Question about Devera

Mark A Mandel mam at theworld.com
Tue Mar 4 16:52:48 PST 2003

On Tue, 4 Mar 2003, Scott Raun wrote:

#On Tue, Mar 04, 2003 at 01:22:25PM -0800, Philip Hart wrote:
#> Korean is held up as an example of the way to establish a
#> sensible writing system instead of evolving a mishmash like
#> most languages.  IIRC King So-and-so got a committee together,
#> came up with something logical and simple, and imposed it.
#I have a friend who married a Korean.  His explanation is that the
#Japanese did a VERY thorough job of destroying all evidence of the
#Korean written language while they controlled the country for some
#number of years.  Their intent was to wipe out the language except as
#something spoken by the lowest peasantry, and destroy the native
#cultural heritage completely.
#They were moderately successful.  After they were kicked out, there
#was not enough written word in Korean available to recreate the
#original alphabet - so they created a new one from scratch.
#They had the advantage of not having an original alphabet / writing
#system to displace.

This is from the LINGUIST List, at
http://www.linguistlist.org/issues/3/3-885.html :

(message dated Fri, 6 Nov 1992)

Thanks to all of you who responded to my query about the Korean Alphabet
Day. Here is a summary of the information I got:

Korean Alphabet Day (Hangul Nal in Korean) is on October 9th. It
commemorates the publication of the Korean national alphabet, which was
invented in 1443 and published in 1446 by King Sejong (Yi dynasty) and a
group of scholars that he entrusted with this task ("Institute of
Correct Sounds").
  The unique feature of the Korean alphabet is that it is directly
iconic. The basic shapes of the consonants are based on the shapes of
the speech organs when the sounds are being pronounced. Even distinctive
features were recognized. It is thus a superb achievement of linguistic
science, anticipating modern phonology by several centuries.
  Since the Korean alphabet is so much easier to learn than the Chinese
characters that had been the only writing system before, The Korean
alphabet (Hangul) also had the effect of democratizing writing. Hangul
Day was observed as a national holiday in Korea for several decades,
but, deplorably, it was abolished last year by the authorities.
  In Chicago, Hangul Day is an important event for the linguistics
community, because Jim McCawley holds a Hangul Day party every year,
with lots of Korean, Japanese and Chinese food.


Martin Haspelmath, Free University of Berlin


Alas, Jim McCawley died several years ago. A great linguist, a great
wit, and a great guy.

-- Dr. Whom, Consulting Linguist, Grammarian, Orthoepist, and
   Philological Busybody
   a.k.a. Mark A. Mandel