KOREAN SYLLABLE STRUCTURE
As promised, let’s talk about initial/final consonants! In Korean, a consonant(s) and a vowel are put together to create a syllable block, which is composed of an initial consonant (초성 chosŏng), a medial vowel (중성 jungsŏng), and an optional final consonant (종성 jongsŏng), known as 받침 batchim. In order to create a syllable block, you need at least one consonant and one vowel.
Take an example of the word 소리 sori (“sound”).
At this point, you might have noticed the position of a vowel is different on the two syllables 소 / 리. Sorry (pun intended), it’s just how the rules are and there’s no easy way around it, so it’s best that you get used to it. And the rules are as follows:
ㅏ ㅑ ㅓ ㅕ ㅐ ㅣ ㅒ ㅔ ㅖ
아 야 어 애 이 얘 에 예
These 9 vowels are positioned to the right side of a consonant. By the way, when a vowel is spoken by itself, ㅇ, which is silent, is always placed as a place holder.
ㅗ ㅛ ㅜ ㅠ ㅡ ㅚ ㅟ ㅢ ㅘ ㅝ ㅙ ㅞ
오 요 우 유 의 외 위 의 와 워 왜 웨
And these 12 vowels are positioned underneath a consonant. We’ll help you memorize them throughout the book with intense training!
Going back to our example, 소리, each syllable block has one consonant and one vowel, and does not have the optional final consonant, batchim.
Simply put, batchim is the last/final consonant of a word ending in a consonant.
For example in English, the word “foot” has a final consonant of “t’, and “sap” has a final consonant of “p”.
The word “employee” does not have a final consonant because it ends with a vowel.
Korean is the same, with different graphical representation.
So let’s try this one – 죽 juk (“porridge”)
As you can see, the ㄱ comes at the bottom to serve as the final consonant.
Notice the vowel ㅜ is placed underneath the consonant ㅈ.
Initial Consonant – Vowel – Final Consonant (batchim) is the rule we learned just a page ago.
How about another one? 각 gak (“angle”)
In this case, the vowel ㅏ is placed to the right side of the initial consonant ㄱ, and the final consonant ㄱ is placed underneath the medial vowel.
Here’s a tip : the final consonant (batchim) is always placed underneath a vowel, whether the vowel is the right-side type vowel or the underneath-type vowel.
Oh, and the word batchim means “to support / hold up”, so just picture it holding a consonant and a vowel, like the Titan god Atlas carrying the heavens upon his shoulders.
(SAMPLE) PRACTICE QUIZ
Which of the following have their parts named incorrectly?
KOREAN SYLLABLE BLOCK TYPES
I know. What the heck is a double FC? Don’t panic! It’s just a final consonant composed of two consonants combined, like double vowels. It’s really simple once you get to know it.
We’ll cover them later in greater detail.
Okay, I’m sure you have a clear understanding of what final consonant (batchim) is, right?
In case you haven’t noticed, our previous example 각 has the same consonant ㄱ as the initial and final consonant, but transcribed with different alphabets (‘g’ and ‘k’, respectively).
Remember the alphabet chart? I told you that the consonants can be used as either an intial or a final consonant (batchim), and they may sound differently depending on how they are used.
Looking at the chart below will help you visually understand how a consonant is pronounced differently when used as an initial consonant and a final consonant (batchim).
Rule: There are only seven sounds for a final consonant, and they are k, n, t, l, m, p, ng, as explained in the chart.
Listen to the audio below and follow along.
Now take a close look at what happens when a final consonant is followed by a vowel.
It’s transferred to the place of the ㅇ in a vowel.
Just think of it this way. We learned that a syllables have a ㅇ as a place holder when written by itself (e.g., 아, 어, 여, and etc.), so the final consonant of a syllable right before that comes in place of the place holder.
For example, the word 솜 som, when followed by a vowel 이 i,
솜 som + 이 i
the final consonant m comes in place of ㅇ, the vowel place holder,
Thus pronounced as [소미] so-mi.
Same goes for 부엌 buŏk, when followed by a vowel 에 e,
부엌 buŏk + 에 e
the final consonant k comes in place of ㅇ, the vowel place holder,
Thus pronounced as [부어케] buŏ-ke.
When followed by a consonant, note that the sound of the following consonant gets affected, batchim ㄱ (k) + following syllable ㄱ (g) = ㄲ instead of 책과 [chaek–gwa] (x) [chaek–kkwa] (o) <- becomes a tense sound.
ㅎis a unique one. Though it belongs to the (t) category, it affects the following ㄱ(g) and ㄷ(d) differently. Just memorize them.
Lastly, the colored consonants retain their original initial consonant sound when followed by a vowel.
The only exceptions are ㅎ and ㅇ, which doesn’t carry over and just the vowel is pronounced.
A few more examples to help you understand,
According to the rule, 닿다 dat-ta should sound [다타], but in real life, it’s frequently pronounced as dat-dda [다따].
Now, In addition to the list of final consonants we learned, there are special types of consonants, which are called double final consonants (겹받침 gyeopbatchim). There are 11 of them.
Listen to the audio below and follow along.
Note that for L sounds, ㄼ and ㄾ affect the following consonant to become a tense sound.
If it followed the general rule where only the first part of the double batchim is pronounced, it should be
핥다 -> 할다 [hal-da] and don’t make the following consonant to become a tense sound, but these are exceptions.
In general, they follow the rules we learned, but for you visual learners, let me break them down.
Let’s take 읽 for an example. As you can see, the double final consonant ㄺ has two consonants combined,
and they are ㄹ (l) + ㄱ (k), and they follow the general rules where the initial consonant sound goes in place of the placeholder ㅇ. But there are two! Which one goes in there? It’s easy!
When followed by a vowel, the first part is pronounced, and the second part goes into the ㅇ!
When followed by a consonant, the representative sound is pronounced, and it affects the following consonant, following the rules we covered a few pages ago.
Congratulations guys! You’ve come a long way!
That pretty much covers the fundamental elements of the Korean alphabet, Hangul, including pronunciation, syllable structure, and how the sounds are affected depending on what comes before and after a consonant/vowel.
RELATED : WHO INVENTED HANGUL?
You might have noticed that there are a lot of rules and exceptions to remember, but it’s virtually impossible and meaningless for us to layout all of them.
Instead, the best way to learn them is through practice! We’ll give you a lot of examples and practice questions, so… buckle up and let’s go!
(SAMPLE) PRACTICE QUIZ
We’ve learned that Korean consonants can be used as an initial consonant as well as a final consonant (batchim). Match the following puzzle pieces to complete a word.
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