Korean


Dick Grune

I am trying to learn Korean, and I am trying to make it as easy as possible (even if that's sometimes a lot of effort). Here are a couple crib sheets, notes, and observations on Korean that helped me. Some of it was distilled from Internet sources, some of it is my own invention; I hope it is helpful.

Learning Aids

* The Korean Speech Levels
The descriptions of the Korean speech levels in different text books match one another more or less, but not very well. This is how I understand the situation.

* The Korean Vowels
Text books make Korean a language with more vowels than consonants: 21 vowels against 19 consonants. This text explains how Korean got its 21 vowels. (Hint: it's partly in your definition of "vowel".) Also why are there three characters, ㅙ, ㅞ, and ㅚ, all pronounced “we”? And why is ㅚ pronounced “we” by some and “ø” by others; and ㅟ both as “wi” and as “ü”?

* A transcription and pronunciation crib sheet
A two-page summary of the Hangul (Han-geul) consonants and vowels. Includes a mnemonic (kind of) for the dictionary vowel order. Prints two-sided on one A4.

* A mnemonic for the pronunciation of the syllable-final consonants and clusters
The rules for the pronunciation of the Hangul (Han-geul) syllable-final consonants and clusters, like ㄻ, ordered in an easy-to-remember way (if you know the Latin/English alphabet ☺).

Advanced Learning Aids

* Now complete!
*
The Korean (Ir)regular Verbs
Any grammar of English will give you a list of some 300-odd "irregular verbs", of the type "to go - went - gone". The French language has a little book, "Bescherelle -- 1. La conjugaison pour tous" ("Conjugation for Everybody"), which explains to you all the ins and outs of the French verb. No such book seems to exist for Korean.
I have been trying to collect all detailed facts about the regular and irregular Korean verbs that I could lay my hands on, from many sources, books and Internet alike. Now, with my recently acquired S.E. Martin "A Reference Grammar of Korean", I have completed the list. Martin's book contains all the required information, but in a form that is difficult to decode, and in an abstruse transliteration.
Contains a rare second conjugation of stems ending in -르.

* With more words!
* The Shoe is on the Wrong Foot -- Fun with Korean Spelling
In many Korean words with patchim, one consonant seems to be in the wrong syllable. If we move them back (under the frowning looks of the Korean Language Society!), these words suddenly become easier to understand.

* Korean Verb Morphology, a summary from Ho-Min Sohn, "Korean", pg. 299-362.
In the 1980s Ho-Min Sohn wrote two marvellous books about the Korean language, titled "Korean" and "The Korean Language". They are the most solid understandable description of Korean I know, but they have one huge problem: they contain no Hangul, and all text is transcribed. What is worse, they use the Yale transcription, which is awkward to say the least (for example, 그런데 is transcribed as "kurendey").
I was interested in Korean verb forms, but found the transcription a continuing hindrance, so I summarizes Sohn's 64-page chapter on the subject into 21 pages, while converting all Korean text back to Hangul.

* Chul Young Lee's "Korean Grammar Textbook", indexed
This is a 61 page sketch of the Korean grammar textbook Essential Grammar For Korean as a Second Language by a Chul Young Lee from 2004, which I find very useful. It is very dense on information, and has long lists of many features of Korean. I have added an index so the roughly 140 entries can each be accessed at a click.
I have tried to contact Mr. Lee, to ask what became of the book, but failed. If anybody has more information, please tell me.

Linguistics

* 그래요, 그러면, and all that
There are at least a dozen words like that. Why do they look so similar and yet so different?

* Multiple-subject Sentences in Korean
Korean is one of the few languages that has sentences with more than one subject. Given the way Korean combines adjectives and relative clauses, this is quite a natural phenomenon.

* Anatomy of the Korean Vowels
The Korean vowels get very different descriptions in various educational material and on the Internet. This paper gives a model of the speech mechanism that accounts for the sounds of the vowels and their varying descriptions.

* Anatomy of the Korean Stops
The Korean stops (ㄱ, ㄷ, ㅂ, ㅈ, and to a certain extent ㅅ) occur in three forms, lenis, fortis, and aspirated. This is puzzling, because no other language has this distinction. This paper explains the origin of this distinction by going back to basics: the speech mechanism itself.

Non-linguistic Items

* A Very Short History of Korea
Bird's eye view of the history of Korea, from 2333 B.C. to today, on two A4 sheets.

* Diagram of the Administrative Structure of South Korea
The Netherlands consist administratively of provinces, which consist of municipalities. That's all there is. Korea has a far more complicated structure, with cities that are not part of a province, wards, districts, etc., partly divided in urban and rural. The Wikipedia explains all this very well, but I found it difficult to remember and visualize, so I drew a diagram of it.


[Home Page]
Korean / Dick Grune / dick@dickgrune.com

... and my name is not Richard ...