Archaic and obsolete letters

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Archaic and obsolete characters

Several jamo are obsolete. These include several that represent Korean sounds that have since disappeared from the standard language, as well as a larger number used to represent the sounds of the Chinese rime tables. The most frequently encountered of these archaic letters are:

  • (transcribed ə (arae-a 아래아 "lower a"): Presumably /ʌ/, similar to modern eo. It is written as a dot, positioned beneath (Korean for "beneath" is arae) the consonant. The arae-a is not entirely obsolete, as it can been found in various brand names and is often used in spelling the dialect of Jeju Island, Korea's southernmost province, where it is /ɒ/. Even so, it was not transcribed in the official Revised Romanization and thus modern renderings of the Jeju dialect transcribe it the same way as ㅗ, that is, o. Korean words that were written with ㆍ long ago are now usually written with ㅏ. The description of this character originally was 思(不用初聲) [사].
    • The ə formed a medial of its own, or was found in the diphthong ㆎ arae-ae, written with the dot under the consonant and ㅣ (transcribed i) to its right — in the same fashion as ㅚ or ㅢ.
  • z (bansiot 반시옷): A rather unusual sound, perhaps IPA [ʝ͂] (a nasalized palatal fricative). Modern Korean words previously spelled with ㅿ substitute ㅅ. The description of this character originally was 而 [이].
  • ʔ (yeorinhieut 여린히읗 "light hieut" or doenieung 된 이응 "strong ieung"): A glottal stop, "lighter than ㅎ and harsher than ㅇ".
  • ŋ (yesieung 옛이응): The original jamo for [ŋ]; now conflated with ㅇ ieung. (With some computer fonts such as Arial Unicode MS, yesieung is shown as a flattened version of ieung, but the correct form is with a long peak, longer than what you would see on a serif version of ieung.) The description of this character originally was 異凝 [이응].
  • β (gabyeounbieup 가벼운비읍): IPA [f]. This letter appears to be a digraph of bieup and ieung, but it may be more complicated than that. There were three other less common jamo for sounds in this section of the Chinese rime tables, ㅱ w ([w] or [m]), a theoretical ㆄ f, and ㅹ ff [v̤]; the bottom element appears to be only coincidentally similar to ieung.

There were two other now-obsolete double jamo,

  • x (ssanghieut 쌍히읗 "double hieut"): IPA [ɣ̈ʲ] or [ɣ̈].
  • (ssang-ieung 쌍이응 "double ieung"): Another jamo used in the Chinese rime table.

In the original Hangul system, double jamo were used to represent Chinese voiced (濁音) consonants, which survive in the Shanghainese slack consonants, and were not used for Korean words. It was only later that a similar convention was used to represent the modern "tense" (faucalized) consonants of Korean.

The sibilant ("dental") consonants were modified to represent the two series of Chinese sibilants, alveolar and retroflex, a "round" vs. "sharp" distinction which was never made in Korean, and which was even being lost from southern Chinese. The alveolar jamo had longer left stems, while retroflexes had longer right stems:

Original consonants
Chidueum (alveolar sibilant)
Jeongchieum (retroflex sibilant)

There were also consonant clusters that have since dropped out of the language, such as the initials ㅴ bsg and ㅵ bsd, as well as diphthongs that were used to represent Chinese medials, such as ㆇ, ㆈ, ㆊ, ㆋ.

Some of the Korean sounds represented by these obsolete jamo still exist in some dialects.


  • Obsolete simple consonant letters: ᄛ, ㅱ, ㆄ
  • Obsolete double letters (glottalized): ㅥ, ᄙ, ㅹ, ᇮ
  • Obsolete consonant clusters: ᇃ, ᄓ, ㅦ, ᄖ, ㅧ, ㅨ, ᇉ, ᄗ, ᇋ, ᄘ, ㅪ, ㅬ, ᇘ, ㅭ, ᇚ, ᇛ, ㅮ, ㅯ, ㅰ, ᇠ, ᇡ, ㅲ, ᄟ, ㅳ, ᇣ, ㅶ, ᄨ, ㅷ, ᄪ, ᇥ, ㅺ, ㅻ, ㅼ, ᄰ, ᄱ, ㅽ, ᄵ, ㅾ, ᄷ, ᄸ, ᄹ, ᄺ, ᄻ, ᅁ, ᅂ, ᅃ, ᅄ, ᅅ, ᅆ, ᅈ, ᅉ, ᅊ, ᅋ, ᇬ, ᇭ, ㆂ, ㆃ, ᇯ, ᅍ, ᅒ, ᅓ, ᅖ, ᇵ, ᇶ, ᇷ, ᇸ
    • Triples: ᇄ, ㅩ, ᇏ, ᇑ, ᇒ, ㅫ, ᇔ, ᇕ, ᇖ, ᇞ, ㅴ, ㅵ, ᄤ, ᄥ, ᄦ, ᄳ, ᄴ
  • Obsolete iotized vowel letters (semi consonant-semi vowel): ᆜ, ᆝ, ᆢ
  • Obsolete diphthongs: ᅶ, ᅷ, ᅸ, ᅹ, ᅺ, ᅻ, ᅼ, ᅽ, ᅾ, ᅿ, ᆀ, ᆁ, ᆂ, ᆃ, ㆇ, ㆈ, ᆆ, ᆇ, ㆉ, ᆉ, ᆊ, ᆋ, ᆌ, ᆍ, ᆎ, ᆏ, ᆐ, ㆊ, ㆋ, ᆓ, ㆌ, ᆕ, ᆖ, ᆗ, ᆘ, ᆙ, ᆚ, ᆛ, ᆟ, ᆠ, ㆎ