Appendix:Korean pronunciation

See Korean phonology at Wikipedia for a thorough look at the sounds of Korean.

This page uses the Revised Romanization (the official South Korean Korean language romanization system) unless noted otherwise.

IPA Examples English approximation
p bul spill
b[1] abeoji about
[2] bap cup
ppul like spill but with a stronger articulation
pul pill
m mul mill
t dal star
d[1] eodi debt
[2] ot shut
ttal like star but with a stronger articulation
tal tall
n nal no
ɲ[3] simnyeon new
[4] jada roughly like posture
[1][4] uija roughly like jack
t͈ɕ[4] jjada roughly like posture but with a stronger articulation
tɕʰ[4] chada roughly like chill
k ga skull
ɡ[1] Hanguk again
[2] 두산 Baekdusan pick
kka like skull but with a stronger articulation
ka car
kx[5] keuda skull followed by Scottish English loch
[5] 우다 kiuda queue
ŋ bang sing, English
[6] sal roughly like sing
ɕʰ[6][7] Silla roughly like ship
ʃʰ[6][7] swida roughly like schwa
ssal roughly like sing but with a stronger articulation
ɕ͈[7] ssireum roughly like ship but with a stronger articulation
ʃ͈[7] sswi roughly like schwa but with a stronger articulation
ɭ[8] bal, 밀랍 millap roughly like RP light
ɾ[8] rodong, ilheun, baram Scottish English through, GA latter, ladder
ʎ[3][8] 천리 Cheollima Ljubljana
h[9] hada help
ɸ[9] hwangje hope, Southern American English white
x[9] heumgyeol Scottish English loch
ç[9] hyang huge
ɦ[9] 좋아 joahada like help but weaker
β[9] ahop like hope or Southern American English white but weaker
ɣ[9] hamheung like Scottish English loch but weaker
ʝ[9] yeonghyang like huge but weaker
IPA Examples English approximation
a mal GA lot
ʌ̹ beol cut
o bori GA short
u guri fool
ɯ eoreun somewhat like book
i ireum seat
ɛ̝[10] taeyang bet
[10] begae Scottish English sate
ø gyohoe somewhat like RP hurl
y jwi ruin
j yeoja yes
w wang water
ɰ[12] uija somewhat like the first part of write
ɥ 하다 wihada somewhat like we
ː ksin[13] long vowel[14]
ˈ words stress[15]

Overall Korean phonemically has these vowels and diphthongs and consonants:

  1. ㄱ /k/, ㄲ /k͈/, ㄴ /n/, ㄷ /t/, ㄸ /t͈/, ㄹ /l/, ㅁ /m/, ㅂ /p/, ㅃ /p͈/, ㅅ /s/, ㅆ /s͈/, ㅇ /ŋ/, ㅈ /tɕ/, ㅉ /t͈ɕ/, ㅊ /tɕʰ/, ㅋ /kʰ/, ㅌ /tʰ/, ㅍ /pʰ/, ㅎ /h/ (all of which, except for ㅇ /ŋ/, are allowed at the beginning of a phonemic syllable)
  2. ㅏ /a/, ㅐ /ɛ/, ㅑ /ja/, ㅒ /jɛ/, ㅓ /ʌ/, ㅔ /e/, ㅕ /jʌ/, ㅖ /je/, ㅗ /o/, ㅘ /wa/, ㅙ /wɛ/, ㅚ /ø/, ㅛ /jo/, ㅜ /u/, ㅝ /wʌ/, ㅞ /we/, ㅟ /y/, ㅠ /ju/, ㅡ /ɯ/, ㅢ /ɰi/, ㅣ /i/

Only seven consonants are allowed at the end of a phonemic syllable: ㄱ /k/, ㄴ /n/, ㄷ /t/, ㄹ /l/, ㅁ /m/, ㅂ /p/, ㅇ /ŋ/; all other consonants and clusters assimilate into these ones. Inside a word each one of these consonants can be followed by another consonant, allowing for 95 consonant clustes:

