The Nasal Assimilation Process in the Korean Language


Nasal assimilation is the conversion of a consonant into a nasal sound. Long-term phonological use of a language may affect how somebody pronounces words in another language; however, it does not hinder the recognition of the word pronounced. This issue is familiar to Koreans who speak English. The continued use of their native language has affected their pronunciation of consonants in the English language. Consonantal phonology is a very prominent feature where the accent takes the sound of the adjacent word. Coronal assimilation is a crosslinguistic feature; however, Koreans place their assimilation in pervasive ways as they allow their non- coral to be assimilated. The nasal assimilation has dramatically affected the way Koreans pronounce the English language. The delay in introducing the English language to the native Korean speakers has also affected their assimilation to the borrowed words making it difficult to articulate the consonants in the right place, which would reduce the issues with pronunciation.

Literature Review

The study to investigate the consonant contacts imposed by the phonological rules and the perception of speech in assimilation depicted that the Koreans had issues with pronouncing consonants. In the research by (Sung, 2018) two Korean phonological rules were tested on three languages. The two phonological rules tested were obstruent nasalization and lateralization, and the three language groups tested were the native Korean, English language, and Chinese language. For the obstruent nasalization phonological rule, Korean speakers displayed compensation for their high detection exhibit for the viable changing context rather than the unviable changing context. Unlike the Koreans, the English and Chinese did not compensate for the conceivable changing context nor the unviable changing context. The Korean speakers did not show specific language compensation for the phonological lateralization rule but portrayed a low detection rate for the viable changing context and the unviable changing context (Sung, 2018). The English listeners as well showed low detection rates for both unviable and feasible changing contexts. For the Chinese, the effect was different from that of the two languages as they displayed insensitivities to phonetic differences. The Koreans faced a significant problem due to their nasal assimilation and the direction by the phonological rules, which influences the pronunciation of both classes of the affixes.

To investigate how the source language affects the pronunciation of languages, a study was carried out to examine the influence of the listener-borrower perception of the source language. The study focused on investigating the inserting of the /ɨ/ in English words borrowed into the Korean language (Kwon, 2017). Korean speakers with different English language extents were asked to borrow English-stimuli words ending with coda into the Korean language. The insertion of the borrowed coda plosives influenced the articulation of the consonants for the borrowed English words. The researcher was to determine whether the Koreans inserted /ɨ/ after the coda plosives or not. The findings illustrated that the Korean speaker experienced English influence in the borrowing and adding a suffix to the English non-words. The four contexts investigated were the releasing of coda, voicing of coda, placing of coda articulation, and pre-coda vowels’ tenseness (Kwon, 2017). The four contexts that influence the coda plosives are influenced by the Korean speaker’s experience with the English language. The results showed that the less experienced speakers paid more attention to the borrowed word tasks than the most experienced speakers. The different perception altered by Korean English listeners has dramatically affected the way they pronounce English words. This variation of articulation of the consonants has influenced how many Korean speakers pronounce different consonants followed by a vowel.

A study to examine the nasal assimilation between the final nasal prefix and the consonant initial base showed that most Koreans had issues with the pronunciation of consonants borrowed from the English language (Chung, 2020). The class 1 nasal coronal prefix undergoes assimilation when followed by a consonant initial base which is non-coronal. As depicted in class I and class II, the difference in assimilation is attributed to the morphological differences between the affixes (Ahn et al., 2017). This difference in morphological in the constraint ranking is attributed to the morphology traditions. These morphological differences greatly attribute to the consistent pronunciation associated with people attempting to speak a foreign language, not only the Korean speakers. The explanation of prefixes that are not classified into any class is done by adopting a uniform exoneme. For the specific constraint, the assimilation is explained by the difference between the obstruent nasalization initial and the consonant initial base (Chung, 2020). Having a single constraint ranking would make it easier to explain the nasal assimilation in English. These analyses of nasal assimilation show that Korean has issues with pronouncing English consonants and prefixes.

Types of Nasal Assimilation
Types of Nasal Assimilation.

An article under the Korean linguistic association investigated the alveolar nasal perception of various two Korean sequences. One of the sequences was [ni] used as a suffix, and the second was [ni] sequence at the IP-final (Kang, 2016). The research studied the perception of articulation of the nasal consonants and how different portions contain different information. It was further revealed that the place of pronunciation of nasal consonants depends on the vowels for the nasal-vowel sequence. The position of articulating the nasal is said to be perceived to be in the vowel’s environment. In cases where the vowel is represented alone as a stimulus, identifying the place of articulation is difficult. If a nasal is perceived before the vowel, it results in misperception, which affects the consonants’ position of perception (Kang, 2016). Since Korean do not allow word-initial, it brings confusion in the perception of the [ni] sequence, which increases the preceding nasal therefore affecting the place of articulation of the nasal.


