2006-02-03

Hanja (Chinese characters) in Korean language

Below is an essay from Wenxuecity titled "Why (South) Korea adopted Hanja again". It has also discussed a lot more interesting information about the role of Hanja in Korea and the history of the written language of Korea.
  • Modern Korean alpahbets (Hangul) were created by King Sejong the Great during the 15th century. Before its creation, only a relatively small percentage of the population could master the Chinese characters due to their difficulty
  • Although Hangul is a more practical (in a way, more superior) form for Koreans to learn, it was not widely used until 20th century. One of the main reasons for the delay was elitism (in other words, the elites to maintain its social class)
  • DPRK has exclusively used Hangul today. ROK (South Korea) has only used Hanja in very rare occassions for the last 100 years (unlike Japan, which only replace Kanji when it is more convenient). The main drawback of the pure Hangul system is confusion due to multiple words/terms of the same pronounciation, and hence Hangul representation (e.g. Kang=姜/康/江). Recently, the ROK government finally go for pragmtism. It has decided that Hanja is useful to avoid confusion and will revive the use of Hanja.
  • One of the bonus of reviving Hanja is convenience for Chinese and Japanese tourists in Korea.
I suspect had Korean language been invented before Hanja was used, the pronunciation for these confusion words and terms would have been differentiated as the language evolves. However, over 1000 years of Hanja usage has created too many terms in the language which are hard to be totally replaced by Hangul, because there was no such need to make them sound different when there was Hanja. (plus continuous straight import of abstract terms from China). This is the same case for Japan, and probably for Vietnam as well.

Japan has been most pragmatic regarding the use of Kanji, maximizing Hiragana and Katagan as much as possible but retaining Kanji in case there is confusion. Korea is taking this appraoch now, after 100 years of using pure Hangul.

I wonder if there is similar issue in Vietnamese language? It would be great service for tourist from NE Asia if Vietnam and DPRK also list Chinese characters in signs on the street.

p.s. the last paragraph below contains some chauvinistic remarks which I do not fully agree with.

---
Original essay below. (please also see similar discussion in English here)
韩国为什么‘恢复’汉字?
文章来源: 别无选择 于 2006-01-24 06:50:05


韩国、朝鲜人使用中国汉字有1000多年的历史,绝对是中华文化的后裔,可是为什么后来废除了中国汉字呢?首先因为朝鲜的语言属于阿尔泰语系,与中国的汉藏语系不太一样,但是古代朝鲜文化落后,一直没有发明自己的文字,所以只能沿用中国汉字。但是汉字还是无法充分的表现韩语的发音和朝鲜民众的思想感情,普通朝鲜平民根本不识汉字,只有朝鲜贵族、官员会使用汉字,称为“吏读文字”,而普通朝鲜平民只能以口头方式进行文化交流,他们的生活知识和年积月累的农业耕种经验和农耕方法也都无法长久的流传下去。

  到了1446年的朝鲜世宗大王时期,就是中国的明朝时期,作为中国附庸国的朝鲜在政治、经济、文化、科技、军事上都得到一定的发展,因而朝鲜民众对拥有自己民族文字的愿望比较强烈了,世宗非常同情国民的处境,作为一个想要发展民族文化,推进国家独立的朝鲜君王,世宗开始苦思冥想,梦想创造出一种独特而易学易懂的朝鲜本土文字,让普通的朝鲜庶民也可以轻松驾驭朝鲜的语言。
  
  世宗在发明朝鲜文字时,受到音乐和北方游牧民族拼音文字的启发,了解到简单的音乐符号(1 2 3 4 5 6 7)就能够记录世界上所有的音乐,那么,相对简单的拼音字符也应该可以记录全部的朝鲜语音,从而拼写出朝鲜的文字。所以世宗组织起当时包括他本人在内的许多朝鲜“集贤殿”的优秀学者,还特意派遣一位朝鲜知名学者,前后十几次到中国来学习、研究汉字精髓,历时达三十年之久,才最终在1446年发明创造了朝鲜文字,于是朝鲜在使用了近千年的中国汉字以后,终于有了自己的民族文字。
  世宗大王(1418-1450年),他精通儒家学问,极力提倡儒学价值观念以外的哲学观念,博学多闻,政治手段高明,能够对付朝鲜的两班学者(两班:指的是集‘贵族’与‘官吏’于一身的朝鲜学者们,他们享有极高的政治文化权利,甚至可以藐视朝鲜国王)。他在统治期间,对国家管理、语音学、民族文字、经济学、科学、音乐、医学和人文学研究方面都表现出积极的思想。他建立了集贤殿,以促进传统和政治经济方面的研究,最著名的成就之一是创立了韩文字母。
  
