See Korean phonology at Wikipedia for a thorough look at the sounds of Korean.
This page uses the Revised Romanization (the official South Korean Korean language romanization system) unless noted otherwise.
Overall Korean phonemically has these vowels and diphthongs and consonants:
- ㄱ /k/, ㄲ /k͈/, ㄴ /n/, ㄷ /t/, ㄸ /t͈/, ㄹ /l/, ㅁ /m/, ㅂ /p/, ㅃ /p͈/, ㅅ /s/, ㅆ /s͈/, ㅇ /ŋ/, ㅈ /tɕ/, ㅉ /t͈ɕ/, ㅊ /tɕʰ/, ㅋ /kʰ/, ㅌ /tʰ/, ㅍ /pʰ/, ㅎ /h/ (all of which, except for ㅇ /ŋ/, are allowed at the beginning of a phonemic syllable)
- ㅏ /a/, ㅐ /ɛ/, ㅑ /ja/, ㅒ /jɛ/, ㅓ /ʌ/, ㅔ /e/, ㅕ /jʌ/, ㅖ /je/, ㅗ /o/, ㅘ /wa/, ㅙ /wɛ/, ㅚ /ø/, ㅛ /jo/, ㅜ /u/, ㅝ /wʌ/, ㅞ /we/, ㅟ /y/, ㅠ /ju/, ㅡ /ɯ/, ㅢ /ɰi/, ㅣ /i/
Only seven consonants are allowed at the end of a phonemic syllable: ㄱ /k/, ㄴ /n/, ㄷ /t/, ㄹ /l/, ㅁ /m/, ㅂ /p/, ㅇ /ŋ/; all other consonants and clusters assimilate into these ones. Inside a word each one of these consonants can be followed by another consonant, allowing for 95 consonant clustes:
- ㄱㄲ /kk͈/, ㄱㄸ /kt͈/, ㄱㅃ /kp͈/, ㄱㅆ /ks͈/, ㄱㅉ /kt͈ɕ/, ㄱㅊ /ktɕʰ/, ㄱㅋ /kkʰ/, ㄱㅌ /ktʰ/, ㄱㅍ /kpʰ/
- ㄷㄲ /tk͈/, ㄷㄸ /tt͈/, ㄷㅃ /tp͈/, ㄷㅆ /ts͈/, ㄷㅉ /tt͈ɕ/, ㄷㅊ /ttɕʰ/, ㄷㅋ /tkʰ/, ㄷㅌ /ttʰ/, ㄷㅍ /tpʰ/
- ㅂㄲ /pk͈/, ㅂㄸ /pt͈/, ㅂㅃ /pp͈/, ㅂㅆ /ps͈/, ㅂㅉ /pt͈ɕ/, ㅂㅊ /ptɕʰ/, ㅂㅋ /pkʰ/, ㅂㅌ /ptʰ/, ㅂㅍ /ppʰ/
- ㅇㄱ /ŋk/, ㅇㄲ /ŋk͈/, ㅇㄴ /ŋn/, ㅇㄷ /ŋt/, ㅇㄸ /ŋt͈/, ㅇㅁ /ŋm/, ㅇㅂ /ŋp/, ㅇㅃ /ŋp͈/, ㅇㅅ /ŋs/, ㅇㅆ /ŋs͈/, ㅇㅈ /ŋtɕ/, ㅇㅉ /ŋt͈ɕ/, ㅇㅊ /ŋtɕʰ/, ㅇㅋ /ŋkʰ/, ㅇㅌ /ŋtʰ/, ㅇㅍ /ŋpʰ/, ㅇㅎ /ŋh/
- ㄴㄱ /nk/, ㄴㄲ /nk͈/, ㄴㄴ /nn/, ㄴㄷ /nt/, ㄴㄸ /nt͈/, ㄴㅁ /nm/, ㄴㅂ /np/, ㄴㅃ /np͈/, ㄴㅅ /ns/, ㄴㅆ /ns͈/, ㄴㅈ /ntɕ/, ㄴㅉ /nt͈ɕ/, ㄴㅊ /ntɕʰ/, ㄴㅋ /nkʰ/, ㄴㅌ /ntʰ/, ㄴㅍ /npʰ/, ㄴㅎ /nh/
- ㄹㄱ /lk/, ㄹㄲ /lk͈/, ㄹㄹ /ll/, ㄹㄷ /lt/, ㄹㄸ /lt͈/, ㄹㅁ /lm/, ㄹㅂ /lp/, ㄹㅃ /lp͈/, ㄹㅅ /ls/, ㄹㅆ /ls͈/, ㄹㅈ /ltɕ/, ㄹㅉ /lt͈ɕ/, ㄹㅊ /ltɕʰ/, ㄹㅋ /lkʰ/, ㄹㅌ /ltʰ/, ㄹㅍ /lpʰ/, ㄹㅎ /lh/
- ㅁㄱ /mk/, ㅁㄲ /mk͈/, ㅁㄴ /mn/, ㅁㄷ /mt/, ㅁㄸ /mt͈/, ㅁㅁ /mm/, ㅁㅂ /mp/, ㅁㅃ /mp͈/, ㅁㅅ /ms/, ㅁㅆ /ms͈/, ㅁㅈ /mtɕ/, ㅁㅉ /mt͈ɕ/, ㅁㅊ /mtɕʰ/, ㅁㅋ /mkʰ/, ㅁㅌ /mtʰ/, ㅁㅍ /mpʰ/, ㅁㅎ /mh/
All other clusters assimilate into these ones. The clusters ㄱㄲ /kk͈/, ㄱㅋ /kkʰ/, ㄷㄸ /tt͈/, ㄷㅆ /ts͈/, ㄷㅉ /tt͈ɕ/, ㄷㅊ /ttɕʰ/, ㄷㅌ /ttʰ/, ㅂㅃ /pp͈/, ㅂㅍ /ppʰ/, ㄴㄴ /nn/, ㄹㄹ /ll/ and ㅁㅁ /mm/ can be considered as double consonants ㄱㄲ /k͈ː/, ㄱㅋ /kːʰ/, ㄷㄸ /t͈ː/, ㄷㅆ /s͈ː/, ㄷㅉ /t͈ɕː/, ㄷㅊ /tɕːʰ/, ㄷㅌ /tːʰ/, ㅂㅃ /p͈ː/, ㅂㅍ /pːʰ/, ㄴㄴ /nː/, ㄹㄹ /lː/ and ㅁㅁ /mː/.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 When plain stops and affricates /p t tɕ k/ are followed by a vowel and preceded by a sonorant (vowel or /n l m ŋ/), they get voiced to [b d dʑ ɡ].
