The Korean Alphabet of 1446: Expositions OPA, the Visible Speech Sounds with Annotated Translation Future Applicability

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The Korean alphabet, known as Hangul, is truly one of the great achievements of human invention. Developed (1443) and promulgated (1446) by the Korean monarch Sejong (1397-1450) himself, this alphabet demonstrates principles of design so far ahead of its time that only now, more than 550 years after its invention, are its remarkable qualities beginning to be appreciated. Long admired by linguists for its uncanny rational spirit, the Korean script is unique for its central idea of "rectification," exemplified by the official name of the Korean alphabet, Hwunmin Cengum, which means "The Orthophonic Alphabet for the Instruction of the People." The originator of Hwunmin Cengum (1443) and Hwunmin Cengum Haylyey (1446)—meaning "Explanations and Examples of the Orthophonic Alphabet for the Instruction of the People"—established a threefold correlation between the articulatory-acoustic patterns of the Korean alphabet and their corresponding letter shapes. In designing the graphemes, the originator ensured that each constituent graphic stroke was made to visualize and portray an associated articulatory-acoustic feature. The genius of this design lies not only in its lucidly rational structure but also in its use of a "generative rule" as its basis. This permits the design to develop an unlimited number of graphic shapes, thus offering universal applicability. This superb scholarly edition by Korean language scholar Sek Yen Kim-Cho contains the original texts of Hwunmin Cengum and Hwunmin Cengum Haylyey (with photocopies of the originals in the appendices) and a complete, fully annotated translation in modern English. Beyond her analysis of historical texts, Dr. Kim-Cho critically expounds Sejong's design principle and also demonstrates that the Korean Orthophonic Alphabet is so versatile that it is ideally suited to promote and accelerate information processing and globalization as a universal script. Its great adaptability makes it a perfect multilingual transcribing system for voice-recognition and voice dictation.