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Kkul: Minimal pairs and tense situations
Episode 419th October 2021 • Hanmadi Korean Linguistics • Sara McAdory-Kim and Jaymin Kim
00:00:00 00:23:58

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  1. Story about looking for honey in Homeplus when I had a cold - brings us to today’s world
  2. Kkul - means honey. Sorry all our episodes are about food so far, will change next week!
  3. Sociocultural context: 꿀 as in a “sweet gig” like when you get an easy army posting; 
  4. Related words: 꿀벌 honeybee, 꿀맛 leaving a sweet taste in one’s mouth (literally or metaphorically)
  5. Origin - Native Korean
  6. Linguistic element: Tense consonants in Korean, as in 빵 last episode (쌍 비읍)
  7. Explain what they are - vocal folds tense? 
  8. They are produced with a partially constricted glottis and additional subglottal pressure in addition to tense vocal tract walls, laryngeal lowering, or other expansion of the larynx
  9. All the stuff in the back of your mouth is kind of tense (my explanation)
  10. Minimal pairs in Korean: In English, bad vs bbad, no meaning diff - might think it was a different mood or something but not meaning. But bad vs pad, yes meaning diff. They are minimal pairs in English. That one sound is enough to differentiate them from one another
  11. In Korean, difference between bad and bbad would be enough to make those completely different words just as much as bad and pad are in English. Same in every other way, just that one sound makes them different. Thus they’d be minimal pairs in Korean
  12. However, they aren’t real words (bad/bbad). Let’s look at some real Korean minimal pairs with tense and plain or lax consonants
  13. ㄱ/ㄲ: first letter of 한글: 굴 vs 꿀
  14. 달/딸
  15. 방/빵
  16. ㅅ/ㅆ
  17. ㅈ/ㅉ
  18. I think other consonants can be tense sometimes when spoken based on the other sounds around them but they don’t have a difference in meaning - not minimal pairs. E.g., 엄마 but maybe sometimes they do? 들어요/들러요
  19. Most words with double/tense consonants are Native Korean. Double consonants didn’t come into Korean until later - they were rare in 15th century korean written with ssang - not fully developed until early modern korean, which starts after Imjin War


Shin, Ji-young. “Vowels and Consonants.” In The Handbook of Korean Linguistics, edited by Lucien Brown and Jaehoon Yeon, 1-21. Wiley, 2015.

Sohn, Ho-min. “Middle Korean and Pre-Modern Korean.” In The Handbook of Korean Linguistics, edited by Lucien Brown and Jaehoon Yeon, 438-458. Wiley, 2015.

Lee, Eunhee, Sean Madigan, and Mee-Jeong Park. An Introduction to Korean Linguistics. Routledge, 2016.


Theme music: The Boating Trip by LATG Music.