Since I've started studying Korean, for me the vowel cluster seems to not have a standard pronunciation. Sometimes I hear it like

eu-i, IPA [ɰi]

and sometimes as

ye, IPA [je]

There are some cases where I've heard both sounds in a single word, like 의사의

eu-i-sa-ye, IPA [ɰisʰaje]

I know there may exist some variations when pronouncing in different geographical regions, but following a standard pronunciation, how must be pronounced?

eu-i [ɰi] or ye [je]

4 Answers 4


The rule to pronouncing ㅢ is:

  1. Like ㅣ when directly following a consonant: 무늬 (/무니/), 희망 (/히망/)
  2. Like ㅔ or ㅖ when used as a possessive marker: 구글의 정책 (/구그레 정책/), 너의 마음 (/너예 마음/)
  3. Like ㅣ in the middle of a word: 민주주의 (/민주주이/)
  4. ㅡ or ㅣ or ㅢ(/ɰi/) at the word-initial position: 의사 (/의사/, /으사/, /이사/), 의의 (/으이/, /이이/, /의이/)
  • 3
    1. I don't think '너예' is the right (standard) pronunciation. 2. '의' in '민주주의' is not in the middle of a word.
    – user7
    Commented Jun 29, 2016 at 7:04
  • @Rathony 1. It isn't, but it's what most people pronounce it like. /너에/ or /너의/ is fine too. 2. I mean, anywhere that is the first sound of a word.
    – MujjinGun
    Commented Jun 30, 2016 at 2:09
  • According to 표준어 규정 제2부 제5장 제22항, [너예] is not a correct pronunciation of 너의. 표준어 규정 제2부 제2장 제5항 includes the rules for the pronunciations of 의. As for #4, one should not pronounce 의 as 으 or 이 at the word-initial position. In my view, it is not good to mix up correct and incorrect (even though common) pronunciations.
    – Klmo
    Commented Jun 24, 2019 at 22:02
  • Maybe this is an ill-formed question (on account of confounding influences on pronunciation and grammar), but do speakers that distinguish ㅔ and ㅐ pronounce ~의 as 에 rather than 애?
    – awe lotta
    Commented Jul 5 at 0:59
  • @awelotta Yes, they did.
    – MujjinGun
    Commented Jul 10 at 9:54

The pronunciation that I learned and heard while living in Seoul can be explained as follows:

When 의 is being used as the possessive marker, it was most closely pronounced as 'eh,' as in the English words "ape" and "age."

When 의 was being used elsewhere, it was pronounced 'ui.' (Which you have romanized as eu-i). In this situation, the pronunciation of 의 more closely resembles the pronunciation of the English word "we." (But not exactly; I almost thought of it as the pronunciation of "oui" in French). The IPA you have included seems pretty accurate to my thoughts on this case.

One thing I will further mention is that when used in conjunction with a consonant, the vowel sound 의 many times took more the form of the long e, such as in the English words "bee" or "flea."

A very common example of this is the cluster 희, which is used in names and in common place words like 희망 (hope) or 희생 (sacrifice). These words were commonly pronounced "hee-mang” and “hee-seng."


From here : http://krdic.naver.com/help.nhn?page=3-1-2

‘ㅑ ㅒ ㅕ ㅖ ㅘ ㅙ ㅛ ㅝ ㅞ ㅠ ㅢ’ are to be pronounced as double vowels.

which means 의 is pronounced as ㅡ and ㅣ in succession. For example, 의 in 의사 would be pronounced as 으이 in succession.

Exception 3: When ㅢ is used on a consonant, it should pronounced as [ㅣ].


늴리리 [닐리리], 닁큼 [닝큼], 무늬 [무니]

Exception 4: An 의 which is not the first syllable of the word can be pronounced as 이; an 의 used as a postposition can be pronounced as 에


의사 is a word with 2 syllables, and the first one is 의, hence it is pronounced as 으이

민주주의의 의의 -> [민주주이에 의이]
In 주의 의 is the second syllable, so is pronounced as 이
In 주의의, the last 의 is a postposition denoting a possessive, hence pronounced as 에

In 의의, the first 의 is the first syllable, hence pronounced as 의 [으이]
The second 의 is the second syllable, hence pronounced as 이

Some references from the web:




  1. When 의,늬,... is the first character, it is pronounced as 으이.

  2. When 의,늬,... is not the first character, it is pronounced as 이.

  3. When 의 is used as the possessive particle, meaning 's or of, then it is pronounced 에.

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