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Prof. Seongha Rhee: Ellipsis and Discourse Marker Development in Korean: The Functions of the Unsaid


Prof. Seongha Rhee, Mahidol University, Thailand and Hankuk Univ. of Foreign Studies, Korea:

Discourse markers (DMs) develop from various source lexemes and constructions and carry diverse and often multiple functions largely depending on the contexts in which they occur (Fischer 2006 and works therein, Koo 2018, Heine et al. 2021: 64, Rhee and Koo 2021: 77) as well as the prosodic features that accompany them (Hancil 2013 and works in Hancil & Hirst 2013). Korean has one group of DMs that developed from sentential fragments through ellipsis (EDMs; Rhee 2023), i.e., those that were morpho-syntactically incapable of standing alone. This structural characteristic is evident in the fact that they are still marked with such morpho-syntactic trappings as an ADN(ominal) (thus a noun modifier) or an ACC(usative) case marker (thus a verbal argument), as illustrated in (1) and exemplified in (2) with (1a), taken from a corpus (DEC: declarative, BEN: benefactive, PROM: promissive, POL: polite):

(1)                   a. ilen              < ile-n                         [be.like.this-ADN]                             ‘this kind of’

                        b. celen                       < cele-n                                  [be.like.that-ADN]                             ‘that kind of’

                        c. mwusun       < mwusu-n                  [what-ADN]                                                   ‘what kind of’

                        d. weyn                       < *wey-n                     [why-ADN]                                                   ‘of what reason/cause’

                        e. wen              < weyn < *wey-n (= (1d) above)

                        f. mwel                        < mwusu-l                   [what-ACC]                                                   ‘what (object/theme argument)’

                        g. weynkel       < *wey-n-ke-l  [why-ADN-thing-ACC]         ‘what (object/theme argument)’


(2) [A and B are art high school students. As B turns around A’s pallet falls onto B’s white slippers and stains them.]

A:    ilen!!                coysongha-mta.                      takk-atuli-lkey-yo

                                    DM                 be.sorry-DEC                         clean-BEN-PROM-POL

                                    'O, no (lit. ‘This kind of’)! I'm sorry. I will wash (them) for you!'

B:    (frowns looking down his slippers stained with colors.)

The EDM ilen in (2), literally ‘this kind of’, is used to express A’s surprise about her mistake and embarrassment for the damage it caused. Despite its morphology of syntactic dependence it is now used as a syntactically independent form resembling an interjection. All EDMs carry the properties characteristic of DMs in meaning, structure, prosody, function, etc. In terms of discursive functions, EDMs cut across discourse domains such as interaction management, information management, and interlocutor management. Their most prominent function is signaling surprise, a function derived from the structural ellipsis, i.e. the speaker is, or pretends to be, unable to complete the utterance by being overwhelmed by the event or state of affairs. Surprise, an inherently subjective emotion, is further extended to intersubjective and interactive domains.

A diachronic and synchronic analysis of these EDMs presents a number of interesting issues in the study of DM functions and their emergence. For instance, a DM function is not only derivable from the source lexemes but also from the structures themselves (i.e. ellipsis; cf. ‘insubordination’ Evans 2007; ‘incoordination’ Kuteva et al. 2015, Rhee 2020); the diverse EDM functions are often correlated with their characteristic prosodies; and their development displays directionality in terms of positionality, i.e. from clause-internal to peripheral positions; and of conceptual domains, i.e., from textual to subjective and to intersubjective domains. Drawing upon the data from historical and contemporary data, this talk presents the developmental paths of EDMs in Korean and discusses their theoretical significance in grammaticalization studies.


02.06.2023, 10:30 Uhr - 12:00 Uhr
Institut für Amerikanistik und Anglistik, English Language and Linguistics
Ort: 23.21.U1.48