The Hangeul Alphabet Moves beyond the Korean Peninsula

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In a report from the Yonhap News Agency out today under the title "Indonesian tribe picks Korean alphabet as official writing system" comes a stunning story that is sure to warm the cockles of all Hangeul devotees everywhere.  I'll let the report speak for itself:


SEOUL, Aug. 6 (Yonhap) — A minority tribe in Indonesia has chosen to use Hangeul as its official writing system, in the first case of the Korean alphabet being used by a foreign society, a scholars' association here said Thursday.

The tribe in the city of Bauer and Bauer, located in Buton, Southeast Sulawesi, has chosen Hangeul as the official alphabet to transcribe its aboriginal language, according to the Hunminjeongeum Research Institute.

The Indonesian ethnic minority, with a population of 60,000, was on the verge of losing its native language as it lacked a proper writing system, the institute said.

The city of Bauer and Bauer began to teach students the Korean alphabet last month, with lessons based on textbooks created by the Korean institute.

Composed of writing, speaking and reading sections, all texts in the book — explaining the tribe's history, language and culture — are written in the Korean script. The book also includes a Korean fairy tale.

The city plans to set up a Korean center next month and to work on spreading the Korean alphabet to other regions by training Korean language teachers.

Linguists here expressed hope that the case will become a stepping stone to spreading and promoting the Korean alphabet globally. The Hunminjeongeum Research Institute has been trying for several years to spread the Korean alphabet to minority tribes across Asia who do not have their own writing system.

"It will be a meaningful case in history if the Indonesian tribe manages to keep its aboriginal language with the help of Hangeul," said Seoul National University professor and member of the institute Kim Joo-won. "In the long run, the spread of Hangeul will also help enhance Korea's economy as it will activate exchanges with societies that use the language."

Prof. Lee Ho-young, who helped create the Korean textbook for the Indonesian tribe, said it was a "historical case" for the Korean alphabet to be used in preserving the traditional language of a foreign society.

"I hope the case will serve as a meaningful opportunity to show off the excellence of Hangeul outside of the country," he said.

=====

That's one small step for [an] alphabet, one giant leap for the Korean people [and their economy].

Thanks to Michael Rank for calling this item to my attention.



45 Comments

  1. Nathan said,

    August 6, 2009 @ 5:52 pm

    I thought Bauer and Bauer was a bit fishy as a name for an Indonesian city. I think it's probably referring to Bau-Bau.

  2. Michael Rank said,

    August 6, 2009 @ 6:06 pm

    Yes, the city is Baubau/Bau-Bau http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bau-Bau The Wikipedia article has even been updated to mention the Hangeul connection!

    The tribe isn't named in the Yonhap report but this article fills in some of the gaps http://tinyurl.com/kpb3c6

    I did a Google search on Hunminjeongeum which is 訓民正音 in Chinese and found this interesting article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hunminjeongeum

    And last but not least I should thank Kevin Parks who alerted me through the Korean Studies Discussion List (I dabble in Korean, can read Hangeul but that's almost as far as it goes, language-wise).

    Maybe there's an Indonesia specialist who can tell us more…

    Michael

  3. Andrew said,

    August 6, 2009 @ 6:06 pm

    I had once read that some Korean groups were trying to get some aboriginal languages to use hangeul, but I didn't think anyone would actually do it. Actually, I recall it being an article about how amazingly good Hangeul would be for doing that; the authors didn't seem to have any awareness that not all langages have sound systems identical to Korean. The script has long struck me as being so well designed for Korean, I have quite a lot of doubts about it how well it could be made to fit another language.

  4. J. W. Brewer said,

    August 6, 2009 @ 6:10 pm

    Are the Tengwar enthusiasts going to take this lying down, or get on the next plane and sign up a not-yet-literate language community of their own? Wikipedia says that katakana was used for some Taiwanese languages during the period of Japanese sovereignty but doesn't address whether the Japanese might have also tried to introduce it for the various Micronesian languages when their colonial empire extended to that stretch of the Pacific.

  5. David Eddyshaw said,

    August 6, 2009 @ 6:56 pm

    "The Indonesian ethnic minority, with a population of 60,000, was on the verge of losing its native language as it lacked a proper writing system, the institute said."

    Strikes me as a pretty dubious statement.
    I can think of at least one African language with hundreds of thousands of speakers, very few of whom are literate in their own language, but which is plainly by no means endangered.

