An Early 20th Century Korean Phonetic Alphabet

John Stonham1,, Hyehyun Lee1,
Author Information & Copyright
1Pukyong National University, Korea
Corresponding Author : John Stonham, English Language and Literature, Pukyong National University, Busan, Korea Phone: +82516295385; Email:, Hyehyun Lee, English Language and Literature, Pukyong National University, Busan, Korea Phone: +82516295385; Email:

Copyright ⓒ 2016, Sejong University Language Research Institue. This is an Open-Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Received: Jun 23, 2014; Revised: Aug 28, 2014; Accepted: Sep 11, 2014

Published Online: Jan 01, 2017


In this paper, we examine early efforts in English language education in Korea, focusing on a student’s glossary of Chinese characters that contains Mandarin Chinese, English, and Japanese glosses of the meanings of each character. This book, the Ahak Pyeon, employs a modified version of the Korean Hangul writing system in order to phonetically render the English words, thereby facilitating the acquisition of English pronunciation for Korean learners. We examine the system proposed in this work in detail, noting issues of phonetic accuracy and clarity and assess it with respect to its suitability as a linguistically-sophisticated phonetic transcription system suitable for the representation of English teaching. In this paper we discuss the principles employed in the Ahak Pyeon to render a reasonably accurate phonetic characterization of the pronunciation of the English words included in the book as well as a discussion of the challenges faced by the developer of the system. We discuss this work in terms of the general adaptability of the original Hangul writing system, the creativity of the revised system, and the potential of this system for developing phonemic awareness among Korean learners of English.

Keywords: English education; writing systems; phonetic transcription; Ji Seok-Yeong; Hangul



Choi, Y. 2006. <Ahakpyeon>, Junggugeo eumunchekgye yeongu [Studies of Chinese phonology system]. MA Thesis. Hankuk University of Foreign Studies.


Han, S-U. 2007. Gaehwagi sinmunui waelae-eo pyogie daehan eumunlonjeok yeongu [A phonological study on loanwords in newspapers in the enlightenment periods (1896-1910)]. Eomunhak [Language and Literature] 95, 281-309.


Han, S-U. 2009. Ahakpyeoneul tonghae bon geundae dongasia eoneogyolyu [The state of language interchange in Modern East Asia through Ahakpyeon]. Hankukhak Bunseok [Korean studies analysis] 21, 267-301.


Han, S-U. 2010. Gaehwagi walae-eo pyogi eumunlon [A phonological study on loanwords in enlightenment periods (1896-1910)]. Urimalgeul: The Korean Language and Literature 49, 63-86.


Jeong, Y-Y. 1805. Myeongmul Sohak. Available at URL<>.


Ji, S-Y. 1908. Ahak Pyeon. Available at URL<>.


Ji, S-Y. 1910. Ahak Pyeon. Available at URL<디지털열람실&manage_code=MA&shape_code=B&refLoc=portal&category=storage&srchFlag=Y&h_kwd=|&lic_yn=N&mat_code=RB&guCode3=null#dummy>.


Kenyon, J. & T. Knott. 1953. A Pronouncing Dictionary of American English. Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster. Kyōto Daigaku Bungakubu Kokugogaku Kokubungaku.


Kenkyūshitsu. (comp. & ed.) 1970. Jigakuhen. Nichigo Ruikai. Kango Shoho. Kyōto: Kyōto Daigaku Kokubun Gakkai.


Lee, K-M. & S. Ramsey. 2011. A History of the Korean Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Lee, K. 2009. Jeongmongyueo, Ahakpyeon, Cheonjamun-ui bunpojeok teukseong [A distributive property on Jeongmongyueo, Ahakpyeon, Cheonjamun]. Journal of Linguistic Science 48, 101-123.


MacKenzie, R. 1895. T'aesŏ sinsa [Korean translation of The 19th Century: A History]. Seoul: Hakbup'yŏnjipguk.


Michaelis, H. & D. Jones. 1913. A Phonetic Dictionary of the English Language. Hanover-Berlin: Carl Meyer & Gustav Prior.


Proctor, M., C. Shadle & K. Iskarous. 2006. An MRI Study of Vocalic Context Effects and Lip Rounding in the Production of English Sibilants. Proceedings of the 11th Australian International Conference on Speech Science & Technology 307-312. University of Auckland.


Shin, Y. 2000. Gaehwagi gukeo pyogibeop yeongu [A study on Korean writing system in the civilization period]. Ph.D. Dissertation. Cheongju University.


Seong, H. 2002. Ahakpyeone boi-neun ilboneowa ilbonhanja-eo-ui ogi pyogie daehayeo [Wrong notation of sounds of Japanese and Chinese characters in Japanese shown in Ahakpyeon revised]. The Association of North-East Asian Cultures 2, 45-65.


Stonham, J. & E-S. Kim. 2010. The Phonetic Value of Middle Korean ㅿ. In R. Fouser (ed.), Contemporary Korean Linguistics: International Perspectives 348-378. Seoul: Thaehaksa.