Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 11th Oct 2013 23:54 UTC
In the News

Happy Hangul Day! October 9th is a South Korean national holiday held in honor of the invention of the Korean writing system, which experts have called the most "scientific" (also "ingenious," "rational," "subtle," "simple," "efficient," "remarkable") writing system ever devised.

It's a bit outside of OSNews' regular stuff (although not unheard of), but as a language specialist myself, Korean, and Hangul in particular, has fascinated me for quite a while now. In contrast to other writing systems, which have developed over centuries - or millennia - without clear guidance, Hangul was more or less designed and set in stone 600 years ago, specifically for the Korean language. It is an absolutely beautiful alphabet, with a clear structure, and a unique way of organising letters - they are grouped in square morpho-syllabic blocks. To the untrained eye, Hangul may resemble e.g. Chinese characters - however, each 'character' actually consists of several letters.

Even though I'm not a programmer myself, Im pretty sure those of you who are will find Hangul fascinating. Due to its structured nature, it's incredibly easy to learn - I taught myself to read and write Hangul in a matter of days - and once you do take a few hours to grasp the basics, you'll surely come to appreciate its innate beauty and structure.

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greatest alphabet?
by ozonehole on Sat 12th Oct 2013 03:31 UTC
ozonehole
Member since:
2006-01-07

I've spent a lot of time in Korea myself and know the Hangul alphabet. Yes, it's pretty easy to learn, with only 24 letters. I question whether or not it's "the world's greatest alphabet," though almost every Korean will insist it is.

What makes Hangul special is that it's (almost) unique among the world's alphabets in that you stack the letters vertically upon one another to form a syllable.

As an example, the Korean word for "culture," which would be Romanized "munhoa" (two syllables) 문화 is built of these components:

m = ㅁ
u = ㅜ
n = ㄴ

Thus 문

h = ㅎ
o = ㅗ
a = ㅏ

Thus 화

Combine those two syllables to get 문화.


I did say that Hangul was "almost" unique, because in fact there are at least two other (and probably more) alphabets that employ that strategy. As a learning aid for Chinese, in Taiwan (and only Taiwan) there is a Chinese phonetic alphabet called "Zhuyin Fuhao" or "Bopomofo" which can be written either horizontally or stacked vertically to form syllables as in Hangul. But since this is only a learning aid and not actually used outside of text books, you aren't likely to encounter it unless you to to Taiwan to study Chinese. To see what it looks like:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bopomofo

If I'm not mistaken, traditional Mongolian characters also employ this vertical stacking strategy, but since I don't know traditional Mongolian writing I can say much about it. I did briefly study Mongolian using the Cyrillic alphabet (which the Russians introduced), but that is far different from the traditional writing system. More info for those who want to dig:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mongolian_alphabets

Edited 2013-10-12 03:46 UTC

Reply Score: 14

RE: greatest alphabet?
by Johann Chua on Sat 12th Oct 2013 12:36 in reply to "greatest alphabet?"
Johann Chua Member since:
2005-07-22

My Chinese teachers were from Taiwan, so their lessons used bopomofo. I guess they got the idea from furigana for Japanese.

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE: greatest alphabet?
by jal_ on Mon 14th Oct 2013 11:42 in reply to "greatest alphabet?"
jal_ Member since:
2006-11-02

If I'm not mistaken, traditional Mongolian characters also employ this vertical stacking strategy

Yes, but that's just that, vertical writing. Korean has syllable stacking. Tibetan has some syllabic stacking, though it's not taken as far as in Hangul.

Reply Parent Score: 2