  《训民正音》就是在此背景下应运而生的。世宗大王在公告序言中写道:“中国文字是基于中国历史应运而生的,因此无法清楚的表达朝鲜韩语特有的语境,无法充分表现庶民的想法和感情。考虑到我国子民的实际情况,我创立了这28个字母(注:经过字母的演化与合并,现代朝韩社会只使用24个字母,比26个英文字母还少2个,是欧美学者比较公认的简化拼音),这些文字简单易学,希望能提高每位朝鲜国民的生活质量”。从这篇序言中可以看出世宗大王对朝鲜文化的独立、国民的繁荣所持的执着和献身精神。
  创造韩文表音字母的世宗大王和集贤殿的学士们认为人类的发音不仅仅是单纯的生理现象,还有一股虽然人们看不到,但实际上更强大的力量在支配着这一行为。他们认为人类的发音和文字的笔画,以及所有的宇宙现象均与中国道教的阴阳、五行密不可分,并由此推测声音与季节变化以及音乐是必然相通的。韩语的音节分为3个部分,分别是辅音、元音、尾音,这是世宗大王和集贤殿的学士们创旌淖值幕 N惨舨皇堑ザ来唇ǖ模歉莞ㄒ舻闹馗炊矗虼撕锸浅浞钟行У亟岷显艉透ㄒ舳傻模Ω盟凳遣淮淼钠匆粑淖帧?br>  
  朝鲜的“谚文”与“谚语”一样是民间的语言文字,由于政治文化地位的低下,谚文属于二流文字。只有贵族和官吏使用的“吏读文字”属于朝鲜一流文字。早期的朝鲜拼音文字就是“谚文”,而现在的“谚文”却是中国汉字了。古代朝鲜的文字实际上有三种:1、纯汉字:完全使用中国的文法规则。2、吏读文字:用汉字拼写朝鲜语言,但是保留汉字的意义与基本文法。3、纯朝鲜字:就是朝鲜世宗创造的拼音字,古代朝鲜的“谚文”。
  
  虽然1446年意味着朝鲜韩文的正式诞生,但是并不意味朝鲜拼音文字的真正使用,由于中国汉字在朝鲜的强大文化影响力,朝鲜拼音文字一直作为“韩语拼音” 而存在,被朝鲜妇女和没受过良好教育的朝鲜人使用,被称为二流文字的“谚文”,而朝鲜的贵族、官员还是继续使用汉字“吏读文字”。朝鲜拼音文字的广泛使用是从二十世纪初才开始的,比世宗颁布“训民正音”晚了450年,为什么?
  
    这当然不符合世宗450年前的本愿,也是一个对历史的疑问:朝鲜拼音文字一直到十九世纪末都被视为“谚文”,与“谚语”一样是民间的语言,直到十九世纪末,拼音文字在朝鲜都被看成二流文字。是什么原因使朝鲜人在450年后,突然将妇女和平民使用的拼音文字的地位大力提高,在短短的几十年中将其地位扶正,成为官方语言?而且将使用了千年之久的高雅的官方文字――中国汉字几乎干净彻底地清除出南北朝鲜,使汉字的地位从母体文字被贬为“谚文”的呢?
  
   其实很简单,原因就在于中国自身的衰落!
  
