Lesson 131: The Middle ㅅ: 사이시옷

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Vocabulary
Introduction

사이시옷: Putting ㅅ Within Compound Words
Rules
Usage
Pronunciation

 

 

Vocabulary

The vocabulary for this lesson can be found later in the lesson. I would like to explain how these words are created before I show them to you.

 

 

Introduction

In this lesson, you will learn about words that contain an extra ㅅ. This is called a 사이시옷, and its inclusion in words is very complex. Luckily, there are a set of rules that I can teach you. Let’s get started!

 

 

사이시옷: Putting ㅅ Within Compound Words

Often two individual words get combined to make a compound word. For example:

아침 = morning
밥 = food, rice
아침밥 = breakfast, or the food/rice that one eats for breakfast

Although 아침밥 is one word, it is composed of two words that are words on their own. We have created a “compound word,” and in effect, the first half of the compound word (아침) is describing the second half (밥). What type of “rice/food” do we have? We have morning “rice/food.”

Notice in 아침밥 that the final letter of the first half of the word is a consonant. That is, 아침 ends in a consonant. In other words, the final syllable does not have a 받침.

A 받침 is used to refer to the type of plate that one would rest a hot pan/pot onto instead of resting it directly onto the table. In language, it is used to refer to the final consonant of a syllable. Some words have a 받침 (like “”) and some words do not have a 받침 (like “”)

Sometimes you will see compound words where the first half of the word originally doesn’t end in a consonant. That is, where the final syllable of the first half of the word doesn’t have a 받침. For example, I can combine “어제” (yesterday), and “밤” (night) to refer to yesterday’s night (last night). Notice that 어제, which would be the first half of our compound word, doesn’t end in a consonant. In other words, its final syllable doesn’t have a 받침.

In these situations, you will often see ㅅ inserted into the place where a final consonant would go. For example, if we combine 어제 and 밤, the compound word is not 어제밤, but instead it is 어젯밤.

Again, although this is one word, in effect, the first half of the compound word (어제) is describing the second half (밤). What “night” are we talking about? We are talking about yesterday’s “night.”

The addition of a ㅅ into a compound word is called “사이시옷.” 사이 means “in between” and “시옷” is the name of the letter ㅅ. There are rules that indicate when a 사이시옷 should be included. This is a very complex topic, and is something that many Korean people find difficult as well. In fact, this is the kind of thing that Korean students learn in their Korean language classes in high school. Where a Canadian high school student will learn how to use a semicolon in his high school English classes, a Korean high school student will learn how to use the 사이시옷 in his Korean classes.

I would like to use this lesson to explain the rules of 사이시옷 to you.

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Rules

Rule 1: I’ve already explained this, but I want to state it specifically as a rule. The 사이시옷 is only added between the individual constituents of a compound word. It is not added within a regular word.

For example, 가방 is a word on its own. It is not a compound word. Even though “가” doesn’t have a 받침, 사이시옷 would not be added to it. 갓방 is not a word.

However, 어제 and 밤 are words on their own. They can come together to make a compound word – 어젯밤. In this case, 사이시옷 is used.

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Rule 2: I’ve already explained this as well. The 사이시옷 is only added when the final syllable of the first part of the compound word does not have a 받침.

For example, the word for “leaf” is 잎. What kind of leaf are we talking about? I can create a compound word using many types of plants/trees to specifically describe the type of leaf I am referring to. For example:

감잎 = persimmon leaf
호박잎 = pumpkin leaf
마늘잎 = garlic leaf

The three words above are compound words. However, the first half of each compound word (감, 호박 and 마늘), ends in a consonant. 사이시옷 is not added to these words because, well, it can’t fit!

However, I can create a compound word using other types of plants/trees:

깻잎 = sesame leaf
나뭇잎 = tree leaf
배춧잎 = Korean cabbage leaf

The three words above are compound words. The first half of each compound word (깨, 나무, 배추) ends in a vowel. As you can see, 사이시옷 is added to these words.

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Rule 3: You never add 사이시옷 when one of the constituents of the compound word is a foreign loan-word (excluding Hanja). These foreign words typically come from English.

For example, the word for “house” is 집.  What kind of house are we talking about? I can create a compound word to specifically describe the type of house I am referring to:

꽃집 = flower house
찻집 = tea house
고깃집 = meat house (a restaurant that serves meat)
전셋집 = Jeon-sae house (a house that is rented using the 전세 method)

Using Rule 1 and Rule 2, you can understand the four examples above.

