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만약에 is often translated as if, in the event that. I figure 만약 itself would then refer to a hypothetical situation, though I know that it's generally attached to -에 and not used alone. On the other hand, -면 often, though not always, means if too.

I have seen several times 만약에 used before a verb that ends with -면, in which case both meaning if. An example would be:

만약에 네가 간다면...
If you leave...

Why is 만약에 used although there is already a -면? Is it to disambiguate among different meanings of -면? Or does it emphasize the hypothetical nature or possibility of the situation? Or does it have any other function?

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The ending -면 has a bit of a broader meaning than English. It generally means "if", but includes some cases of "when". So -면 can mean "if or when something happens":

아빠 오시면 뭐라고 할까? (What are you going to say when dad gets home?)

In that case, we're pretty sure dad is coming home, but we still use -면. In other cases we're not sure:

비 오면 가지 말자 (if it rains, let's not go).

If we want to emphasize the "if" very strongly, in particular when we're talking about a hypothetical situation, we can use 만약에. It is really only for quite unexpected situations or completely hypothetical situations. But it is not common. In a corpus of 1,052,686 words (어절), 만약 appeared 156 times, and its synonym 만일 appears 85 times, but the ending -면 appeared 5,143 times1.

1서상규 (2014). 한국어기본어휘 의미빈도 사전. 서울: 한국문화사.

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  • One thing I want to comment is your first example can mean both context: (1) a speaker is worried about a possibility of dad's coming home and (2) a speaker thinks about the time when dad will come. There seems to be no mechanism to be clear, for example, 아빠 오시면 어떡하지? can mean both No. (1) and (2) in the same way your example sentence can and only context will tell you what it means.
    – user7
    Jul 6 '16 at 15:55
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'만약' means if or in case. Its synonym is '만일 (萬一)' whose Chinese characters mean "one in ten thousands".

'[-면]' is a (conjunctional) connective suffix which also means 'if' as you mentioned in the question.

You don't need to use '만약에' together with '-면' unless you want to emphasize the hypothetical. In other words, '-면' is the only thing that is required when you want to make a hypothetical clause. For example:

(만약에) 내가 새라면 날 수 있을 텐데. If I were a bird, I could fly.

But one important point is using '만약에' is not considered redundant and you can elide '만약에', but you can't '-면'

  1. Why is 만약에 used although there is already a -면?

For emphasis.

  1. Is it to disambiguate among different meanings of -면?

No, using '만약에' doesn't disambiguate anything as using '-면' is sufficient.

  1. Or does it emphasize the hypothetical nature or possibility of the situation?

Yes.

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  • I'm a Chinese myself, and as far as my understanding of classical Chinese goes (which I figure is a very similar to hanja-eo, unlike modern Chinese), a more literal translation of 萬若 is "ten thousand possibilities", so 만약에 is like "among ten thousand possibilities". Anyway, IIRC -면 can also mean other things, right?
    – busukxuan
    Jul 6 '16 at 8:01
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    @busukxuan That's why it is added for emphasis. '若' was used to mean 'if' in old days.
    – user7
    Jul 6 '16 at 8:04
  • This is sort of off-topic, but 若 is still used to mean "if" today. It could also mean "possibility"/"situation" in the old days.
    – busukxuan
    Jul 6 '16 at 8:07
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    @busukxuan Yes, it is off-topic. :-)
    – user7
    Jul 6 '16 at 8:08

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