Korean/Advanced Pronunciation Rules
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This lesson contains all information about standard pronunciation of Korean words, based on "Standard Korean Pronunciation Rules (1988)."
Simple vowels 'ㅚ' and 'ㅟ' can be pronounced like diphthongs:
- ㅚ [ø] → ㅚ [we] or [we̞]
- ㅟ [y] → ㅟ [wi] or [ɥi]
Many native speakers cannot distinguish ‘금괴(金塊)’ from ‘금궤(金櫃).’
'져, 쪄, and 쳐' appearing in conjugation of verbs and adjectives is often pronounced '저, 쩌, and 처,' respectively:
ex) 가지어 → 가져[가저], 찌어 → 쪄[쩌], 다치어 → 다쳐[다처]
In Korean, 'ㅈ, ㅉ, ㅊ' following vowels starting with /j/ sound, such as 'ㅕ', only appear as the form of '져, 쪄, 쳐,' except for some non-formal spelling of foreign words in Hangeul. The reason why there is such a rule is because 'ㅈ, ㅉ, ㅊ' cannot be followed by /j/ sounds. (/j/ elision)
In some dialects 'ㅖ' is pronounced 'ㅔ' except for '예' and '례':
ex) 계집[계ː집/게ː집] 계시다[계ː시다/게ː시다] 시계[시계/시게](時計) 연계[연계/연게](連繫) 몌별[몌별/메별](袂別) 개폐[개폐/개페](開閉) 혜택[혜ː택/헤ː택](惠澤) 지혜[지혜/지헤](智慧)
'ㅢ' after initial consonant is often pronounced 'ㅣ':
ex) 늴리리[닐리리] 닁큼[닝큼] 무늬[무니] 띄어쓰기[띠어쓰기] 씌어[씨어] 틔어[티어] 희어[히어] 희떱다[히떱따] 희망[히망] 유희[유히]
Moreover, '의' ('ㅢ without initial consonant) which is a non-first syllable is often pronounced '이':
ex) 민주주의[민주주의/민주주이] 의의[의의/의이](意義) 협의[혀븨/혀비](協議)
Also, the post-position '의' (meaning the word of) is often pronounced '에':
ex) 우리의[우리의/우리에] 강의의[강ː의의/강ː이에](講義의)
For '되어', '피어', '-이오', and '아니오', you can add /j/ sounds as follows:
ex) 되어[되어/되여] 피어[피어/피여] -이오[이오/이요] 아니오[아니오/아니요]
The sounds of some final consonants (받침, batchim) are different from their sounds as initials.
Only seven consonant sounds are found at the end of syllables: ㄱ, ㄴ, ㄷ, ㄹ, ㅁ, ㅂ, and ㅇ.
In general, obstruents before nasals are assimilated to nasals, while keeping the same place of articulation as before. ㄹ following obstruents also is affected. Let 'k-stop', 't-stop', 'p-stop' be obstruents stopping with k, t, p sounds, respectively. The general rules are:
- A k-stop (ㄱ, ㅋ, ㄲ, ...) becomes ㅇ before 'ㄴ and ㅁ'
- A t-stop (ㄷ, ㅅ, ㅆ, ㅈ, ㅊ, ㅌ, ㅎ, ...) becomes ㄴ before 'ㄴ and ㅁ'
- A p-stop (ㅂ, ㅍ, ㅃ, ...) becomes ㅁ before 'ㄴ and ㅁ'
- ㄹ following an obstruent becomes ㄴ, and above rules are applied. (For this, see below.)
Here are some examples:
- k-stops + ㄴ become ㅇㄴ
ex) 격노(being incensed), pronounced [경노] 학년 (grade, school/academic year, form, standard), prounounced [항년] 닦는 (wiping, present participle form), pronounced [당는] 긁는 (scratching, present participle form), pronounced [긍는] 몫몫이 (share by share), pronounced [몽목씨]
- k-stops + ㅁ become ㅇㅁ
ex) 국물 (broth), pronounced [궁물] 부엌문 (kitchen door), pronounced [부엉문] 키읔만 ('ㅋ' only), pronounced [키응만]
- t-stops + ㄴ become ㄴㄴ
ex) 닫는 (closing, present participle form), pronounced [단는] 덧니 (snaggletooth), pronounced [던니] 죽었니? (Is it dead?), pronounced [주건니] 젖니 (baby tooth), pronounced [전니] 벚나무 (cheery tree), pronounced [번나무] 옻나무 (lacquer tree), pronounced [온나무] 꽃나무 (a flower plane), pronounced [꼰나무] 밭농사 (dry-field farming), pronounced [반농사] 놓는 (putting down, participle form), pronounced [논는] 밭일 (farming), pronounced [밭ㄴ일 -> 반닐] due to addition of 'ㄴ' sound 밭이랑 (plowed rows), pronounced [밭ㄴ이랑 -> 반니랑] due to addition of 'ㄴ' sound But, 밭이랑 (a farm and) is pronounced [바치랑] since there is no addition of 'ㄴ' but a palatalization.
