I'm looking at the Korean IPA chart and found out the two symbols for ㅈ:

  • dz ㅈ j beds
  • dʑ ㅈ j roughly like gee

But what is the difference and when I should pronounce them over the other? I'm not exactly sure how I should pronounce the latter sound, but is it correct that the tongue position is slightly back in the mouth?

  • I'm not a linguist, but I feel that the wikipedia page is misleading - apparently its authors decided to add every possible phonetic variations ever encountered in any study, such as listing [z] under ㅅ (it doesn't sound right to me). Compare with English IPA chart, which would have been three times larger if one similarly listed all possible variations.
    – jick
    Jul 4, 2019 at 19:33
  • Here is not an answer, just saying : I'm pretty sure that no one(except linguist) in Korea can tell difference between two nor care about that. And here is an (kind of) answer : According to Korean Wikipedia article ㅈ, [d͡z]/[t͡s⁽ʰ⁾] is used in North Korea, and [d͡ʑ]/[t͡ɕ⁽ʰ⁾] is used in South Korea. I think answer below can be more accurate, so I just leave a comment. ... Also I'm not a linguist, too.
    – LegenDUST
    Jul 5, 2019 at 2:20

2 Answers 2


The phoneme /dz/ is purely alveolar, whereas /dʑ/ is alveolo-palatal. The voiceless equivalents (and the more common IPA versions) are /ts/ and /tɕ/, as further explained on that same page.

The palatal consonants are pronounced with the middle of the tongue (the body) raised toward the hard palate. Hence it feels like more "middle of the mouth" than the pure alveolar or dental "front of the mouth" consonants.

The comparison to English beds /bɛdz/ and gee /dʒiː/ is not bad, as an approximation.

How does that work for ㅈ ? In the standard Seoul-based Korean, it is to do with what vowels follow it: /dz/ is the sound before the back vowels ㅏ, ㅓ; the more palatal version /dʑ/ is used for other vowels. In North Korean, /dz/ seems to be used before more of the vowels, and /dʑ/ only before the front vowel ㅣ and iotated vowels (ㅑ, ㅕ, ㅠ, etc.).

But this difference is not as strong for ㅈ, in contrast to ㅅ.

Compare 하자 (haja) with 하지 (haji). In the modern standard Seoul-based Korean pronunciation, both are somewhat palatal, although palatalisation is stronger (as in, the tongue goes further up/back) with the latter.

Now compare the difference in 도사 (dosa) with 도시 (dosi). The ㅅ sounds very different between the two: the first one is definitely an alveolar /s/, whilst the second one is an alveolo-palatal /ɕ/, closer to the English "sh".


The difference is in voicing. If a sound is voiced, it means you can feel your voice box vibrate if you place your fingers there.

  • /tɕ/ ㅈ is unvoiced. Always found at the beginning of a word, and sometimes in the middle.
  • /dʑ/ ㅈ is voiced. Always found between vowels or voiced consonants and never at the beginning of a word.

The Fluent Forever Korean pronunciation videos have native speaker examples and detailed linguistic explanations. You should study all four videos, but I'll highlight the parts relevant to this question:

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