Pronouncing ㅁ correctly

So the letter ㅁ is supposed to be close to the English M sound. However most of the time the ㅁ sounds more like a B sound to me. It definitely has a pop to the beginning of the letter which we don’t make in English.

Going to a pronunciation website like this one:

Every one of the pronunciations on there you can clearly hear the pop at the beginning of the ㅁ.

So my question is how do you actually pronounce it? For the last week I’ve been trying every way I can get my mouth to form it. I cannot reproduce that sound. Is it inhaled or something?

ㅁ makes the “M” sound. Maybe the “pop” you’re hearing is the stressed syllable? For example, you stress the first syllable in CONcert. The word “물” is usually stressed in Korean so maybe you’re hearing the stressed vowel.

I think you are focusing on its pronunciation too much and confusing yourself in the process. It is simply the same as M. I am sure you are pronouncing it just fine but overthinking it :slight_smile:

Actually at the beginning of a word ㅁ makes both an M and a B sound (if you stress an M sound it sounds like a B). Likewise at the beginning of a word ㅂ sounds like a Spanish P sound (no puffs of air) or the P in “spat” and ㅍ sounds like the P in “Pat”. Similar properties exist for ㄴ -> ㄷ -> ㅌ and ㄱ -> ㅋ. Otherwise between vowels they sound like the romanized letters :slight_smile:

They don’t have stressed syllables in Korean.

Yes they do. That’s what the double consonants are for. Unless a word starts with a double consonant, or the letters ㅅ, ㅎ, ㅋ, ㅌ, ㅊ, or ㅍ, the second syllable of a word is usually stressed. One syllable words work a bit differently but when trying to give clear pronunciations (like in the link the OP asked about), people typically stress one syllable words no matter what language it is.

Maybe you’re confusing “stressed” with “tonal”? Korean is not a tonal language, but yes, they do stress syllables, as does English.

What you’re describing doesn’t really sound like “syllable stress”.

As for the pronunciation it has more to do with the fact that it isn’t an “m”, and that the placement of the lips is different from making an “m”.
The same can be said about a lot of Korean consonants. Think phonetics, not stress.

Read this article.

Thanks for the link! I think I understand what you’re referring to now. “Stress-timed” vs. “Syllable-timed” languages refers to the influence of stress in the time it takes to say words. It doesn’t refer to the presence or absence of stress as a whole.

“Stress” in language is an umbrella term that can refer to many characteristics outside timing, including reference to the syllable that “pops” in a word. For example, in the word 시간, even though the timing of each syllable is the same, the syllable “시” still has the pop. You wouldn’t put emphasis on the “간”.

A similar example to Korean is Hungarian. Hungarian is also a syllable-timed language, but it has non-phonemic stress. So, the stress has specific rules, and is predictable, like Korean. Unlike English, stress doesn’t have a phonemic property of the word in this case, but it’s stress all the same.

**Editing to add, I agree that the placement of the lips is different, contributing to OP hearing the “B” sound. I used “stressed” to describe the phenomenon as I thought it would be a simple, easy to understand explanation, and the actual name of the phenomenon escaped me. (ㅁ doesn’t always have that described “b” sound to it. The ㅁ in 미래 sounds more like an “M” than the ㅁ in 물. ) It is related to stress/aspiration however, but I probably should have figured out a better word to use.

**Edit 2 - There are a few inaccuracies in that iTalki article with words being used synonymously with unrelated ideas. It’s a good article overall, but it’s also just a blog post that hasn’t been peer reviewed.