6 In Korean learning journey (:/ Korean sounds/pronunciation/ korean studying tools

Sounds of Korean: Where exceptions exceed regularities Part 1

Did a ‘revamp’ of the Korean language resources page. Hopefully it will be neater and accessible ^^

3.5 years of learning Korean, and I still don’t have the confidence that I can pronounce everything correctly. There’s so many sound changes, some regular and some irregular and things are not as simple as they seem. That’s why I get annoyed when I hear people boast and claim that Korean is so easy to pronounce and ‘I can read everything within a few lessons, just that I don’t understand what I’m reading’.


For those who are interested in a more in depth coverage of Korean sound changes and rules, check out this link. It’s written entirely in Korean though. ^^ I’ll try to talk about some of the more interesting points here.

Long sounds

There’s no rules stating which words are pronounced with a long sound but when they do, they are only pronounced with the long vowel when they are the first character in a word.
예) 눈보라 [눈:보라] ; 첫눈 [천눈]

However, for compound words, it is possible that the long sound remains in the first character of the 2nd word.
예) 반신반의 [반:신 바:니] – to be suspicious

When a stem is followed by a particle starting with ‘아/어’ and then compressed, it is pronounced with a long sound.
예) 보아 –> 봐 [봐:]     하여 –> 해 [해:]

This is even so even though the original root word does not have a long sound 보다 [보다].

However, that does not mean that it applies to all such words.
예) 오아 –> 와 [와]

Even for words with long sounds, there are certain situations where they are pronounced with a short vowel

1. When the stem is followed by a particle that starts with a vowel
예) 감다 [감:따] – 감으니 [가므니]     신다 [신:따] – 신어 [시너]

However, there are certain exceptions
예) 없다 [업:따] – 없으니 [업:쓰니]    
2. Long sounds are not manifested in the passive form of the verb
예) 감다 [감:따] – 감기다 [감기다]
However
, there are some exceptions
예) 벌리다 [벌:리다]

How many however-s have I typed in this post so far?? O.o

NOTE: all the examples are taken from the site linked above. However, I only pick one or two examples to illustrate the point. For more examples, please refer to the site.

I recommend printing out everything unless you want to kill your eyes (:

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6 Comments

  • Reply
    alodia
    19 May, 2011 at 8:15 PM

    O.o
    thanks for sharing! i could make a paper about this – but that won’t be until i get to understand it completely. ^^

  • Reply
    GenLiu
    19 May, 2011 at 11:05 PM

    Because some pples say they can read Korean after taking a few lessons? lol That don’t have any sence (like saying they can pilot an helicopter withing a couple of hours. lol

    This is impossible to learn the Korean pronounciation within a short time of learning aspecially because it just only depend on how a word is wrote, anybody just trying reading the 자모 instead of the 한글 has wrong.

    So a lot of words change there pronounciation depending on what is behind or in front of it in the sentence (like , 인터넷, 인터넷으로, 인터넷이, Only one word but THREE different pronounciation) or (이거 못 해요, 이거 못 써요, 이거 못 잊어… I think I can find much more variation of the 못 pronounciation lol).

    And not only that but some pronounciations are almost unic to the Korean language and extremely tricky to pronounce (ㅁ from 물, ㄴ from 나가다, 의 from 의자 (who never got crazy when he encounter this 의 sound that is almost never pronounced the same way depending on the word and just incredibly hard to recognize in a natural speed sentence lolol).

    • Reply
      hangukdrama
      20 May, 2011 at 4:49 PM

      hahaha yeah it doesnt make sense, but i’ve come across MANY people who says that. even random people on the bus.

      • Reply
        GenLiu
        20 May, 2011 at 5:15 PM

        I think you’re right when you say this is a way for them to boast themselves but they don’t understand that, admiting that a foreigner language is complicate to speak/pronounce/learn is a proof of skills (proof you know what you’re talking about).

      • Reply
        hangukdrama
        20 May, 2011 at 5:22 PM

        that, i totally agree with (:

  • Reply
    Anna
    28 April, 2022 at 8:45 AM

    omg I stumbled upon this old post somehow because I’ve been enjoying reading your previous posts again. I was actually searching for other posts on sound changes in Korean and found this one, which I don’t think I’d ever seen before.

    I think we’re lucky nowadays (in the 20s!!) that there are so many more Korean teachers and materials/resources, including free content online. Though I haven’t passed the intermediate level (and feel more like a beginner because I’ve forgotten a lot), I learned hangul in 2011 and have also attended a Korean language school in Seoul, so I can’t believe I never knew about long and short vowels until just the other day, when I saw Go Billy Korean’s video on it (https://youtu.be/in7l722CWR8). (On that note, I also found this video enlightening: https://youtu.be/kKycD6ccEQc)

    I agree that while hangul isn’t the most difficult or complex alphabet out there, people seriously downplay how tricky it can be and exaggerate its easiness… I wonder if these people even know about the sound changes?! Especially those who claimed they learned hangul entirely in just a few hours.
    I mean, I get where they’re coming from I suppose because I think it’s great to be able to read/pronounce, more or less, and hangul isn’t as daunting as kanji. But hangul certainly isn’t as reliable as kana lol, and some people seem to ignore the existence of sound changes altogether. Anyway, it’s always interesting to learn about more haha

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