Tuesday, May 12, 2009

낮과 밤의 사이

Wangsuk River (왕숙천) in Guri (구리)

The above photo is just an ordinary river flowing through a housing estate. However, I think it looks good because I took it at the point when day and night meets. Because of that, there is a balance of light and darkness and hence harmony is achieved. Light and shadow are the basics of photography but I am not about to talk about photography because I am not into it. My interest is in Korean language study so I shall talk about the 'light and shadow' in the language.

When I was learning my basics Korean, my teacher used to call '아' and '오' as the 'chicken sound' whilst '어' and '우' as the 'duck sound'. Back then, I couldn't understand why they are called and differentiated as such although I knew it has something to do with 'ying' and 'yang'.

To help me to understand which vowel is 'ying' and which is 'yang', I made a drawing of the four vowels and differentiated them based on their structure.

However, for the next 3 years, I couldn't form the relationship between chicken and duck and the vowels. The point of enlightenment came when I learned about the characteristics of 'ying' and 'yang' in my language class last semester.

"Yang" has the characteristics of small, soft, thin, bright, light, bubbly, cheery, cute.
"Ying" has the characteristics of big, loud, thick, dark, heavy, dull, gloomy, dreary.

Here is what I have realised. When I try to shout out chicken, 아 or 오, my voice will naturally reach very high pitch. No matter how hard I try, I cannot make them sound very loud. The explanation, I guess, is because, they bear the 'yang' characteristics. Sound that is 'yang' in nature is soft and light. In contrast, when I try to shout out duck, 어 or 우, I can go very loud with the sound. This is in accordance with the 'ying' characteristics which is loud and heavy.

Just to further confirm the identity of 'chicken' and 'duck' sound, 'chicken' when spoken sounds cuter than 'duck'. That is in line with the 'yang' characteristics that I have earlier associated with it.

To bring the explanation a bit further, I attempted to group Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck into 'ying' and 'yang'. Mickey Mouse bears the 'yang' characteristics because I cannot shout out its name very loud unlike Donald Duck. Since Mickey Mouse has the 'yang' characteristics, it is cute and cheery unlike Donald Duck which is gloomy and grumpy. Despite their differences, both cartoon characters are pivotal in making what Walt Disney is today. It is a manifestation of the effect of harmony.

Relating back to Korean language, since there lies a balance between the 'ying' and 'yang' elements in the language, harmony is achieved within the language itself. Harmony usually manifests itself in the form of calmness which is appropriately reflected in the photo above. I have long felt this 'calmness' in the Korean language but for a long time I could not put a finger to what causes it. Perhaps now I can more or less attribute it to the balance between the 'ying' and 'yang' vowels.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this post!
    I'm a linguistics student, so I really find this interesting. :)