- t-stops + ㅁ become ㄴㅁ
ex) 맏며느리 (wife of one's eldest son), pronounced [만며느리] 옷맵시 (line of cloth, style), pronounced [온맵씨] 옻물 (lacquer sap), pronounced [온물] 낯면 (the name of the hanja 面), pronounced [난면] 낮말 (talking in the daytime), pronounced [난말] 낱말 (a word), pronounced [난말] 히읗만 (only 'ㅎ'), pronounced [히은만]
- p-stops + ㄴ becomes ㅁㄴ
ex) 굽는 (roasting, participle form), pronounced [굼는] 줍는 (picking up, participle form), pronounced [줌는] 밟는 (stepping on, participle form), pronounced [밤는] since 밟- is pronounced [밥:] (one of counterexamples of pronunciation of ㄼ) 읊는 (reciting, participle form), pronounced [음는]
- p-stops + ㅁ becomes ㅁㅁ
ex) 업무 (duties), pronounced [엄무] 엎는 (flipping, participle form), pronounced [엄는] 덮는 (covering, participle form), pronounced [덤는] 앞문 (front door), pronounced [암문]
- ㄱㅎ becomes ㅋ
ex) 북한 (North Korea), pronounced [부칸] 익숙한 (familiar), pronounced [익쑤칸] 착한 (good-natured), pronounced [차칸] 악한 (evil), pronounced [아칸] 긁힌 (be scratched), pronounced [글킨] (ㄹ remains)
- ㅎㄱ becomes ㅋ
ex) 하얗게 (whitely), pronounced [하야케] 끊긴 (disconnected), pronounced [끈킨] (ㄴ remains)
- t-stops + ㅎ becomes ㅌ (except for the next case):
ex) 맏형 (the eldest brother), pronounced [마텽] 굳해파리목 (Trachymedusae), pronounced [구태파리목] 핫하다 (to be hot, popular), pronounced [하타다] 숱하디숱하다 (plentiful, rich, so many), pronounced [수타디수타다] 맞혼인 (a marriage with equal share of expenses between the two families, or a consensual marriage, 맞婚姻), pronounced [마토닌] 꽂하늘소 (Leptura aethiops), pronounced [꼬타늘쏘] 닻혀 (an anchor fluke), pronounced [다텨] 몇 할 (what percentage, literally how many 'hal'(할, 割, 10%)), pronounced [며탈]
- but, t-stops + 히 becomes 치 if it involves palatalization (see below):
ex) 맞히다 (guess right), pronounced [마치다] 얹히다 (to be put on, or have indigestion), pronounced [언치다] 잊히다 (to be forgotten), pronounced [이치다] 닫혀 (being shut), pronounced [다쳐] (-혀 is a reduced form of -히어)
- ㅎㄷ becomes ㅌ
ex) 빨갛다 (to be red), pronounced [빨가타]
- ㅂㅎ becomes ㅍ
ex) 입학 (entrance), pronounced [이팍] 넓히다 (to extend), pronounced [널피다] 급하다 (in hurry), pronounced [그파다]
- ㅎㅈ becomes ㅊ
ex) 쌓지[싸치] 닳지[달치] 좋죠[조쵸]
- ㅎㅅ becomes ㅆ
ex) 않소[안쏘] 많소[만:쏘] 싫소[실쏘]
Some combinations involve palatalization:
- ㄷ이 becomes 지 if 이- only has grammatical meaning
ex) 해돋이 (sunrise), pronounced [해도지] 곧이듣다 (to take another´s words as truth), pronounced [고지듣따]
- ㅌ이 and 't-stops + 히' becomes 치 if 히- only has grammatical meaning
ex) 굳히다 (to harden), pronounced [구치다] 받히다 (to be hit), pronounced [바치다]
Assimilations and Alterations Related to ㄹ
Some involve complex assimilation/alterations:
- ㅁㄹ becomes ㅁㄴ