  朝鲜世宗450年以后的1896年,中国清朝被日本击败,二十世纪中国清朝被欧美列强瓜分,已经自身难保的中华文明古国自然不再是被朝鲜、日本尊敬的国家,甚至成为日本欺侮的对象......皮之不存,毛将焉附?中国的文化和文字也就自然而然的在朝鲜走下神坛,被降格为朝鲜“谚文”的二流文字了,朝鲜世宗十五世纪苦心创造的韩文在使用汉字的母国中国强大之时得不到实质性的应用,却在中国衰败,朝鲜被日本人占领之时得以通行,曾经的二流拼音文字却成为朝鲜一流的官方文字,实在是讽刺啊。
  
  朝鲜半岛在1945年被苏联、美国分割成为两个国家:朝鲜和韩国,也叫南北朝鲜,西方社会称为南北高丽(Korea)。所以世宗450年前创造的拼音文字在朝鲜被称为“朝鲜文”,在韩国被称为“韩文”,其实都是一样的。区别是:韩国的“韩文”至今还允许少量夹用汉字;而“朝鲜文”在1948年和1954年两次‘废除’汉字,不允许夹用汉字,现在的朝鲜文已经是纯朝鲜文了,而且中国东北吉林省的朝鲜族自治区的学校也使用纯朝鲜文。
  
  可是到了2005年,历史文化又发生了有趣的逆转。2005年2月9日,韩国政府宣布:在所有公务文件和交通标志等领域,全面恢复使用已经消失多年的中国汉字和汉字标记,以适应世界化的时代潮流。并且提出了《推动汉字并用方案》,为了发展韩国的传统文化,促进与东亚汉字文化圈国家的积极交流和推动韩国观光事业的大力发展,将目前完全使用韩国文字的公务文件改为韩、汉两种文字并用,以解决韩文难以清楚的表明汉字含义的历史难题。
  
  方案指出:凡地名、人名、历史用语等不写汉字就容易发生混乱的语汇,均在韩文后面注明汉字。为了给中国和日本的观光者提供方便,将逐步在道路交通标志上实行汉字和英语双重标记。此外,还将同教育部门协调改善汉字教育体制,前韩国总统金大中说:“韩国的各种历史古典文章和史料仍以中国汉字书写,如果无视中国汉字,将难以理解我们的古典文化和历史传统,有必要实行韩、汉两种文字同时并用”。而且韩国的许多专家、学者和居民都强烈呼吁加强汉字教育,要求全面恢复使用中国汉字。
  
   为什么韩文难以清楚的表明中国汉字的含义呢?
  
  因为朝鲜拼音文字虽然是象征着朝鲜民族的独立,显示出他们是区别于中华汉民族的朝鲜本土民族,但是,朝鲜拼音文字根本还是脱离不开汉字。它们归根到底是汉语的拼音化文字——除了语法结构不同之外,无论韩文的词汇如何变形,它们的发音却接近于它们曾经的母体——汉语,于是就有了中国人听起来十分熟悉的“大宇”、“现代”、“三星”等词的韩语发音。他们语音区别并不比中国的广东话、上海话等地方语言与中国标准普通话之间的区别大!除了语法结构不同之外,韩文可以被理解为汉语的旁系,或者是一种遥远的、异化的大中华方言,韩文字母中最大的创意大概就是圆圈了,中国汉字里面没有圆圈的写法。
  
  中国汉语拼音有四声,也不能完全解决中国汉字同音字的问题,而韩语中没有四声,所以用韩文表注汉字的发音就是一件十分费力而且头痛的工作,很难做到准确。一个韩文发(Kang)的字,既表示“姜”字,又表示“康”字、“江”字,到底是什么字?要根据前后文的意思而定,要望前后文才能生义,而且要先理解母体汉字的中文语义才可能得到正确的结论。于是就只能请母体文字---中国汉字出来解决问题了,所以就有了目前汉字占四分之一的大韩民国《宪法》。
  
  由于汉字是朝鲜语的古老载体,所以学习韩语时必须先充分掌握汉字,必须知道所要标记的原中国文字的意义,否则就要去按约定的意思去理解,去猜测。那当然不可能做到非常准确,也不可能成其为准确、高雅的朝鲜语言。所以一直到六十年代汉语汉字都是韩国学校中学生的必修课,但是到了七、八十年代以后,政府逐渐 ‘废除’了中国汉字,现在韩国政府又要求全面恢复汉字,累不累?
  
