[KS] Variable Romanization of 년(年) in McCune-Reischauer

Werner Sasse werner_sasse at hotmail.com
Tue Feb 25 13:32:00 EST 2014


Hi, Bob, 
this starts to be really interesting.  

> You're certainly right that we don't hear 외 pronounced as [ö], or 위 as [ü], very often today, at least not in Seoul. 
Well really, I never hear the German  [ö], or  [ü], only in discussions with linguists who also speak German well. There is always a slight glide in what I hear. I wished, someone would make decent research based on electronic recordings.
However, when I was teaching German in the late 60ies, one of the biggest problems was that the students (coming from all over Korea) had a hard time trying to get even near the pronunciation and were simply unable to make it a habit.

> But in the past the vowels were certainly described as having those phonetic values, just as Martin says.
Yes: "described", and by linguists, who were looking for standards... I am sorry, but here is really my suspicion: I do not trust the books as long as I cannot hear it in the street. (Please, I know this is dangerous, as I am not basing my suspicion on research, but my exposure to Korean spans almost 50 years now, and even if I know that prejudices can last long...)

  > The ROK government document 표준바름범 'Standard Pronunciation' published 
in 1989 informs us that the umlaut 
> pronunciations are standard, which 
means that the authors of the document must have been taking the speech 
of older Seoul 
> natives (think of Lee Sung Nyong) as the model
Here we go again: "government document 표준바름범 'Standard Pronunciation' "... Linguists, of course...
And now: " which 
means that the authors of the document must have been taking the speech 
of older Seoul 
natives (think of Lee Sung Nyong) as the model." Well, you talked with him much more often than I ever did, but did he really use  the German  [ö], or  [ü]? It did not strike me (but then, that was not really the question on my mind when I talked to him)

o.k. I may all be wrong. But I am glad that my somewhat flippant remark starts such an interesting discussion on the question of  how much in our descriptions is biased because of our training which makes us see and hear things pre-patterned .

Another question in this respect is: How much is the regular 이/가 opposition of today the result of school grammar (again: the linguists). The few prose texts from the 19th century I saw do present chaos (is 가 possibly emphatic?) Ooooch...

I am in India at the moment: I hope it is not that the sun is too hot...,
best wishes, and I hope we have a chance to meet again soon
Your Werner

> From: ramsey at umd.edu
> To: koreanstudies at koreanstudies.com
> Date: Tue, 25 Feb 2014 15:00:38 +0000
> Subject: Re: [KS] Variable Romanization of 년(年) in McCune-Reischauer
> 
> You're certainly right that we don't hear 외 pronounced as [ö], or 위 as [ü], very often today, at least not in Seoul. But in the past the vowels were certainly described as having those phonetic values, just as Martin says.  The ROK government document 표준바름범 'Standard Pronunciation' published in 1989 informs us that the umlaut pronunciations are standard, which means that the authors of the document must have been taking the speech of older Seoul natives (think of Lee Sung Nyong) as the model.  Cf. Lee and Ramsey, "The Korean Language" (2000), page 64. 
> 
> Best,
> Bob Ramsey
> 
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Koreanstudies [mailto:koreanstudies-bounces at koreanstudies.com] On Behalf Of Otfried Cheong
> Sent: Tuesday, February 25, 2014 1:57 AM
> To: Korean Studies Discussion List
> Subject: Re: [KS] Variable Romanization of 년(年) in McCune-Reischauer
> 
> 
> 
> On 24/02/14 13:38, Werner Sasse wrote:
> > Right you are. Reminds me of Korean scholars in "Germanistik", who try 
> > to convince me that Korean 외 is identical with German /ö/ : The 
> > linguist's need or wish to make a rule, which sometimes is overriding 
> > simple observation, a not uncommon occupational disease amongst us 
> > scholars (and not only linguists)
> 
> I have been wondering about this for a long time.  When I first learnt Korean,  I had some tapes that turned out to have been recorded a long time ago, possibly in the 1950's (with example sentences like "This towel costs 23 Won").
> 
> One of the speakers on those tapes systematically pronounced 외 as /ö/ 
> and 위 as /ü/.   If I remember right, the textbook explained that this 
> pronunciation was a valid variant used by some speakers.
> 
> I have met two (unrelated) senior Professor Choi's, who both told me that their name is properly pronounced /chö/, even though they did not seem to use the /ö/ variant in their own speech.
> 
> Samuel Martin's "A reference grammar of Korean" (my copy was published in 1992) describes /외/ on page 24 as the front rounded mid vowel, that is /ö/.  However, he says that "in standard Seoul speech 외 is not distinguished from 웨", and "many speakers tend to pronounce 위 as a long monophthong /ü/ rather than the more common diphthong".
> 
> I personally do not remember meeting a Korean who used the monophthong variants, and when I ask younger Koreans about this, they are completely baffled.  They never heard about this variant, and have no idea why Goethe is spelled 괴테.
> 
> When I point out to them that adding 이 to 아 and 어 moves the vowel from the back to the front of the mouth, and that the logical generalization would be for 외 and 위 to be fronted 오 and 우's, they agree (with surprise) that Hangul is inconsistent - but they still can't accept the variant as correct Korean, or think of anyone who speaks like that.
> 
> When did this variant fall out of usage?  Or has it always been a regional variant?  Is it still alive somewhere?
> 
> Best wishes,
>   Otfried Cheong
> 
> 
> 
> 
 		 	   		  
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