    If you think about it, it's hard to see how humanity could have retained its power of speech for untold millennia before the invention of writing if a language needed a proper writing system to survive …

  6. Ellen said,

    August 6, 2009 @ 8:13 pm

    I don't think the statement implies that languages need a written form to survive, in general. Rather, it implies that sometimes, in some cases, having a written form helps a language to survive. It could be this is one of those cases.

  7. Nathan Myers said,

    August 6, 2009 @ 8:17 pm

    David: The statement struck me as description of a political threat, rather than an expectation of natural decline. Perhaps without a written language of their own, they are under more pressure to formally adopt somebody else's as their primary language.

    Is there some quality to Hangeul that makes it particularly suitable for transcribing languages unrelated to Korean? Or is this purely an evangelistic impulse in Hangeul users?

    Maybe IPA would be a better choice. Aren't there any evangelistic linguists out there?

  8. language hat said,

    August 6, 2009 @ 8:23 pm

    Maybe IPA would be a better choice.

    IPA is useful for transcribing sounds without regard to phonemic value; it strikes me as a terrible choice for a language's writing system. (Frankly, I'm not crazy about it even when it's used for what it's good at.)

    Anyway, this is a terrific story!

  9. language hat said,

    August 6, 2009 @ 8:34 pm

    The language is presumably Ethnologue's Cia-Cia (Population 79,000, Alternate names Boetoneezen, Buton, Butonese, Butung, South Buton, Southern Butung).

  10. Spectre-7 said,

    August 6, 2009 @ 8:38 pm

    Southern Butung sounds like it should be euphemism for something.

  11. language hat said,

    August 6, 2009 @ 8:43 pm

    Oops, make that Cia-Cia.

  12. Sarah said,

    August 6, 2009 @ 8:46 pm

    Oh, god, the Korean internet is going to go on about this for months. Years, maybe.

    Anyway, I would love to see a follow-up post on whether the tribe's language actually fits with Hangeul. I feel like many languages would – Japanese, clearly, maybe Finnish or certain African languages.

    Come to think of it, though, isn't it bizarre that the article never once mentions the name of the tribe or their language? One would think this would be salient information.

  13. Sarah said,

    August 6, 2009 @ 8:48 pm

    The Hangeul on the textbook seems to have it as "Ssiassia." So I guess that's the name?

  14. language hat said,

    August 6, 2009 @ 8:51 pm

    Here's an interesting description of the linguistic situation on Buton:

    The language situation is complicated. Two main groups of languages can be distinguished: the Bungku-Mori Group, which is closely related to the languages of southeast Sulawesi, is used on the island of Kabaena, in the north and northeast of Buton, and in the area of Rumbia/Poleang on the mainland of Sulawesi, and the Buton-Muna Group is used in the other part of the former sultanate. To the latter group belong four languages or subgroups of languages. The first is the Wolio language. Wolio is the language spoken in the center of the former sultanate by the nobility (kaomu) and the second estate (walaka), who lived mainly in the center (Kraton Wolio), and some villages in the neighborhood. It is still spoken in that area, including the present capital of the kabupaten, Baubau. The total number of Wolio speakers does not surpass 25,000. The second language of this group is the Muna language spoken on Muna and the northwest coast of Buton. The third is the subgroup of south (east) Buton, and the fourth is the subgroup of the languages of the Tukangbesi Islands. All these languages belong to the Indonesian Branch of Austronesian. Formerly only Wolio, for which Arabic characters were used, was a written language. It is falling into disuse as a written language because the schools now teach the national Indonesian language using roman characters.

    Cia-Cia is presumably in the third subgroup.

  15. Nathan Myers said,

    August 6, 2009 @ 8:51 pm

    I like the Ethnologue comment: "Language name based on the negator cia ‘no’. " It's tempting to imagine ways that could have come about.

  16. David Eddyshaw said,

    August 6, 2009 @ 10:19 pm

    I suppose a possible motive for the (on the face of it) very odd choice of Hangul might well be a desire to make one's language look as distinct as possible from its rivals; this could make sense indeed in the context of political pressure to give up the language as if it were merely a 'dialect' of some more prestigious language (much as Nathan Myers suggests.)

    I believe Korean itself was (ludicrously) mislabelled as a "dialect of Japanese" during the period of Japanese occupation as part of the campaign to destroy Korean ethnicity.

  17. MMcM said,

    August 6, 2009 @ 10:32 pm

    The Hangeul on the textbook seems to have it as "Ssiassia."

