[KS] Romanization

Horace H. Underwood hhu at fulbright.or.kr
Mon Mar 4 02:10:41 EST 2002

Dear Colleagues:

All my life I have been a M-R supporter, even when I didn't know M-R well
enough to get it correctly.  My heart sank within me when I heard that the
Korean government was changing the system again.  The new system leads to
confusion and recreates some of the ludicrous spellings that might serve to
make good jokes in the FEER "Travellers' Tales."  I cannot list myself among
those who are "for" the new system.


There are two elements of the new system that are useful.

1) My Korean is fluent but my Korean spelling is horrible and I can't always
hear the difference between the aspirate and non-aspirate consonants,
particularly j/ch (ch/ch' in MR).  So if I see something written as
"chinju," I don't know if it is really "jinju" or actually "ch'inju" with
the apostrophe erroneously but commonly left out.  In the new system, by
golly, you can pretty much decipher what the original Korean was.

2) Gary Rector pointed out that while American ears tend to think of p and
p' as the same letter, while b is different, Korean ears tend to think that
p and b are the same letter, while p' is different - i.e. the unvoiced,
unaspirated consonant is lumped with the voiced consonant by Koreans rather
than with the aspirated consonant as by Americans.  IF one goal of
romanization is to have Koreans understand Americans when they say words in
Korean, then (never mind eo and eu) on THAT point, Koreans are more likely
to correctly understand Americans if they say "Daegu" than if they say
"T'aegu."  I would probably hear "T'aegu" as more nearly correct, but then
I'm American.

Both of these are a long way from academic useage, of course, and may merely
go to show the futility of trying to develop a one-size-fits-all-purpose
romanization system.

Horace H. Underwood

-----Original Message-----
From: Koreanstudies-admin at koreaweb.ws
[mailto:Koreanstudies-admin at koreaweb.ws]On Behalf Of Paikkim at aol.com
Sent: Sunday, March 03, 2002 7:46 AM
To: Koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws
Subject: [KS] (no subject)

I agree wholeheartedly with Prof. David McCann's comment.

The comments on the question of romanization has so far run heavily against
the new system proposed by the S. Korean government. I wonder if anyone is
for the new system. It would be enlightening to hear from those who are for
the new system, especially if a few of the scholars who helped to formulate
the new scheme could step up to the plate explain why they are for
that most of us are used to the M-R system, still for myself, bi for rain,
for blood as well as eo and eu instead of the diacrtical marks seem
improvements on certain aspects of the old system

Kichung Kim

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