In the earliest hangul texts from the 15th century, there were three circular letters.

ㅇ <Ø> : ㆁ <ŋ> : ㆀ <ØØ>

In modern hangul, ㅇ <Ø> has come to represent zero in initial position and /ŋ/ in coda position: e.g., 앙 <ØaØ> /aŋ/. Although ㅇ may appear with a short vertical line on top like ㆁ <ŋ> in some fonts, that line no longer distinguishes ㆁ <ŋ> from ㅇ <Ø>; the reading of ㅇ /ㆁ is now wholly dependent on its position within a syllabic block.

ㅇ <Ø> had two uses in the earliest hangul orthography for Late Middle Korean in the 15th century. it could represent initial /Ø/ as in the modern language and - unlike the modern language - also represented /ɣ/ in four environments:

1. between /r/ and a vowel

2. between /z/ and a vowel

3. between /j/ and a vowel

4. between /i/ and a vowel

This /ɣ/ has disappeared in the modern standard language, though traces remain in dialects: e.g., 15th century 몰애 <morØai> /morɣaj/ 'sand' corresponds to Pukchhŏng molgɛ with -g- (cf. standard morɛ).

What was ㆀ <ØØ>? Lee and Ramsey (2011: 146) regard it as another spelling of Late Middle Korean /ɣ/. But why would two letters be devised for the same sound at the very beginning of a script? A clue may lie in the limited distribution of ㆀ <ØØ> which was solely used to write forms of the passive/causative suffix ᅇᅵ<ØØi> - and in one instance, the causative suffix ᅇᅮ <ØØu> (月印釋譜 Wŏrin sŏkpo 14:14) - after /j/. If the first suffix were simply /ɣi/, why not spell it as 이 <Øi> which is the spelling after /l z/? (I don't know of any instances of that suffix after /i/. The second suffix is otherwise spelled <Øu> = /ɣu/ after /l z j/.)

Yesterday afternoon it occurred to me that ㆀ <ØØ> might represent a palatal allophone [ʝ] of /ɣ/. This allophone may have been geminated [ʝʝ] if it was like /ss/ and /hh/ which were written as double consonants ㅆ ㆅ <ss hh>. There is even one case of /nn/ as ㅥ <nn> in 訓民正音諺解 Hunmin chŏngŭm ŏnhae.

There is, however, no guarantee that a double consonant necessarily represented a geminate, as ㅆ ㆅ <ss hh> could also represent /z ɦ/ in the prescriptive transcription of Sino-Korean readings. (Native /z/ had a different letter ㅿ <z>. It might be more accurate to regard the artificial voiced consonants of Sino-Korean readings as breathy voiced: e.g., Sino-Korean ㅆ <ss> was /zʱ/ or /sʱ/ and therefore distinct from ㅿ /z/.) Doubled ㄲ ㄸ ㅃ ㅉ <kk tt pp cc> could only represent /g d b dz/ in that transcription in the earliest hangul texts; their use for reinforced consonants came later.

Moreover, the circle was used to derive consonant characters for nongeminates: e.g., /β/ was written as ㅸ. So ㆀ <ØØ> could be interpreted as 'derivative of circle' for [ʝ] rather as than 'double circle' for [ʝʝ] (or geminate zero which would make no sense).

One problem with this proposal is that it cannot easily account for the one instance of ㆀ <ØØ> in the causative suffix ᅇᅮ <ØØu>. It is understandable that /ɣ/ would palatalize to [ʝ] between /j/ and /i/ in, for instance, ᄆᆡᅇᅵ<mʌi.ØØi> /mʌjɣi/ [mʌjʝi] 'to be bound to', the passive stem of /mʌj/ 'to bind'. It is slightly less understandable why /ɣ/ would palatalize to [ʝ] between /j/ and /w/ in  뮈ᅇᅯ <mui.ØØuə> /mujɣwə/ 'moving'. (/ɣw/ is an allomorph of /ɣu/ before vowel-initial suffixes like /ə/ '-ing', called the 'infinitive' [though it is not like an Indo-European infinitive].)

Perhaps 뮈ᅇᅯ <mui.ØØuə> reflects a pronunciation [mujʝɥə] in which the palatal quality of /j/ spread into the following consonants. That pronunciation might even have been common, though for most purposes a phonemic spelling 뮈워 <mui.ØØuə> for /mujɣwə/ might have sufficed instead of a more precise phonetic spelling 뮈ᅇᅯ <mui.ØØuə>. I don't know if the spelling 뮈워 <mui.ØØuə> is attested, but 月印千江之曲 Wŏrin ch'ŏn'gang chi kok 62 has the spelling 뮈우 <mui.Øu> /mujɣu/ for the stem. FRGÁL

Slavic languages normally only have [f] in loanwords and as a positional variant of /v/ (which is why Russian names in -v have variant spellings in -ff).

As far as I know (thanks to Short 1993), Czech initial [f] can only appear

- in onomatopoetic words (e.g., foukat 'to blow')

- as a positional variant of v before voiceless consonants (e.g., vsadit 'to bet', pronounced [fsadit])

- in loanwords from non-Slavic languages (e.g., .fonetický 'phonetic')

So what is the source of the f in the dish called frgál? That f- is before a voiced syllabic r and is not a variant of v-. Is it onomatopoetic or from a foreign language - perhaps Romanian, given that frgál is from Moravian Wallachia? That region isn't continguous with modern Romania, but it was settled by Vlachs. SHIMUNEK (2017) AND DOWNES (2018)

Last night, I found the addenda and corrigenda to Andrew Shimunek's Languages of Ancient Southern Mongolia and North China (2017). I thought that would be as close as I'd get to having his book which I can't afford at $116.76 until I saw an online sampler.

It's remarkable that three books on Khitan have appeared in English within a decade - the other two being Daniel Kane's The Kitan Language and Script (2009) and Wu Yingzhe and Juha Janhunen's New Materials on the Khitan Small Script: A Critical Edition of Xiao Dilu and Yelü Xiangwen (2010 - just a year after Kane's book!).

Can a new book on Jurchen be far behind? It has been almost thirty years since Kane's The Sino-Jurchen Vocabulary of Interpreters (1989) which despite its title is a general gateway to Jurchen language studies as well as complementing Kiyose Gisaburō's A Study of the Jurchen Language and Script - Reconstruction and Decipherment (1977) which covered the Sino-Jurchen vocabulary of the Bureau of Translators.

Not long after Imre Galambos' Translating Chinese Tradition and Teaching Tangut Culture: Manuscripts and Printed Books from Khara-Khoto (2015) comes Alan Downes' PhD dissertation "How Does Tangut Work?" (submitted 2016, revised 2018), a follow-up to his BA honors thesis "The Xixia Writing System" (2008) - and his tangut.info website which links to mine.

Alas, I haven't written about Tangut - much less Khitan or Jurchen - in a long time. If I may rephrase Downes' question, I have been trying to come up with the answer to "How Does Pyu Work?" It's coming in a series of articles and a book.

These are exciting times for the study of extinct Asian languages.

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