Phonetically, the IPA transcription of [처] and [치어] is [ʨʰʌ] and [ʨʰi.ʌ]. Their phonetical difference is the number of syllables and the presence of [i]. But what is the phonological difference?

Being a palatal consonant, we can say [ʨʰ] has dorsal position of [i]. So the phonological difference is the duration of [i].

How long is the duration that makes a boundary between [처] and [치어]? Is there an intermediacy so the speech can be transcribed as [쳐]?

EDIT: Does the same way of discrimination apply between [치어] and [치여]?

  • 3
    Short Answers: South Korean 처 and 쳐 have the same pronunciation, [t͡ɕʰʌ], because the semivowel [j] cannot exist right after [t͡ɕʰ]. Korean is a syllable-timed language, and [i] is not dropped right after [t͡ɕʰ]; there should be a recognizable difference between [처] and [치어]. For [치어] and [치여], it depends on whether [j] is catchable because the duration of [j] is shorter than that of [ʌ].
    – Klmo
    May 5, 2020 at 17:57

1 Answer 1


There is an explanation attached to Article 5 of the Standard Pronunciation of Korean Language (표준발음법 5항).

Due to the restriction of the Korean language that semivowel 'ㅣ' [j] cannot directly follow a hard palatal ㅈ, ㅊ, ㅉ.

Thus, 쳐 is pronounced just as same as 처.


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