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Lecture 8: The Difference between
English and Korean Syllables
hat is the shape of a syllable? This isn't a strange question. In Korean, the shape of a syllable is roughly a square. (Kim), (Lee), (Hwang), and (Choi) all fit nicely into a little square box. Korean children even learn to write in boxes. English is different. Both I and strengths are one syllable. Korean syllables can be "square" because there are only four possible patterns for Korean syllables: a single vowel (v), or a single consonant followed by a vowel (cv), or a vowel followed by a single consonant (vc), or a single consonant followed by a vowel followed by a single consonant (cvc). Notice that straps is cccvcc, and blasts is ccvccc. Syllables always contain only one pronounced vowel, so you can see straps has only one syllable.
The standard Korean way to pronounce English consonant strings is to break them up with the Korean vowel . Straw /str/ has only one vowel, but Koreans add two vowels, which to a native speaker may sound like /s t r/. When writing, Koreans never break a syllable at the end of a line. is divided as - or -, never as . Native speakers of English also "feel" syllables strongly. They divide restrict as re-strict, not res-trict.