A tribe in Indonesia has begun adopting Hangeul, the Korean alphabet, as their writing system to express their spoken aboriginal language, which is on the verge of extinction. It is the first time the alphabet has been officially adopted outside the Korean Peninsula.
The 60,000 person tribe in the city of Baubau, located in Buton of Southeast Sulawesi, has been working to transcribe its native language "Jjia jjia" into Hanguel.
The Baubau city counsel decided to adopt Hangeul as the official alphabet for in July of 2008. Work soon began and the textbooks were completed on July 16. By July 21, elementary and high school students began learning their spoken language through the Hangeul writing system.
Who are the Jjia Jjia (or Cia Cia), you may well be asking. After all, you've never heard of them. Neither have I. Neither has Google (beyond the news story quoted here). Neither has Wikipedia.
Buton Island is there in Wiki, and Bau-Bau comes up on Google Earth (if you haven't downloaded it, do so as soon as you finish reading this--it is awesome fun, and useful, even). Still, the place is little-known, so much so that Yonhap's brief story calls it "Bauer and Bauer." Which I think is actually a men's clothiers. Or a financial consultant.
The Bauer and Bauer meme has been propagated to Korea Times and KBS in the last couple of hours.
Anyway, I am reminded of the story of Chief Sequoyah, who developed a Cherokee writing system after seeing the power it gave the white man who raped his people's land, stole their property and banished them to Oklahoma. Well, the pen may be mightier than the sword, but rifles throw off the balance.
Rather than reinvent the
However, if the Jjia jjia use a lot of "f","b","I","r","l" or "z" sounds, they've made a spectacularly bad decision. You cannot represent "cob" in hangeul, only "cop", though can have "cop" two ways. What you can have is "caw-buh". You can't have "shun" only "sun". And so on. As a phonetic alphabet, this system works well for spoken Korean's sounds, the purpose for which it was invented. Hangeul has 24 characters which can be arranged into several dozen syllables which compose the phonetic units of the language.
If your language doesn't use those units, then hangeul can only approximate it. This is the fundamental fact behind what is called Konglish, Korean-English. E-Mar-tuh, pok-uh, English-ee and all the rest of it.
햅브 나이스 대!