Talk:Origin of hangul

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Doesn't this theory on the origin of Hangul belong in the Korean alphabet article? --Macrakis 23:54, 27 November 2005 (UTC)

It was there originally, and is still summarized there, but was moved because people didn't feel that it had sufficient support to be treated there at length. kwami 02:24, 28 November 2005 (UTC)

Overstatement of Ledyard's position[edit]

Several articles have contained statements like "Ledyard believes that Phagspa was the source for Hangul". Having recently read Ledyard's 1966 doctoral thesis The Korean Language Reform of 1446, I would like to correct this.

Ledard says: (p.376)

I have devoted much space and discussion to the role of the Mongol 'phags-pa alphabet in the origin of the Korean alphabet, but it should be clear to any reader that, in the total picture, that role was quite limited.

And: (p. 368)

The origin of the Korean alphabet is, in fact, not a simple matter at all. Those who say it is "based" in 'phags-pa are partly right; those who say it is "based" on abstract drawings of articulatory organs are partly right. ... It is because everybody is "partly" right that they are wrong. ... Nothing would disturb me more, after this study is published, than to discover in a work on the history of writing a statement like the following: "According to recent investigations, the Korean alphabet was derived from the Mongol 'phags-pa script..."

And finally: (p. 370)

In other words,'phags-pa contributed none of the things that make this script perhaps the most remarkable in the world.

-- Dominus 00:57, 22 February 2007 (UTC)

"Post hoc" explanation[edit]

The article says:

Ledyard believes that the traditional account of the derivation of the hangul consonants from the shapes of the speech organs, as described in the Hunmin Jeong-eum, is a post hoc explanation. . .

As stated, this appears to be false; Ledyard does not believe that the Hunmin Cheongum Haerye explanation is post hoc:

After the discovery of the Hunmin chong'um haerye in 1940 . . . any Korean doubts (and there had been some) over the origin of the letter shapes were dissolved by the Haerye's revelation that the letters had been designed to depict the outline of speech organs involved in the articulation of the various classes of consonants (translated above). Along with general scholarly opinion in Korea and internationally, I accept the Haerye's testimony as both convincing and authoritative. I consider it to be an unmovable rock of fact that is not only strongly documented but makes sense in its own terms. . . . Against this background, I can proceed with an investigation of 'Phags-pa and Korean letter shapes, recognizing that any conclusions must accomodate the Haerye's speech organ explanation of the Korean letter shapes.

(Gari Ledyard, "The international linguistic background of the correct sounds for the instruction of the people", in The Korean Alphabet: its History and Structure, University of Hawai`i Press, Honolulu, 1997, p.57.)

Accordingly, I am going to rewrite that part of the article to conform more closely with the facts.

-- Dominus 16:03, 27 February 2007 (UTC)

The Title of this article[edit]

The title should be changed to something along the lines of "Development of Hangul". "Origin of Hangul" implies that Hangul was based on another writing system, which is in contradiction to the majority of the belief that it is an artificial script. Wookie919 (talk) 03:56, 23 May 2008 (UTC)

There is no such implication. "Origin of writing" does not imply that writing was itself based on an earlier writing system. On the other hand, you could argue that "development of hangul" implies that hangul developed from another writing system. kwami (talk) 05:48, 23 May 2008 (UTC)
Let me confirm that kwami (talk) is right, there is absolutely nothing faulty with the title as the way it stands. Also regarding the English language, the words "Origin of X" does NOT in any way imply that X was based on something else. For example: Origin of the universe, Origin of life, e.t.c. - Agnistus (talk) 03:58, 24 May 2008 (UTC)
Alright, I accept. Wookie919 (talk) 03:15, 26 May 2008 (UTC)
How about "Historical hangul usage" or "History of hangul"? (talk) 04:30, 27 April 2009 (UTC)

romanization of ㆍ (araea)[edit]

In this article, currently ㆍ (아래아, araea) is romanized as ə. But since ㆍ is no longer in use in modern Korean, no one is sure how ㆍ was actually pronounced and as a result therefore there's no romanization rule for ㆍ. Do we still need to romanize ㆍ as ə? --­ (talk) 19:16, 2 August 2008 (UTC)