However, I can use a foreign loan-word to describe a house. For example:

피자집 = pizza house (a restaurant that serves pizza)

피자 is a word borrowed from English. If there is one of these “foreign” words in a compound word, even if the final syllable of the first word ends in a vowel, 사이시옷 is not used.

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Rule 4: This one is hard to know, especially if you don’t know Chinese or aren’t keeping up with your Hanja studies. At least one of the constituents of the compound word must be of pure Korean origin. As you know, the other half of the compound word cannot be a foreign load-word. However, the other half can be a Hanja-derived word.

Let’s go through this step-by-step:

The word for “road/path” is 길.  What kind of road/path are we talking about? I can create a compound word to specifically describe the type of road/path I am referring to:

뱃길 = a path for boats to follow
빗길 = a road that is being rained on

In both of the words above, both constituents of the compound words are of pure Korean origin. 배 (boat), 비 (rain) and 길 (road/path) are all original Korean words. There is no Hanja equivalent for any of those words. For a Korean learner, it is very hard to know this unless you have been exposed to Korean and Hanja for many, many years.

For me, even without looking in the dictionary, I assumed that 배, 비 and 길 were pure Korean words. I honestly don’t know how I knew this, I just did. Years of exposure to these types of words have given me experience with dealing with them, and this experience gave me the assumption. If you don’t know this right now – you probably don’t have to. Your brain, with time, will most likely be able to recognize Hanja-derived words from pure Korean words eventually.

The word for “going/walking to school” is 등교. 등교 is of Hanja origin and therefore has a Hanja equivalent -登校. I can create a compound word using 등교 and 길:

등굣길 = road/path that is used to walk to school

Remember the rule. At least one of the constituents of the compound word must be of pure Korean origin. The other half can be a Hanja-derived word. 등굣길 meets the requirements of this rule (and all the other rules discussed so far), so a 사이시옷 is used.

Let’s do it again.

The word for “light” is 빛.  What kind of light are we talking about? I can create a compound word to specifically describe the type of light I am referring to:

햇빛 = sunlight
무지갯빛 = rainbow colors (iridescence)

In both of the words above, both constituents of the compound words are of pure Korean origin. 해 (sun), 무지개 (rainbow) and 빛 (light) are all original Korean words. There is no Hanja equivalent for any of those words.

The word for “rose” is 장미. 장미 is of Hanja origin and therefore has a Hanja equivalent -薔薇. I can create a compound word using 장미 and 빛:

장밋빛 = the light (color) of a rose

Remember the rule. At least one of the constituents of the compound word must be of pure Korean origin. The other half can be a Hanja-derived word. 장밋빛 meets the requirements of this rule (and all the other rules discussed so far), so a 사이시옷 is used.

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Rule 5: Rule 4 states that at least one of the constituents of the compound words must be of pure Korean origin. There are six exceptions to this, where both constituents are of Hanja origin, and there is no Korean originated word:

숫자(數字) = a numeral
횟수(回數) = the number of times something is done
찻간(車間) = the inside of a train car
곳간(庫間) = a storehouse
셋방(貰房) = a room to be rented
툇간(退間) = the space between the awning of a traditional Korean building and the actual building

The words 찻간, 곳간 and 툇간 aren’t really said anymore, and young Korean people probably won’t know what they mean. However, older Koreans and those who watch Korean dramas set hundreds of years ago might know.

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Usage

That’s it for the rules. Now let me give you a list of words that are commonly used with (specifically, after) 사이시옷:

= price, value
최댓값 = maximum value
이 공식의 최댓값은 6 입니다 = The maximum value of this formula is 6

전셋값 = the amount of money paid to rent a house via 전세
요즘에는 전셋값이 오르고 있어서 전세로 집을 구하는 사람이 별로 없어요 = These days, the price of 전세 is increasing so there aren’t that many people who use 전세 to rent houses anymore

나잇값 = one’s age (used when saying “act your age!” or something like that)
나잇값을 좀 하세요 = Act your age!

