Korean/Tamil/Hindi (was Re: Query on var.nabheda)

Dan Lusthaus dlusthau at mailer.fsu.edu
Thu Mar 6 21:34:49 UTC 1997

>Interestingly, Korean is the only East-Asian
>language that has a phonetic alphabet.  At
>least one book that I've read about the subject
>claims that its inventors (in the 15th century)
>were familiar with Indian scripts (and their
>implicit phonological theories).

Japanese has not only one, but two alphabetic scripts as well as a third
script of Chinese characters. The Korean alphabet is very sophisticated,
and predates the Japanese script. It is often ascribed to an emperor of the
Silla Dynasty (661-935). The Koreans taught the Japanese to write
(originally with Chinese characters). Japanese men wrote using Chinese
characters, women wrote using the alphabet (called hiragana), until men
discovered how useful it was, and then adopted it for themselves as well.
The third Japanese alphabetic system is katakana, which still today is
primarily used exclusively for transliterating foreign words. Katakana was
invented/introduced by Kukai (774-835), to faciliate proper pronunciation
of dhaaranii (he also introduced tantra to Japan).

Dan Lusthaus
Flordia State University

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