Korean Language Pronunciation Rules 

 September 24, 2019

By  Satish Satyarthi

Korean words are not always pronounced as they are written. Often the pronunciations of letters change according to various rules. The good thing is that these sound changes make the words easy to pronounce. To learn the perfect Korean pronunciation, it is necessary to understand these pronunciation rules. Here in this lesson, we will see 6 main pronunciation change rules of Korean languages. But before going through these 6 rules, let’s go through the major pronunciation change rules of Hangeul characters briefly in this video:

  1. Carry over

If a Patchim consonant is followed by a vowel its sound gets combined with the next vowel and it is pronounced as a part of the next syllable and not as an independent character. In other words, if there is a consonant in the patchim place and it’s being followed by ㅇ character (in the next syllable), the patchim character gets carried over to the next place and replaces ㅇ character.

Examples:

Word   –     Sound Change  –   Pronunciation

책이               채기      छैक + ई = छैगी

밥을               바블      फाप + अल = फाबल

잎이               이피     इप + ई = इफी

옷이               오시     ओत+ई=ओशी

밖에               바께     फाक+ए=फाक्के

If the syllable ends with a double ‘Patchim’ and the following syllable starts with a vowel, the first letter of the double ‘Patchim’ is pronounced independently while the second character is carried over and gets combined with the following syllable.

Examples:

Word   – Sound Change – Pronunciation

앉아요             안자요            आन्जायो

밟아요             발바요            फाल्बायो

없어요            업서요             औप्सौयो

  1. Nasalization

In Korean phonetic system, ㄴ and ㅁ are considered as the nasal sounds. When the following final consonants are followed by a nasal character (ㄴ,ㅁ), they assimilate to the nasal sound and are pronounced as following.

ㄱ, ㅋ                                        →          ㅇ

ㄷ, ㅅ, ㅈ, ㅊ, ㅌ, ㅎ                  →          ㄴ            / before ㄴ or ㅁ

ㅂ, ㅍ                                       →          ㅁ

Examples:

Word   – Sound Change-     Pronunciation

국물            궁물         खु+मुल =खुंगमुल

갑니다        감니다     खा+नीदा=खामनीदा

낱말            난말         ना+माल=नान्माल

  1. Aspiration

When the following consonant in patchim are followed or preceded byㅎ [h] , they are aspirated and change to their aspirated corresponding consonants.

ㄱ           +  ㅎ →           ㅋ

ㄷ           +  ㅎ →           ㅌ

ㅂ           +  ㅎ →           ㅍ

ㅈ           +  ㅎ →           ㅊ

Examples:

Word   -Sound Change –     Pronunciation

좋다            조타         छो+दा=छोथा

생각하다   생가카다  सैन्गा+हादा=सैन्गाखादा

노랗다      노라타       नोरा+दा=नोराथा

입히다       이피다      ई+हीदा=ईफीदा

  1. Palatalization

When a syllable ending in ㄷ(d) or ㅌ(t) is followed by a syllable that begins with a “y” sounding vowel ㅑ, ㅕ, ㅛ, ㅠ [ya, yeo, yo, yu] or the vowel ㅣ[ee], the ㄷ and ㅌ are pronounced ㅈ(j) and ㅊ(ch) respectively.

Example:

ㄷ[थ]                     +  이(ई) → 지 [जी]

ㅌ[त्थ]                    +  이(ई) → 치 [छी]

 

Word   – Sound Change –     Pronunciation

맏이      마지  मात+ई = माजी

굳이      구지   खुत+ई = खुजी

같이      가치   खात+ई = खाछी

붙여요   부쳐요 फुत + यौयो =  फुछ्यौयो

  1. Liquidation

When pacthim character ㄴ is followed by ㄹ, their sounds are combined and become ㄹ(ल्ल).

ㄴ (न) + ㄹ (र/ल)                  →                      ㄹ (ल्ल)

Example:

Word          – Sound Change-     Pronunciation

신라               실라         शिन+रा= शिल्ला

신림               실림         शिन+रिम = शिल्लिम

       6. Tensificaion

When a letter with strong sounds like  ㄲ, ㄸ, ㅃ or ㅉ is in the patchim position and they are followed by ㄱ, ㄷ, ㅂ, ㅅ, ㅈ, the following consonants get tensified  and are pronounced like:

ㄱ > ㄲ

ㄷ > ㄸ

ㅂ > ㅃ

ㅅ > ㅆ

ㅈ > ㅉ

If the sound the character is ㄸ it gets almost silent and is not pronounced clearly.

Example:

Word          – Sound Change-     Pronunciation

먹다                       먹따                     मौक्ता

맥주                       맥쭈                     मैक्चू

받고                       바꼬                      फाक्को

없다                       업따                      औप्ता

I know these rules are too complicated and difficult to remember for you at the moment. You don’t need to memorize them all right now. Just read them once and try to grasp the concept behind them and you will learn them as you go along with this course. Most of these pronunciation rules have the purpose of making the pronunciations of words easy for human tongue. You will understand this if you try pronouncing some example words. In the next lesson, we will do some practice of Hangeul and Korean pronunciation rules by reading some common Korean words taken from foreign languages.  After that we will move to Korean grammar and will learn how to construct Korean sentences.

Satish Satyarthi


I am Satish, a Korean language learner and educator. I did my Bachelors degree in Korean language from JNU, Delhi and Masters degree in Korean Language Education from Seoul National University, South Korea. and an M.Phil. in Korean from JNU. I have a passion for education and technology. I have been involved in Korean language education and research for more than 10 years and have trained hundreds of Korean language learners across the globe, online and in physical classrooms.

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