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It is once again important to talk about oriental philosophy in this section.  Yin and Yang is all about harmony.  If one letter exists all on its own, it goes against the rules of Yin and Yang.  It is no problem if we want to make a syllable starting with a consonant and a vowel, because they balance eachother out.  But what if the sylable is just a vowel sound, all by itself?  

You learned in the consonant section that the letter "ㅇ" sometimes makes the sound "ng" and sometimes is silent.  "ㅇ" is silent when it is ahead of a vowel serving as a place marker. 

Let me give you an example: the word "child" in Korean sounds roughly like "ah-ee", both sylables start with vowels.  So how would we write it?  The vowel that makes the "A" sound is "ㅏ", while the "E" sound is represented by the letter "ㅣ" .  We must combine each vowel with the silent "ㅇ" in order to create balanced syllables and thus a balanced word. 아이, child.

Another example is the word  "cucumber" which sounds like "oh-ee" in Korean.  For this we would need "ㅗ" and "ㅣ" and if we make sylables and combine them into a word, we have 오이, Cucumber.

It is because of this rule, letters are never alone.  They are always accompanied by a consonant, even if the syllable contains only a vowel sound.  The consonant serves as Yin and the vowel serves as Yang, creating harmony.

As you know, consonants and vowels must be combined in order to make a sound unit.  The consonant and vowel are pronounced as one sound.  One consonant and one vowel can make up a syllable, as in the examples below.

Up to two consonants  can also be added at the bottom of the syllable, and they have a special name "받침" (bachim).  However, it is most common for there to be only one 받침.

Here are some examples of words that have two 받침:

There is another interesting point related to Yin and Yang that appears in the Korean language.  For those who go on to advanced Korean studies, knowing this will surely help you.  It was thought that vowels have either  positive or negative values.  The vowels that point up or to the right were seen as bright and positive (ㅏ,ㅗ), and the ones that point down or to the left were seen as dark and negative (ㅓ,ㅜ). 

This comes out quite often in colors. It's not just the color that is described, but the feeling that one gets when in contact with that color. For example:

‘파랗고 노란’ is used to express light blue and light yellow.  Notice how "ㅏ" and "ㅗ" are used.
‘퍼렇고 누런’ is used to express dark blue and dark yellow and uses "ㅓ, ㅜ).

This concept can also be found in the words 밝다’(bright) and ‘어둡다’(dark).

Knowing this will make it easier for students of Korean to understand why words that sound so much the same could have such different connotations.


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