That's what I've always seen in the lit, e.g. in Ledyard and I believe Kim-Renauld, though I'm open to suggestions if you're used to a different convention. But you could make the same argument about all the vowels: We don't really know how any of them were pronounced (though ㅣ and ㅜ were probably pretty much like they are today), so by the same logic you could argue that ㅏ should not be romanized as a when discussing the 15th century. Even today there isn't a consistent pronunciation, but that doesn't affect romanization. kwami (talk) 19:33, 2 August 2008 (UTC)
So you mean, ㆍ is officially romanized as ə, not only in Wikipedia? (I personally think the best way to romanize Korean is just not romanizing it; Korean really struggles with romanization.) --­ (talk) 07:45, 3 August 2008 (UTC)
Well, "official" implies government sanction, which I don't know is the case. But yes, <ə> is what I've seen in the lit. It's not just Wikipedia.
Let's see ... Kim-Renaud transcribes it <ʌ>. That's not as well-known a symbol to most English speakers. (Everyone sees ə in school, but most Usonians at least have never seen a ʌ.) kwami (talk) 08:16, 3 August 2008 (UTC)
Some people say it was ə, and some people say it was ʌ. In modern Korean, it stands for [ɒ] in Jeju dialect. I think we'd better not romanize it. ə, ʌ, and ɒ are not even romanizations; they're just IPAs for it. --­ (talk) 21:08, 3 August 2008 (UTC)
If we don't romanize it, how do we write it? ə is simply a convention for transcription, which is all that romanization is. ə is also what's used in the primary source for this article. The IPA may be [ʌ], [ɒ], or [a], but that's not particularly relevant here. kwami (talk) 21:27, 3 August 2008 (UTC)
OK. Then I'll just leave as it is. --­ (talk) 21:37, 3 August 2008 (UTC)

Copyright of Hangul?[edit]

BTW, you say Sejong didn't copyright hangul, making it free for people to use. But was there any concept of copyright at all in 15th century Korea? kwami (talk) 08:18, 3 August 2008 (UTC)

No, but if King Sejong held copyright on Hangul, people couldn't use Hangul at all; that's why Hangul was on public domain when it was first promulgated. --­ (talk) 21:08, 3 August 2008 (UTC)
But 'what-if' speculation is OR. I don't see the point in placing the 15th-century origin of hangul in the context of the 20th century. People will also be confused by this, because there's no logical connection to public domain. I thought when you wrote 'ministers in public domain' maybe you meant 'ministers of public affairs' or something, and that the link was a mistake. kwami (talk) 21:27, 3 August 2008 (UTC)
I just fixed the first sentence so that people don't get confused. And it doesn't matter the copyright law was on the 15th century or not. It's based on the "modern sense." --­ (talk) 21:37, 3 August 2008 (UTC)
No, you say that Sejong promulgated it "in [the] public domain", and now "copyleft" as well. Not that we would consider it so today, but that he promulgated it that way. And even if I bought your argument, it's not copyleft in the modern sense either, because you can't copyright a writing system. It makes no sense to say he did A, when it's impossible to do not-A. kwami (talk) 06:28, 4 August 2008 (UTC)
Well, in this case, King Sejong could copyright the writing system because basically he made it on his own. In the modern sense, it can be either in the public domain or copyleft. --­ (talk) 06:43, 4 August 2008 (UTC)
No, he could not. You cannot copyright a writing system. Or prove me wrong with a reference. kwami (talk) 06:45, 4 August 2008 (UTC)
This case is different. Hangul was not naturally made; it was purposely made by him. Therefore he could copyright it. --­ (talk) 06:47, 4 August 2008 (UTC)
Repeating a false claim doesn't make it true, no matter how many times you say it. You cannot copyright a writing system. Let's try that again: You cannot copyright a writing system. If you believe I'm wrong, show me an example of anyone who has successfully copyrighted a writing system. kwami (talk) 06:54, 4 August 2008 (UTC)
All right, you've hit 3RR (once again) with this nonsense. Once more and I'll ask to have you blocked. kwami (talk) 06:56, 4 August 2008 (UTC)
Then is there any reason why no one can copyright a writing system? --­ (talk) 05:43, 6 August 2008 (UTC)
That's international copyright law. So, for example, Tolkien's tengwar is not copyrighted, despite the fact that the books they're found in are still under copyright. I think you can't copyright a language either, but I'm not sure. kwami (talk) 08:12, 6 August 2008 (UTC)
에멜무지로, you're causing the same nonsense with the same original research at Korean Wikipedia, and doing the same thing? #한글, [1]--Caspian blue (talk) 07:06, 4 August 2008 (UTC)

Hangul might be from Sanskrit[edit]

"...With the assistance of the Envoys who had acquired at Nanking a knowledge of the different alphabets in use by countries bordering on China, viz., Mongol, Thibetan, Burmese ; and especially of Sanscrit, which was then largely studied in connection with Buddhist liturgy and ritual, the King evolved the present Corean alphabet...."

"The Sanscrit alphabet passed from India through Thibet into China, and by the time it finally reached Corea the letters had been subjected to great modifications, necessitated from the circumstance that they had to be written, down the page,' with a Chinese pen or rather brush, instead of horizontally with the Indian reed. Again under Corean hands this Sanscrit alphabet was further transformed, much as English print differs from English writing—the Coreans curtailed and modified the square or angular shaped letters of the Sanscrit into a short cursive script for convenience and speed in writing. And it is from this cursive script that the Coreans have evolved the form and construction of the letters of their alphabet."