담뱃값 = the price of cigarettes
정부가 내년 담뱃값을 오릴 거라고 했어요 = The government said they will increase the price of cigarettes next year

 

길 = street, road
뱃길 = a path for boats to follow
뱃길을 따라가면 그 섬이 나타날 거예요 = If you follow that (boat) path, the island will appear

찻길 = a path for cars to follow (a road)
눈이 많이 내려서 찻길이 잘 안 보여요 = I can’t see the road very well because a lot of snow fell

빗길 = a road that is being rained on
어제 빗길 때문에 사고가 많이 났어요 = There were a lot of accidents yesterday because of the rainy road

등굣길 = road/path that is used to walk to school
저는 아침마다 등굣길에서 친구를 만나서 같이 학교에 걸어가요 = Every morning I meet my friend on the way to school and we walk to school together

하굣길 = road/path that is used to walk from school
하굣길에 집으로 가고 있었는데 배가 갑자기 고파서 떡볶이 집에 들어갔어요 = I was going home from school when suddenly I was hungry so I went into a 떡볶이 restaurant

기찻길 = a path for trains to follow (a train track)
기찻길을 건널 때 기차가 오는지 확인하세요 = When you cross a train track, check if a train is coming

 

= house
횟집 = sushi house (a restaurant that serves sushi)
횟집에 가면 그런 생선을 먹을 수 있어요 = You can eat that type of fish if you go to a sushi restaurant

찻집 = tea house (a place that serves tea)
인사동에 전통 찻집이 많아요 = There are a lot of traditional tea houses in Insadong (a popular neighborhood for tourists in Seoul)

고깃집 = meat house (a restaurant that serves meat)
종로에 가면 고깃집이 많아요 = If you go to Jongro, there are a lot of meat restaurants

전셋집 = Jeon-sae house (a house that is rented using the 전세 method)
전셋값이 올라서 이제 전셋집이 별로 없어요 = The price of 전세 went up so there isn’t that many 전세 houses now

부잣집 = a rich family/household
그 사람이 부잣집에 태어나서 평생 동안 돈을 쓰는 것에 대해 한번도 걱정 안 했어요 = That person was born into a rich family, so during his whole life he never had to worry about spending money

 

= light
햇빛 = sunlight
햇빛이 많이 들어오는 집이 제일 좋아요 = Houses that allow a lot of light in are the best

장밋빛 = the color (light) of a rose (also used to indicate that something looks good)
이제 사업이 잘 돼서 미래가 장밋빛으로 보여요 = Now that my business is going well, my future looks good

연둣빛 = green color/light
제 셔츠는 오래돼서 이제 연둣빛으로 보여요 = My shirt is old, so now the color looks a light green color

보랏빛 = violet color/light
오늘 꿈에서 보랏빛이 나는 보석을 주었어요 = Today in my dream I picked up a violet colored jewel

무지갯빛 = rainbow colors (iridescence)
제 인생은 무지갯빛처럼 매우 화려해요 = My life is very bright, just like a rainbow

 

= soup
만둣국 = dumpling soup
저의 와이프가 어제 만둣국을 만들었어요 = My wife made dumpling soup yesterday

고깃국 = meat soup
그런 것 대신에 고깃국을 먹는 게 어때요? = Instead of that, how about eating meat soup?

감잣국 = potato soup
어렸을 때 집에 감자만 있어서 매일 감잣국만 먹었어요 = When I was young, we only had potatoes at our house so every day we only ate potato soup

순댓국 = intestine soup
순댓국을 못 먹는 사람이 많지만 저는 순댓국을 제일 좋아해요 = There are many people who don’t like intestine soup, but it is my favorite

김칫국 = kimchi soup
느끼한 음식을 먹을 때마다 김칫국이 생각나요 = Every time I eat something “greasy,” I think about kimchi soup

 

= leaf
깻잎 = sesame leaf
깻잎이 맛이 아주 강해서 외국인들이 보통 안 좋아해요 = The taste of sesame leaves is very strong so foreigners usually don’t like it

나뭇잎 = tree leaf
캐나다 국기에는 나뭇잎이 있어요 = There is a (tree) leaf on the Canadian flag

배춧잎 = Korean cabbage leaf
삼겹살을 먹을 때 고기를 배춧잎에다가 놓고 싸서 먹으면 맛있어요 = When you eat 삼겹살, if you put the meat into a Korean cabbage leaf, wrap it up and eat it, it is delicious

 

