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Honorification in Korean as Expressive Meaning

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Abstract. Honorification in Korean elevates the social status of a participant in a clause with respect to the subject and/or the hearer. Honorific marking may occur as a nominal suffix, a special honor-ific form of a noun, an honorific case particle, an honorific marker on a verb, or a special honorific form of a verb. Previous accounts have proposed a specification [HON +], with unmarked forms typically being [HON -]. Our key idea is that honorific forms introduce a dimension of meaning, the expressive meaning of Potts (2005), which is privative, and hence simply absent from all non-honorific forms.

All previous accounts fail with regard to three types of fact: first, the different expressions of 'honor-ification' do not mean exactly the same thing. Second, multiple expressions of honorific marking within the same clause progressively elevates the social status of the referent: the effect is cumula-tive. Third, under the traditional analysis, some nouns have to be given a spurious and ultimately inconsistent ambiguity. We further argue that it is mistaken to consider honorific marking to be 'agreement' between, say, a subject and a verb. This position puts us in contrast with all of the syn-tactic literature on Korean (and Japanese), and some of the semantic and pragmatic literature.

Keywords: Expressive meaning; Honorification; Korean

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1075/kl.13.08ps

Publication date: January 1, 2006

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