Revised romanisation of Korean

The Revised Romanization of Korean (국어의 로마자 표기법; lit. Roman letter notation of national language) is the official Korean language romanization system in South Korea proclaimed by Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, replacing the older McCune–Reischauer system. The new system eliminates diacritics in favour of digraphs and adheres more closely to Korean phonology than to a suggestive rendition of Korean phonetics for non-native speakers.

The Revised Romanization limits itself to only the ISO basic Latin alphabet (apart from limited, often optional use of the hyphen). It was developed by the National Academy of the Korean Language from 1995 and was released to the public on July 7, 2000, by South Korea's Ministry of Culture and Tourism in Proclamation No. 2000-8. The proclamation cites the following reasons for the new system:[1]

  • It promotes consistent romanization by native Korean speakers by better transcribing important language characteristics.
  • It reduces the confusion caused by frequent omission of apostrophes and diacritics.
  • It rationalizes the Korean language with the plain ASCII text of internet domain names.

Features

Notable features of the Revised Romanization system are as follows:

  • 어 and 으 are written as digraphs with two vowel letters: eo and eu, respectively (replacing the ŏ and ŭ of the McCune-Reischauer system).
    • However, ㅝ is written as wo and ㅢ is written as ui.
  • Unlike McCune-Reischauer, aspirated consonants (ㅋ, ㅌ, ㅍ, ㅊ) have no apostrophe: k, t, p, ch. Their unaspirated counterparts (ㄱ, ㄷ, ㅂ, ㅈ) are written with letters that are voiced in English: g, d, b, j. However, all consonants that are pronounced as unreleased stops (which basically means all except ㄴ, ㄹ, ㅁ, ㅇ that are not followed by a vowel or semivowel) are written as k, t, p, with no regard to their morphophonemic value: 벽 → byeok, 밖 → bak, 부엌 → bueok (But: 벽에 → byeoge, 밖에 → bakke, 부엌에 → bueoke)
  • ㅅ is always written as s before vowels and semivowels; there is no sh except when transliterating.
  • ㄹ is r before a vowel or a semivowel, and l everywhere else: 리을 → rieul, 철원 → Cheorwon, 울릉도 → Ulleungdo, 발해 → Balhae. Just like in McCune-Reischauer, ㄴ is written l whenever pronounced as a lateral rather than as a nasal consonant: 전라북도 → Jeollabuk-do

In addition, it contains special provisions for regular phonological rules that makes exceptions to transliteration (see Korean language#Phonology).

Other rules and recommendations include the following:

  • A hyphen may optionally disambiguate syllables: 가을 → ga-eul (fall; autumn) versus 개울 → gae-ul (stream). However, few official publications make use of this provision, since actual instances of ambiguity among names are rare.
    • A hyphen must be used in linguistic transliterations, where it denotes syllable-initial ㅇ (except at the beginning of a word): 없었습니다 → eops-eoss-seumnida, 외국어 → oegug-eo, 애오개 → Ae-ogae
  • It is permitted to hyphenate syllables in the given name, following common practice. Certain phonological changes, ordinarily indicated in other contexts, are ignored in names, to better disambiguate between names: 강홍립 → Gang Hongrip or Gang Hong-rip, 한복남 → Han Boknam or Han Bok-nam
  • Administrative units (such as the do) are hyphenated from the placename proper: 강원도 → Gangwon-do
    • One may omit terms “such as 시, 군, 읍”: 평창군 → Pyeongchang-gun or Pyeongchang, 평창읍 → Pyeongchang-eup or Pyeongchang.
  • However, names for geographic features and artificial structures are not hyphenated: 설악산 → Seoraksan, 해인사 → Haeinsa
  • Capitalize proper nouns.

Usage

Similarly to several European languages that have undergone spelling simplifications (such as Portuguese, German or Swedish), the Revised Romanization is not expected to be adopted as the official romanization of Korean family names. For example, the common family name, Lee (이), would be "I" in both the Revised Romanization and McCune-Reischauer. Given names and commercial names are encouraged to change, but it is not required. All Korean textbooks were required to comply with the new system by February 28, 2002. English-language newspapers in South Korea initially resisted the new system, citing its flaws, though all later gave in to government pressure. The Korea Times was the last major English newspaper, which switched in May 2006 to the Revised Romanization.

