K-LEARNING | March.27.2024

Hangeul Consonants: Beginning Your Journey with the Basics


The Korean writing system, Hangeul, is based on a scientific principle that uses sounds or phonemes as its foundation. 


One of the most significant features of Hangeul is that every character is based on the shape of the mouth and the method of pronunciation.


Now, let's have an in-depth theoretical understanding of the consonants we have learned.



1. What are Hangeul Consonants?


Consonants are sounds produced with an obstruction by the speech organs, such as the throat, mouth, and tongue. The oral passage narrows or completely blocks to create these sounds.


In linguistic terms, a consonant is a speech sound that is articulated with complete or partial closure of the vocal tract. It is also known as a 'sound produced by contact' because the articulators are brought together to obstruct the airflow.



Hangeul consonants consist of 14 basic consonants(ㄱ, ㄴ, ㄷ, ㄹ, ㅁ, ㅂ, ㅅ, ㅇ, ㅈ, ㅊ, ㅋ, ㅌ, ㅍ, ㅎ) and 5 double consonants(ㄲ, ㄸ, ㅃ, ㅆ, ㅉ) which are repetitive forms of some basic consonants. Each consonant has a distinct mouth shape and pronunciation method.



2. Methods of Distinguishing Consonants

  • Place of articulation
  • Intensity of sound
  • Manner of articulation
  • Presence or absence of vocal cord vibration



3. Classification of Consonants Based on the Location of Articulation in the Vocal Apparatus

Consonants are typically categorized into the following 5 types based on how the sound is produced. 


1) Labial sound

: ㅁ(n), ㅂ(b/p), ㅃ(pp), ㅍ(p)


2) Dental sound

: ㄴ(n), ㄷ(d/t), ㄸ(tt), ㅌ(t), ㄹ(r/l), ㅅ(s), ㅆ(ss)


3) Alveolar sound

: ㅈ(j), ㅉ(jj), ㅊ(ch)


4) Palatal sound

: ㄱ(g/k), ㄲ(kk), ㅋ(k), ㅇ(ng)


5) Glottal sound

: ㅎ(h)



Understand through illustrations:

The sound ㄴ is produced when the tongue is positioned behind the upper teeth, while ㄱ is a sound that originates from the inside of the roof of the mouth, relatively closer to the throat.


🌟 Tip

You can easily recognize how the sounds are produced by looking at the image and trying to produce the sounds yourself.



4. Understanding Consonants Based on the Intensity of Sound

Consonants can be classified into three types based on the intensity of the sound.


  1) Plain consonants(평음) : ㄱ, ㄷ, ㅂ, ㅅ, ㅈ


  2) Fortis consonants(경음) : ㄲ, ㄸ, ㅃ, ㅆ, ㅉ


  3) Tense consonant(격음) : ㅋ, ㅌ, ㅍ, ㅊ


Actually, there is some confusion about the English representation of 평음, 경음 and 격음 because before Korean became well-known, many places used different methods for transcription, leading to slightly varying explanations. 



Koreans can easily distinguish these sounds, but foreigners learning Korean often find the differences between plain, fortis, and tense sounds challenging. If you also find this difficult, try to distinguish them this way!



If you're curious about how Koreans actually pronounce and write Hangeul consonants, we recommend checking out this link.



📍 Source of this content: KONOGRAM.com


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