Volume 22, Issue 2
  • ISSN 1387-6732
  • E-ISSN: 1570-6001
Buy:$35.00 + Taxes



The Korean Hangul writing system conforms to the alphabetic principle to the extent that its graphs (i.e., its minimal orthographic components) represent phonemes, but it differs from the standard convention of alphabetic orthography by configuring its syllables as blocks. This paper describes the orthographic, phonological, and morphological characteristics of the Korean language and Hangul and reviews a selection of psycholinguistic studies that have investigated Hangul word recognition. In contrast to the results of studies employing Roman alphabetic orthographies, the reviewed evidence highlights at sublexical levels both the dominance of syllable-based processing and a propensity to process CVC syllables as body (CV) plus coda (C) units rather than as onset (C) plus rime (VC) units, which together indicate a script-specific decoding of Hangul words. Although the morphological characteristics of Korean have yet to be fully investigated, consistent with the fact that approximately 70 percent of the Korean lexicon consists of Sino-Korean vocabulary, studies have also observed morphological effects on Hangul word recognition. Based on the psycholinguistic evidence reviewed, this paper concludes by proposing to refer to Hangul as a writing system, to the extent that the term appears to adequately capture the orthographic, phonological, and morphological characteristics of the script.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


  1. Bae, Sungbong & Kwangoh Yi
    (2010) Processing of orthography and phonology in Korean word recognition. Korean Journal of Cognitive and Biological Psychology22: 369–385. [in Korean] 10.22172/cogbio.2010.22.3.007
    https://doi.org/10.22172/cogbio.2010.22.3.007 [Google Scholar]
  2. (2016) The effects of Hanja primes on the recognition of Hanja words printed in Hangul. The Journal of Linguistic Science79: 139–156. [in Korean] 10.21296/jls.2016.12.79.139
    https://doi.org/10.21296/jls.2016.12.79.139 [Google Scholar]
  3. Baek, Seunghyun
    (2014) Sub-syllabic processing in young Korean-English bilinguals: Semivowel placement differences between Korean and English. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research43: 507–533. doi:  10.1007/s10936‑013‑9260‑8
    https://doi.org/10.1007/s10936-013-9260-8 [Google Scholar]
  4. Berg, Thomas & Christian Koops
    (2010) The interplay of left- and right-branching effects: A phonotactic analysis of Korean syllable structure. Lingua120: 35–49. doi:  10.1016/j.lingua.2009.03.009
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lingua.2009.03.009 [Google Scholar]
  5. (2015) Phonotactic constraints and sub-syllabic structure: A difficult relationship. Journal of Linguistics51: 3–39. doi:  10.1017/S002222671400022X
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S002222671400022X [Google Scholar]
  6. Bonatti, Luca L., Marcela Peña, Marina Nespor & Jacques Mehler
    (2005) Linguistic constraints on statistical computations: The role of consonants and vowels in continuous speech processing. Psychological Science16: 451–459. doi:  10.1111/j.0956‑7976.2005.01556.x
    https://doi.org/10.1111/j.0956-7976.2005.01556.x [Google Scholar]
  7. Carreiras, Manuel & Cathy J. Price
    (2008) Brain activation for consonants and vowels. Cerebral Cortex18: 1727–1735. doi:  10.1093/cercor/bhm202
    https://doi.org/10.1093/cercor/bhm202 [Google Scholar]
  8. Carreiras, Manuel, Jon Andoni Duñabeitia & Nicola Molinaro
    (2009) Consonants and vowels contribute differently to visual word recognition: ERPs of relative position priming. Cerebral Cortex19: 2659–2670. doi:  10.1093/cercor/bhp019
    https://doi.org/10.1093/cercor/bhp019 [Google Scholar]
  9. Cho, Jeung-Ryeul
    (2009) Syllable and letter knowledge in early Korean Hangul reading. Journal of Educational Psychology101: 938–947. doi:  10.1037/a0016212
    https://doi.org/10.1037/a0016212 [Google Scholar]
  10. Derwing, Bruce L., Yeo Bom Yoon & Sook Whan Cho
    (1993) The organization of the Korean syllable: Experimental evidence. InPatricia M. Clancy (ed.), Japanese / Korean Linguistics, Vol.2, 223–238. Stanford, CA: Center for the Study of Language and Information.
