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MIXED SCRIPT AND LITERACY IN KOREA

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Abstract. Today, Chinese characters (hanca) and Chinese-based Korean vocabulary (hancae or Sino-Korean) are either embraced or rejected as part of Korean identity. For more than a millennium, Koreans internalized Chinese belles lettres, making Chinese high culture a guiding light for gentlemen. Many Koreans today resent attitudes of satay ('serve the great') or mohwa ('adulate China'). However, others find this cynical self-image distorted or misguided. While the debate about mixed writing continues, the language will take its natural course. Since the "hankul only" policy was adopted in both Koreas, the need for continued use of Chinese has been felt, and policies have fluctuated. Nevertheless, Chinese slowly coming to be seen as heavy, unclear, and perfunctory is being abandoned. hankul is there to stay, although it must keep "reforming" to trace language change. In today's global age, most South Koreans are no longer obsessed with independence. Mixed script with English or other European languages and logography in cyber writing may denote a contemporary educated people, despite strident voices from purists. Such mixed script constitutes an interesting new development in the Korean writing tradition. Whatever may evolve in both spoken and written Korean will be an important manifestation of national identity.
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Keywords: Chinese; Sino-Korean; amkhul; democracy; diglossia; digraphia; diorthographia; hanca(e); hankul; hanmun; hyangchal; identity; kwukyel; literacy; mixed script; nationalism; writing

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2004-01-01

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