[KS] Re: Perfect Hangul?
otfried at cs.ust.hk
otfried at cs.ust.hk
Wed Dec 1 09:55:40 EST 1999
Ross King wrote:
> >Yes, M-R works well for publications in Korean studies, but it has been an
> >abysmal failure in Korea.
> Agreed. But where we differ, perhaps, is in our assessment of the chances
> of NAKL, or anybody, coming up with something which will be significantly
The proposed system at least has a tiny little chance of being
accepted by Koreans. M-R never had it.
> > If the government of Korea designs a
> >transliteration scheme, it does so for the benefit of the Korean
> >people. Whether or not the same scheme can be used by scholars in
> >Korean studies is rather irrelevant.
> Not if the next step (as it surely inevitable will be), is for Korean
> government foundations to require that all foreigners benefitting from
> their funding or publishing in journals funded by them use the new
> romanization. (!)
I didn't realize this was an issue. I sympathise with Korean's need
for a romanization that actually works for ordinary purposes, but I
can see your dilemma better now.
> >Linguists, for instance, still stick to the
> >Yale system.
> No kidding -- and it does everything that NAKL wants its new system to do,
> only better. Talk about reinventing the wheel.
Theoretically, Yale does it all. Practically, it fails the two
simplest tests: Koreans wouldn't accept it, and it is absolutely
cryptic to uninitiated foreigners.
> >Foreigners dealing with Koreans certainly deserve to be heard, but in
> >the end they'll fare better with a system that Koreans use properly
> >than with a more "foreigner-friendly" system that Koreans don't
> >understand and therefore don't use.
> I'm afraid this doesn't compute for me.
As a foreigner in Korea, I would like romanized Korean to be
comprehensible. Currently this is not the case. When breve's and
apostrophes are suppressed, or when pig-English (u or ou for /o^/, ee
for /i/, ah for /a/) has been used, I sometimes cannot figure out what
the Korean word is supposed to be, because there are too many
ambiguities. If there were a system, ANY system, that was accepted
widely by Koreans, a foreigner would stand a better chance. In this
sense, a "foreigner-unfriendly" system could actually be more
> >The proposed system has been called foreigner-unfriendly. The only
> >argument in favor of this claim seems to be the use of EO and EU.
> This misses the point (already made very well by John Harvey, I think,
> among others): the system under debate requires the user to know Korean --
> that's not foreigner-unfriendly?
I must admit that I cannot follow at all. Clearly one cannot expect
anyone to be able to pronounce Korean perfectly without knowing
anything about Korean. This is true for M-R or the proposed system,
and I can, in fact, not see a single advantage of M-R over what I've
heard about the proposal, with the exception of SI, EO, and EU.
As for the difficulty of learning EO or EU, the simple truth is that
whether or not the current official transliteration uses it or not,
every foreigner dealing with Koreans needs to understand what they
stand for. They appear in so many personal or company names that
anybody who refused to learn them would be seriously handicapped
> There is little that is brilliant, courageous, or original in the NAKL
> proposal. It is ground that has been gone over and over again a thousand
> times. I've already mentioned that Yale does everything it wants, and Yale
> has been around for nearly 50 years.
What is "brilliant and courageous" in the proposal is that it doesn't
try to come up with a shiny new system, but looks at what Koreans
actually do. Ask a few innocent Koreans to romanize a few sentences
or addresses written in Hangul, and they'll either use pig-English
vowels or EO and EU, and more or less the consonants that the proposed
system uses (although they are quite likely to use the unvoiced
letters for the unaspirated stops, until they realize there's
ambiguity with the aspirated ones). (Of course this is my personal
experience with a very restricted sample!) This, in my humble
opinion, is what gives the proposal a tiny chance with the general
> Fair enough -- but it really is 'been there, done that; deja vu'; at the
> end of the day we'll still have more than one system in use. If the Koreans
> want to use their new system for their purposes, let them -- clearly it is
> their business. But to suggest that the rest of us should go along with it
> seems as naive as it is impractical.
I have no problems with this statement.
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