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Here are some graphic representations of the hangul characters.

Vowels

The AH characterMakes a "AH" sound like in bar.


The EH characterMakes a "EH" sound like in head.


The UH characterMakes a "UH" sound like in duck.


The OH character Makes a "OH" sound like in poke.


The OOH character Makes a "OOH" sound like in boot.


The YE character Makes a "ee" sound like in peek when preceeded by the silent consonant ANG or an "i" sound like in sit when preceeded by a sounded consonant.



Consonants

The S character Makes a "S" sound or a "SH" sound


The K - G character Makes a "K" or a "G" sound


The T - D character Makes a "T" or a "D" sound


The CH character Makes a "CH" or a "J" sound


The P character Makes a "P" or a "B" sound


The M character Makes a "M" sound


The H character Makes a "H" sound



The ANG character Makes a "ANG" sound or behaves as a silent consonant.


These characters are spun together from the left or top-left of a syllable clockwise to the bottom right. However, every syllable begins with a consonant.

The word SUN would be spelled using

the S character the S character

the UH character the UH character

and the N character the N character.

Putting these together, we see the syllable SUNSUN.

Notice that the vowel in this case is between top and bottom.


The "SSH" sound is made by following the "S" character with a "YEE" character. Thus, SHIP would be

the S character the S character

the YEE character the YEE character

and the P character the P character.

Putting these together, we see the syllable SHIPSHIP.

Notice that the vowel in this case is along the right-hand side.


Some vowels may be strung together to form compound vowels. The Korean monetary unit is the WON, worth roughly one tenth of a cent. To form the word Won, we string together the OOH and the AH vowels. But wait, every syllable must begin with a consonant! This is where the ANG consonant comes into action.

the silent ANG character the ANG character

the OOH character the OOH character

the AH character the AH character

and the N character the n character.

Putting these together, we see the syllable WON (ooh-ah-n)WON.

Notice that the vowels are used from below to alongside.


The YEE vowel can be used before or after another vowel. When used after, the YEE vowel is left in its normal position. When used before, however, it as added to the vowel it is modifying as an added appendage. Consider Kyonggi where the YEE and AH are joined.

the K character the K character

the YEE character the YEE character

the AH character the AH character

and the ANG character the ang character.

Then the second syllable

the G character the K - g character

the YEE character the YEE character

So we get the compound syllable word, Kyonggi .


Some consonants are doubled. The T-D consonant, the S consonant and the K-G consonant, most notably. However, all the American Hungal speakers I encountered said that they make little difference from our point of view.


Finally, it should be noted that the inventor of the Hungul alphabet created the characters so that they mimic the shape of the mouth (or perhaps the flow of air through the mouth) when forming the appropriate sound. Pretty ingenious.

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Updated March 4, 2004, 9:26pm. shawn_h@sprynet.com