Tilde ~ in Korean

I read in a Korean textbook that some, but not all, of the punctuation in English is used in South Korea.  While I was relieved that this new strange language I am learning at least had commas and periods acting in a way I would understand, I was intrigued to know about the punctuation that isn’t being used the same way.


Punctuation is used to aid in understanding and reading aloud printed text. Punctuation tells us about intonation, stress, and pauses.  For example, two clauses separated by a period have a pause between them, while a semicolon would be read without a pause.  The rules of punctuation vary by language.  Wikipedia describes punctuation in Korean.

Tilde ( ~ )

In English, “~30 min” is as an abbreviation meaning approximately 30 minutes.

In Korean, tilde ~ is used to mark ranges in numbers. e.g. 1~10.

Tilde is also used to indicate the prolonged sound and make something “cute” like 안녕~.  Ryan explains, ” it’s kinda long sound like oo of yahoo. when you meet your old close friend, you will call your friend’s name as a bit longer than usual.”

I have often seen the tilde used in saying hello or goodbye. ^^ means smile.



Interpunct ( · )

An interpunct ( · ) is a punctuation mark consisting of a dot.

In English, the interpunct is used for bulleted lists and in mathematics.  “a multiplied by b” is written as (a⋅b).

Interpuncts are used in written Korean to denote a list of two or more words.
두 사람・집단・국가 사이의  (between two people, groups, nations)

It also functions in a similar way to the English en dash, as in 미·소관계, “American–Soviet relations”.

Naver dictionary uses interpunct in their definitions along with square bracket [], slash /, pipe |, and tilde ~.  The meaning of the symbols in context of linguistics is often different than how they are used in computing and mathematics.  See Wikipedia Punctuation.

IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) has it’s own specific use of these symbols. In phonetics, a tilde is used as a diacritic. Diacritics are small markings which are placed around the IPA letter in order to show the letter’s pronunciation.

The joy of foreign language study is all the new things I learn.  Before, I had never considered punctuation marks being specific to a culture.  Learn something new every day 🙂

Punctuation is important to the meaning.  Learning how punctuation is used in a language lets one understand the difference between these two sentences.

“woman, without her man, is nothing”
“woman: without her, man is nothing”

Punctuation game

Because I love games, I’ll end this post with a link to a lexical puzzle for adding the right punctuation in English:
“James while John had had had had had had had had had had had a better effect on the teacher”

In linguistics, a tilde ~ is a grapheme.


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