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As I understand 오늘따라 means roughly "especially today", but it's hard to find the source of 따라. I assumed it was a suffix derived from 따르다 (to follow), but I can't see how "especially" comes from that.

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따라 comes from 따르다 as you assumed.

Note that 따르다 has a somewhat broader meaning than "to follow" in English. It can mean happening after or simultaneously with another thing (i.e. being attendant to some other event), as in 이 치료에 따르는 부작용 (side effects attendant to this treatment).

So 오늘따라 can be thought of as "happening today (unlike on other days)", which is essentially "especially today" or "today in particular".

Phrases like this are idioms that may not be immediately obvious or sound very logical, but I think they usually make sense if you think about the usage context or their history.

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  • Thanks. So can it be said it is almost like "it follows (logically)" or "therefore"..."it's today therefore...", which is a bit like "today in particular". I should have thought of that!
    – aaa90210
    Aug 7 at 19:45
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    I wouldn't say that it is like "it follows" because its connotation is unexpected coincidence, not something that can be considered logical. It just describes something happening today more than usual for some reason. Also, one thing I didn't make clear in my post is that 따라 in 오늘따라 is a particle. It comes from 따르다 etymologically, but has branched out to become a marker particle with the same/similar meaning - it is no longer a verb, and that's why we write it with no space between 오늘 and 따라. 따라 as a verb will be written as a separate word, as in 나는 친구를 따라(서) 동물원에 갔다.
    – user591415
    Aug 9 at 17:23

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