North Korea continues to use a version of the McCune-Reischauer system of Romanization, which was in official use in South Korea from 1984 to 2000.

Transcription rules

Vowel letters

Hangul
Romanization a ae ya yae eo e yeo ye o wa wae oe yo u wo we wi yu eu ui i

Consonant letters

Hangul
Romanization Initial g kk n d tt r m b pp s ss - j jj ch k t p h
Final k k n t - l m p - t t ng t - t k t p t

The revised romanization transcribes certain phonetic changes that occur with combinations of the ending consonant of a character and the initial consonant of the next, for example Hanguk → Hangug-eo. The significant changes are highlighted:

next initial →
previous ending ↓ g n d r m b s j ch k t p h
k g kg ngn kd ngn ngm kb ks kj kch k-k kt kp kh, k
n n n-g nn nd ll, nn nm nb ns nj nch nk nt np nh
t d, j tg nn td nn nm tb ts tj tch tk t-t tp th, t, ch
l r lg ll, nn ld ll lm lb ls lj lch lk lt lp lh
m m mg mn md mn mm mb ms mj mch mk mt mp mh
p b pg mn pd mn mm pb ps pj pch pk pt p-p ph, p
ng ng- ngg ngn ngd ngn ngm ngb ngs ngj ngch ngk ngt ngp ngh

Criticism

Despite governmental promotion, the revised system met with considerable opposition among foreign residents in South Korea, many of whom felt the revised system contained serious flaws and felt that the government failed to consult with them beforehand, despite their being the primary users of Romanized Korean inside South Korea.

Critics of the Revised Romanization System say that the one-to-one correspondence of Korean characters to Roman letters (e.g., usually representing ㄱ as g) that is the hallmark of the new system is overly simplistic and fails to represent sound changes that occur naturally when the position of a consonant changes (e.g., at the beginning of a word, ㄱ is pronounced closer to an unaspirated k, rather than as a straight g). A frequent complaint of many foreign residents and visitors to South Korea is that both Romanization systems hinder accurate and comprehensible rendering of Korean pronunciation.

Critics also complain that digraphs such as eo and eu, denoting sounds that differ from conventional European use, confuse those unfamiliar with the language. In English, for instance, eo as found in geography, Leonardo, or neon represents a sequence of two vowels, not the Korean monophthong. Defenders of the system cite English words such as surgeon as evidence of the appropriateness of the combination, even though the sound is not an exact match (the e has the role of softening the g to a j-sound, and is not actually part of the vowel). Other supporters point out that it is a system intended to transliterate into the Roman alphabet, not English. However, other languages with a large inventory of distinct vowel phonemes similar to Korean (such as Turkish, Hungarian, or Swedish) resort to diacritics, with the exception of English, with its notoriously cumbersome orthography. German, for example, usually writes ae, oe, and ue as ä, ö, and ü, with the umlaut originating as a tiny "e" written above the vowel, and only uses digraphs when umlauts are unavailable, or in certain names (such as Goethe). Also, a digraph, namely eu, is used to represent a very short vowel that is often used as an epenthetic vowel for borrowings from English and other languages, leading to situations where the cluster str-, for example, ends up being written as seuteur-.

The digraph eo appears to derive from the conventional romanization of Seoul. Seoul is the old French romanization in which the two syllables of the name, se ] and oul ], are the French equivalents of the Korean. The revised romanization reanalyzes se-oul as seo-ul.

The Ministry of Culture & Tourism says that the change was necessary because the McCune-Reischauer system did not adequately reflect important characteristics of the Korean language, making it difficult for native Korean speakers to use. For example, "The difference between some voiced and non-voiced sounds is in Korean little more than allophones, but [the] old system transcribed these as entirely different phonemes."[1]

Despite criticism by foreigners accustomed to using McCune Reischauer, often people who do not know Korean, many foreign residents and scholars have found the new system simple and logical. While all Romanization schema may be akin to learning a new language, the NGR (New Government Romanization) is applied much more easily after short study. In the past the majority of non-Korean fluent users of Romanization did not understand the purpose of diacritics, hence often omitting them and confusing everyone else.

See also

References

External links

  • Romanization of Korean from the National Institute of Korean Language
  • Online Revised Romanization Input Method Editor
  • Latin alphabet
  • Culture Ministry sets guideline for Romanizing Korean namespl:Metody latynizacji języka koreańskiego
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