= water
빗물 = rainwater
빗물이 현관에 들어왔어요 = Rainwater is coming into the entrance-way

시냇물 = water in/from a stream
시원한 시냇물은 강으로 흘러내렸어요 = The cool stream-water flowed down into the river

양칫물 = water used for brushing one’s teeth
컵을 쓰면 양치를 할 때 양칫물을 아낄 수 있어요 = If you use a cup when you brush your teeth, you can save water

 

= an area near something
바닷가 = an area close to a sea
보통 바닷가에 있는 집이 아주 비싸요  = Usually houses near the ocean/sea are very expensive

호숫가 = an area close to a lake
내일이 휴일이라서 친구들이랑 물놀이를 하러 호숫가에 갈 거예요 = Tomorrow is a holiday, so I will go to the lake-area with my friends to play in the water

 

= work, affairs
뒷일 = aftermath, the work/affairs after something
남자가 경찰관에게 뒷일을 잘 처리해 달라고 몰래 돈을 주었어요 = The man asked the police officer to look after the affairs for him, and he secretly gave him money

훗일 = work/affairs in the future
훗일에 대해 걱정하기보다 현실에 집중해야 돼요 = Better than worrying about the (work in the) future, you should concentrate on the present

 

= day
훗날 = a later day (the future)
제가 훗날에 캐나다로 이사하고 싶어요 = I want to move to Canada in the future

제삿날 = the day that 제사 (Korean ancestral praying) is done
우리는 할아버지 제삿날에 과일이랑 고기를 많이 사 가야 돼요 = On the day of my grandfather’s 제사, we need to buy a lot of fruit and meat before going (presumably to the place where 제사 is done)

 

= light, flame
촛불 = the light of a candle
바람이 너무 세서 촛불이 꺼졌어요 = The wind is very strong so the candle went out

반딧불 = the light of a firefly
아주 어두워서 반딧불이 잘 보여요 = It is very dark so I can see the firefly (light) very well

 

= words, speech
혼잣말 = speaking to oneself
그 왕따가 점심을 먹을 때마다 혼잣말을 많이 해요 = That outcast speaks to himself a lot whenever he eats lunch

 

= side, face
뒷면 = the back side
종이를 아껴 쓰기 위해 종이의 뒷면도 항상 사용해요 = In order to save paper, you should always use the back side of the page

 

 

Pronunciation

The rules for using 사이시옷 can be confusing. Unfortunately, the pronunciation of words containing 사이시옷 aren’t straightforward either.

Pronunciation Rule 1: The first general rule of pronunciation is that the ㅅ sound is not pronounced, and the following consonant’s sound (in the next syllable) is doubled. For example, the word 만둣국 is pronounced as “만두꾹.” Notice how the ㅅ is not pronounced, and the first ㄱ in “국” changed to ㄲ. Look at the examples below to see an example of this from each of the sections above:

Notice that other parts of the word might have a different pronunciation than the spelling for other reasons. For example, on its own is pronounced as “갑.” Also, on its own is pronounced as “빋.” The following pronunciation guides include the pronunciation changes due to the 사이시옷, but also due to other Korean pronunciation phenomena.

Spelling Pronunciation
최댓값 최대깝
뱃길 배낄
찻집 차찝
햇빛 해삗
고깃국 고기꾹
바닷가 바다까
촛불 초뿔

 

Pronunciation Rule 2: If the first sound after the 사이시옷 is an ㄴ or ㅁ, then the 사이시옷 “ㅅ” sound changes to an ㄴ sound. For example:

Spelling Pronunciation
빗물 빈물
시냇물 시낸물
양칫물 양친물
훗날 훈날
제삿날 제산날
혼잣말 혼잔말
뒷면 뒨면

 

Pronunciation Rule 3: If the first sound after the 사이시옷  is a vowel (and therefore, the letter immediately after the 사시시옷 is “ㅇ”), then the 사이시옷 “ㅅ” sound changes to an ㄴ sound, and the ㄴ sound is pronounced again in place of ㅇ. For example:

Spelling Pronunciation
깻잎 깬닢
나뭇잎 나문닢
배춧잎 배춘닢
뒷일 뒨닐
훗일 훈닐

 

I love lessons like this! I just love them! Just completely filled with grammar nonsense. Haha!

That’s it for this lesson!
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