    [Google Scholar]
  11. Duñabeitia, Jon Andoni & Manuel Carreiras
    (2011) The relative position priming effect depends on whether letters are vowels or consonants. Journal of Experimental Psychology37: 1143–1163. doi:  10.1037/a0023577
    https://doi.org/10.1037/a0023577 [Google Scholar]
  12. Feldman, Laurie Beth & Darinka Andjelković
    (1992) Morphological analysis in word recognition. InRam Frost & Leonard Katz (eds.), Orthography, phonology, morphology, and meaning, 343–360. Amsterdam: Elsevier. 10.1016/S0166‑4115(08)62802‑2
    https://doi.org/10.1016/S0166-4115(08)62802-2 [Google Scholar]
  13. Frost, Ram, Leonard Katz & Shlomo Bentin
    (1987) Strategies for visual word recognition and orthographical depth: A multilingual comparison. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance13: 104–115. doi:  10.1037//0096‑1523.13.1.104
    https://doi.org/10.1037//0096-1523.13.1.104 [Google Scholar]
  14. Hirose, Hitoshi
    (1992) An investigation of the recognition process for jukugo by use of priming paradigms. Shinrigaku Kenkyu63: 303–309 [in Japanese]. 10.4992/jjpsy.63.303
    https://doi.org/10.4992/jjpsy.63.303 [Google Scholar]
  15. Humphreys, Glyn W., Lindsay J. Evett & Philip T. Quinlan
    (1990) Orthographic processing in visual word identification. Cognitive Psychology22: 517–560. doi:  10.1016/0010‑0285(90)90012‑S
    https://doi.org/10.1016/0010-0285(90)90012-S [Google Scholar]
  16. Joyce, Terry
    (2002) Constituent-morpheme priming: Implications from the morphology of two-kanji compound words. Japanese Psychological Research44: 79–90. doi:  10.1111/1468‑5884.00009
    https://doi.org/10.1111/1468-5884.00009 [Google Scholar]
  17. Kang, Hyewon & Greg B. Simpson
    (1996) Development of semantic and phonological priming in a shallow orthography. Developmental Psychology32(5): 860–866. 10.1037/0012‑1649.32.5.860
    https://doi.org/10.1037/0012-1649.32.5.860 [Google Scholar]
  18. Kim, Zong Su
    (1982) Hangului gaebaleul wihan yeongu – Hangeul puleosseugiwa Hangul umseong giho 한글의 개발을 위한 연구 – 한글 풀어쓰기와 한글 음성 기호 [A study of Hangul enhancement – Writing Hangul in linearity and Korean phonetic symbols]. Hangul177: 133–178. [in Korean]
    [Google Scholar]
  19. Kim, Young-Suk
    (2008) Cat in a hat or cat in a cap? An investigation of developmental trajectories of phonological awareness for Korean children. Journal of Research in Reading31: 359–378. doi:  10.1111/j.1467‑9817.2008.00379.x
    https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9817.2008.00379.x [Google Scholar]
  20. King, Ross
    (1996) Korean writing. InPeter T. Daniels & William Bright (eds.), The world’s writing systems, 218–227. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  21. Kwon, Youan, Kichun Nam & Yoonhyoung Lee
    (2015) The role of orthographic syllable frequency in the syllable frequency effect: Evidence from Korean. Perceptual & Motor Skills120, 95–109. doi:  10.2466/22.PMS.120v17x3
    https://doi.org/10.2466/22.PMS.120v17x3 [Google Scholar]
  22. Lee, Iksop
    (1985) Hangeului moasseugi bangsigui pyouiseonge daehayeo 한글의 모아쓰기 방식의 표의성에 대하여 [The semantic representation of the block format of Hangul]. Kukeosaenghwal3: 16–31. [in Korean]
    [Google Scholar]
  23. Lee, Yongeun & Matthew Goldrick
    (2008) The emergence of sub-syllabic representations. Journal of Memory and Language59: 155–168. doi:  10.1016/j.jml.2008.03.002
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jml.2008.03.002 [Google Scholar]