  中国人几千年的文明是韩国、朝鲜,甚至是日本的母体文明,他们传播融合以后成为东亚的亚文明,子体的亚文明必然与母体形似,但是文化上的‘废除’行为,却使他们逐渐失去了母体文明的灵魂!如果不与中国母体文明再次联接,韩文、朝鲜文、甚至日本文,都将成为风干的、没有灵魂的文化‘木乃伊’,所以韩国政府全面恢复使用中国汉字是必然和明智的历史抉择,其实也别无选择!
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16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Excellent post.

liebigson said...

孫臏先生:
日本人使用的「漢字」屬傳統漢字,不知韓國人恢復「漢字」的使用是選擇了「傳統漢字」還是「簡體漢字」?
如果韓國人選用了「傳統漢字」,則東亞地區使用「傳統漢字」的地方將有「台、港、日、韓」四處,那麼大陸和新加坡當局是不是也該教育民眾認認「傳統漢字」(繁體字)?

Kelvin said...

Well actually Japanese Kanji in common usage are predominantly "Simplified," although that's not totally accurate because their simplification scheme is different from the PRC one.

Vietnamese written with the Chinese script has pretty much been displaced by the use of the Latin alphabet. Note that, like in the case of the Mongol script, it is currently the Vietnamese living in the PRC who have kept the use of the non-Western script.

Anonymous said...

I don't read simplified Chinese very well but I think there are advantages on both traditional and simplified form of written Chinese, so Chinese people should learn both forms of writings IMH.

On the hybrid Chinese from Vietnam, it is the last of its kind survived today. There were several other ancient nations adopted various kinds of hybrid Chinese. All these countries extincted from history. So I think the Vietnamese hybrid Chinese should be saved.

Sun Bin said...

I believe Korean use the traditional Fanti.

Anyway, the difference is quite small. Most of the HK/Taiwan people are able to guess/understand Jianti, and mainlander can understand Fanti with no problem (say 80% through guesswork).

(Some Jianti are similar to Japanese Kanji, e.g. 国)

liebigson said...

有些漢字的確須要簡化,例如「鬱」、「鑿」、「豔」、「籲」、「龜」…等,筆劃特多,又屬常用字,簡了好!

但如「漢」字簡成「汉」,「龍」字簡成「龙」總覺得有點懶得過火,對不起倉頡!

至於「廣」字簡成「广」,「產」字簡成「产」,「廠」字簡成「厂」。我說每當我看到「广、产、厂」這些字時,我總覺得它們就要倒了,想過去扶它們一把!

Mutantfrog said...

I've heard that the DPRK has actually created now compound words made of native Korean roots to replace Sino-Korean homonyms, to make up for the confusion caused by the elimination of Hanja.

And yes, Japan has simplified some characters, but on average it's much closer to traditional characters as used in Taiwan or HK (or South Korea) than it is to PRC simplified Chinese. Japan's simplification is also more conservative than that of the PRC in that it (generally) only removes pieces of characters, but does not actually alter the radicals themselves.

Anonymous said...

"但如「漢」字簡成「汉」,「龍」字簡成「龙」總覺得有點懶得過火,對不起倉頡!"

I think those words weren't dissapear and the reason is that alot of caligraphers still use the original world for Han and Dragon.

Yet to see caligraphy involving those words in the simplified verson. (Although i haven't really being looking).

I thought the whole point of simplification was to lift the literacy rate, am I correct?

Sun Bin said...

yes, that was the original intention. however, no one has really conducted any rigorous research on the causality.

Anonymous said...

Vietnamese, unless they are ethnically Chinese or a monk, don't use Chinese characters at all. If you go there, you see 'Hanja' only at temples and in China town. Of course, you might see a piece of jewelry or a holiday card with the character for "good fortune". But virtually no ethnic Vietnamese knows more than a few Chinese characters (characters in their own name and a few other characters used for rituals). Even old timers know French or Russian better than they know Chinese.

And the phonetic representations are too different from the original Chinese for them to ever go back. Remember -- Chinese writing was also a graft on top of the native Vietnamese tongue. So even in the old days before the French brought their Roman alphabet, Vietnamese often had to use two Chinese characters for one word - a character that represented the meaning and a character that represented the phonetic pronunciation. It would be like Japanese having the kanji followed immediately by its hiragana equivalent in every sentence. What a pain.

