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Recently, I've started learning Korean, so please don't get mad if my question sounds stupid. My problem is that I don't know whether a consonant is a part of a three-letter syllable or a separate syllable.

For example, if we take this word

학교 - school

As I understand, the reason why ㅎ and ㅏ (as well as ㄱ and ㅛ) are put together is that the syllable with a vowel should always follow the rule 'consonant (on the left/top) + vowel (on the right/bottom)'. However, the syllable with a single consonant doesn't need anything added. Therefore, theoretically we can write the same word as

하ㄱ교

But this is considered to be wrong. Can you explain why?

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    Why do you think this is theoretically correct? Please link where you read this is allowed.
    – user17915
    Feb 12, 2023 at 5:17

2 Answers 2

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The simple answer is that is not a syllable with a single consonant. It has two (written) consonants; one at the beginning (cho-seong) and another at the end (jong-seong). So for a syllable with two consonants (C-V-C syllables), the rule is 'cho-soeng (on the left/top) + vowel (on the right/middle) + jong-seong (on the bottom)'.

(Note that when the word 학교 is read, the first syllable usually sounds like just /하/, so there's the discrepancy between how you read and how you write).

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The rule of the Korean alphabet-한글 is that the syllable cannot be written only with consonants. So, 하ㄱ교 is wrong since has no vowel.

(Edit: In Korean writing system, each letter refers to each syllable. And the 'letter' does not mean single characters like or . To form a letter, at least one consonant and one vowel must be combined together. If you want to make sounds with no consonants, there is a placeholder to be used like for sound and for sound, etc.)

This is also why you can often observe words like 버스 for bus. The original word bus ends with the s sound, so the Korean word should be 버ㅅ for the correct sound representation. But since Korean alphabet does not allow to be used alone, was added to form , which is a syllable with most similar sound to s in bus.

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  • "하ㄱ교 is wrong since ㄱ has no vowel." is not true. The first has a preceding vowel .
    – krim
    Feb 14, 2023 at 2:59
  • @krim You're right, maybe I used the missleading expression. In Korean writing system, each 'combined' character refere to each syllable, and no consonant or vowel can be written alone. (There is a placeholder to represent the vowel sound.) What I wanted to point out was that alone cannot be written to make a word.
    – Bihrang
    Feb 14, 2023 at 6:45

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