Korean pronunciation I: 파리(빠리?) 바게뜨

A Korean bakery called Paris Baguette.  I’m going to pretend this makes sense.

This post is not a review, but I will say I find Paris Baguette to be fairly underwhelming and overpriced.  Does not stop me from popping in and buying about five red bean buns every time I’m in downtown though.


My language partner Kwang-im and I have been here a couple times and she always makes fun of my 500% Americanized pronunciation of its name.  Parisssss Baguette.  Yet when we speak in Korean, I make conscious effort to pronounce it the way it’s written in Hangeul (파리 바게뜨), while internally chuckling at the fact that I am in fact saying Housefly Baguette.  Yum.  The pronunciation took effort, not because the Korean sounded so different from the American English pronunciation but because, for some reason, the aspirated 파 felt weird in my mouth.  After a couple times of forcefully emphasizing the 파 in 파리, Kwang-im gently told me that it is, in fact, pronounced 빠리.

WHEW.  Strangely, my ears and mouth had both wanted me to use the tense 빠 in the first place.  I suspect this is because my mother tongue (and many Indian languages?) use a lot of tense consonants; i.e. if I were speaking in Marathi, I’d use a tense “p” rather than the aspirated “p” I’d use in English when saying the word ‘Paris.’

Anyway, moral of the story is:  Do not be fooled by Hangeul.  While many words are pronounced the way they are spelled, a good many are not.  There are special pronunciation rules when certain letters are next to each other, liaisons in some cases and not in others.  And some inexplicable instances, like this one, of spellings not matching up with actual pronunciations.  Language wouldn’t be language without exceptions to rules, right?

More to come in Part II.

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