Add to that the usual nationalist knee jerk reaction against reminders of the days of Chinese domination over Vietnam. (The feelings against Americans and french, for whatever reason, seem more neutral than feelings against Chinese.)

Anyway, you can safely assume that Chinese characters won't be making much of a come back in Vietnam.

Anonymous said...

I like the post. I agree with the other poster about Japanese simplifed Kanji being more conservative to those of the mainland. I must say that those created by the Japanese looks "better" in my opinion regarding the beauty of the characters. Maybe I'm used to using and seeing Traditional Chinese, but some mainland simplified characters looks very ugly. Some characters either have too much empty space and thereby imbalances the structure of the character (I really dislike the character for "Guang" in GuangDong!) or too randomized in the usage of lines and dots ("men" as in door, why that dot in the corner?!) I can really see and feel the mainland system of using simplified characters to improve speed and literacy but it sacrifices a bit too much on the beauty and soul of a Chinese character. Ever seen a simplified Chinese tatoo?

Anonymous said...

I am an Italian student of Japanese language, and while I must say I DID struggle a lot with kanji at the beginning (and I am still at a 1200 kanji or so level), now I am starting to get the point of it. I found out that sometimes I can pick up the sense of a newspaper title in Chinese or read indications or warnings or ads..

And yes the languages are a lot different, but the use of Kanji in Chinese and Japanese does make communication easier in many instances (apart from the fact that I found out the study of kanji seemingly helped me in training my memory). So starting from an initial adversity to Chinese characters, now I believe,there are many reasons it would be useful for Korea to increase their use in the educational system.

Besides, looking at Vietnam... the amount of the traditional culture that got lost by doing away with Chinese characters.. and the fact so many people cannot understand classical literature (and I believe.. even with the most perfect transcription, some of it would get lost: maybe there was a particular reason while the poet choose a particular character which may also convey more than the direct meaning - I am thinking about the amount of double meanings based on Chinese characters in Japanese... and I can't believe Vietnamese wasn't the same before romanization).. well looking at those things one can't help but feel kind of bad that Vietnam chose to forget that part of their culture (and yes, they did increase literacy a lot, but so did Japan and so did Taiwan). I think while Korea may be starting to make a heavier use of Hanja, Chu Nom (vietnamese characters) might be taught again in Uni or maybe (as some dream) taught somewhat in high schools, but I doubt too they will ever make a comeback.

Anonymous said...

liebigson:
请放心,在大陆,只要有小学3年级以上的文化,基本可以自由阅读繁体文字,不需要任何的专门教学,但一般都写不出来。
这可能就是同根吧,繁体字是中华文化的根。大陆人也很尊重、重视繁体字,没有因为使用简体字而轻视、瞧不起繁体字。
不过天天写繁体字,又费时又费力,实在不敢想象中国用繁体字我是变成什么样。

Anonymous said...

我觉得得上5年级才行
哈哈

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Daniel Hoang said...

I'm Vietnamese and I have a slight knowledge of Chinese characters (Chu Han in Vietnamese) and the native Chu Nom script, which too is based on Chinese characters. However what I know probably isn't enough. My great grandfather was the last person in my family to fully understand Chinese characters - his village in Vietnam has traces of Chinese characters especially on the temples and his home of course. During that time he didn't teach my grandpa many Chinese characters - due to the fact that the new Quoc Ngu 國語 script had began replacing Chinese. This transition had been completed by 1945. In 1930, out of 100 hundred people; 70 knew 國語, 20 knew 字喃 and 10 knew Hanzi. Surprisingly most Vietnamese still have knowledge of classical Chinese, even though Hanzi has virtually been abolished in Vietnam. As Vietnamese is full of Chinese words (50-70%) it would be good if the Chinese script could be revived and have a similar role in, for ezample, S.Korea, where it's considered more of a second/side script. However Vietnamese works extremely well in Quoc Ngu. Hanzi would be useful as a optional subject at school in Vietnam in order to understand Vietnamese culture etc.