From Roses, Tulips, & Liberty
The Hoenmindjangoem (훈민정음) was the first document to introduce Hankoel in 1446.
Native toCorea
  • Corean
DialectsCorean dialects
Official status
Official language in
Recognised minority
language in

Corean (Corean: 한국어, 韓國語) is a language spoken predominately in Corea, where is it the sole official language. The language has several dialects, some of which are mutually unintelligible with each other. Standard Corean, based on the Central dialects, serves as the language of diplomacy, government, and education. Beyond Corea, the language is spoken in the Westerzee province of Tussenland, Tauland, and New Batavia.

Corean is written primarily using the Hankoel script, which was developed during the mid-15th century, particularly the reign of King Sedjong. Handja, an ancient writing system using Chinese characters, has been in decline since the 19th century and is principally used in government, the humanities, formal education, and religion.


By the 4th century AD, several nation-states developed in Corea, speaking different but closely related languages. When Silla unified the Corean peninsula in the 7th century, it effectively linguistically unified the region under its dialect. This Sillan dialect eventually evolved into Middle Corean, used in the medieval Korja dynasty. At this point in history, Corean was written with Chinese characters and the phonological Idu scripts. In the 10th century, the capital of the country was moved to the center of the peninsula around Hansjang, allowing the region's dialect to gain prestige. During the later years of the Korja dynasty, Corean imported several loanwords from Mongolian, underwent a vowel sound shift, and replaced a significant number of native terms with Sino-Corean equivalents.

In 1446, King Sedjong introduced an early version of the modern phonetic Hankoel alphabet, which would eventually become Corea's dominant writing system. Hankoel's creation may have been influenced by the Tibetan Buddhist Phaspa script.

The Imdjin Wars and societal change of the late 16th century led to changes in spelling, the rise of vernacular literature, and notably changes in phonology. Aspiration, palatalization, the loss of vowel harmony, and monophthongization became increasingly common across Corean dialects. The 17th century saw the introduction of Western influences in the Corean language, mainly through the Dutch of Tauland. Native vocabulary continued to fall out of common usage, with Sinitic terms becoming dominant.

The 1700s and 1800s saw the decline of Handja as a writing system, the beginnings of language standardization, the official establishment of romanization systems, and the creation of orthographic standards. The expansion of the Corean empire in the late 19th century led to a period of destabilization in the language, with northern dialects greatly influencing the development of a standard variety.

After the Second Sino-Corean War, the National Republic moved the capital to the northern city of Rjoekjang, allowing the northern dialects to exert a disproportionate influence on standard phonology and for Russia to influence efforts to introduce a reformed romanization system. Motivated by ideology, loanwords, particularly Sino-Corean vocabulary, were gradually replaced with native Corean terms.

Geographic distribution


Standard Corean has 19 consonants, 2 semivowels, 11 distinct vowel sounds, and 21 distinct vowel combinations. There is considerable phonological variation within Corean dialects.

Bilabial Alveolar Alveolo-palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal ㅁ /m/ ㄴ /n/ ㅇ /ŋ/
Plosive lenis ㅂ /p/ ㄷ /t/ ㅈ /ts, tɕ/ ㄱ /k/
fortis ㅃ /p͈/ ㄸ /t͈/ ㅉ /ts͈, t͈ɕ/ ㄲ /k͈/
aspirated ㅍ /pʰ/ ㅌ /tʰ/ ㅊ /tsʰ, tɕʰ/ ㅋ /kʰ/
Fricative lenis ㅅ /s/ ㅎ /h/
fortis ㅆ /s͈/
Approximant /w/ /j/
Liquid ㄹ /ɾ/~/l/
  • The letter ㅇ is only pronounced as /ŋ/ at the end of a syllable.
  • ㅅ is read as /t/ at the bottom of a syllable block.
  • The semivowels /w/ and /j/ are represented in Corean by modifications to vowels.
  • The plosives ㅈ, ㅉ, ㅊ may be palatalized by the speaker depending on their native dialect. In the official pronunciation endorsed by the Corean National Republic, it is considered conventional not to palatalize obstruents.
  • Traditionally /l/ was disallowed at the start of words in southern dialects. However, due to Dutch influence, southern dialects have re-adopted word-initial /l/ as is still done in the Standard and northern dialects.
  • /ɦ/ is a voiced allophone of /h/. This is often attributed to Dutch influence. In dialects where word-initial /h/ is dropped (such as that of Tsjoengtsjang), speakers may hypercorrect in formal speech by voicing the consonant.
  • /ɸ/ and /ç/ are allophones of /h/ and may appear in front of back and front vowel sounds respectively.
  • /z/ is an allophone of ㅅ /s/ and is used by some speakers.
Front Central Back
unrounded rounded
Close ㅣ/i/ ㅟ /y/ ㅡ /ɨ/ ㅜ /u/
Close-mid ㅔ /e/ ㅚ /ø/ ㅓ /ʌ, əː/ ㅗ /o/
Open-mid ㅐ /ɛ/
Open ㅏ/a/
Composite vowels ㅖ /je/ ㅒ/jɛ/ ㅑ /ja/ ㅕ/jʌ/
ㅛ /jo/ ㅠ /ju/ ㅝ /wʌ/ ㅞ /we/
ㅘ /wa/ ㅙ /wɛ/ ㅢ /ɨ, iː/



The core of Corean vocabulary consists of native Corean words, though a significant portion of the words in the language are of Sino-Corean origin. Loanwords have been adopted from other languages such as Dutch (since the 17th century), Mongolian, and Russian.

During the National Republic, the government made a concerted effort to replace numerous Sino-Corean words with their native equivalents as part of a wider linguistic and cultural protectionism program. By the 1960s, it is estimated that the proportion of Sino-Corean words used in Corea had fallen to 25-50% of the common lexicon.

Corean exonyms

Corean exonyms are toponyms that do not follow local usage. They are often either derived from Chinese characters and read with a Sino-Corean pronunciation or are spelled phonologically with varying degrees of accuracy. Photo-semantic matching is also used when giving Chinese characters to a toponym, a practice called tsjeu'oem (취음) and equivalent to Japanese atedji (宛字). Examples include:

  • The Chinese characters 日本 are read as ilbon 일본 and mean 'Japan'.
  • The term for the Netherlands, 화란/荷蘭, is an example of photo-semantic matching. It is a phonological approximation of the term 'Holland' while the characters can be interpreted as meaning 'lotus orchid'.


The romanization of Corean is referred to as ramadja 라마字, cognate to Japanese romadji. The first documented romanizations of Corean appeared in the late 17th century in Tauland and subsequently evolved into formalized systems during the 19th and 20th centuries.

In 1854, the Keukenkamp system (끄칸감파 화글화) was introduced to the public by missionary and linguist Willem Keukenkamp. It is heavily based on native Dutch orthography and gained popularity in the late 19th century.[1]

Romanization Initial k kk n t tt r m bp bbpp ssj ssssj tsj tsj' tsj k t p h
Medial g gg d dd r bb dj dj'
Final k kk t l b t ng t t
Romanization a e ja je e e ja je o wa we eu jo oe wa we u joe oe oei i

See also

  1. ㄴ + ㄱ is written n'g. If a final ㅈ or ㅊ is followed by ㅇ, write them as their medial sound. The final ㅎ in Corean may be written either way depending on pronunciation. Double consonants, besides ㅉ, require doubling of the letter.