    You sure it isn't 바하사 찌아찌아 1, so "Jjiajjia"?

  18. Sarah said,

    August 6, 2009 @ 11:36 pm

    Nope! You have it right. That seems even further from Cia-Cia, although I will admit that I have no idea how accurate that English transliteration is.

  19. William W said,

    August 7, 2009 @ 12:03 am

    바하사 찌아찌아 (bahasa jji-a jji-a) sounds quite close to Cia Cia. As many readers here will know, "bahasa" is the Indonesian word for "language" and comes from Sanskrit "bhasha": bahasa indonesia = Indonesian, bahasa jawa = Javanese, etc.

  20. John Smith said,

    August 7, 2009 @ 1:57 am

    I like the Ethnologue comment: "Language name based on the negator cia ‘no’. " It's tempting to imagine ways that could have come about.

    Many Australian languages/dialects are named similarly: Baraba-Baraba, Madhi-Madhi, Wemba-Wemba, Yabala-Yabala, Yitha-Yitha, Yorta-Yorta, and so forth are all reduplications of the local word for "no".

  21. ppindia said,

    August 7, 2009 @ 3:11 am

    hmm..interesting. I sort of agree that there was political pressure to pick up distinct script. No offense to Korean people or language, but they could have picked a simpler script "kids are going to have a tough time mastering Korean language/alphabets!"

  22. J. Goard said,

    August 7, 2009 @ 4:08 am

    Andrew @ 6:06:

    The script has long struck me as being so well designed for Korean, I have quite a lot of doubts about it how well it could be made to fit another language.

    But Hangeul is flexible; what we might call "standard contemporary" Hangeul is the result of its changing alongside Korean, with several original letters no longer used, and variants readily developed for dialects such as that of Jeju island. Since the standard system encodes a three-way voicing distinction in stops, among four places of articulation, eight-vowels with two kinds of on-glides, and CVCC syllable structure, many of the world's languages would be well-represented with just a subset. It doesn't matter whether the POAs, VOTs, or vowels correspond. (Naturally, these all vary dialectally, and have shifted a lot even since Hangeul was widely adopted in the last century.)

    I've seen several students representing English in Hangeul with English letters (for the missing phonemes) written in the appropriate place in the syllable block (F, V, Z, theta, edh), although they still inaccurately represented initial consonant clusters and diphthongs with two syllables.

    Hangeul seems pretty bad for languages which have

    (i) complex consonant clusters,
    (ii) off-glides / diphthongs, or
    (iii) contrasting vowel length,

    but it covers a lot of languages well.

  23. Max said,

    August 7, 2009 @ 4:40 am

    ppindia, do you know Hangeul? It's hardly a complex or complicated script. King Sejeong (who commissioned the design) said, "A wise man can learn it in a day, and even foolish persons can learn it in a week." His idea of "wise man" probably included pre-existing literacy in Chinese, but it's certainly not difficult (*if* it suits the language — there are definitely restrictions on the phonotactics that can reasonably be written in Hangeul).

  24. Max said,

    August 7, 2009 @ 6:07 am

    While what's presented here seems like a Good Thing, the Korea Herald gives a rather different perspective (http://www.koreaherald.co.kr/NEWKHSITE/data/html_dir/2009/08/07/200908070037.asp):

    'The next step includes setting up a Korean center and using Hangeul on their signposts across the city, as well as training Korean language teachers.'

    '"In the long run, the spread of Hangeul will also help enhance Korea's economy as it will activate exchanges with societies that use the language," Kim Joo-won said.'

    This might just be a failure to distinguish between the Korean language and Korean alphabet, but if they mean what they say, then it seems we have a new player in the Linguistic Imperialism game.

  25. Faldone said,

    August 7, 2009 @ 6:46 am

    Certainly Hangeul, as implemented in Korean, would not be well adapted to a language with syllables other than the standard V, CV, CVC structure of Korean, but there's no reason that the individual characters couldn't be strung out in the fashion of other alphabetic transcription schemes, thus allowing consonant clusters of arbitrary length. I have no idea where Cia-cia fits into this scheme.

  26. J. W. Brewer said,

    August 7, 2009 @ 8:21 am

    How did Hangul turn into Hangeul? The former is not only substantially more common in raw google hits, it's substantially more common in the Language Log archives. Did every commenter in this thread (except for D. Eddyshaw) simply take their cue from Prof. Mair's use or were they already habitually using the less usual spelling? Prof. Mair himself used "hangul" earlier this year in his appreciation of the late John DeFrancis, so maybe he was just cuing off the press release. But the press release was likely produced by non-native speakers, so we really shouldn't be taking advice on variant spellings from them, should we?

