Wednesday, February 25, 2009

눈과 눈의 차이점

I don't need more than my two hands to count the number of times it snows this winter. I miss the day when it snowed in the morning while I was walking to school for my mid-term test. That was probably the most beautiful day this winter.

The only proper snow this winter came on Jan 16 morning.

Anyway, I just learned how to differentiate 눈 (snow) from 눈 (eyes) in class. When Koreans prolong the sound of 눈, they mean snow. But when they mean eyes, 눈 is pronounced short and quick. It is not difficult to guess why the sound of 눈, as in snow, is lengthen. Since snow falling from sky is longer than the length of eyes, Koreans emphasise that they mean snow by lengthening the sound of 눈.

The same logic is applied to other similar instances like 다리, 말 and 새. As you may have known, 다리 can mean both bridge and leg. Koreans prolong the sound of 다리 to mean bridge since bridge is longer than leg. As for 말, which can mean either horse or speech, a lengthened 말 pronunciation means speech since horse cannot be as long as those speech made by people with "long breath". Finally, 새 can mean new or bird. Bird can fly great distance, so naturally when Koreans want to mean bird, they lengthen the sound of 새 slightly. Take 새 집 for example, when you want to mean bird's nest, you will have to say 새~집, but when you mean new house, 새 집 is to be pronounced short and quick.

Lengthening the sound is just one way to differentiate the meanings of the same word. In the case of 잠자리, which can mean both sleeping place and dragonfly, the way to differentiate them is to change the sound of 자 to 짜. When Koreans mean sleeping place, they emphasise 자리 and pronounce 잠자리 as [잠짜리]. In the case of dragonfly, 잠자리 is simply pronounced as 잠자리. It is easy to understand why pronunciation changes for sleeping place but not dragonfly. 잠자리, as in sleeping place, is made up of two words which is 잠 and 자리. So when Koreans want to emphasise that it is 잠의 자리 that they are talking about, the sound [잠짜리] naturally surfaces.

Actually, I am much less concern about the technicalities of pronunciation these days. They may be interesting to know but barely helpful. I have come to realise that the best way to improve my pronunciation is to just listen and repeat after my textbook CD.

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