S-Space Language Education Institute (언어교육원) Language Research (어학연구) Language Research (어학연구) Volume 14 Number 1/2 (1978)
母音體系와 母音調和에 대한 反省
Reflections on the Vowel System and Vowel Harmony of Korean
- Issue Date
- 서울대학교 언어교육원
- 어학연구, Vol.14 No.2, pp. 127-139
- The present paper is written for the reconsideration o[ the main topic dealt with in a work of mine publisbed in 1963: An investigation of the system of Korean. In that paper, based upon the tesimony of I proposed an ambitious theory to the effect that the vowel system as well as the vowel harmony of the fìfteenth century Korean was edifìced with the axis of palatal opposition. The idea that some of the vowel phonemes in Middle Korean had sound values drastically different from those in Modern Korean lead me to suppose a Great Vowel Shift in a period from Middle to Modern Korean.
Unfortunately, however, the aforesaid challenge of mine to the traditional view on thc vowel system of Middle Korean was destined to be criticized, in its turn, by some of fellow phonologists. Among others, Ki-Moon Lees criticism was keen and acute in many respects. According to him, I was too much formalistic, adhering to a decent system beyond the realistic facts of a language. He mel a dilemma of his own on the course of rationalization of his logic. It was a notion of discrepancy between the vowel system and vowel harmony of a given language. It will be peculiar for a language to have such a discrepancy, and toilsome for any one to account for it.
Firstly, now, I would ask was wrong with my previous paper, and answering to the question, I believe, I will be able to find, as well, the way to avoid the dilemma evoked by Lees assertion. There will be no need to go to the rescue of the dilemma on other levels of language such as semantics, though we see a forbearing simulation carried out by Young-Key Kim Renaud in the vein.
was most fatal to the controversial theory of mine lies in the interpretation of the Hunmin jeongeum term chuk (literally retraction). Now, I am aware that degrees of tongue retraction do not correspond to the places of the tongue. Evidence can be drawn from the observation of the movements of tongue for the front vowels in contemporary Korean; e is pronounced with slight tongue retraction which is yet noticeable, and E with little mo1'e retraction, though both of them are front vowels together with i which is front, but without any degree of tongue retraction.
Tongue retraction is cumulated in double ways, front to back as well as high to low,
thus numerically illustrated as following:
Along with the scheme of tongue retraction, We can ascertain thc description of vowels in is well rooted in thc phollological system though it is neither vertical nor horizontal, but rather oblique in its nature, not to say diagonal as is adored by some of contemporary linguìsts. We may not conceive of any discrepancy between vowel system and vowel harmony which is manifested as a mere illusion under the light of newly uncovered phonolngical order.
As for the cause of the vowel shift in Korean, I have developed a new idea to replace the old formula and logic of mine which were of extremely abstract nature. In case a vowel system has only a pair of rounded it is not natural that both of them happen to be of closest aperture, that is, u and ü, respectively. Nevertheless, it was the case with the system of Korean in a stage successive to the loss of rounding for
the carly o and Ö, and it is conceivable that an effort to avoid the very unnaturalness for the system tended to lower the vowel u to the position of 0 , almost identical to that of ʌ, while causing the heightening of í (formerIy ə) toward the region of ü or so as to keep balance with their counterparts ìn the rear realm of vowel chart. I do not imagine, however, as I did before, any further lowering of ʌ as a result of continued vowel shift. There are significant inclications that ʌ merged with d in the last stage of its existence as a phoneme.