    Maybe the best way to harmonize the data is to say that "hangul" is the standard spelling of the English word referring to the script used to write Korean (and Cia-Cia), whereas "hangeul" is one common transliteration of the Korean word from which "hangul" is derived. More or less like Yugoslavia versus Jugoslavija.

  27. language hat said,

    August 7, 2009 @ 9:15 am

    I assume everyone is copying the spelling in the post, which is copying the spelling in the Yonhap story. Hangul is the only "correct" spelling in English.

  28. Faldone said,

    August 7, 2009 @ 9:28 am

    Hangeul is the official transliteration of the Korean. It does have the disadvantage of being somewhat counter intuitive in English orthographics, but if you know the official transliteration scheme it has the advantage of being unambiguous. There are three separate sounds in Korean that could be transliterated as U, the vowel sounds of shoot, shut, and look. That said, I was originally going to spell it "hangul" but decided to go with what had become the norm for this thread.

  29. Anna Phor said,

    August 7, 2009 @ 12:32 pm

    @ J. W. Brewer: I've met older Micronesians who can write (some of) their language in a Japanese script –presumably the syllabic one. Although I've seen people do this, I'm not familiar enough with Japanese to know either which script is being used or how accurate/comprehensible this is. I don't know how systematic it was, or whether there was ever formal education in writing Micronesian indigenous languages with Japanese scripts, though.

    @Sarah: The C in Cia-Cia could possibly be a palatal stop (IPA [c]; & a sound which isn't uncommon in these languages); in which case an alveolar affricate (represented by j) isn't the *worst* transcription possible.

  30. Joel said,

    August 7, 2009 @ 1:35 pm

    The languages of Micronesia, apart from a couple of Polynesian outliers, would appear to be spectacularly unsuited to any orthography based on katakana. Not only do most distinguish far more vowels and consonants than Japanese does, but the often complex morphophonemics can make vowels highly variable as multimorpheme words are resyllabified. (It's not just a matter of reassigning consonant sounds to adjacent syllables.) Attempts by postwar linguists to develop orthographies that handle all the complexity have not found wide popular acceptance.

  31. Jim said,

    August 7, 2009 @ 2:15 pm

    "I feel like many languages would – Japanese, "

    Watch for the death threats now. Sarah, even, in the anonymity of the internet, that's not a really prudent thing to say.

    "I like the Ethnologue comment: "Language name based on the negator cia ‘no’. " It's tempting to imagine ways that could have come about."

    Maybe the same way that French and Provencal got nicknamed the "language[s] of yes".

  32. peter said,

    August 7, 2009 @ 2:45 pm

    Japanese department stores in almost-equatorial Jakarta regularly have Christmas displays of falling snowflakes and fir trees, so Indonesians have experience of North Asian cultural imperialism.

  33. Victor Mair said,

    August 7, 2009 @ 3:42 pm

    From Beijing, Gianni Wan sends two more accounts about the adoption of the Korean alphabet for Cia-Cia (No-No):

    http://english.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_international/369998.html

    also

    http://english.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2009/08/07/2009080700325.html

    These English editions of Korean newspaper reports both still use "Hangul." Sooner or later, however, I suppose that the government will catch up with them and make them adopt "Hangeul." After all, it's the "official" romanization now.

  34. Lugubert said,

    August 7, 2009 @ 3:54 pm

    @ John Smith
    ”Many Australian languages/dialects are named similarly: Baraba-Baraba, Madhi-Madhi, Wemba-Wemba, Yabala-Yabala, Yitha-Yitha, Yorta-Yorta, and so forth are all reduplications of the local word for 'no'".
    Looks like a variation of the Kangaroo story: Does your language have a name? – No.

    @ Jim
    ”Maybe the same way that French and Provencal got nicknamed the 'language[s] of yes'.”
    There were three groups, and the naming involved a comparision. Are there more Indonesian languages called “No”? In the 12th century, France’s regional languages were sorted into three groups, each group defined by the way they said, “Yes.” In the south, they spoke “the Langue d’Oc”, in the central and northern parts, “La Langue d’Oïl”, and closer to Iberia (later Spain) and Italy, “La Langue de Si”.

