Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Easy to Memorize Korean consonants!


Today, I am going to give you a tip to easily memorize Korean alphabet, Hangeul.
If you have followed my postings so far, you know how the vowels got their shapes,
and you know some of the Korean consonants.

Do you remember the ㄱ letter which is from the tongue shape when Koreans pronounce /g/ and /k/ ? Okay, the picture below is the ㄱ guy which I drew.

Koreans use this ㄱ guy when they pronounce /g/ and /k/ sound.

Did you notice anything confusing? 
Yes, Korean doesn't differentiate voiced /g/ and voiceless /k/ sound.
Therefore, Koreans words with ㄱ letter are tricky to write in English.

The name of Korean food Kimchi is 김치, and the initial sound of ㄱ is not same as 'k' in English.
The initial sound of 김치(Kimchi) is between the 'g' and 'k.'

So, instead of applying voiced /g/ and voiceless /k/ distinction, Korean language applies to use /kh/ sound, and gives a distinctive letter.
This is ㅋ which is the letter for /kh/ sound. 

(By the way, the picture of Kimchi is just from my refrigerator.)

The sound of /kh/ is simply add more air when you pronounce /k/ sound. 
Technically, the /kh/ sound is called as aspirated, 
however, you can just remember that when Korean /k/ sound is added more air, 
then the /kh/ sound is created.
I can explain more simply just like below.

When ㄱ which is /k/ has more air like this, ㅋ which is /kh/ is used.
When you pronounce /kh/ sound, you can feel that the puff of air is emitted. 

On the other hand, Korean has one more distinctive letter for strong sound /g/.
To pronounce strong /g/ sound, the puff of air is not required like ㄱ sound, but more intense energy is required.
Therefore, Hangeul used double ㄱ sound to express strong /g/ sound.

Isn't it logical enough to put double the normal ㄱ?

The same logic applies to the /s/ sound, /d/ sound, /j/ sound, and /b/ sound as well.

The below is the total list of Korean consonants again.

If you remember what I told you about the principle of the consonants shapes,
I guarantee you can easily understand and memorize them!!
Now, you can read Korean letters!

Thank you for reading my posting!
See you soon! 
Bye Bye!! = 바이 바이!! [baibai]

I would like to introduce the useful links which also provides a pronunciation.
This is from Ohio State University.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Korean Alphabet - Hangeul 2

How are you enjoying your day?
I am sorry to take several days until I introduce the consonants of Hangeul.

Today, I am going to introduce consonant letters for Korean alphabet, Hangeul.
Do you remember the vowel shapes in Korean alphabet represent the nature?
Those shapes are come from sky, earth, and a human.
Otherwise, the consonant letters in Korean alphabets are related to the shape of the articulation. In other words, the letter shapes are similar to the tongue shapes when it comes to pronounce the letter.

As you can see, ㄱ is the letter shape for sound /g/or /k/.
When you tried to pronounce /g/, /k/, your tongue shape is like ㄱ.
The second letter ㄴ is for /n/, it was also from the shape of tongue when /n/ sound is pronounced. 
The third one, ㅁ is for sound /m/. In order to pronounce /m/ sound, lips are closed and popped to open it. ㅁ is like mouth shape. 
Next, ㅅ is for the sound /sh/ or /s/, and the ㅅ shape describes the lower teeth because the /s/ sound comes through the little gap between the teeth.

* image reference from below

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Korean Alphabet- Hangeul 1

Hello, everyone with linguistic interest!

Do you why the alphabets look like that?
Why does letter 'S' have the curvy wave?
What does letter 'Q' represent? A round meat with big bone?

Probably, most people don't know why the alphabet got their shapes and what they represent. Maybe there were no symbolic meanings or reasons for the shapes. If you know the origin of the letters, you rarely know who created the shapes and who started to draw the shape of alphabet like this.

However, I know one alphabet system which has the inventor and the fundamental of the letter shape!

Korean Alphabet: Hangeul

Hangeul has basic 24 letters; the basic letters can be utilized like doubled vowels or doubled strong consonants.  


The basic vowels of Korean are made of three basic symbols representing sky or sun, earth, and human.

hangeul_2.jpg A small dot represents the sun or the sky.
hangeul_3.jpgA horizontal line represents the earth.
hangeul_1.jpgThe vertical line represents a human.