  1. ㄱㄲ /kk͈/, ㄱㄸ /kt͈/, ㄱㅃ /kp͈/, ㄱㅆ /ks͈/, ㄱㅉ /kt͈ɕ/, ㄱㅊ /ktɕʰ/, ㄱㅋ /kkʰ/, ㄱㅌ /ktʰ/, ㄱㅍ /kpʰ/
  2. ㄷㄲ /tk͈/, ㄷㄸ /tt͈/, ㄷㅃ /tp͈/, ㄷㅆ /ts͈/, ㄷㅉ /tt͈ɕ/, ㄷㅊ /ttɕʰ/, ㄷㅋ /tkʰ/, ㄷㅌ /ttʰ/, ㄷㅍ /tpʰ/
  3. ㅂㄲ /pk͈/, ㅂㄸ /pt͈/, ㅂㅃ /pp͈/, ㅂㅆ /ps͈/, ㅂㅉ /pt͈ɕ/, ㅂㅊ /ptɕʰ/, ㅂㅋ /pkʰ/, ㅂㅌ /ptʰ/, ㅂㅍ /ppʰ/
  4. ㅇㄱ /ŋk/, ㅇㄲ /ŋk͈/, ㅇㄴ /ŋn/, ㅇㄷ /ŋt/, ㅇㄸ /ŋt͈/, ㅇㅁ /ŋm/, ㅇㅂ /ŋp/, ㅇㅃ /ŋp͈/, ㅇㅅ /ŋs/, ㅇㅆ /ŋs͈/, ㅇㅈ /ŋtɕ/, ㅇㅉ /ŋt͈ɕ/, ㅇㅊ /ŋtɕʰ/, ㅇㅋ /ŋkʰ/, ㅇㅌ /ŋtʰ/, ㅇㅍ /ŋpʰ/, ㅇㅎ /ŋh/
  5. ㄴㄱ /nk/, ㄴㄲ /nk͈/, ㄴㄴ /nn/, ㄴㄷ /nt/, ㄴㄸ /nt͈/, ㄴㅁ /nm/, ㄴㅂ /np/, ㄴㅃ /np͈/, ㄴㅅ /ns/, ㄴㅆ /ns͈/, ㄴㅈ /ntɕ/, ㄴㅉ /nt͈ɕ/, ㄴㅊ /ntɕʰ/, ㄴㅋ /nkʰ/, ㄴㅌ /ntʰ/, ㄴㅍ /npʰ/, ㄴㅎ /nh/
  6. ㄹㄱ /lk/, ㄹㄲ /lk͈/, ㄹㄹ /ll/, ㄹㄷ /lt/, ㄹㄸ /lt͈/, ㄹㅁ /lm/, ㄹㅂ /lp/, ㄹㅃ /lp͈/, ㄹㅅ /ls/, ㄹㅆ /ls͈/, ㄹㅈ /ltɕ/, ㄹㅉ /lt͈ɕ/, ㄹㅊ /ltɕʰ/, ㄹㅋ /lkʰ/, ㄹㅌ /ltʰ/, ㄹㅍ /lpʰ/, ㄹㅎ /lh/
  7. ㅁㄱ /mk/, ㅁㄲ /mk͈/, ㅁㄴ /mn/, ㅁㄷ /mt/, ㅁㄸ /mt͈/, ㅁㅁ /mm/, ㅁㅂ /mp/, ㅁㅃ /mp͈/, ㅁㅅ /ms/, ㅁㅆ /ms͈/, ㅁㅈ /mtɕ/, ㅁㅉ /mt͈ɕ/, ㅁㅊ /mtɕʰ/, ㅁㅋ /mkʰ/, ㅁㅌ /mtʰ/, ㅁㅍ /mpʰ/, ㅁㅎ /mh/

All other clusters assimilate into these ones. The clusters ㄱㄲ /kk͈/, ㄱㅋ /kkʰ/, ㄷㄸ /tt͈/, ㄷㅆ /ts͈/, ㄷㅉ /tt͈ɕ/, ㄷㅊ /ttɕʰ/, ㄷㅌ /ttʰ/, ㅂㅃ /pp͈/, ㅂㅍ /ppʰ/, ㄴㄴ /nn/, ㄹㄹ /ll/ and ㅁㅁ /mm/ can be considered as double consonants ㄱㄲ /k͈ː/, ㄱㅋ /kːʰ/, ㄷㄸ /t͈ː/, ㄷㅆ /s͈ː/, ㄷㅉ /t͈ɕː/, ㄷㅊ /tɕːʰ/, ㄷㅌ /tːʰ/, ㅂㅃ /p͈ː/, ㅂㅍ /pːʰ/, ㄴㄴ /nː/, ㄹㄹ /lː/ and ㅁㅁ /mː/.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 When plain stops and affricates /p t tɕ k/ are followed by a vowel and preceded by a sonorant (vowel or /n l m ŋ/), they get voiced to [b d dʑ ɡ].
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 When plain stops /p t k/ are not followed by a vowel, they are not released [p̚ t̚ k̚].
  3. 3.0 3.1 The dental sonorants /n l/ are usually palatalized to [ɲ ʎ] before /i/ and especially before /j/. In South Korea [ɲ ʎ] at the beginning of a word are usually dropped in native and Sino-Korean words and this is reflected in spelling.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 The palatal affricates [tɕ dʑ t͈ɕ tɕʰ] are non-palatal in North Korea, so there they are [ts dz t͈s tsʰ].
  5. 5.0 5.1 /kʰ/ followed by /i/ or /j/ is palatalized to [cç], /kʰ/ followed by /ɯ/ is pronounced as [kx].
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 The dental fricative /s/ and its allophones are aspirated [sʰ ɕʰ ʃʰ].
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 The dental fricatives /s s͈/ are palatalized to [ɕʰ ɕ͈] before /i/ and /j/ and to [ʃʰ ʃ͈] before /y/ and [ɥ], although [ʃ͈] is a very marginal sound. In North Korea it may happen that this palatalization does not occur at all.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 The dental approximant /l/ is pronounced [ɾ] when it is followed by a vowel or /h/, it is pronounced [ɭ] otherwise. /ll/ is always pronounced [ɭɭ] depending on the following vowel. At the beginning of a words it is [ɾ] although [ɭ] are also possible depending on the speaker. [ɭ] is palatalized to [ʎ] before /i/ and /j/.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 9.6 9.7 The aspirated /h/ and is pronounced [ɸ] before /u o w/, [x] before /ɯ/, [ç] before /i/ and /j/ and [h] otherwise. Between two sonorants (vowels or /n l m ŋ/) all these allophones become voiced (respectively [β ɣ ʝ ɦ]) or /h/ is just dropped.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Nowadays /e/ and /ɛ/ are only distinguished in spelling, but have merged phonetically.
  11. ^ Semivowels can only come before vowels. All the semivowels coming after the vowels have been assimilated into the preceding vowel throughout the centuries.
  12. ^ The semivowel /ɰ/ only occurs in the diphthong /ɰi/. Usually inside a word /ɰ/ is dropped so the diphthong merges with /i/ triggering all the sound changes that it usually triggers.
  13. ^ Yale romanization
  14. ^ Vowel length is no longer realized in Seoul Korean speech, except by some elder speakers. Vowel length has also never existed in the eastern dialects, where a pitch accent is the predominant prosodic feature. Vowel length is not shown in word spelling.
  15. ^ Word stress is very weak; pitch accent is more relevant.