ex) 남루하다 (shabby, ragged), pronounced [남:누하다] 담력 (courage, nerve; 膽力), pronounced [담:녁]
- ㅇㄹ becomes ㅇㄴ
ex) 왕릉 (royal tomb, mausoleum), pronounced [왕능] 항로 (sea route), pronounced [항:노] 대통령 (president), pronounced [대:통녕]
- ㄱㄹ becomes ㅇㄴ (can be divided as ㄱㄹ -> ㄱㄴ -> ㅇㄴ)
ex) 박람회 (expo), pronounced [방남회]
- ㅂㄹ becomes ㅁㄴ (can be divided as ㅂㄹ -> ㅂㄴ -> ㅁㄴ)
ex) 합리적 (rational), pronounced [함니적]
- ㄴㄹ becomes ㄹㄹ (except some words)
ex) 안락하다 (comfortable), pronounced [알라카다] 난로 (heater, stove), pronounced [날:로] 광한루 (Gwanghallu), pronounced [광할루]
The exceptions are the following 11 words:
의견란[의ː견난] 임진란[임ː진난] 생산량[생산냥] 결단력[결딴녁] 공권력[공꿘녁] 동원령[동ː원녕] 상견례[상견녜] 횡단로[횡단노] 이원론[이ː원논] 입원료[이붠뇨] 구근류[구근뉴]
If a syllable with initial consonant ㅇ(meaning there is no sound) is either a postposition or a suffix/an ending, and it follows terminal syllable(받침, batchim), and if there is no addition of syllable, then that terminal syllable is moved to the position of ㅇ, as it is. Single consonants and tense consonants ㄲ, ㅆ are moved entirely, and for other double syllable like ㄼ, ㄾ, second component only moves (but ㅅ becomes ㅆ).
For the first case:
ex) 깎아[까까] 옷이[오시] 있어[이써] 낮이[나지] 꽂아[꼬자] 꽃을[꼬츨] 쫓아[쪼차] 밭에[바테] 앞으로[아프로] 덮이다[더피다] 부엌이[부어키] 낯을[나츨] 밭의[바틔/바테] 무릎에[무르페] 꺾어[꺼꺼] 쫓을[쪼츨] 같은[가튼] 짚으면[지프면] 섞여[서껴] 높여[노펴]
The other case:
ex) 넋이[넉씨] 앉아[안자] 닭을[달글] 젊어[절머] 곬이[골씨] 핥아[할타] 읊어[을퍼] 값을[갑쓸] 없어[업ː써] 닭이[달기] 여덟을[여덜블] 삶에[살:메] 읽어[일거] 밟을[발블] 옮은[올믄] 몫이[목씨] 넋을[넉쓸] 곬이[골씨] 외곬으로[외골쓰로] 값이[갑씨] 값에[갑쎄] 없이[업ː씨] 없으면[업ː쓰면]
If the syllable starting with ㅇ is the first character of a semantically meaningful word and if the vowel is not starting with /j/ sound, then first change the first syllable following the rule and moves the last consonant.
ex) 밭 아래 (downward of a farm, 아래 is meaningful) [받 아래 -> 바다래] 늪 앞 (front of a swamp, 앞 is meaningful) [늡 앞 -> 느밮 -> 느밥] 젖어미 (a wet nurse, 어미 is meaningful) [젇 어미 -> 저더미] 맛없다 (to taste awful, 없다 is meaningful) [맏 없다 -> 마덦다 -> 마덥따] 꽃 위 (on a flower, 위 is meaningful) [꼳 위 -> 꼬뒤]
If two words become one where the first one ends with terminal consonant and the second one starts with /j/ sound, then ㄴ is added after applying the rules to each words.
ex) 솜-이불 (cotton blanket, 솜 + 이불), pronounced [솜ː니불] 홑-이불 (bed sheet, 홑- + 이불), pronounced [혿-니불 -> 혼니불] 막-일 (physical labor, 막- + 일), pronounced [막-닐 -> 망닐] 삯-일 (job work, 삯 + 일), pronounced [삭-닐 -> 상닐]
More examples without explanation:
맨-입[맨닙] 꽃-잎[꼰닙] 내복-약[내ː봉냑] 한-여름[한녀름] 남존-여비[남존녀비] 신-여성[신녀성] 색-연필[생년필] 직행-열차[지캥녈차] 늑막-염[능망념] 콩-엿[콩녇] 담-요[담ː뇨] 눈-요기[눈뇨기] 영업-용[영엄뇽] 식용-유[시굥뉴] 백분-율[백뿐뉼] 밤-윷[밤ː뉻]
Here, ㄹㄴ with added ㄴ becomes ㄹㄹ.