Methods involve how data for the research is collected and vary according to the topic being researched. Qualitative research was carried out to answer the question that arose in regards to the research topic. Unlike quantitative analysis, this approach focuses on exploring individuals’ or groups’ understanding of social problems (Gopal, 2016). The procedure involved emerging questions and data collected from the participant settings, with the researcher interpreting the data collected through themes and theories. The method focused on textual and oral data rather than numerical data. It has an inductive approach that elaborates a phenomenon without focusing on numerical measurements. It focuses on the true meaning and inner insights; therefore, it is a very effective data collection method. The method I used for the data collection is the interview.


Interviews collect a wide range of information from a small group of people. Interviews can either be structured or unstructured, depending on the type of research being carried out. For my research on the impacts of fashion on the environment, I opted to use the structured interview where all my interviewees were asked similar questions. I opted for the method because it offers better responses, and it also offers flexibility as all interviewees cannot have a similar approach to the questions. For my research, I carried out thirty interviews with different people to gather a wide range of information.


I interviewed thirty Korean speakers, fifteen who were less experienced in English speaking and the other fifteen who were more experienced in English speaking. The less experienced Korean listeners encountered many difficulties pronouncing English words, while the more experienced had tiny challenges in pronouncing the words. These influences have been impacted by nasal assimilation, which has changed the consonants’ articulation, leading to a different pronunciation of similar terms.


The nasal deviation influenced the pronunciation of the English word’s pronunciation by the two Korean listeners groups. For the obstruent nasalization, Korean speakers showed a greater competition and a high detection rate on the viable changing context, unlike the unviable changing context. For the liberalization, the Korean speakers showed low detection for viable and unviable changing contexts (Parlindungan, 2018). The less experienced English speakers paid much attention to pronouncing the borrowed English words, while the more experienced paid less attention to the borrowed words. This has made it so difficult for the native Korean speakers to encounter challenges when pronouncing English words. This different perception about English words greatly affected the way Korean pronounced English words. The perception is influenced by the place of articulating the consonants, which is controlled by the vowels’ position.

The imposing of the phonological rules influenced the perception of speech in assimilation, which depicted that the Koreans had issues with pronouncing consonants. The difference in the assimilation of the coronal nasal prefixes also influenced articulating the consonant, which led to a difference in the pronouncing (Oh, 2017). Consonantal phonology is a widespread feature among Koreans where the pronunciation takes the sound of the adjacent word. These morphological differences within the constraint variants lead to varying accents of the consonants. The speakers adopted a mismatch in the borrowed terms and spoke stimuli over time. The speakers are likely to perceive an ambiguous sound similar to an adjacent sound if this adjacent sound is an excellent example of its category. This paper explains the extent of the predictability of words at the place of nasal assimilation. The articulation of the consonants affects the way of pronouncing

Consonant assimilation.
Fig.1. Consonant assimilation.


Conclusively, Korean speakers have experienced pronunciation difficulties of the English language due to the nasal assimilation associated with their native language. The findings of the research indicated that nasal assimilation affects the pronunciation of English words. The differences in the assimilation of nasal consonants have affected how the articulation of the coronal nasal prefixes has affected some words’ pronunciation. Assimilation is the phonological process that makes the articulation of sounds easier. Assimilation can occur at two stages, either that the phrase level or at the word boundary. It is caused by the surrounding sounds and the developments of the language. These functions lead to a significant problem in articulating the consonants, thus developing a pronunciation problem of languages other than the native language.


Ahn, S., Chang, C. B., DeKeyser, R., & Lee‐Ellis, S. (2017). Age effects in first language attrition: Speech perception by Korean‐English bilinguals. Language Learning, 67(3), 694-733. Web.

Chung, C. W. (2020). Morphological Status of Prefix and Nasal Assimilation in English. 영어영문학, 25(2),267-29. Web.

Gopal, D. (2016). Nasal-lateral assimilations: typology and structure. In Proceedings, pp.35-47. Web.

Kang, H. (2016). Boundary and pitch effects on the perception of Korean alveolar nasal. 언어학, 24(4), 23-38. Web.

Kwon, A (2017). Language experience, speech perception, and loanword adaptation: Variable adaptation of English word-final plosives into Korean. Journal of Phonetics, 60, 1-19. Web.

Oh, E. (2017). Durational aspects of Korean nasal geminates. Phonetics and Speech Sciences, 9(4), 19-25. Web.

Parlindungan, F. (2018). What research has to say about spelling instruction for English language learners. Web.

Sung, E. (2018). The effects of consonant contact constraints and syllable structure on speech perception in Korean assimilation contexts. 음성음운형태론연구, 24(2), 147-172. Web.

Appendix 1

Assimilation- is a sound change in which some consonants change to become more similar to the nearby sound.

shows the variation in consonant assimilation.
Fig.1 shows the variation in consonant assimilation.

Appendix 2

Types of Assimilation

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