3

How did the final consonants of each syllable sound in Middle Korean?

English Wiktionary (https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%EA%B3%B6) states that 곶(flower, 꽃) sounded kòs̚, but not kòt͡s. Can you tell me why?

1
  • I don’t really know anything about Middle Korean (or much about any form of Korean), but presumably it’s considered that affricates could not appear syllable-finally, where they were simplified to, in this case, the fricative part of the affricate (unreleased here). It’s very common cross-linguistically for consonants and clusters to be simplified in final position and then appear in their ‘full’ forms in inflected or derived forms where it’s no longer in word-final position. Dec 23, 2021 at 9:16

1 Answer 1

5

From page 80 of the 2012 tome The Languages of Japan and Korea on Middle Korean (한글 has been added by myself):

MK [Middle Korean] observed implosivization (unrelease) of syllable-final consonants, except s {ㅅ} which was, unlike in CK [Contemporary Korean], not neutralized to t {ㄷ} but spelled s {ㅅ}, suggesting it was pronounced [s], as in mos {못} [mos] ‘pond’ versus mot {몯〯} [mot] ‘unable’.

So where did final c ㅈ fall then? From page 65 of the 2011 reference A History of the Korean Language:

In Middle Korean, /s, c, ch/ no longer remained distinct before a pause, but were, rather, pronounced as the sibilant [s].

According to the above, final /ts/ in 곶, as attested in the 1447 龍飛御天歌 용비어천가 Yongbi eocheonga would have been pronounced [s], different to the Korean language of today.

There are many cases of this lexeme for "flower" being spelled with a ㅅ instead of ㅈ in the period. From the 月印釋譜 월인석보 Worin Soekbo of 1459:

닐굽 줄기ᄅᆞᆯ 가져 겨샤ᄃᆡ

... which in Modern Korean would be "꽃 일곱줄기를 가져 가시되...", in English: [She] was holding seven [stalks of] flowers, and [...]. One 2002 article 중세국어 곡용 어미의 특징 파악 "Characteristics of Middle Korean Declension Endings" has the following claim (emphasis mine):

중세국어에서 체언의 특정 말음은 자음으로 시작하는 조사나 휴지(休止) 앞에서 8종성(ㄱ, ㄴ, ㄷ, ㄹ, ㅁ, ㅂ, ㅅ, ㅇ)으로 교체된다. 이것은 주로 말음이 ‘ㅈ, ㅊ, [ㅂ], ㅍ, ㅌ’ 자음군인 경우에 일어난다.

예) 곶 ~ 곳 (花), ~ 즛(貌), ~밧(外)

Roughly translated: "In Middle Korean, certain final phonemes of substantives are substituted [either] with postpositions that start in a consonant or with one of eight pre-pausal coda consonants (ㄱ, ㄴ, ㄷ, ㄹ, ㅁ, ㅂ, ㅅ, ㅇ). This mainly occurs in situations involving the final consonants ㅈ, ㅊ, [ㅂ], ㅍ, ㅌ."

There is also earlier evidence from the 1400 Korean-Chinese glossary 朝鮮館譯語 Cháoxiǎn-guǎn Yìyǔ, where 花 "flower" is glossed as 果思 (in modern Mandarin, guǒsī), that 思 representing a final /s/ of 곳. Note that final /t/ was represented with whichever Chinese character had an Early Mandarin reading with a glottal final, e.g. 筆 "writing brush" was glossed as 卜, which is in Modern Standard Mandarin but had a glottal ending in Early Mandarin, and represented 붇〮 (which only later became 붓 in Korean).

All this confirms that final ㅈ/ㅊ had all merged to final ㅅ [s] by the Late Middle Korean of the 15th century, with this final [s] subsequently merging with final ㄷ and ㅌ into [t̚] throughout the later 16th century and complete by the 17th century.

2
  • Not necessarily even intentional, but I like the glossing of a flower as the ‘thought of a fruit’. There’s a poetic reality to that. Dec 23, 2021 at 15:57
  • Thank you, it is very helpful! I'm actually a Korean interested in this field, but there have been few people to ask it in Korean communities. Dec 23, 2021 at 20:21

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.