  35. Joel said,

    August 7, 2009 @ 4:37 pm

    Chris Sundita on the AN-LANG discussion list observes that Cia-Cia seems to have a glottal stop (cf. its numbers pa'a '4' and no'o '6' in Wikipedia). I'm not sure how that might be represented in Hangul.

    Writing the name of the language as Jjia-Jjia (in Hangeul rev. rom.) betrays another poor adaptation. I suspect that the doubling of the initial consonant is designed to ensure that the repeated /c/ is pronounced as voiced in both positions, like Korean tense obstruents and not like Korean unaspirated/lax obstruents, which are voiceless initially but voiced medially (unless adjacent to aspirated Cs, IIRC). It seems ridiculous to write every Cia-Cia voiced obstruent as doubled in order to keep Korean readers from interpreting them in their usual environmentally conditioned manner. (The Korean differential voicing of the same C would be rendered in McCune-Reischauer romanization as Cia-Jia, while Yale romanization would reflect orthography rather than phonology and render it as Cia-Cia, or Ccia-Ccia if the Cs are tense.)

    Perhaps someone else can express this in a less confusing and more accurate manner.

  36. ahkow said,

    August 7, 2009 @ 9:30 pm

    Another Sulawesi language with named after the negator is Bare'e, spoken in central Sulawesi, but I think more are moving towards calling the language Pamona, which is what native speakers do.
    http://www.sil.org/iso639-3/cr_files/2007-199_pmf.pdf

    Maybe this system of using negatives was used by Dutch linguists working in the area in the 1920s – 1930s?

    The report below (in Indonesian) says that the Wolio language itself (see Language Hat's comment) was also adapted for Hangul:
    http://www.radarbuton.com/index.php?act=news&nid=33251

  37. David Marjanović said,

    August 8, 2009 @ 6:58 am

    IPA is useful for transcribing sounds without regard to phonemic value

    What? It's specifically designed not to make distinctions that aren't known to be phonemic in some language. There are only two or three (mostly Eurocentric) exceptions like [ɱ], the labiodental nasal, which doesn't seem to be a separate phoneme from [m] anywhere. If you actually want to do reasonably precise phonetic transcriptions in IPA, you need to pour loads of diacritics on it.

    However, the IPA is also specifically designed to look pretty when printed. It's spectacularly unsuited for handwriting. I don't know how this guy handled that issue in his IPA-based alphabet for Yakut, in which "more than 200 books [...], including 30 schoolbooks" were printed; apparently he just invented a handwritten version for each character.

    Hangeul seems pretty bad for languages which have

    [...] (iii) contrasting vowel length

    Funnily enough, some kinds of Korean have contrasting vowel length, and the others lost it only recently. In Middle Korean, it was apparently regarded as part of the pitch-accent system, which was indicated by accents that are no longer used.

    The "tense" consonants of modern Korean are derived from Middle Korean consonant clusters, which were written as such: by squeezing consonant letters together into things like ᇏ, ᇓ or ㅵ.

    Chris Sundita on the AN-LANG discussion list observes that Cia-Cia seems to have a glottal stop (cf. its numbers pa'a '4′ and no'o '6′ in Wikipedia). I'm not sure how that might be represented in Hangul.

    The historically obvious possibility is the obsolete letter ᅙ. (Hangeul was designed not just for Middle Korean but also for the contemporary Early Mandarin pronunciation of Classical Chinese, which had such a sound.) But I don't know what kind of sound system the language has — maybe it's enough to write it as a syllable boundary, or maybe there's no /h/ in the system so its letter, ᄒ, could be used.

    What's more interesting is how the difference between word-initial /r/ and /l/ (Wikipedia: rua"two", lima "five") is going to be handled.

    Yale romanization would reflect orthography rather than phonology

    It would reflect orthography and phonology rather than phonetics: the choice between voiced and voiceless lenes is predictable = not phonemic (and not written) in Korean.

  38. Kwang-On Yoo said,

    August 8, 2009 @ 7:45 am

    The Indonesian story has excited many scholars but there were some cynicism too.
    But the idea of exporting Korean writing system is not new at all.

    Well over 100 years ago, even before the word Hangul was coined, non other than
    Homer B. Hulburt* wrote:

    p34 "There are a great many foreigners in China who are trying to evolve a phonetic system of
    writing for that country."

    p35 " – – – the present writer has urged that the Chinese people be invited to adopt
    the Korean alphabet, which is as simple in structure as any, and capable of the widest phonetic adaptation."
    "- – – and the only work to be done in introducing it is to overcome the sentimental prejudice
    of the Chinese in favour of the ideograph."

