Chinese Hanzi..."

    So my question is. First of all, we have Korean language with no written system just the spoken. Then they take the Chinese characters... how? Do they take the symbols randomly for there own use? Do the symbols in fact have the same meaning between languages but Koreans assigned their own language (sounds) to each symbol... I am just trying to figure out how it worked.

    Then how did this become Hangul... did they make an alphabet which worked around the sounds for each word and then rewrite each in this...

    I hope you understand what I'm trying to ask, I just don't understand practically how this happened.

  2. Although it is said that we used the specific Chinese alphabets(향찰/이두;borrowed only alphabets of chinese, not their meaning) in accordance with our verbal sound we don’t know how they were made and how to decipher those random arrangements. Because unfortunately, reading method was not handed down and was only used for personal records, therefore, we cannot interpret those patterns now.

    In 1443, King Sejong and his scholars made Hangul for ordinary people to write in Korean, considering its sound. They classified the units of our spoken sound and combined those units appropriately. Indeed before that, and later that, only very small proportion of the population had an education, and most Koreans were illiterate. Because, for a long time, Korea had been strictly a hierarchical society, and only royal family and noble people were needed to use Chinese alphabets(한문; shared grammar and meaning of authentic Chinese) for diplomacy with China, and for their knowledge. Hence, using Chinese alphabets indicated their social degree. (We suppose nobles were all bilingual. They could speak both Korean and Chinese)

    Despite the advent of our alphabet Hangul, nobles thought using Hangul was vulgar and not necessary because at that time, all books they read were written by Chinese alphabets, all publishments were made by Chinese alphabets and all educated people only wrote, using Chinese.. and China was very powerful in Asia. However, after spreading Hangul to ordinary people, Hangul was used for governing the country. They published books of Buddhism, farming, literature, duty…etc..

    Anyway, the basic symbols are maintained but some symbols and grammar has been changed. Even Master degree students who study classics also struggle, when they read books published in 17C.

    chronological table

    .........................................long time a go-----------------15c-----------------------------------------------19c---------------20c----------------------------21c

    Verbal language: ........................Korean ......Korean .......Korean.......... Korean.......... Korean...... Korean........ Korean......... Korean..................................koream

    Written Korean:................,,.... not exist...... not exist........ Hangul........... Hangul.......... Hangul......... Hangul....... Hangul....... Hangul...............................Hangul
    for ordinary people

    Written language............ chinese alphabet(한문) ..chinese alphabet(한문) ..chinese alphabet(한문). chinese alphabet(한문)....... CA+ Hangul...... CA + Hangul... Hangul

    Written for Korean: ....... chinese alphabet(향찰/이두)..................... chinese alphabet(향찰/이두)+Hangul by few people
    by some educated.....................................................................................................향찰/이두 was disappeared
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2012
  3. Rance Senior Member

    Superhero gave nice summary along with timeline. ^_^

    But quick question to Superhero, are you referring to 집현전 학자 when you say his elites? Because they were the core group to oppose against .
    Also Hangul was only invention among all others during his era that is described with word 친제 親制(meaning King Himself made it).
    It's likely he invented with some help from his princes but not his scholars/elites.

    Also I think biliterate is probably better term than bilingual as pronunciation of Chinese characters were different.
  4. The thing is the great achievement was usually attributed to the king although some people had got involved. Considering objection to making hangul, King Sejong had to put forward his name. (anyway I think this controversial interpretation is not important to explain how korean was developed and also we cannot figure out whether he made alone or with other scholars)
  5. Rance Senior Member

    I didn't think that was that controversial, but that's minor issue for this thread.

    Anyhow to ShakeyX:

    To give some idea how Chinese characters were used to write Korean, I can probably use how Chinese people use their characters to write English.

    Although there are probably more than 100.000 characters, there are definitely more than 100,000 stuff to describe in the world, one of them being Coca Cola.
    Instead of creating new word for it to add another level of complexity, Chinese instead started to use the sound of the characters to write foreign words.

    可口可乐, Kěkǒu Kělè

    It literally means "good to drink and will make you happy" which doesn't necessarily mean Coca Cola(it probably has good commercial effect, I guess).
    Regardless of meaning, its pronunciation closely match to Coca Cola, hence above phrase refers to Coca Cola.

    Likewise before Hangul, we borrowed the sound of each Chinese characters to write Korean.
    There probably were some rules on how to do it which I'm no expert of.
    So idea was if we were just borrowing the sound, it would be better to use simpler and more intuitive alphabets.

