When watching Korean dramas, I've often heard 나, 너 pronounced as either "na, no" or "da, do". Isn't it associated with the "n" sound?

Have I misheard or is it OK to pronounce in both ways?

  • 1
    Who do you hear talking like this? Do you have any links? There is a style of talking sometimes used by women called 코소리 ('nose-sound') in which words are pronounced in a more nasal way, which could cause ㄴ to sound a little more like ㄷ to non-Korean ears...
    – topo morto
    Sep 22 '17 at 7:59
  • @topomorto Is that so? May be that's why I heard like that. I don't really have any links. I've just heard in Korean dramas. Can't remember exactly where but I've heard it several times.
    – Curiousity
    Sep 22 '17 at 8:02
  • 나 is pronounced as the a is shan't, 너 as the sound of o in hot, it wouldn't be pronounced as a d which which would use ㄷ instead
    – user17915
    Sep 22 '17 at 9:26
  • @user17915 Yeah, that's what confused me too. Since there's a separate character for "d", I was wondering the reason for the pronunciation I heard.
    – Curiousity
    Sep 22 '17 at 9:41
  • 2
    Apparently that's a known phenomenon for Korean nasals (ㄴ/ㅁ): korean.stackexchange.com/questions/2744/…
    – jick
    Sep 22 '17 at 19:36

I think you have misheard. Koreans speak very fast, and I understand why many foreigners will hear the pronunciations wrong.

It is NEVER OK to pronounce 나, 너 as "da, deo".

By the way, 너, 노 are of different pronunciations, in case you don't know.

  • Thank you for the answer. :) BTW, 너, 노 are pronounced as "o" (as in "top") and "o" with a stretch (as in "coal") right? Is that what you mean?
    – Curiousity
    Sep 22 '17 at 6:48
  • 1
    Yep, great to know you know Sep 22 '17 at 6:52

It depends on what you mean by "da, deo".

Standard Korean "ㄷ" is not voiced very much at the beginning of words, British English "d" is weakly voiced, Castilian Spanish "d" is very strongly voiced and can get softened ("lenited") into a voiced fricative sound.

Standard Korean "ㄴ" can be weakly denasalised, as said in the link in the comment above.

The phenomenon you're hearing has been described not just in academic literature but also in more modern learners' guides to the Korean language. It is an example of initial denasalisation.

What happens when you denasalise an /n/? It turns into a heavily voiced /d/. This is close to the /d/ that you'll find in (at the beginning of words in) Spanish, Portuguese, Italian. But it's never the same as ㄷ in Korean in the same position. That's why the ears of native Korean speakers don't get confused between the consonants represented by ㄷ and ㄴ.

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