Continuing our Geulja Geek series we are taking the next step into how to write letters together in Korean. There is one more way to write a few letters which we will cover before talking how different letters fit together.
Some letters can be written twice for a sharper pronunciation. These are called double letters, or 쌍/ssang.
Now, back to the main event. Letters in Korean get put into character blocks which in Korean are called 자모 / Jamo. This functions differently than English which creates a unique need when creating Korean typefaces. It’s not exactly the same in Korean, but both English and Korean have more than one way to write the same letter. And even in English there are numerous ways to write the same letter in the same case. Think of a single story vs a double story a or g.
In Korean, each letter can look slightly different depending on where it is in a 자모 / jamo. It can be compared to ligatures and character spacing in English. In Latin typefaces an f placed next to an i may create an fi ligature where the two letters connect. This alters both the spacing and look of the two letters in order to avoid looking like the letters are crashing into each other.
To help better understand the 자모 / jamo system lets compare how it would work in English and Korean before digging into the details. Below you can see how letters would follow a blocking system.
Now these blocks do have a system to them. Each 자모 / jamo begins with a consonant followed by a vowel. The next letters can either be vowels or consonants. Up to four-five letters can fit into a 자모 / jamo. Below is a diagram that shows the vowel/consonant locations as well as the order each letter is written. Korean words are also listed as examples for each 자모 / jamo.
The last row has an example of a 쌍/ssang. 쌍/ssang can go into both the first and last space of a 자모 / jamo. When written as the first character 쌍/ssang take up only one space. However, when written as the last character it takes up two spaces. This is why there are only spaces for double letters at the bottom of a자모 / jamo rather than at the top.
As for the last example there aren’t any words to my knowledge that use five letters in one 자모 / jamo. However as it is in the realm of possibility I’ve kept it to display an example of how one would look.
It’s been quite long but I hope this series serves not only as a source to learn how to read and write Korean but also shines some light on some of the typography details involved with hangul.