Korean question particles are pronominals: A transparent case of representing discourse participants in the syntax
Chonghyuck Kim
December 2010

This paper investigates the Korean question particles, namely, ni, nya, na, ka, and kka, and claims that most of the particles are in fact pronominals such as you, I, and (s)he that refer to discourse participants, in particular Hearer, involved in an act of questioning. Two pieces of empirical evidence are provided to support the claim. The first is morphological in nature: ni and nya look the same as or very similar to the (Korean) pronoun you; and na and ka have the same morphological shape as I and (s)he, respectively. The second, which builds on Jang¡¯s (1999) observation, has to do with the force of the question particles: ni and nya induce direct force requiring an answer from Hearer, whereas na and ka induce indirect force that does not demand an answer from Hearer. This difference in force between the two groups of particles is shown to follow from analyzing them as pronominals that encode information about who the questions in which they occur are directed to. If a question is directed to Hearer via ni or nya (you), Hearer is required to answer. In contrast, if a question is directed to Speaker via na (I), or to a third person via ka (she/he), Hearer need not answer the question. For the remaining particle kka, I will argue that it is a genuine Q(uestion)-morpheme with the meaning we want an answer¡¦ If the claim made here is correct, Korean question particles constitute a transparent case where information about discourse participants is encoded in the syntax, providing direct support for a version of the so-called performative hypothesis.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/001157
(please use that when you cite this article)
keywords: question particles, illocutionary force, korean, discourse participants, sentence type, syntax, semantics
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