Tuesday, 17 March 2009

going up

Jonathan Marks said
I used to like the visuals in the right-hand column of the old blog. Pity they seem to have disappeared in the new version.

It’s true that the new site does not allow me to place pictures in the sidebar. But I can still put them in the body of the text. I’ll try to remember to include more than I have been doing since moving sites. There are two small graphics in today’s post, just to make sure.
Contrary to popular belief, neither the Korean hangŭl script nor Japanese kana are opaque in the way that Chinese characters are. The Korean writing system is actually alphabetic, while the Japanese katakana is a straightforward syllabary. Both of them can be spelled out symbol by symbol.
Here is the word elevator written in Korean.
It reads el-li-be-i-tŏ. When the Korean phoneme written ᄅ is between vowels it is pronounced as a tap, ɾ. But in syllable-final position, and when geminated (as here), it is pronounced as a lateral, l. As the IPA Handbook puts it,
/l/ is [ɾ] intervocalically; … /ll/ is [ll]…

Here is the same word in Japanese.
It reads e-re-be-:-ta-:.
So the differences between the two languages in the treatment of this borrowing from American English are these,
In Korean,
• English l is correctly rendered as a lateral (but a geminated one);
• English is correctly rendered as a diphthong;
• the final AmE ɚ comes out as ŏ (ʌ)
In Japanese,
• English l comes out as a tap ɾ, not as a lateral (except by chance sometimes)
• the diphthong is rendered as a long monophthong (though Japanese no longer distinguishes between ei and ee, anyway);
• the final ɚ comes out as a long .
In both languages, English v is rendered as b. The two languages differ in how they treat the second, unstressed, vowel: but then so do native speakers.


  1. You might be interested to know that in Korea you can still hear some speakers, especially those old enough to remember the Japanese colonial period, say 'erebeta (에레베타)' following the Japanese form. There are a number of pairs like 'ellibeitŏ'-'erebeta' in Korean, which used to borrow Japanese renderings of Western terms but now borrows them directly from the source languages or through English, leading to a closer approximation of the original pronunciation. An enduring Japanese-style term is 'terebi (테레비)' for television; the standard term is 'tellebijŏn' (again, /v/ is rendered as [b], while /ʒ/ is mapped to the affricate 'j' [dʑ]) but 'terebi' seems to be shorter and catchier.

    There is an official set of rules governing the renderings of foreign languages in hangŭl (외래어 표기법); the current system was put into effect in 1986. Initially, it provided rules for English, German, French, Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, and Italian; it has since been augmented by rules concerning a dozen additional languages.

    The examples given in the rules concerning English follow BrE pronunciations (in Daniel Jones's old quantitative transcriptions), even though AmE is dominant in EFL teaching in Korea. Most, though not all, renderings of English words in hangŭl follow BrE pronunciation. So it might be more accurate to say that the BrE final /ə/ comes out as 'ŏ' [ʌ], though the point is moot since AmE /ɚ/ is rendered identically.

    The rules allow the /r/ class of sounds to be mapped to Korean 'r' [ɾ] and the /l/ class of sounds to Korean 'l' (or 'll' intervocally). But since in Korean they are all instances of the same phoneme, just in different positions or geminated, people tend to confuse them. I recently corrected someone who thought the Old Norse name 'mjöllnir' should be rendered 'myorŭnil (묘르닐)' in hangŭl rather than 'myolnirŭ (묠니르)' or 'miolnirŭ (미올니르)'.

    What I said only applies to South Korea; North Korea has its own rules concerning foreign borrowings.

  2. Thanks, Jongseong, for that very useful clarification.

  3. Oh, and I said it was a borrowing from AmE, because the BrE word for the same object is a "lift". We use "elevators" only for goods, not for people.

  4. Oh, and I said it was a borrowing from AmE, because the BrE word for the same object is a "lift".

    That's a very good point. I don't know why I missed it.

    By the way, what I would consider a more formal term for lifts in Korean would be the Sino-Korean sŭng-gang-gi (승강기), but I don't recall ever hearing it used in everyday speech. English loanwords seem to be just more fashionable these days, however unwieldy they may be (five syllables in the case of el-li-be-i-tŏ).

  5. Stupid question: Does the Lucida font have Hangul characters?

    Not that I can *read* Hangul, but I'd still like to be able to see it, so I need to find out what I've set up wrong.

  6. @Sili: no, it doesn't. I specify Lucida Sans Unicode for the phonetic characters but otherwise leave the font to blogspot, which I think uses Tahoma. Tahoma doesn't have hangul either, but my browser (Firefox) is clever enough to find an appropriate font if the text calls for a character that isn't in the default font. Check in Character Map (or whatever the Mac equivalent is) to see which of your installed fonts, if any, have Korean, Japanese and Chinese characters. If your browser has problems with them, try Firefox, Opera, or Safari instead of IE.

  7. Thanks. I am using Opera, and Tahoma is the standard font, I think. (The IPA does show without any issue.)

    I'll try to find an extra font for the Hangul then.