OMG. I never knew that Korean uses length to distinguish between words!!! >,< Such discoveries never fail to amaze me. But I can’t believe it took me nearly 3 years to realise this fundamental fact of Korean. O.o Please tell me I’m not the only one :/
According to a source, there are 7185 pairs of words that are distinguished by length, making it a total of 15,000 words. Most of these words are sino-korean words (한자어). Some of the 한자 are usually pronounced with a long sound while some can be pronounced both long and short.
For example, 화:장 (火葬) is pronounced with the long vowel while 화장 (化粧) is pronounced with the short vowel. This explained the puzzled look my Korean friend gave me when I was trying to explain that we learned about 화장장 and 혐오시설 during our classes! I must have said it with a short vowel instead. O.o
I’m so intrigued by this that I did a search online. Came across a really insightful article that questioned the need of maintaining the long-short distinction in daily conversations. Korean is a language that places heavily reliance on pragmatics and context to deliver its meaning. In light of such a reliance, is there a need to continue maintaining the distinction when the context is clear? Also, there is no underlying rule that govern such a distinction. This means that you have to memorise each instance and to us foreigners, it can be a difficult task indeed.
It’s so exciting(?) yet infuriating at times. Just when you thought you have made more progress in your proficiency, you realised that you are nowhere still being native. I thought that I was becoming better in my pronunciation, but now I have to take into account long-short distinction ):