The Korean alphabet has 14 letters for basic consonants and 10 letters for basic vowels.
In addition, there are compound letters, each made up of two basic letters.
The entire Korean alphabet is shown below in the form of clickable tiles.
In Korean, the alphabet letters are written not as a linear string but as clusters, each cluster representing one syllable. The overall structure of a syllabic cluster looks like this:
The first part of a cluster is always a consonant ("C" in the figure), which is followed by a vowel (V).
Some vowels are written vertically as in the left example; some are written horizontally below the consonant, as in the example on the right side.
The third part (a "pedestal"), if there is one, is always a consonant (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:
Although you should write every Korean syllable starting with a consonant letter, not every Korean syllable actually begins with a consonant sound.
One of the 14 Korean consonant letters is a "null (soundless) consonant", which merely serves as a space holder when it occupies the first position of a syllable.
Thus, a syllabic cluster that begins with the null consonant actually starts with a vowel sound.
The null consonant symbol resembles the Arabic numeral zero (0) (it is an interesting coincidence; the Korean alphabet was invented in the 15th century,
centuries before the Arabic numeral was introduced into Korea).
This letter, which looks like zero (0), does have a sound when placed at the bottom position of a cluster.
In the pedestal position, the letter represents the /ng/ sound.
The Korean phrase shown at the beginning of this article, meaning “Reading and Writing Korean”, has 6 syllables (6 clusters). The first 3 syllables are consonant-vowel-consonant clusters; the last 3 are consonant-vowel clusters with no pedestals. Unlike Chinese characters, which are graphic representations of things or ideas, the Korean alphabet represents sounds. However, just as in English, the actual pronunciation of a word can’t always be accurately predicted by the way it is spelled. In Korean, a word may be spelled slightly differently from the actual pronunciation due mainly to context-dependent variations of sounds.
Click any letter to learn about the sound and see how the letter appears when assembled into clusters.
When you click, a new window/tab will open and the letter you selected will appear at the top portion of the window.
Copyright 2007-2019 by Enunce, LLC | 10623 Jones Street, Suite 301-B, Fairfax, Virginia 22030, United States