From: suzmccarth <suzmccarth@...>
Date: Thursday, July 22, 2004 11:31 pm
Subject: Re: How about a typology for input methods

> --- In, Young-Key Kim-Renaud <kimrenau@...>
> wrote:
> The letters are not put into syllable blocks randomly as
> > > > a bundle! That is why han'gul is neither a syllabary nor an
> > > > alphasyllabary, but simply an alphabet.
> Korean seems to me also to fit best with alphabets as it is a
> script
> that segments and sequences phonemes. The reason for hesitating
> when the word linear comes up is that Korean does not fit phonemes
> in a 'line' on the computer so it originally got a different
> treatment than alphabets. But otherwise I think it fits well into
> the alphabet class.

BUT my point is that there IS linearity in writing and in keypunching han'gul. The reason why Peter and some others think han'gul is "outside the classification" typologically is that the alphabetic letters are assembled into syllable blocks in writing. This, I have repeatedly said, is an orthographic issue, basically not different from the change of East Asian writing practices from writing from the top right corner of the page downward, to today's preferred writing from the top left corner rightward like in European texts. Again as I mentioned before, there have been experiments on linear writing in and outside Korea. Even if Koreans did adopt linear writing, there would not have been any typological change. No one would argue that the different directional writing has resulted in making han'gul a different system of writing. There are other orthographic changes such as adding spacing and punctuation marks, etc., which have no consequence in typological classification.

If an alphabet is defined as "a system of signs expressing single [distinctive] sounds of speech" (Gelb 1952:166), the Korean writing system is an alphabetic system. The confusion comes from the fact that han'gul letters were not arbitrarily chosen like in most alphabetic systems but were created based on deep linguistic knowledge of the Korean sound system. And other important linguistic units such as syllable are well accommodated.

Also, most unusually in the history of the writing systems and that of the alphabet, han'gul was not only INVENTED by a specific person but also the underlying principles as well as the reason for the invention of the new script are clearly recorded in a document called Hunmin chông'ûm (The Correct Sounds for the Instruction of the People), which was both a promulgation document and a handbook for learning the alphabet. Quoting a few lines from Sejong's proclamation document might help clarify this [A complete translation of HC is available in Gari Ledyard's 1966 University of California, Berkeley, dissertation, _The Korean Language Reform of 1446_, which was published under the same title by Singu munhwasa in Seoul in 1998. The following quote is from this book.]:

From the Preface:

"The sounds of our country's language are different from those of the Middle Kingdom and are not smoothly adaptable to those of Chinese characters. Therefore, among the simple people, there are many who have something they wish to put into words but are never able to express their feelings. I am distressed by this, and have newly designed twenty-eight letters..." (p. 277)

The first line of the text:

"ㄱ(k), molar sound, like the initially uttered phoneme of the character 君 (kun). ..." (p. 278)

The text is fairly short, although extremely clear in its analyses and rich in explanations and examples. Anyone interested in the typology of writing systems should read at least this text. Otherwise, it would be like judging a book or anything else without having read/experienced it.

Young-Key Kim-Renaud