These three basic symbols create the Korean vowel images like below.

”ㅏ” is ‘ah’ sound in Korean. The vertical line of human and small dot of sun combined the shape “ㅏ.”
“ㅗ”  is ‘oh’ sound in Korean.

Likewise, vowels in Korean represent the abstract symbolic concepts such as the harmony between human beings and nature. On the other hand, consonants in Korean show the scientific pronunciation-related images such as the shape of the tongue. I will introduce about the consonants in the next posting.

Thank you for reading.
See you soon!

Monday, September 14, 2015

How to write the language? Alphabet? Cyrillic? Arabic? Kanji?

Hello, everyone!
Can you tell me where you are at right now? 
I am sitting on the patio in sunny San Diego, U.S.A.

How is your day going?
Are you ready to talk about another linguistic thing today?

Okay, how can you understand my speaking?
What are you doing to understand me right now?
Today, I am going to talk about alphabets & writing systems.

As you already know, ranging from Arabic to Cyrillic, a variety of writing systems are currently used. There are about 46 different alphabets* in use today.
If you remember the number of languages in the world is about 7000, the 46 writing systems don’t seem to be enough.   
Let’s look at the map of writing systems in the world below and figure out the ratio of using the writing systems.


From this map, we can tell the Latin alphabet that I am typing right now is the most widely used. According to www.worldstandards.eu, about 2.6 billion people (36% of the world population) use the Latin alphabet, about 1.3 billion people (18%) use the Chinese script, about 1 billion people (14%) use the Devanagari script (India), about 1 billion people (14%) use the Arabic alphabet, about 0.3 billion people (4%) use the Cyrillic alphabet and about 0.25 billion people (3.5%) use the Dravidian script (South India).

While I am researching these writing system, I also learn there are many Arabic writing systems. Until I studied about the writing systems in the world, the Arabic alphabets looked same to me. However, after I put the Arabic alphabets together, now I can see the differences.

If you zoom into the northern Asia part, you can see more diversity. Unlike Japan and China share some Chinese characters in their written communication system, Korea uses its own writing system. It is called Hangeul, and in fact, Korean alphabets has its inventor. The inventor is King Sejong from 14th century. I will definitely introduce King Sejong and the principle of Hangeul in the next posting.


statistic information:
* http://www.sixtyvocab.com/blog/many-alphabets-world/

** http://www.worldstandards.eu/other/alphabets/

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Yoda says "your father he is." → Word-order in languages

Have you ever heard Yoda’s talking?

In the movie Star Wars, Yoda who is not an native English speaker told like below.
Can you understand what he said?
Definitely, he uses English words, and somehow you understand the meaning of sentence,
but it is not like real English.
It is because the word order is jumbled!
He says “your father he is”, not “he is your father.”

Word Order Study

Word order is the sequence in which grammatical elements such as Subject, Verb, and Object occur in sentences (Crystal 2010). In fact, it is widely used as a tool for the language typology field. 
From the studies which compare word orders across languages, the certain patterns of its word order are identified.

There are two major tendencies in the world languages: SVO like English and SOV like Korean.

Subject + Verb + Object
(English, French, Chinese, Vietnamese)  42%
I love her.
Subject + Object + Verb
(Korean, Japanese, Tibetan) 45%
I her love.
Verb + Subject + Object
(Irish, Hebrew, Filipino) 9%
Love I her.
Verb + Object + Subject
(Malagasy, Baure) 3%
Love her I.

This map below shows the tendency of word order in the world, and the liitle dots represent the languages even including the native languages such as Navajo. That’s why you can see many dots in the States instead of one English dot. This map implies that the geographical feature of language speakers didn’t play the absolute role when the dominant word order had been develped. If you look at the South East Asian part near Papua New Guinea, you can see that the red OV and blue VO share the island together.
* reference: Cristal 2010

Korean Word Order: mostly SOV, but not always!  

In Korean, the dominant word order is SOV, however, unlike English, Korean language doesn’t have to stick to the word order. Korean has certain markers that indicates the object and subject.
I will explain this more below.