    Example of borrowed words(underlined)

    After swapping borrowed words with hangul
    蠶딴 陽物이온들쓰아 水氣을 厭却 桑葉뿐 喫破하고 飲水안들
    (from wiki)

    You can probably tell which looks simpler.
    Or it may look the same for you, but if you consider the fact that there are many many similar looking Chinese characters unlike Hangul, it's definitely less confusing for Koreans
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2012
  6. wildsunflower Senior Member

    Korean & English (Canada)
    Would you explain how Chinese characters are used in Japanese? I understand that the grammar rules of Japanese is similar to the Korean ones. It may help to understand how the old Korean used Chinese characters for the Korean language. Also, I do not think it could have been possible to use "the specific Chinese alphabets(향찰/이두;borrowed only alphabets of Chinese, not their meaning) in accordance with our verbal sound". Because there are Korean words borrowed from Chinese not only for the sound but also for the meaning. For example, "밥" is a pure Korean word, but Korean also has "진지" – a Korean word borrowed from the Chinese equivalent. (I am sorry I do not know the Chinese characters.) Its sound is similar to the original Chinese word whose meaning is "밥" in Korean. This is the same with "건배". Koreans write "건배", but it is originally a Chinese word, which was converted into a Korean word. Please correct me, if I am wrong. Lastly, is 향찰/이두 different from 한문? Thanks.
  7. I don't know Japanese, sorry. 향찰/이두 is completely different from what you thnk. We only have 25 poems(향가) written in 향찰/이두 and nobody has found their rules or meaning. What we can do is just guessing. So.. yes, 향찰/이두 is different from 한문.
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2012
  8. Rance Senior Member

    You are probably in wrong forum to ask. I'm sure Japanese forum can probably help much better.
    But from little I know on Japanese, they got more complex system in terms of using Chinese characters.
    To simply put, you can read Chinese characters at least in two different ways.

    For example:
    星 means star and is read as hosi.
    But when used in 金星(Venus, or golden star) it's pronounced as kin-sei.
    And when in comes down reading Chinese characters used in Japanese names, things get worse.
  9. wildsunflower Senior Member

    Korean & English (Canada)
    I am still puzzled about the use of Chinese characters in Korean. Nevertheless, thank you for the explanations. I wish you a wonderful new year.
  10. youngbuts Senior Member

    In the ancient period there seems not to have been a written language for Korean as long as we can figure out. But there was a spoken language for Korean that is completely different from Chinese. For example, now Philiphines takes English as their offcicail language for their written language and most officail documentaries are written in English. But as you know, Philiphines consists of many islands, and each island has several tribes and each tribe has each own spoken language. However, most of them don't have a written language form for their spoken language. That's why they choose English as their official written language.

    In the ancient period, Korean was in that kind of situation. So our ancestors borrowed chinsese characters, which had already been spread in Korea by the books about Confusm and Budhism. I heard in western-medieval period, Latin was used as an offcial written language in many countries, even though it is very different from English, Franch and German. Anyway, after a while, English started to take its alphbet form from Latin and Greek, and began to be wrriten on papers as it was spoken. I think it could relatively easy for English, becuase Latin and Egnlish both are phonogram. But it was not easy for Korean because Chinses is ideogram but Korean is a phonogram.

    The differnce between the spoken language and the written language brought out many inconveniences to our ancestors. For example, we can think of (Korean pronounces it as 국, and Chnese pronounces it their way differently from ours. We have different sounds for the same Chinese charater that means a nation.) At that time Korean already had a Korean word meaning for a nation. It is 나라(nala). Even though 國(guk) and Nala had a similar meaning, they are different. Guk was from Chinese but Nala was from original Korean. So Our ancerstors tried to make their phonograms, and some of them were 이두 and 향찰. But their form was taken from the basic letters in Chinese characters, which is uaually called '부수(Busu)'. ( As long as I know, Japanese alphabet was made this way.) One Chinese character could be broken into more basic letters. For example, consists of many more basic letters. , etc. So Korean ancestors took them and gave them a sepcific and fixed sound, and started to use them as their phonogram alphabet.

    But I think it could not work well becuase they are different. Actually Chinese can not have an alphabet system as phongrams have. So though our ancestors broke down complex Chinese characters into more simple forms, which could be used more easily in their daily life and tried to use them expressing Korean sounds, I think they could not match well with each others becuae they are different in their nature.

    The one who knew this problem well was 세종대왕 who is considered to invent 한글(Hangul). (I don't think he made 한글 by himself. Probalbly his scholars made it. But he supported them with long patience and effort. And there are many evidences that 세종 was an expert on linguistics and music. Anyway..) 한글 is not the result of a day or a year. It is the result of long research for phoentics for decades. While they invented 한글, they considered what is most convinient forms to write, and how they can give a consistency even to the forms of the alphabet letters. As a result, they invented a totally independant writing system from Chinese. That overcame the limit 이두 and 향찰 had.

    As many English words are from Latin, Greek, and German whether English native speakers notice them, many Korean words are from Chinese and we obviously notice them. Becuase 한글 is one of phonograms but Chinsese is an ideogram. That's why we needed our writing system, our alphabet. 세종 and his scholars made it totally new, independantly from any previous languages.

    I hope you forgive me about my poor English. It is my best.
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2013
  11. wildsunflower Senior Member

    Korean & English (Canada)
    Thank you, youngbuts. Your explanation is clear to me. I appreciate it.

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