  24. Pae, Hye K.
    (2011) Is Korean a syllabic alphabet or an alphabetic syllabary?Writing Systems Research3(2): 103–115. doi:  10.1093/wsr/wsr002
    https://doi.org/10.1093/wsr/wsr002 [Google Scholar]
  25. Pae, Hye K., Sungbong Bae & Kwangoh Yi
    (2019) Is the consonant primacy script-universal or script-specific? Evidence from non-Roman script Korean Hangul. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal31: 1085–1106. doi:  10.1007/s11145‑018‑9896‑8
    https://doi.org/10.1007/s11145-018-9896-8 [Google Scholar]
  26. Park, Changho
    (2009) Visual processing of Hangul, the Korean script. InChungmin Lee, Greg B. Simpson & Youngjin Kim (eds.), The handbook of East Asian psycholinguistics, 379–389. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press. 10.1017/CBO9780511596865.030
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511596865.030 [Google Scholar]
  27. Perfetti, Charles A.
    (2003) The universal grammar of reading. Scientific Studies of Reading7(1): 3–24. doi:  10.1207/S1532799XSSR0701_02
    https://doi.org/10.1207/S1532799XSSR0701_02 [Google Scholar]
  28. Perfetti, Charles A. & Ying Liu
    (2005) Orthography to phonology and meaning: Comparisons across and within writing systems. Reading and Writing18: 193–210. doi:  10.1007/s11145‑004‑2344‑y
    https://doi.org/10.1007/s11145-004-2344-y [Google Scholar]
  29. Sampson, Geoffrey
    (2015) Writing systems (2nd ed.). Sheffield, UK: Equinox Publishing.
    [Google Scholar]
  30. Schmalz, Xenia, Eva Marinus, Max Coltheart & Anne Castles
    (2015) Getting to the bottom of orthographic depth. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review22: 1614–1629. doi:  10.3758/s13423‑015‑0835‑2
    https://doi.org/10.3758/s13423-015-0835-2 [Google Scholar]
  31. Simpson, Greg B. & Hyewon Kang
    (2004) Syllable processing in alphabetic Korean. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal17: 137–151. 10.1023/B:READ.0000013808.65933.a1
    https://doi.org/10.1023/B:READ.0000013808.65933.a1 [Google Scholar]
  32. Share, David L.
    (2008) On the Anglocentricities of current reading research and practice: The perils of overreliance on an “outlier” orthography. Psychological Bulletin134: 584–615. doi:  10.1037/0033‑2909.134.4.584
    https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.134.4.584 [Google Scholar]
  33. Tae, Jini, Ye-eun Nam, Yoonhyoung Lee & Tae H. Kim
    (2015) The effect of the orthographic and phonological priming in Korean visual word recognition. The Journal of Linguistic Science73: 205–224. [In Korean]
    [Google Scholar]
  34. Taylor, Insup & M. Martin Taylor
    (2014) Writing and literacy in Chinese, Korean, and Japanese (revised ed.). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
    [Google Scholar]
  35. Tse, Chi-Shing, Melvin J. Yap, Yuen-Lai Chan, Wei Ping Sze, Cyrus Shaoul & Dan Lin
    (2017) The Chinese lexicon project: A megastudy of lexical decision performance for 25,000+ traditional Chinese two-character compound words. Behavior Research Methods49: 1503–1519. doi:  10.3758/s13428‑016‑0810‑5
    https://doi.org/10.3758/s13428-016-0810-5 [Google Scholar]
  36. Van Assche, Eva & Jonathan Grainger
    (2006) A study of relative-position priming with superset primes. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition32: 399–415.
