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I am currently extracting the scripts from a game in all locales to aid my study while playing it (e.g. faster dictionary lookup). I am actually doing this to study Japanese but the completionist in me kinda wants to decode all the script-locales and there are special codes only used in the Korean version.

Apparently these codes dynamically print the correct variant of a particle depending on the previous character. These seem to be only used when the preceding word is also dynamic, e.g. a character's name the player can choose. So far I have identified codes for 은/는, 이/가, 을/를 and 으로/로.

There is an additional code though that prints 이 after a consonant and nothing after a vowel. I read that 이/가 is sometimes dropped in casual speech but it still doesn't explain why only 이 would be used. One example where this is used:

그래, 좋았어!
player-name particle라면
꼭 우승할 거야!

Would it make sense in this example to use 이 when the name ends in a consonant but drop 가 when it's a vowel? Also please keep in mind that I can't actually read this, I only know that the English version says "That's the spirit, player-name! Trust me—you can win this."

Also, are there any specific rules for these particles when the preceding word is not written in Korean script or a placeholder-symbol? The game seems to use the variant that would be preceded by a vowel in these cases.

Edit
As pointed out in the comments, my first question was already answered elsewhere, I just didn't know what to search for.

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  • Yes, thank you, that answers my first question.
    – chillkatun
    Sep 7 at 10:52
  • How about after nasals like m,n,ng? I would expect them to use the consonant variant. For example, Ben, when written in Hangeul with a particle, would be "벤은", using the consonant variant.
    – gaeguri
    Sep 7 at 13:15
  • @Michaelyus It’s only partially relevant. The suffix “-이” is usually only for proper nouns. You don’t want to affix “-이” to the common noun “Violin” like “Violin이” unless you’re making a nickname. It’s just that there’s two variations of particles “-이라면” and “-라면” for nouns with a final consonant and those without. The dictionaries list them separately. “Violin이라면“ is not a combination of “Violin,” “-이,” and “-라면.” It’s “Violin” and “-이라면.” Sep 7 at 18:37
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    Thanks for the additional info. So here they coded only part of the particle then, a "partial particle" so to say. :)
    – chillkatun
    Sep 8 at 8:42
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Are there any specific rules for these particles—

These kinds of particles have two variants,

  • one for those with a final consonant (e.g. “” — “은,” “이,” “을,” “과,” “-이다,” “-이면,” “-이라서,” “-이라면,” “-이고,” “-이었-,” “-이에요,” and “-아.”),
  • and another for those without (e.g. “사과” — “는,” “가,” “를,” “와,” “-다,” “-면,” “-라서,” “-라면,” “-고,” “-였-,” “-예요,” and “-야.”).

It depends on how the preceding word sounds when you read it.


—when the preceding word is not written in Korean script

You completely transliterate it into Korean first and pick the right particle variant accordingly. “Cat,” for example, becomes “캣” (or “캐트” by some speakers). It’s not “캩” because that’s just how the /t/ at the end usually gets transliterated by native South Koreans nowadays(I don’t know how the North’s doing on that.). For that, South Korea has the standard way of transliteration, “외래어 표기법,” published by the NIKL.

If you’re to append the particle “을,” the object marker, you write “Cat을” or “캣을” and read it as “캣을” (/캐슬/) with the /t/ sound disappeared, because the Korean phonology applies as if it’s in Hangul.


—or a placeholder symbol?

Which particle to use for a blank usually doesn’t matter.

Write both variants of the particle

  • “○은(는)” or “○은/는”
  • “○이(가)” or “○이/가”
  • “○을(를)” or “○을/를”
  • “○와(과)” or “○와/과”
  • “○(이)” (or a bit rarely, “○이/”)
  • “○(이)” (or a bit rarely, “○이/”)
  • “○(이)라서” (or a bit rarely, “○이라서/라서”)
  • “○(이)라면” (or a bit rarely, “○이라면/라면”)
  • “○(이)” (or a bit rarely, “○이/”)
  • “○이었다/다” (You can’t group them by “었다;” “○(이)었다” doesn’t work.)
  • “○이에요/요” (You can’t group them by “에요;” “○(이)에요” doesn’t work.)
  • “○아/야” or “○아(야)”

or just one of them, depending on how you’d like to read the blank ○.