A table of comparison of the Sanscrit and Hangul is shown: Scott, James. A Corean manual or phrase book: with introductory grammar (1893) pp. xv-xvi —Preceding unsigned comment added by Greg Best (talkcontribs) 05:11, 18 January 2010 (UTC)

Wow, what a great thing to dig up! Thanks very much. —Dominus (talk) 06:26, 18 January 2010 (UTC)
That is indeed interesting! Here's a working link to that table at the Internet Archive: A Corean manual or phrase book with introductory grammar. 2d. ed. Published 1893 by English Church Mission Press in Seoul, by James Scott, M.A., p. xviKai Carver (talk) 18:37, 9 October 2012 (UTC)

Sourcing concerns[edit]

I have a couple concerns with this article's sourcing. The first is that one of the Ledyard sources is just a dissertation. I'm not sure if this meets the wiki-standards for verifiability/reliable sources, but in any case I'm sure there are plenty of published books that can be used instead.

The second concern is that there's a mixing of footnotes and citations, particularly note 8 about "If you have the font Code2000". I'm not experienced enough to draw a clear distinction between notes, footnotes and references, but perhaps someone else can work on this.

I also added a fact tag to the part about hangul being the emperor's pet project, because the source I added states that his exact role in its development is unclear. So a citation for who/where this comes from is a good idea. Recognizance (talk) 22:41, 3 April 2009 (UTC)

The Ledyard dissertation (which was written in 1966) has been published in book form more than once since then. It is, for obvious reasons, the canonical source for information about Ledyard's theory of the origin of Hangul. Since the section of the article that is cited to it specifically concerns Ledyard's own theory, I don't think you're going to find a more reliable or authoritative source. It certainly satisfies Wikipedia standards, as it is a published, peer-reviewed scholarly work. Have you read Gari Ledyard?
I recall that the Ledyard book takes up the question of whether Sejong was directly involved with the invention of Hangul, or whether he merely put his name to work done by other scholars at his command. It concludes that Sejong was indeed personally involved, and might well be a source for the claim that it was a pet project of his. —Dominus (talk) 04:46, 4 April 2009 (UTC)
I'm new to the wiki culture and was trying to go by WP:SPS ("caution should be exercised when using such sources: if the information in question is really worth reporting, someone else is likely to have done so"). But since the obvious question to whether I'd read the article on the author or even heard of him is no, I probably acted too quickly.
If I get a chance tomorrow, I'll look up the tidbit about the degree of the emperor's involvement. The footnote/citation confusion is still an issue though. Recognizance (talk) 05:36, 4 April 2009 (UTC)
A bit of caution is required with Fischer. According to his book Glyphbreaker, he's the greatest epigrapher who's ever lived. Funnily enough, he is apparently the only one who thinks so. kwami (talk) 08:02, 4 April 2009 (UTC)
Interesting. :) Thanks for the tweaking my additions to the lead, by the way. I hope the way I started out didn't give the wrong impression - I do admire the work you've done here, which is what inspired me to want to help improve it. Recognizance (talk) 17:53, 4 April 2009 (UTC)
Thanks! Why would it give the wrong impression? I might not agree with the accuracy of a particular word, but it was still an improvement. kwami (talk) 21:23, 4 April 2009 (UTC)
A doctoral dissertation is not a self-published source, so WP:SPS is not relevant. —Dominus (talk) 22:06, 5 April 2009 (UTC)
Thank you for the clarification, Dominus. And Kwami, I was referring to the ill-informed way I started the section off. Recognizance (talk) 23:34, 5 April 2009 (UTC)

Hey, do any of you think that with full inline sourcing, this might qualify for FA? Or is it too centered on Ledyard? kwami (talk) 22:49, 5 April 2009 (UTC)

Funny you bring it up that way. I was thinking the same thing when I started this section. It partly depends on how much of the article comes from Kim-Renaud, which has no inline citations to it. When I made the comment about "just a disseration" what I was getting at was that including other sources who concur with Ledyard's theory would be helpful in establishing him as the authoritative source. Recognizance (talk) 23:34, 5 April 2009 (UTC)


Probably not the best place to ask my "heretical" theory, but has any one noticed that Japanese katakana (su) is virtually identical to the jamo ㅈ (j) - especially in hand-written form? Although neither ス (su) nor ズ (zu) match phonetically, hangul clearly didn't materialise from a vacuum. The Japanese kana systems predate hangul by 6 centuries, King Sejong's wise scholars must have known about it. I'm curious. Cashie (talk) 14:14, 11 October 2010 (UTC)

Possible, but hangul doesn't function anything like kana. Also, the Koreans saw the Japanese as being on the fringes of civilization; given that kana aren't adequate to transcribe Korean, I don't see any motivation to use them. After all, hangul ㅇ looks like a numeral 0, which also predates it, and hangul ㅣ looks like a Latin I. With simple geometric shapes, physical appearance can easily be coincidence. — kwami (talk) 16:30, 11 October 2010 (UTC)