The History of Hangul (Re: Shorthand (Re: Camion Code))

From: Constantine V. Petukhov (
Date: Sat Aug 21 1999 - 21:04:46 EDT

Here is an extract from

The Korean script which is now generally called Hangul was invented
in 1443 under Sejong (r.1418 - 50), the fourth king of the Choson
Dynasty, who called it Hunminchongum (proper sounds to instruct
the people). However, the script was not promulgated until the appearance
in a document which was also called Hunminchongum in 1446.

[...] According to the explanations of the original Hunminchongum text,

[ㄱ] (k) depicts the root of the tongue blocking the throat;
[ㄴ] (n) depicts the outline of the tongue touching the upper palate;
[ㅁ] (m) depicts the outline of the mouth;
[ㅅ] (s) depicts the outline of the incisor; and
[ㅇ] (g) depicts the outline of the throat.

The other initial letters were derived by adding strokes to the basic
No letters were invented for the final sounds, the initial letters being
for that purpose.
The original Hunminchongum text also explains that the medial sounds
(vowels) are represented by 11 letters of which there are three basic forms:

[.] (a) is a depiction of Heaven;
[ㅡ] (eu) is a depiction of Earth; and,
[ㅣ] (i) is a depiction of man. By combining these three signs the other
medial letters are formed.


Also see animation:
Articulation of consonants:
Articulation of vowels:
Rules of spelling:

Constantine V. Petukhov

----- Original Message -----
From: <>
To: Unicode List <>
Sent: Saturday, August 21, 1999 9:29 PM
Subject: Re: Shorthand (Re: Camion Code

> >> Don't let that discourage you too
> >> much: every iconic system for representing language
> has either
> >> gone that direction or died.
> >Wasn't Hangul originally iconic? Did it deviate? It obviously
> hasn't died.
> I might be wrong on this - I'm no expert on Hangul, but as far
> as I'm aware the assumption of iconicity being used in the
> design of Hangul is only speculative; I don't know if there is
> any documentary evidence to support this. I realise that this
> is the basis for Hangul often being referred to as "featural",
> but it works only (if at all) for points of articulation of
> consonants. As I recall, for vowels, any assumed iconicity is
> based on some pretty abstract metaphors. Regardless of whether
> or not iconicity was a factor in the way King Seychong (or his
> wise men) invented Hangul, I doubt that it is at all a factor
> in how children are taught to read Korean, or in how anybody
> mentally interprets the characters in the reading process (but
> with fluent reading - chunking - or when encountering new
> words). So, in that sense, I'd say (if my assumptions above)
> that it has come to be treated as abstract (if it wasn't always
> so).
> Again, my knowledge of Korean and of Hangul is limited, so any
> experts on the history of Hangul out there can please feel free
> to correct me on this.
> If I am wrong, then I'll revise the initial statement to say,
> "... nearly every iconic system...".
> Peter

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.2 : Tue Jul 10 2001 - 17:20:51 EDT