The Korean Alphabet
The Korean alphabet consists of 14 consonants, 6 basic vowels, and what I would call combined
vowels. (I'm sure that's not the official name for them but it works.)
ㅂ[ㅃ] - "b, p" ["bb", "pp"]
ㅈ[ㅉ] - "j" ["jj"]
ㄷ[ㄸ] - "d, t" ["dd", "tt"]
ㄱ[ㄲ] - "g, k" ["gg", "kk"]
ㅅ[ㅆ] - "s" ["ss"]
ㅁ - "m"
ㄴ - "n"
ㄹ - "r, l"
ㅎ - "h"
ㅋ - "k*"
ㅌ - "t*"
ㅊ - "ch"
ㅍ - "p*"
As you can see, the first five of these consonants have a second form that I wrote within the brackets. This form is called a double consonant
. Double consonants
are pronounced differently than single consonants. A good comparison for those who have studied Japanese - Japanese has the same kind of thing, such as in the word "Tokko".
The first k
is pronounced separately from the second, making it sound like "TOHK - koh"
rather than simply "toh - koh".
Hangul's double consonants are pronounced similarly, but we'll get into that later.
* Also there are a few consonants with asterisks after them. These consonants are what you would call the hard consonants. These are sometimes used to express words that are not purely Korean, but that's not to say that no Korean words are written with these consonants, either.
A good example would be the names Tiffany
. To prevent Tiffany
from being mispronounced as Ddibbani
, it is written with the sharp consonants. (As Korean does not have an "F
" and the [ㄷ]
character does not sound like the English pronunciation of the letter "T
If Tiffany was written in Hangul without the sharp consonants, it would be written with the Double Consonant of Dd
, and bb,
as the respective T and ff. However this is what we have the sharp consonants for. Therefore, Tiffany is written as:
Instead of as 띠빠니
"Ddi-Bba-Ni", which just sounds retarded.
Same with Jessica. If they used the normal Korean consonant for the K sound, ㄱ
, it would sound like "Je-si-ga".
So instead they use: 제시카
I would also like to point out that, in the case of the double consonants for D/T
, & B/P
, they are often used interchangeably when Hangul is romanized. When the syllables for these double consonants are used, depending on the person romanizing the word, it may be romanized as "dd" or "tt", "bb" or "pp", or "gg" or "kk"; without there being any real difference in pronunciation.
This concludes our lesson on the Korean consonants. Your Homework (for you serious students) is to practice writing and reading the Korean consonants so that you can recognize them easily once we start forming words and writing in Hangeul later on.