Early on in my Korean studies, I learned that in multi-syllabic words, the first consonant of a subsequent syllable is typically tensed (된소리) if the preceding syllable ends in a consonant (받침).

For example,


is prononunced


Source: https://ko.dict.naver.com/detail.nhn?docid=1845800t0

Why is it that in the word, 현장, 장 is not pronounced 짱 to make it 현짱? I realize there are exceptions to the rule, but they seem to be very frequent.

Conversely, there are words that have a second syllable that is tensed, even if the preceding syllable does not end in a consonant.

For example:


is pronounced


Is there a rule here as well?


2 Answers 2


I hope someone else could write a more definite answer, but in short, your idea that "the second syllable becomes 된소리 when the first ends with a consonant" is generally wrong.

The phenomenon of some consonants becoming 된소리, known as 경음화, depends on historical development, and isn't entirely predictable. Sometimes people may even have different opinions. For example, the standard pronunciation of 효과(effect) is "효과" (without 된소리), but almost everybody pronounces it as "효꽈".

I think the best strategy for a Korean learner is to simply memorize each word's pronunciation in the beginning. As you learn more vocabulary, you will be able to predict a new word's pronunciation pretty well, just like a good English speaker can guess a new word's pronunciation.


tensification (경음화)

1) In Korean, base sound is one of ㄱ, ㄷ, ㅂ, ㄴ, ㄹ, ㅁ, ㅇ

2) Usually, after base sound ㄱ,ㄷ,ㅂ, there is tensification. For instance 맑다 (transparent). We pronounce it 막다 so that there is tensification, i.e. 막따.

3) In China word, it happens in some cases :사건 accident => 사껀 (cf. 물건 thing => 물건)

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