[KS] Romanisation and Pinyin

Stefan Ewing sa_ewing at hotmail.com
Tue Jun 7 19:43:37 EDT 2005

Dear KS list members:

Yes, Boudewijn Walraven picked up on a subtle but very critical point in 
Rupert's last post.  For all that one may or may not say in criticism of the 
current Revised Romanization of Korean, it is _not_ a transliteration 
system, and is rather a transcription system.

Transliteration systems represent the _spelling_ of Hangul, and include, for 
example, the official South Korean romanization system between 1959 and 
1984, and the Yale Romanization of Korean.  Transcription systems 
approximate the _pronunciation_ of Hangul, and include McCune-Reischauer 
Romanization, the McCune-Reischauer based system in effect in South Korea 
from 1984 to 2000, the current (Revised) system that supplanted it, and the 
official system in the North as well.

Essentially, the Revised Romanization of Korean preserves most of the 
letter-to-letter correspondences of the pre-1984 system (which used /g/ for 
the first consonant, /eo/ for the third vowel, and so on), but preserves 
most of the basic sound changes of the post-1984 (McCune-Reischauer) based 
system: so /g/ becomes /k/ at the end of a word and /ng/ before /n, r, m/, 
and so on.  (There are some sound changes that are not preserved in the new 
system, so for example, the intensified /j --> (t)ch/ in McC.-R. /hancha/ 
does not appear in the Revised /hanja/.)

Stefan Ewing

>From: "rupert" <rupert at aks.ac.kr>
>Reply-To: Korean Studies Discussion List <Koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws>
>To: <Koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws>
>Subject: [KS] Romanisation and Pinyin
>Date: Tue, 7 Jun 2005 11:49:18 +0900
>Gari Ledyard wrote how he is impressed by how easily the Pinyin system for 
>Chinese has gained broad acceptance. Well, I heard that one of the 
>motivations for making the new Korean system was the success of Pinyin. I 
>have been studying Chinese for a while and Pinyin does seem to be 
>exceedingly good. Also, unlike Koreans, Chinese students learn it - indeed 
>it has become their 'alphabet'. All the foreign Chinese students in our 
>school know it. Truly amazing. Of course, Koreans do not really need such 
>as they have their own alphabet, hence the confusion to purpose. 
>Accordingly, several systems coexist side by side.
>1 Yale - A clever system for linguists. Only used by specialists - no one 
>else has a clue, yet it is good.
>2  MR - A clever system for foreigners based on compromise between sound 
>and transliteration. Easy to learn but hopeless on computers.
>3  KOR 2000 - A simple system for Koreans based on transliteration (not 
>sound). Useful for computer users. Easy for lifers but confusing to 
>It seems to be a case of - take your pick ... but who you are will 
>determine which one you will like. Or, maybe the best version is still 
>waiting to be discovered.
>Rupert Atkinson

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