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What do these two different pronunciations mean in Naver? I see them in a lot of words. My teacher and textbook use the second one. 'we-gug'

https://korean.dict.naver.com/koendict/#/search?query=%EC%99%B8%EA%B5%AD

외국

[ oe-guk│we-gug ][ 외ː국 ][ 웨ː국 ]

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I don't know why they're doing that - one possibility is that they merged information from different dictionaries and whoever did the job didn't verify the result. Another is that there used to be some native speakers who could pronounce 외 and 웨 differently and they did use both 외 and 웨 to pronounce 외국. (I'm not a trained linguist, so I don't know if that makes sense, but at least that would be consistent with the dictionary entry.)

On the other hand, in modern Korean all three vowels 외/왜/웨 have merged into a single sound for most people, so you don't have to worry about whether to use which one: they all sound the same to me (and almost all native Korean speakers I've met).

Similarly, vowel length distinction is pretty much extinct for decades. (The sign "ː" means the preceding syllable is long.) Pronunciations change, but dictionaries typically do not get updated in time.

  • Also, many Korean dictionaries are somewhat sketchy what it comes to pronunciation, because they list what Koreans should pronounce (according to their own theory) instead of what Koreans actually do. E.g., everybody I know pronounces 폭발 (explosion) as "폭팔", but you won't find it in dictionaries, because that's a "wrong" pronunciation.
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    Yes, the 외 - 웨 distinction is as moribund as the Seoul length distinction: Hye‐Won Choi (2002) finds that only 3.37% of 210 speakers of Standard Korean aged between 21 to 79 pronounce ‘ㅚ’ as monophthong [ø] and that /e/ and /æ/ tend to merge together in all age groups. That of course was 20 years ago.
    – Michaelyus
    Commented May 2, 2023 at 11:24
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    Having said that, in Brown & Yeon (2015) p.37: Even younger speakers resort to /y/ and /ø/ in formal speech. There is a wider process of /w/-reduction that is not limited to these vowels, which needs further exploration.
    – Michaelyus
    Commented May 2, 2023 at 11:29
  • I pronounce it /폭빨/. …I haven’t ever tried to correct my pronunciation of the word. Commented May 7, 2023 at 20:37

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