Hangul Alphabets

Index



Introduction

Hangul alphabets are called JaMo (from JaEum, "consonant", and MoEum, "vowel"). Initially, it included 17 basic consonants and 11 basic vowels. Over time, 3 consonants and 1 vowels were dropped from usage and we now have 14 basic consonants and 10 basic vowels.

The document that further illustrates the design principles had this to say about the consonants. Sorry about the bad translation.

The consonants are designed to mimic the shapes of the vocal organs. (⿪ GiYeok) is taken after the way the root of the tongue is closing the throat. ( NiEun) is taken from the way the tongue is touching the back of the upper teeth. ( MiEum) mimics the shape of the mouth. (ÿ SiOt) follows the shape of the teeth. ( IEung) is from the shape of the throat.

KiEuk) sounds stronger than , so a stoke was added. ( DiGeut) came from , and (Ƽ TiEut) from . ( BiEup) from , and ( PiEup) from . ( JiEut) from , and (ġ ChiEut) from . They follow similar rules.

The vowels start with three basic symbols and the rest is built upon them. In the original vowel set, it included a dot (or a short stroke, ). This symbolized "heaven". The horizontal stroke (from ) "earth", and the vertical stroke (from ), "person". From these, all other vowels are built. For example, the vertical stroke and the dot makes .

Initially, the jamo didn't have names, I believe. The names for the consonants came much much later. The vowels don't have separate names.

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Consonants

Symbol Name Sound Memo
(1) ⿪ GiYeok g / k Since this can be both voiceless and voiced, foreigners may think of it as 'g' or 'k'. However, it is a bit less voiced than 'g', and less strong than 'k'.
(1) NiEun n As in "nice".
(1) DiGeut d / t Since this can be both voiceless and voiced, foreigners may think of it as 'd' or 't'. However, it is a bit less voiced than 'd', and less strong than 't'.
(1) RiEul r / l Koreans don't hear the difference between 'r' and 'l'. This symbol, depending on situation, can come out as either 'r' or 'l'.
(1) MiEum m As in "mother".
(1) BiEup b / p Since this can be both voiceless and voiced, foreigners may think of it as 'b' or 'p'. However, it is a bit less voiced than 'b', and less strong than 'p'.
(1) ÿ SiOt s The sound is not as strong as the English 's', but close.
(1) IEung none / ng This symbol when appearing as the first consonant does not have any sound. It acts as a placeholder for aesthetic reasons.
(1) JiEut j / ch Since this can be both voiceless and voiced, foreigners may think of it as 'j' or 'ch'. However, it is a bit less voiced than 'j', and less strong than 'ch'.
(1) ġ ChiEut ch This is the real voiceless 'ch' sound.
(1) Ű KiEuk k The is the real voiceless 'k' sound.
(1) Ƽ TiEut t This is the real voiceless 't' sound.
(1) PiEup p This is the real voiceless 'p' sound.
(1) HiEut h This is about as strong as the English 'h'. Definitely less strong than the German version.
ֱ⿪ SsangGiYeok gg The sound is stronger, voiced 'g'. It is close to the Spanish 'k'?
ֵ SsangDiGeut dd The sound is stronger, voiced 'd'. It is close to the Spanish 't'?
ֺ SsangBiEup bb The sound is stronger, voiced 'b'. It is close to the Spanish 'b'?
ֽÿ SsangSiOt ss This is, maybe, slightly stronger than the English 's'.
SsangJiEut jj this sound is stronger, voiced 'j'.
(1) The 14 basic consonants. In the original set, it included (ݽÿ BanSiOt), ( YetIEung) and ( DoenIEung).

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Vowels

Symbol Sound Memo
(1) 'a' in 'far'  
'a' in 'pack'  
(1) 'ya' in 'Maya'  
'yea' in 'yeah' Think of it as the half vowel 'y' plus (that is, the shape of the lips do not change).
(1) 'u' in 'duck'  
'e' in 'peck' Supposedly "heavier" sound than , but these days they sometimes are not distinguished.
(1) 'you' in 'young'  
'ye' in 'yes Supposedly "heavier" sound than , but practically they are hard to tell apart.
(1) 'o' in 'boy'  
'wa' in 'wander'  
'wa' in 'wack'  
'wa' in 'wack' You'd think this would be the French "eu". It might have been in the old days, but it is practically the same as .
(1) 'yo' in 'yo-yo' Actually, it's only the first part of 'yo', the short version.
(1) 'oo' in 'boot' Actually, shorter. But it's different from 'oo' in 'foot'.
'wo' in 'won'  
'wea' in 'weapon' Supposedly "heavier" sound than , but sometimes they are hard to tell apart.
'we' in 'we' It could have been the French 'u' longer time ago, but now it's pronounced as 'we' (that is, the shape of the lips changes).
(1) 'you' in 'you' Also, not that long.
(1) 'c' in 'cream' without the 'k' sound. This is a bit tricky. This symbol is also used for those cosonants that appear by themselves in English (e.g., 't' in 'part'). Hangul cannot have just the consonants, so this vowel usually is added in those cases (Ʈ in Ʈ).
and in quick succession. This is also two sounds, that is, the shape of the lips changes.
(1) 'ee' in 'see' But shorter.
(1) The 10 basic vowels. In the original set, it included (Ʒ ARaeA).

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Created: February 6, 2004
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