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I am confused regarding pronunciation differences between ᄉ and ᄊ.

Different sources show different tongue tip placement while pronouncing them. Some learning blogs teach that ᄉ is pronounced with tongue tip placement behind the upper teeth, but some people say that the tongue tip is placed behind the lower teeth (like ᄉ-form).

The same about ᄊ. Many people say that the pronunciation is almost the same as English "s" which is pronounced with tongue tip placement behind the upper teeth.

How exactly are they pronounced by the native speakers?

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There are a combination of features between ㅅ and ㅆ that differentiate them.

The biggest contributor to the difference is duration of aspiration following the frication: a longer aspiration resulting in "breathiness" in ㅅ, vs a longer period of friction creating more "tension" in ㅆ. The evidence for this comes from electronically generated artificial recordings (Yoon 1999) and acoustic studies on voice onset time (Mun 1997).

It is also true that the difference is very obvious before low vowels (i.e. 사 vs 싸 as well as 서 vs 써 sound very different). The difference is a bit less obvious between 시 and 씨.

This is also what contributes to the merged sound in Gyeongsang-do, where both ㅅ and ㅆ sounds are often shorter and tenser than Seoul ㅅ.

The place of articulation is in general not a huge distinguishing factor; tongue positions vary a lot for s- like sounds, and you may notice people changing them around quite a lot.

Articulatory studies (e.g. as reported in The Handbook for Korean Linguistics, published 2019) suggest that the glottal opening (in the throat) is smaller for the ㅆ consonant than for ㅅ, implying "tenseness"; and the linguopalatal contact area (the amount of area of the tongue that touches the hard palate at the roof of the mouth) is larger for ㅆ than for ㅅ.

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I am native Korean speaker but it is hard to explain the difference by written form. (yet I would say the main difference is you push air through teeth longer in ㅆ)

I suggest you to check the videos such as :

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mSDvdC1RyrU

He explains it in quiet detail.

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  • +1 for your mentioning the emission of breath. – Klmo Nov 18 '19 at 9:09
  • Isn't the tense sound what you don't emit your breath through your mouth? I'm now confused... – Blaszard Nov 18 '19 at 15:12
  • @Blaszard The first reference Michaelyus mentioned says: "Aspiration is a breathy noise created as air passes through the vocal cords; friction involves turbulence noise which is generated when air passes through a narrow constriction somewhere in the vocal tract at a suitable rate of flow." So An Jin Geon's answer refers to friction rather than aspiration. – Klmo Nov 18 '19 at 18:38

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