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It is commonly said that the 예사소리 vs 된소리 vs 거센소리 distinction of Korean stops are by VOT. But what about the time before the stop?

I was playing with Synthesizer V (abbr. SynthV), a software that synthesizes songs. Though SynthV only supports English, Japanese, and Mandarin, I found that placing the SynthV phoneme cl (which sounds like the glottal stop [ʔ]) before an unaspirated stop makes it sound like Korean 된소리.

That gives the Korean stops as:

  • ㄱ [k~g], ㄷ [t~d], ㅂ [p~b], ㅈ [t͜ɕ~d͜ʑ]
  • ㄲ [ˀk], ㄸ [ˀt], ㅃ [ˀp], ㅉ [ˀt͜ɕ]
  • ㅋ [kʰ], ㅌ [tʰ], ㅍ [pʰ], ㅊ [t͜ɕʰ]

So is the pre-glottalization actually present?

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2 Answers 2

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Are they? I guess not….

It could be an actual phonetic phenomenon where a preceding glottal stop contributes to the tensedness, or it might be just a quirk of SynthV’s implementation. I’m leaning towards the latter, as I barely feel any glottal stops, making those tense Korean consonant sounds myself.


The cl phoneme might be a “sokuon

David Cuny: I found some information on “extra” phonemes included with Solaria in an undocumented script that was included with the voicebank. Of course, if you didn’t have the Pro version and didn’t think to load the script, you’d never know about them.

Special phonemes

cl (Stop/Glottal Stop) - a phoneme you can insert to have the vocal perform a stop, cl can be used to accurately input words like uh-oh or used for singing effect. In some AI voice libraries, a cl between or before vowels will sometimes cause the library to perform a vocal fry, this is context dependent, but can provide a unique effect.

from https://vi-control.net/community/threads/synthesizer-v-vocaloid-haters-might-want-to-check-this.115973/post-5065698

Bellerandre: Next, it helps to know how to activate phoneme view on your notes, and how to check them in note properties. In my SynthV (studio 1.05 - with Saki full), typing “But” shows the phonemes “b a cl.”

from https://forum.synthesizerv.com/t/topic/2566/3

Given that SynthV is designed mainly for the Japanese (and Chinese) articulation, I suspect that SynthV’s poorly documented cl phoneme could be more of a Japanese “sokuon (促音/촉음),” that is, a “っ/ッ,” rather than a simple glottal stop. — I haven’t used SynthV and have no proofs to back this up; inquire the developers about this….

A sokuon is known to (usually) double the following consonant and reduce the voice onset time (VOT), getting it closer to a tenuis, a zero-VOT consonant. Because of this, it has often been used to transcribe 된소리/경음, the tense Korean consonants, in Japanese. It is also, sometimes, but not always, realized as a glottal stop in certain circumstances.

A figure from http://lovering777.blog29.fc2.com/blog-category-16.html

If the cl phoneme is a sokuon, SynthV producing those tense (“of a reduced VOT”) sounds for cl-prepended phoneme sequences does make sense, and it also makes sense that many people described it as a “glottal stop,” which is only partially true. My hypothesis. What do you think?


TL; DR

I don’t think those Korean tense consonants involve glottal stops. I believe that the cl, what you think is a glottal stop, is actually not a glottal stop, but a Japanese sokuon, which usually reduces the VOT of the following consonant and make it sound tense, and sometimes becomes a glottal stop to confuse you.

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Chin-W. Kim (1965) On the Autonomy of the Tensity Feature in Stop Classification (with Special Reference to Korean Stops):

Although what Martin means by "glottal tension" is unclear, we need to elaborate the point, since the view that the first series are "glottalized" is rather widely held. If the glottis were really closed behind the oral occlusion of Korean stops, the opening of its closure would manifest itself in some way or other in records of the oral air pressure. However, my instrumental registration has not shown any constant pattern that indicates the supposed opening of a glottal closure. A glance at the pressure recording (Figure 4, p. 350) shows that in the stops of the first series, we have in general the higher amplitude of increased pressure behind the oral closure than in the second series which are known to be non-glottalized. This would argue against glottalization, since glottal closure should reduce the oral pressure significantly.

Young-mee Yu Cho (2016) Korean Phonetics and Phonology

Given the complex array of articulatory and acoustic characteristics, it comes as no surprise that no consensus was reached for the selection of the feature defining the tense series. The distinctive features for tense consonants employed for these studies are often general features such as [+tense] (Ahn, 1985; Kim, 1970, Kim-Renaud, 1974, Kohler, 1984) and [+constricted glottis] (Cho, 1990; Chomsky & Halle, 1968; Lombardi, 1994; Sohn, 1987). As noted in Martin (1954, p. 39), however, Korean tense consonants are not glottalic in the sense of ejectives or implosives; rather, “the effect is a clear-cut ‘popping’ release similar to that of glottalized consonants, but with no separately heard glottal release (unlike the glottalized consonants of North American Indian languages).” For this reason, Han (1996) uses [+constricted glottis] as a shorthand for the combination of [+constricted glottis] and [+stiff vocal cords], utilizing the features advocated in Halle and Stevens’s system (1971). More recently, Ahn and Iverson (2004, p. 13) point out the two differences between typical ejectives and Korean tense consonants: a) Korean in-phase constriction versus persisting glottal closure of ejectives; and b) a raising effect on the pitch of the following vowel by Korean tense consonants, as opposed to a lowering effect of ejectives (Kingston, 1985).

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