English:  John loves Mary.  
            ← John is the lover (=subject) and Mary is the beloved (=object).

Korean:   메리 사랑해요.  [Johneun Maryrul sarangheyo.]
           = John(+subject marker) Mary(+object marker) loves.      
            ← John is the lover (=subject) and Mary is the beloved (=object).
English:   Mary loves John.    
            ← If the word order is changed,
                 John and Mary are changed their lover and beloved position.
Korean:    메리 사랑해요. [ Maryrul Johneun sarangheyo.]
             = Mary(+object marker) John(+subject marker) loves.              
             ←  Although the word order is changed,
                   John and Mary still keep the same lover and beloved position.

One more fact in Korean language word order! 
Subject markers can be easily omitted in spoken language, 
and even the subject itself can be omitted in a spoken language sentence.

Okay, I don’t want to make you get bored, I think that’s enough for today!
Happy labor day!  

* Reference

Crystal, D. 2010. The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language, 3rd edition.Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Friday, September 4, 2015

How Many Languages in This World?

To begin with our exploration of languages, we can start with this general question.

Do you know how many languages there are in this world?

If we belong to the different species like this cartoon, 
counting the languages in the world would be easier.

Unfortunately, as a human being, it may almost be a mission impossible to get the exact number of languages in this world. 
It’s mainly because in order to get the numbers of language, we have to answer this question; what is a language?, what is a dialect?

Language is like a spectrum, so there is no definite way to draw a line to give a name of other language, not a dialect.
To answer this seemingly simple question, we need to consider sensitive but important aspects in the world. It’s about power, politics and diplomacy. If we assume that there is a hidden tribe somewhere who speak a completely different language but has not been discovered yet, then the consideration should embrace another field such as anthropology. On the other hand, if we care about the extinction of a language, the sociological environment cannot be neglected either.
Let’s put the complex factors aside for here.

According to the encyclopedia of language by Crystal(2010), there are 6,000 languages spoken around the world. However, bbc.co.kr insists that 7,000 are spoken. I guess the gap, 1000, is derived from the matter of definition.  

  • up to 7,000 different languages
  • 2,200 languges in Asia, 260 in Europe

If you google the languages world map, you will get the image like above, and you may be confused why you cannot see the 7,000 different colors. It’s because 6,300 languages are used by less than 100,000 people.

How many people speak Korean?

These are the top 20 languages by the number of a certain language speakers.
This information is from www.vistawide.com, I don't think their number of 2nd language speaker is reliable, but we can get the rough idea from them.
As you can see, the rank information strongly relates to the population.

1. Mandarin Chinese: Native 873M, 2nd language 178M, Total 1.051B
2. English: Native 340M, 2nd language 170M, Total 510M
3. Hindi: Native 370M, 2nd language 120M, Total 490M
4. Spanish: Native 350M, 2nd language 70M, Total 420M
5: Russian: Native 145M, 2nd language 110M, Total 255M
6. Arabic: Native 206M, 2nd language 24M, Total 230M
7. German: Native 101M, 2nd language 128M, Total 229M
8. Bengali: Native 196M, 2nd language 9M, Total 215M
9. Portuguese: Native 203M, 2nd language 10M, Total 213M
10. French: Native 67M, 2nd language 63M, Total 130M
11. Japanese: Native 126M, 2nd language 1M, Total 127M
12. Urdu: Native 61M, 2nd language 43M, Total 104M
13. Panjabi: Native 88M
14. Vietnamese: Native 70M, 2nd language 16M, Total 86M
14. Telugu: Native 70M, 2nd language 16M, Total 86M
16. Tamil: Native 68M, 2nd language 9M, Total 77M
17. Javanese: Native 76M
18. Korean: Native 71M
18. Marathi: Native 68M, 2nd language 3M, Total 71M
20. Italian: Native 61M
Surprisingly, Korean is ranked 18th language. 
If you think about the size of land in Korea from the world map, I think it's quite interesting.

So, I think it's enough for today's post.
If you want to correct any information in this post, please be my guest. :)

Now, it’s your turn, so please tell me.

What do you think makes a language an official language or a dialect?

* Reference
Crystal, D. 2010. The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language, 3rd edition.Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Sohn, H.1999. The Korean Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University press