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To my ears, '자' and '쟈' seem to be pronounced the same. Are they pronounced differently, and if so, what do you perceive to be the difference?

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They are not distinguished properly in modern Korean. It includes 자/쟈, 저/져, 주/쥬, 조/죠, 제/졔, 재/쟤 and ㅊ and ㅉ-equivalents too. This is because ㅈ(/t͡ɕ/) is already palatalized in modern Korean, or at least in the Standard Korean pronunciation, so that adding /j/ after it doesn't make a difference. That's why there are no words spelt with 쟈/져/쥬/죠/졔/쟤 in Korean vocabulary. The standard orthography forbids it. Not even loanwords. Loanwords spelt with 쟈/져 etc are wrong according to the standard and should be corrected.

Except when this spelling is orthographically necessary:

가져 < 가지어

다쳐 < 다치어

The only reason there's a 져 and 쳐 in there is to show that they are shortened forms of 지어 and 치어. They are pronounced same as /가저/ and /다처/.

Doubtful natives, read this for more info.

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    @Rathony The article cites a lot of professional research above. I think that specific part of the article was written by a non-expert. Also, this varies by dialectal differences, but the standard pronunciation is not being able to tell apart these two sounds. What I mean is, most natives doesn't tell them and speak them apart, so why should a learner try and do it? I think it's better off to learn the standard pronunciation to be able to listen and speak more naturally. – MujjinGun Jul 13 '16 at 6:02
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    @Rathony 쥬얼리 should sound the same as 주얼리. Also, 주얼리 is the only correct spelling. Plus, I don't see any sources for your argument. Also, the fact /j/ is not distinguished after alveolo-palatal affricate ㅈ, ㅊ, ㅉ is generally accepted by researchers and professionals for decades. This can be proven by the fact that every single Middle Korean ㅈ+/j/ turned into ㅈ in Modern Korean. – MujjinGun Jul 13 '16 at 6:29
  • I see. Thank you very much! I appreciate the clear and detailed explanation. By the way, is this typical of palatalized consonants of most languages? – seafood258 Jul 14 '16 at 16:10
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    @seafood258 Seems like it. /ɕ/ is spelled 'sj' in many languages, so that it already implies that a /j/ is already in there. For example, [ɕuːl] is spelled 'kjol' in Swedish, and 'i' always follows a 'j'[t͡ɕ] in Mandarin pinyin. There are no minimal pairs between /ɕ/ and /ɕj/ in any languages that has this phoneme. Ditto for /t͡ɕ/, which is essentially the same thing. So yes, this seems to be a universal occurrence in languages that has a palatalized consonant. See wikipedia's pages for /t͡ɕ/ and /ɕ/ for examples of this phoneme in other languages. – MujjinGun Jul 15 '16 at 5:07
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Are they pronounced differently?

Yes, they are pronounced differently, but they sound very similar. It will be very difficult to distinguish them. The vowel 'ㅑ [yah]' is a cousin of 'ㅏ [ah]' and you generally pronounce 'ㅑ' a little longer than 'ㅏ'.

You can feel the difference if you read the below very slowly and loudly.

아 야 어 여 오 요 우 유 으 이

가 갸 거 겨 고 교 구 규 그 기

자 쟈 저 져 조 죠 주 쥬 즈 지

The '쥬' in 쥬얼리 is definitely different from 주. Saying "They are not distinguished properly in modern Korean." is wrong. I would rather say "They sound very similar but the pronunciation is distinguishable."

Just because "The standard orthography forbids it" doesn't necessarily mean the pronunciation doesn't exist. It does exist however minimal the difference is

What do you perceive to be the difference?

You can tell the difference by only distinguishing [yah] sound from [ah] sound .

There is no Korean word that starts with '쟈' and 네이버 국어사전 link shows only 4 words, two of which are used in North Korea and the other two are used only in Jeju (제주도) dialect.

Unless someone wants their brand or product name to look very unique and peculiar, there is no chance that '쟈' will be used in Korean. You can write '자' when you hear '자' or '쟈'.

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