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I'm a native Korean speaker. I noticed that, whenever I say "너", my tongue directly releases from the onset ㄹ to the coda ㄹ, eliminating the ㅡ in-between. To transcribe in IPA, /ɾɯl/ assimilates into [ɾˡl̩]. That is, the tip of my tongue maintains the alveolar contact.

Though I cannot guarantee consistency of my pronunciation, this seems to happen to other onsets as well:

  • [hɐn.gˡl̩]

  • [mɐ.nˡl̩]

  • 우리 [u.ɾʲi.dˡl̩]

  • (double) [tə.bˡl̩] (My pronunciation of ㅓ is quite unclear, but that's just another detail.)

  • [i.sˡl̩]

  • 지로 [l̩.t͜ɕi.ɾo] (It's hard to judge whether [ɯ] is present if "을" is not the first syllable, such as in "마을".)

  • (puzzle) [pʰə.d͜ʑˡl̩]

  • 릭(click) [kʰˡl̩.lik̚] (The [ʰˡ] moment assimilates into one, resulting in lateral aspiration.)

  • 리다 [t͜ɬʰl̩.lʲi.dɐ]

  • 레이(play) [pʰˡl̩.le.i]

  • 리다 [ɬl̩.lʲi.dɐ] / 사나 [sɐ.nɐ.ɮl̩]

I wonder whether other Koreans do the same. Was there a study on this?

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    For me, I’m not sure if it’s an /ɯ/, but the tip of the tongue loses contact with the alveolar ridge for a very short moment to release air, maintaining the articulation point (the tip touching the alveolar ridge) throughout both “ㄹ.” May 3 at 6:58

1 Answer 1

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ㄹ cannot be a syllable on its own. All syllables in Korean must have a vowel in it.

You should use 'eu' to transcribe ㅡ, as in 'geul' for 글. So 플레이 would be 'peul-lay' written in the Korean style. Since Korean (and many other languages) can't handle multiple consonants in sequence, you need this vowel inserted to simulate the sound.

'click' becomes 클릭 (cl -> 클ㄹ, this is to distinguish it from 크릭 -> crick), 'strike' 스트라이크 (str -> 스트ㄹ), and 'dumpster' 덤프스터 (mpst -> ㅁ프스ㅌ). English is like the champion when it comes to accurately handling consonants. Most languages can't do that. Korean has the most varied ending consonants among the CJK (Chinese, Japanese, Korean) languages, but its consonants are kind of handicapped in that they are not fully articulated at the end of a phrase or before another consonant. So the vowel ㅡ plays an important role when transcribing foreign words, since it is a transparent kind of a vowel.

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    This answer is talking at the phonological level, while I think the question was talking about phonetics (actual realized sounds). E.g., English has only one l-like sound /l/, but the same sound is realized as either "light l" (lean) or "dark l" (milk). So English doesn't have a distinct "dark l" phoneme but it does have a dark l sound.
    – jick
    May 6 at 23:21
  • @jick Exactly. Too sad there is no "phonetics" tag. May 7 at 1:12

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