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 When plain stops /p t k/ are not followed by a vowel, they are not released [p̚ t̚ k̚].
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 The dental sonorants /n l/ are usually palatalized to [ɲ ʎ] before /i/ and especially before /j/. In South Korea [ɲ ʎ] at the beginning of a word are usually dropped in native and Sino-Korean words and this is reflected in spelling.
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 The palatal affricates [tɕ dʑ t͈ɕ tɕʰ] are non-palatal in North Korea, so there they are [ts dz t͈s tsʰ].
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 /kʰ/ followed by /i/ or /j/ is palatalized to [cç], /kʰ/ followed by /ɯ/ is pronounced as [kx].
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 6.2 The dental fricative /s/ and its allophones are aspirated [sʰ ɕʰ ʃʰ].
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 The dental fricatives /s s͈/ are palatalized to [ɕʰ ɕ͈] before /i/ and /j/ and to [ʃʰ ʃ͈] before /y/ and [ɥ], although [ʃ͈] is a very marginal sound. In North Korea it may happen that this palatalization does not occur at all.
- ↑ 8.0 8.1 8.2 The dental approximant /l/ is pronounced [ɾ] when it is followed by a vowel or /h/, it is pronounced [ɭ] otherwise. /ll/ is always pronounced [ɭɭ] depending on the following vowel. At the beginning of a words it is [ɾ] although [ɭ] are also possible depending on the speaker. [ɭ] is palatalized to [ʎ] before /i/ and /j/.
- ↑ 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 9.6 9.7 The aspirated /h/ and is pronounced [ɸ] before /u o w/, [x] before /ɯ/, [ç] before /i/ and /j/ and [h] otherwise. Between two sonorants (vowels or /n l m ŋ/) all these allophones become voiced (respectively [β ɣ ʝ ɦ]) or /h/ is just dropped.
- ↑ 10.0 10.1 Nowadays /e/ and /ɛ/ are only distinguished in spelling, but have merged phonetically.
- ^ Semivowels can only come before vowels. All the semivowels coming after the vowels have been assimilated into the preceding vowel throughout the centuries.
- ^ The semivowel /ɰ/ only occurs in the diphthong /ɰi/. Usually inside a word /ɰ/ is dropped so the diphthong merges with /i/ triggering all the sound changes that it usually triggers.
- ^ Yale romanization
- ^ Vowel length is no longer realized in Seoul Korean speech, except by some elder speakers. Vowel length has also never existed in the eastern dialects, where a pitch accent is the predominant prosodic feature. Vowel length is not shown in word spelling.
- ^ Word stress is very weak; pitch accent is more relevant.