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의성어 and 의태어: The basics

I don’t write social commentary. I write on language learning. I’ll stay a geeky language girl and write about learning Korean and Japanese. lol. What I do best.

Now to my favorite topic: Korean Onomatopoeia!! Decided to dig through my blog and I realized that I’ve written a few articles on it. First article in May 2009 and then another one in Dec 2009.

Fast forward. 3 years later, in 2012, I’m still as horrible in 의성어 as I was in 2009. -.- Talk about the lack of progress..

Decided to revive my Korean study and found an interesting PDF on the topic which I already shared on Twitter.

The basic rule is that bright vowels (아,야,오,요 etc) are used to signify ‘soft, small, bright’ while the dark vowels (어,여,우,유 etc) are used to signify ‘loud, big, dark’. So the same word with different vowels can mean the same thing but have different nuances.

Taking an example from the PDF, 토끼는 ‘깡충깡충’ 뛰고 캥거루는 ‘껑충껑충’ 뛴다. Rabbits beng small jump in the 깡충깡충 way, while kangaroos jump 껑충껑충. Sometimes the distinction is not as clear cut. 시냇물은 ‘졸졸’ 흐르고 수도꼭지가 고장 나면 수돗물은 ‘줄줄’ 샌다. The city river is described as flowing 졸졸 while water dripping from the faulty tap is 줄줄.

Another basic rule is the distinction of different nuances via the consonant. The rule of thumb is that normal consonant < reinforced consonant < aspirated consonant ( in increasing level of strength).

To describe objects bumping into each other, the sound 달가닥 can be used.‘달가닥’과 같은 계열에 속하는 단어는 ‘달까닥, 달카닥; 딸가닥, 딸까닥, 딸카닥; 탈가닥, 탈카닥’ 등이 있다. LOOK AT ALL THE POSSIBILITIES. *stabs self*

If you look at the final paragraph of the PDF, there is a short passage chockful of 의성어. 😀 See how much you can understand.

As I learn more 의성어, I’ll be sharing them on my blog too! 😀 And if you can read Korean, take a look at the PDF. It’s worth a read!

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  • Reply
    a little faith
    20 August, 2012 at 5:44 AM

    Oh wow. Yesterday I was counting my blessings that I found your wonderful blog because I sometimes doubted that I could perfect the Korean language through self study. Today, I am just so grateful I found your blog because it is so much more than communication itself.

    It is about understanding a language, its idiosyncrasies, sound and form so that you can express yourself beautifully. Although this is a little advanced for me, I have saved it in my folder with hopes of more fluent future.

    Thank you.

    • Reply
      23 August, 2012 at 12:54 AM

      Hello!! Sorry for the late reply ><;; thanks for loving the blog!!!

  • Reply
    20 August, 2012 at 11:39 PM

    love this! 😀

  • Reply
    22 August, 2012 at 8:30 PM

    Thanks Shanna! LOVE THIS! ^^ (Y)

  • Reply
    의성어와 의태어 | Phonomimes and Phenomimes | ASIANthusiast
    28 August, 2013 at 10:10 PM

    […] I realized Shanna from Hangukdrama also posted about this before and even shared a pdf (all written in Korean) which explains about some of the topics I […]

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