Korean Translation Services
   
     

Korean Writing System

   
     



The Korean alphabet has 14 basic consonant letters and 10 basic vowel letters.  (In addition, there are compound letters, which are made by combining the basic letters.)  You can click the links below to see how Korean alphabet letters look like.  

Consonants (Basic)  
pronunciation key
Vowels (Basic) 
 
pronunciation key
Consonants (Compound)   
pronunciation key
Vowels (Compound)
 
pronunciation key


Korean is written in "clusters" of letters rather than a "string" of letters as in English.  Each cluster corresponds to one syllable.  The basic structure of a cluster looks like this:

                   

The first part of a cluster is always a constant ("C" in the figure); then comes a vowel (V).  Some vowels are written vertically as in the left example; some are written horizontally as in the example on the right.  The third part (a "pedestal"), if there is one, is always a constant (C) and is written at the bottom of a cluster. 

Some syllables don't have the last consonant and simply end with a vowel.  In such a case, the cluster looks like this:

                   
 

The fact that you have to write every Korean syllable starting with a  "consonant" doesn't necessarily mean that every Korean syllable begins with a consonant sound.  One of the 14 Korean consonant letters is a "null consonant" (soundless consonant), which is used as a matter of formality.  Interestingly, this "null consonant" symbol looks exactly like the Arabic numeral zero (0).  Thus, a syllabic cluster that begins with the "null consonant" is actually pronounced with a vowel first.  However, the same symbol, which looks like zero (0), does have a sound when it appears at the bottom position of a cluster.  In the pedestal position, this symbol represents the /ng/ sound.

Shown below is an example of a Korean phrase meaning "Korean translation services." 

             

This phrase has 8 syllabic clusters (in 3 words). 

 
 

 

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