    [Google Scholar]
  37. Yi, Kwangoh
    (1995) The internal structure of Kulja and its relation to syllable in Korean. Korean Journal of Experimental and Cognitive Psychology7: 57–69. [in Korean]
    [Google Scholar]
  38. (1998) The internal structure of Korean syllables: Rhyme or body?Korean Journal of Experimental and Cognitive Psychology10: 67–83. [in Korean]
    [Google Scholar]
  39. (2009) Morphological representation and processing of Sino-Korean words. InChungmin Lee, Greg B. Simpson & Youngjin Kim (eds.), The handbook of East Asian psycholinguistics, 398–408. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press. 10.1017/CBO9780511596865.032
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511596865.032 [Google Scholar]
  40. Yi, Kwangoh & Sungbong Bae
    (2009) Effects of orthographic and morphological frequency of a syllable in Korean word recognition. Korean Journal of Cognitive Science20: 309–333. [in Korean]
    [Google Scholar]
  41. Yi, Kwangoh, & Hyensou Pak
    (1997) The restoration of deep syllables and the role of syllables in Korean speech perception. The Korean Journal of Experimental and Cognitive Psychology9: 73–94. [in Korean]
    [Google Scholar]
  42. Yi, Kwangoh & Insun Yi
    (1999) Morphological processing in Korean word recognition. The Korean Journal of Experimental and Cognitive Psychology11: 77–91. [in Korean]
    [Google Scholar]
  43. Yi, Kwangoh, Jin-gab Jung, & Sungbong Bae
    (2007) Writing system and visual word recognition: Morphological representation and processing in Korean. The Korean Journal of Cognitive and Biological Psychology9: 313–327. [in Korean]
    [Google Scholar]
  44. Yi, Kwangoh, Min-Mo Koo, Kichun Nam, Kinam Park, Taejin Park, Sungbong Bae, Chang H. Lee, Hye-Won Lee, & Jeung-Ryeul Cho
    (2017) The Korean lexicon project: A lexical decision study on 30,930 Korean words and nonwords. The Korean Journal of Cognitive and Biological Psychology29(4): 395–410. [in Korean] 10.22172/cogbio.2017.29.4.004
    https://doi.org/10.22172/cogbio.2017.29.4.004 [Google Scholar]
  45. Yoon, Yeo Bom, & Bruce L. Derwing
    (2001) A language without a rhyme: Syllable structure experiments in Korean. Canadian Journal of Linguistics/Revue canadienne de linguistique46: 187–237. 10.1017/S0008413100018247
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S0008413100018247 [Google Scholar]
  46. Yoon, Hye-Kyung, Donald J. Bolger, Oh-Seek Kwon & Charles A. Perfetti
    (2002) Subsyllabic units in reading: A difference between Korean and English. InLudo Vehoeven, Carsten Elbrow & Pieter Reitsma (eds.), Precursors of functional literacy, 139–163. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 10.1075/swll.11.12yoo
    https://doi.org/10.1075/swll.11.12yoo [Google Scholar]
  47. Zhou, Xiaolin, William Marslen-Wilson, Marcus Taft & Hua Shu
    (1999) Morphology, orthography, and phonology reading Chinese compound words. Language and Cognitive Processes14: 525–565. 10.1080/016909699386185
    https://doi.org/10.1080/016909699386185 [Google Scholar]
  48. Ziegler, Johannes C. & Usha Goswami
    (2005) Reading acquisition, developmental dyslexia, and skilled reading across languages: A psycholinguistic grain size theory. Psychological Bulletin131: 3–29. 10.1037/0033‑2909.131.1.3
    https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.131.1.3 [Google Scholar]
  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): Korean Hangul; morphology; orthography; phonology; word recognition
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was successful
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error