Korean Language Blog

Placeholder Posted by on May 19, 2009 in Korean Language

Whenever you see a vowel such as this: , you’ll see a circle right before the vowel. All vowels have this feature. However, when vowels are combined with consonants, they lose this feature.

Let’s look at a two letter word: . This word is written correctly because it starts with a consonant followed by a vowel. A three letter word such as: , will have a consonant-vowel-consonant order. A four letter word such as, will have a consonant-vowel-consonant-consonant order. The most that a single word can be stacked together is 4 letters.

When there’s a vertical vowel, like , the placeholder is always located to the left of the vertical vowel. You can determine whether a vowel is vertical by looking at the main stem. The main stem is vertical, or looks upright. In the example above, this would be the main stem: l. If the add the arm to the main stem it would look like this:. Remember to ignore the arms and the placeholder to determine whether the vowel is vertical. Just look at the main stem. Here are some other examples of vertical vowels: , , , .

When the vowel is a horizontal vowel, the placeholder will be above the main stem. Take a vowel like this: . The main stem is: . Without the arm it would be just: . Notice how the main stem is horizontal. This is what is categorized as a horizontal vowel. Just like the vertical vowel, the placeholder acts as a silent consonant. Here are some other examples of horizontal vowels: , , , .

One thing I want to make clear is that a word like this: or has only one placeholder. The placeholder is always located in a higher region of the stacked letters. It’s never located below. When you see a circle character located below, this is an actual consonant that makes an “ng” sound. (Remember that placeholders are silent.) So is pronounced as “ang” and is pronounced as “ung”.

Keep learning Korean with us!

Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.

Try it Free Find it at your Library
Share this:
Pin it


  1. jos:

    Why does 아바나 mean havana with an h but 안나 means anna and they both have a placeholder? Shouldnt the h be silent since it’s a placeholder like in anna?