  • “○을”
  • “○를”
  • “○이”
  • “○가”
  • “○이다”
  • “○다”

How you read the blank is up to you.

  • 뭐뭐so-and-so를”
  • 무엇무엇something-something을”
  • 아무개Mr. or Ms. so-and-so가”
  • 누구누구somebody가”
  • 무엇무엇something-something이”
  • or even literally, “빈칸blank이다,” “동그라미circle가,” or “네모rectangle였다,” because nobody cares.

Fill-in-the-blank contest #1 Fill-in-the-blank contest #2 Fill-in-the-blank contest #3 Fill-in-the-blank contest #4 Fill-in-the-blank contest #5 Fill-in-the-blank contest #6

But if it is supposed to be replaced with an actual word, you should have the following particle agree with that. Though you could also go for the easy and lazy ways listing both variants (the most common way for applications) or sticking to one of the variants, it’ll look either robotic or incorrect. Just like “a(n) [PLACEHOLDER]” in English.

A templated Korean sentence for simple substitution #1 A templated Korean sentence for simple substitution #2 A templated Korean sentence for simple substitution #3 A templated Korean sentence for simple substitution #4 A templated Korean sentence for simple substitution #5 A templated Korean sentence for simple substitution #6 A templated Korean sentence for simple substitution #7

Doing this right is actually a pretty tricky, notorious challenge for programmers, known as “조사 처리dealing with particles.” They even write a whole library just to handle this. What makes it so difficult to do that correctly is the transliteration of non-Korean words, where the application has to know how to read them.

On top of that, just because a word ends with a consonant doesn’t mean it guarantees a final consonant in its Korean transliteration. “Wisp” becomes “위with a final,” “cats” becomes “캐without it,” “beer” becomes “비without it!” Wow, how consistent!

Code to handle Korean particles

Sophisticated applications would handle it properly by either

  • integrating such logic into themselves,

    • “크레이지D(→크레이지) 무엇을 할까?” (“What will 크레이지D do?”) A sophisticated one
  • or carefully phrasing template sentences in a way that doesn’t require it.

    • “모험가Adventurer!”
    • “[PLAYERNAME] 님-nim…….”
    • “[PLAYERNAME],comma ……!”

-nim #1 -nim #2 Adventurer

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    Wow, I hadn't expected such an extensive answer, thanks for all the insightful examples. I guess for the game I am analyzing they went with the lazy route. I just found out that internally the codes are called Patchim and the variants original and patchim (from パッチム I'd guess).
    – chillkatun
    Sep 8 at 8:39
  • @hikidashi Yeah, apparently they gave up on the transliteration part and decided to just default to one of the Patchim (for those with a final consonant) version and the Original (for those without) version of the particles. Anyways, thank you for accepting my answer! Sep 8 at 8:46
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Also, are there any specific rules for these particles when the preceding word is not written in Korean script or a placeholder-symbol? The game seems to use the variant that would be preceded by a vowel in these cases.

If a non-Korean word is used, I think they'll assume a Korean pronunciation to add the particle after. Since most foreign words ending in a consonant are transcribed and pronounced with a vowel after, then the particle that follows a vowel would be used.

For example, if the word is "Cat", then although in English, this word ends with a consonant, in Korean it would be transcribed "캐트" (ka-teu), ending in a vowel - and thus take a particle like 가/ga: cat가.

(The reason for this is that Korean consonants are unreleased at the end of a consonant. Incidentally, recent variants of North American English often do not release final voiceless plosives, so that my English pronunciation of 'cat' is much closer to 캣 than 캐트, and is completely unreleased).

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  • I think the tendency (as to how they transliterate non-Korean words internally to decide which particle to use) depends on the generation of the speaker. I suppose elder generations tend to append the “ㅡ (ŭ)” sound at the end. I would say “Cat()이라면” /캐시라면/, “Cat()이” /캐시/, and “Cat()은” /캐슨/, not “Cat(캐트)라면” /캐트라면/, “Cat(캐트)가” /캐트가/, and “Cat(캐트)는” /캐트는/. Sep 7 at 18:02

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