ex) 들-일[들ː릴] 솔-잎[솔립] 설-익다[설릭따] 물-약[물략] 불-여우[불려우] 서울-역[서울력] 물-엿[물렫] 휘발-유[휘발류] 유들-유들[유들류들]
Some permissions: you can read as it is, without adding ㄴ for the following 5 words:
이죽-이죽[이중니죽/이주기죽] 야금-야금[야금냐금/야그먀금] 검열[검ː녈/거ː멸] 욜랑-욜랑[욜랑뇰랑/욜랑욜랑] 금융[금늉/그뮹]
Exceptions: do not add ㄴ for the following 4 words:
6·25[유기오] 3·1절[사밀쩔] 송별-연[송ː벼련] 등-용문[등용문]
Caution: if this is not the case that two words became one word which is in the dictionary, you should not add ㄴ. For example,
ex) 물요? (You mean the water?), pronounced [무료] but not [물료](X)
- ㅚ and ㅟ can be dipthongs.
- /j/ following ㅈ, ㅉ, ㅊ should be removed.
- ㅖ following with initial consonant (neither ㅇ nor ㄹ) can be ㅔ.
- ㅢ with initial consonant (not ㅇ) should be ㅣ.
- If a ㅢ with initial consonant made by moving a consonant, then it primarily pronounced as it is, and it can be pronounced ㅣ.
- 의 as a non-first character of a word can be 이.
- 의, a postposition meaning "of", can be pronounced 에.
- Only 7 consonants can come as a terminal consonant, batchim: ㄱ, ㄴ, ㄷ, ㄹ, ㅁ, ㅂ, ㅇ.
- At the end of a word,
- ㄲ, ㅋ, ㄳ, ㄺ become ㄱ (k-stop)
- ㄵ, ㄶ become ㄴ
- ㅅ, ㅆ, ㅈ, ㅊ, ㅌ, ㅎ become ㄷ (t-stop)
- ㄼ, ㄽ, ㄾ, ㅀ become ㄹ (except for 밟-, 넓죽하다, and 넓둥글다)
- ㄻ becomes ㅁ
- ㄿ, ㅄ, ㅍ become ㅂ (p-stop)
- Nasalization: (k-stop, t-stop, p-stop) + (ㄴ or ㅁ) become (ㅇ, ㄴ, ㅁ)
- k-stop + ㅎ become ㅋ
- t-stop + ㅎ become ㅌ
- t-stop + 히(not semantically meaningful) become 치 due to palatalization
- p-stop + ㅎ become ㅍ
- Palatalization: (ㄷ, ㅌ) + meaningless (이, 히) become 지(ㄷ이) or 치(other cases)
- Assimilation/alternation: ㄹ become ㄴ after batchim which is not ㄴ/ㄹ, and ㄴㄹ and ㄹㄴ become ㄹㄹ except for some words
- Linking: basically move batchim to next ㅇ, except for:
- ㅅ become ㅆ.
- Combining meaningful words cause delay of moving of batchim or addition of ㄴ.
- ㄱ, ㄷ, ㅂ, ㅅ, ㅈ following obstruents become ㄲ, ㄸ, ㅃ, ㅆ, ㅉ
- ㄱ, ㄷ, ㅅ, ㅈ following a batchim of a word stem which is one of ㄴ(ㄵ), ㅁ(ㄻ), ㄼ, ㄾ become ㄲ, ㄸ, ㅆ, ㅉ
- In Sino-Korean words, ㄷ, ㅅ, ㅈ after ㄹ become ㄸ, ㅆ, ㅉ (except reduplication words)
- -ㄹ in some words following a word stem makes following ㄱ, ㄷ, ㅂ, ㅅ, ㅈ tense
- If two words become one where the first one modifies the second one and if there should be some delay pronouncing it, then the first ㄱ, ㄷ, ㅂ, ㅅ, ㅈ of the second word become tense.