    *The Passing of Korea, 1906

    Kwang-On Yoo

  39. David Marjanović said,

    August 9, 2009 @ 6:35 am

    "- – – and the only work to be done in introducing it is to overcome the sentimental prejudice of the Chinese in favour of the ideograph."

    Understatement of the millennium.

  40. richard said,

    August 9, 2009 @ 8:41 pm

    Actually, there are several cases of languages within Indonesia (and the people who speak them) being named after their word for "no." For example, the Oseng people of Banyuwangi (eastern tip of Java, directly across the strait from Bali) are named after their word for "no" (seng), which is quite different from the various words for "no" in the nearby Javanese language (ora, mboten, sanes). Note that modern Indonesian uses something else again, "tidak" and its variants (ndak, nyandak, nyanda, tak, nggak), and "bukan."
    To me, the "what is your language called?" story sounds a bit too much like a host of other stories that purport to translate native names of landmarks into That River or Mt. Your Finger. Besides, the people living in what is now Indonesia hardly needed the arrival of the Dutch to realize that different groups spoke different languages. The island of Java alone has at least four local languages, depending on how you count them, and that's actually well below a place like Sulawesi.

  41. ppindia said,

    August 10, 2009 @ 3:28 am

    Max:
    I don't know Hangul. But from what I read in Wikipedia about Hangul http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hangul . It seems a tough Script to me. I know to read and write 3 scripts Latin/Roman(English), Devanagari(Sanskrit and Hindi), Kannada(Kannada). Being an average student it took me many years to master the scripts and pronunciations. Yet I am still learning. Some of the design features of Hangul are similar to Kannada/Devanagari which has lots of ovals and consonants and you have to join some of this to produce letters/words. I would say that it took me less time to master writing English rather than Kannada/Devanagari. So from kids perspective they would rather prefer Latin/Roman alphabet to Hangul. But I don't know whether Roman/Latin alphabet can accommodate needs of expressing Cia Cia in alphabetical terms. Maybe it might be good in political terms because they will have a very distinctive script!

  42. JT the Ninja said,

    August 10, 2009 @ 8:44 pm

    @ J.W. Brewer: I agree! Why can't they use tengwar, or cirth?

    Then again, if dyslexia is at all common in an area, I wouldn't recommend either of the two.

    This looks like a job for a conlanger, one who's been…conscripted…to do the job.

    Peace,
    JT

  43. Kwang-On Yoo said,

    August 10, 2009 @ 9:28 pm

    Exporting Hanguel To Cia Cia tribe at Bau Bau

    My previous quotation from "The Passing of Korea" by Hormer Hulbert on the above subject has generated a lot of interest, positive or otherwise.

    Further I would like to point out that Mr. Hulbert dissected Korean language
    and speech extensively in chapter 22(Language) of the same book(p300-305).

    He also wrote a book in 1904 titled "The Korean Language."

    Hope you will find them interesting.

    Regards,

    Kwang-On Yoo

  44. Michael Rank said,

    September 13, 2009 @ 1:56 pm

    This highly exotic story has been taken up enthusiastically by the US press all of a sudden

    http://tinyurl.com/qc5eux (or)
    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/12/world/asia/12script.html?_r=2&scp=1&sq=Korean%20alphabet%20/%20Indonesia&st=cse

    and

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125261759118600981.html

    The WSJ story says One of South Korea's leading phonetics experts in the late 1990s devised a Hangeul-based alphabet for Lahu, spoken by an ethnic group that lives in southern China and Southeast Asia. But such efforts haven't sparked a broad adoption of Hangeul.

    and
    …Lee Hyun-bok, a distinguished linguist now retired from his post at Seoul National University, who has created an international phonetic alphabet based on Hangeul. His alphabet has more than 80 letters, compared with the 24 used today to write Korean, and is designed to cover nearly every human speech sound.

    I was surprised to see that the NYT story links to the WSJ one (the link is "Indonesian tribe")

    Michael

  45. mockavel said,

    November 10, 2013 @ 12:23 pm

    I'm a linguist. hangul is an amazing alphabet and represents features as well as having phonetic accuracy and direct correlation between sound and symbol. With minimal adjustments, it has the possibility to save many of the world's dying languages that do not have their own orthography. hegemonic English is not the only language that should be deemed 'useful'. Hangul will give a toolkit to represent these more marginalized languages.

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