ㄱ, ㄷ, ㅂ + ㄴ, ㅁ -> ㅇ, ㄴ, ㅁ + ㄴ, ㅁ – Korean Pronunciation Tips #5

We are covering pronunciation changes these days. Let's learn another pronunciation change today.

감사함니다?

One of the phrases that you learned when you started learning Korean is 감사합니다. When we pronounce 감사합니다, 합 is not pronounced as-is. It is pronounced like [감사함니다]. ㅂ became ㅁ here. If you pronounce it like [감사합니다], then it sounds lik a bit odd.

ㄱ, ㄷ, ㅂ + ㄴ, ㅁ => ㅇ, ㄴ, ㅁ + ㄴ, ㅁ

When ㄱ, ㄷ, ㅂ meet ㄴ, ㅁ, they become ㅇ, ㄴ, ㅁ each. Let's see them with examples.

국물 먹는데 말을 걸면 어떡해?
Why did you talk to me when I am drinking the stew?

혹시 웃는 얼굴이라는 꽃말을 가진 꽃도 있나?
Is there a flower that has the flower language meaning smiling face?

밥만 먹지 말고 이리로 와서 고기 굽는 것 좀 도와 줘.
Stop eating and help me roast the meat.

국물 is [궁물] and 먹는데 is [멍는데].
웃는 is [운는] and 꽃말 is [꼰말].
밥만 is [밤만] and 굽는 is [굼는].

Why This Happens?

It is said that this happens because nasal sound is weaker than obstruent. Nasal sound is the sound that uses your nose. A little bit of air is getting out of your nose when you pronounce nasal sound. If I read 나비, 문제 with pinching my nose, then it sounds weird because the air is blocked inside the nose. ㄴ, ㅁ, ㅇ are nasal sounds in Korean. When you pronounce obstruent, your tongue usually becomes obstacle when you pronounce obstruent sounds. That's why obstruent and obstacle sound similar. ㄱ, ㄷ, ㅂ are obstruents in Korean.

It is said that this rule happens when strong sound is in front of the weak sound. In the words I explained a minute ago have these weak to strong combination like ㄱ and ㅁ, ㅅ and ㄴ, etc. So, this happens. If we reverse the order, this rule doesn't happen like 임금, 신사, 감사, etc.

More Words

These are more words that follow this rule:

국민궁민, 깎는깡는
솟는손는, 끝내끈내
뽑는뽐는, 잡는잠는

This rule has its own name. It is 자음동화 in Korean and consonant assimilation in English. There are more examples of 자음동화. We will learn more rules of 자음동화 in the following episodes. Stay tuned!