Resyllabification and Pronunciations of Korean Consonants

Recall that in spoken Korean, a sequence of sound is easier to pronounce when it is in a consonant-vowel sequence. It leads to an important pronunciation rule that, if a final consonant in a hangul is followed by a hangul without a beginning consonant, that final consonant “spills over” to the next hangul. A simple example is that you pronounce 음악 (music) as [으막], with the final consonant “spills over” to 악 to make it 막.

Technically it is called resyllabification, or in a more layman term, consonant relinking. Consider when you say Thank you in English, you don’t utter “thank” and “you” separately, but you link the ending “k” to “you” in your pronunciation. In Korean, as you will see, this pronunciation rule is very common.

In the previous example, 음악 is a single word. How about cases like those in between word boundary in a phrase? In fact, as long as no pause is required between the words, this resyllabification rule applies. For example, 밖에 (outside) is pronounced as [바께], and 꼭 오세요 (please come by for sure) is pronounced as [꼬고세요].

When the final consonant is a complex one, i.e. or , you only “spill over” the final consonant that is on the right for the double final consonants. For example, you “spill over” to make 앉아요 (sit down) pronounce as [안자요].

Here is a summary of the resyllabification rule:

Case Description Example Pronunciation Meaning
1 spill over within a word 음악 [으막] music
2 spill over before a particle 밖에 [바께] outside
3 spill over between words in a phrase 꼭 오세요 [꼬고세요] please come by for sure
4 spill over for a complex final consonant 앉아요 [안자요] sit down

This resyllabification rule will get more complicated when it combines with other pronunciation rules, such as tensification or nasal assimilation, which I will talk about next.

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