I am just a beginner in Korean, and noticed a kind of pattern, which the following examples should suffice to illustrate:

  • 좋아하다 sounds like 조와하다
  • 피어나다 sounds like 피여나다

Noteworthily, even Naver dictionary stated the pronunciation of 피어나다 as 피여나다.

Recently I learned the word 기억, and I found it extremely natural to be pronounced as 기역. However, soon I noticed that 기역 actually means something else: it is the formal name of ‘ㄱ’.

My questions are:

  1. Is there a formal name for the ‘pattern’ I stated above?
  2. Would Koreans find it natural to hear ‘기억’ being pronounced as ‘기역’?

p.s. Could someone please help translate ‘連音音變’ to English? It is the term for, say, ‘먹어’ being pronounced as ‘머거’.

  • Naver dictionary shows 피여나다 as a pronunciation in it's Korean to Chinese dictionary so it is probably not the standard pronunciation. 기억 and 기역 are two different words.
    – user17915
    Commented Feb 10, 2020 at 0:58

1 Answer 1


The keyword is ‘ㅣ’ 모음 순행 동화 by which ㅓ and ㅗ following ㅣ becomes ㅕ and ㅛ, respectively.

According to 표준 발음법, 기억 is not allowed to be pronounced as 기역 (기억 is the correct pronunciation) because 억 is not an ending of a verb or adjective; however, some people go against the rules. I would say that it is natural to pronounce 기억 as 기역 especially when 기억 is quickly read. 기역 that is the name of ㄱ is rarely mentioned in daily conversation, so the sound 기역 will be interpreted in Koreans' brains as 기억.

As for 용언 (verbs and adjectives) such as the verb 피어나다, ‘ㅣ’ 모음 순행 동화 is allowed for their 어미 (endings) by 표준 발음법:

다음과 같은 용언의 어미는 [어]로 발음함을 원칙으로 하되, [여]로 발음함도 허용한다.



피어나다 is a compound verb (피 + -어 + 나다) and -어 is an ending. Therefore, 피어나다 can be pronounced as 피어나다 or 피여나다. You should note that 피어나다 and 피여나다 sound different. The sounds of 피어나다 and 피여나다 can be found here.

좋아하다 is irrelevant to the keyword that I mentioned above. 조ː아하다 (not 조와하다) is the correct pronunciation because the final consonant ㅎ that is followed by a vowel is silent. This rule is more clearly specified in 표준 발음법:

‘ㅎ(ㄶ, ㅀ)’ 뒤에 모음으로 시작된 어미나 접미사가 결합되는 경우에는, ‘ㅎ’을 발음하지 않는다.

"連音音變" seems to be Chinese. 連音 (连音) means linking; 音變 (音变) means 음운 변화 (phonological change).


Under normal conditions, it is possible to distinguish between 조아 and 조와.

  • To understand how different ㅗ와 and ㅗ아 sound, you should listen to the pronunciation of 보완 and 보안 (You may use the standard dictionary instead). These 완 and 안 sound clearly different to me.

  • It is wrong to think that every Korean character represents its actual sound. Modern Korean ㅘ is read as ᆉ (ㅜㅏ) because it includes the /w/ sound. Even this learning material mentions ㅜㅏ. Therefore, even if you read 오아 quickly, it is still 오아 not 와. A document also says ㅘ starts with the sound ㅜ:


  • One more thing I need to say is that some people are too lazy to focus on the starting sound of ㅘ (Then, it is just ㅏ). For example, they pronounce 과일 as 가일; however, 가일 is the incorrect pronunciation. This tendency is also mentioned in a Korean book. They might read out 조와 as 조아, but it can be a hasty generalization.
  • 1
    From a very objective/scientific point of view, when we say ‘조아’ unavoidably one’s lips, tongue and mouth make the same movements as they do for ‘와’. Since the outflow of air from mouth is continuous, the ‘와’ sound is necessarily present in the pronunciation of ‘조아’. Is it virtually impossible to distinguish between 조아 and 조와 if they are spoken at the speed of daily conversations?
    – Szeto
    Commented Feb 10, 2020 at 6:32
  • @Szeto I have just edited my answer considering your comment.
    – Klmo
    Commented Feb 10, 2020 at 12:15

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