Happy Korean Alphabet Day

A few days ago I put cat /usr/share/calendar/* | grepdate +”%m/%d”` in my~/.bash_profile` after reading this tidbit from Forwarding Address: OS X. Whenever I open Terminal.app it spits some “on this day” trivia. Theres a lot of mundane stuff but occasionally you come accross a little gem. Today is Korean Alphabet Day:

Korean Alphabet Day (Hangul Nal in Korean) is on October 9th. It commemorates the publication of the Korean national alphabet, which was invented in 1443 and published in 1446 by King Sejong (Yi dynasty) and a group of scholars that he entrusted with this task (“Institute of Correct Sounds”).

The unique feature of the Korean alphabet is that it is directly iconic. The basic shapes of the consonants are based on the shapes of the speech organs when the sounds are being pronounced. Even distinctive features were recognized. It is thus a superb achievement of linguistic science, anticipating modern phonology by several centuries.

Since the Korean alphabet is so much easier to learn than the Chinese characters that had been the only writing system before, The Korean alphabet (Hangul) also had the effect of democratizing writing.