Korean Honorifics - Australian National University

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Korean Honorifics:A Case Study Analysis ofKorean Speech Levelsin Naturally Occurring ConversationsJeong Yoon Ku2014A sub-thesis submitted as a requirement for the degree of Master ofApplied Linguistics in The Australian National University.

DeclarationTo the best of my knowledge, this thesis represents my own original research unlessotherwise acknowledged in the text.Jeong Yoon KuJuly, 2014

AcknowledgementsI would like to express my deep appreciation of the many wonderful people who helpedme and supported me throughout my research at ANU.First of all, I would like to express my greatest appreciation to my supervisor, Dr.Johanna Rendle-Short, who guided and supported me throughout the whole process ofmy research. She always gave critical comments on my research and encouraged me todevelop my ideas. Her course ‘Conversation Analysis’ gave me a chance to learn how tounderstand ‘conversation’. Without Dr. Rendle-Short’s advice and encouragement, Icould not have completed this thesis successfully.In addition, I would like to express my sincere appreciation to Prof. Catherine Travis,who advised and supported me academically and mentally. It would have been veryhard for me to progress in my research without her support.Teaching Korean at ANU gave me the valuable experience of doing my research whileapplying my knowledge and understanding to my interactions with Korean languagestudents. I would like to express my deep appreciation to the members of the KoreaInstitute, especially Prof. Hyaeweol Choi, Dr. Roald Maliangkay, and Dr. RuthBarraclough. In particular, Prof. Hyaeweol Choi’s support and valuable advice was veryhelpful, and motivated me to progress my research. Dr. Roald Maliangkay alwaysencouraged me during the process of my research and I especially appreciate hiskindness in sharing his precious time to read my thesis. It has been a great opportunityas well as a pleasure to work with him. Dr. Ruth Barraclough earned my gratitude forher excellent advice on my research as well as on Australian life. In addition, I remainextremely grateful and honoured to be a recipient of the Korea Foundation Postgraduate Fellowship.I would like to extend my deep appreciation to Mr. John Peak, who encouraged myinterest in the teaching of second languages. His endless support was the foundationwhich allowed me to begin my studies and my Korean teaching. My sincereappreciation also goes to Ms. Young Hea Chong for giving me a wonderful chance toteach Korean. It is always enjoyable to work with her.i

I would like to thank the members of the Discourse Analysis Group (DAG), especiallyElaheh Etehadieh, Clark Libby, Alison Miils, Yanyan Wang, Fariba Shirali, Theresa deCastella, Xujia Du, and Eriko Toma. I thank Ms. Laurie Durand for her valuablecomments and suggestions on my thesis. I am also grateful to all the speakers who werewilling to participate in this research by recording their conversations.During my studies at ANU, my friends enriched my life in Australia and helped me tomanage the harder times. I thank Eun-Joo Jung, who has always given her unconditionalsupport from Korea. Also, special thanks to my old friend Ms. Fusako Yoshinaga, whowas a good listener, gave me good comments, and is a great cook and gardener.I would like to give special thanks to my family, who have supported me this entire time.Finally, I cannot find the words to thank Yon Jae and Gitae, who have endlesslysupported me during my research and my life. Their love became the fundamentalsource which inspired me to persevere during my research at ANU.ii

AbstractThe Korean honorific system, one of the significant grammatical systems in Korean,indicates the hierarchical social status of participants and plays an essential role insocial interaction. For example, the speech levels are forms of sentence final suffixesattached to verbs and adjectives. They can be grammatically organized according tospeakers’ relationships. Speakers must choose among these verb endings and/orvocabulary items during every interaction. Therefore, the proper use of speech levels isa key factor in the expression of social identities, speakers’ interpersonal feelings, andrelationships.However, interpersonal feelings and relationships are hard to explain through actual useof speech levels. There are two aspects of interpersonal relationships between theparticipants in a conversation that affect the use of honorifics: vertical distance (gender,age) and horizontal distance (the degree of intimacy), and these two aspects ofinterpersonal relationships show the complexity of the use of speech levels.Because of the complexity of the use of speech levels, many Korean language learnersfeel that it is difficult to learn Korean speech levels. Several researchers have examinedKorean language textbooks and language teaching in terms of Korean honorifics. Theyhave pointed out several problems in current teaching materials and emphasized theimportance of pragmatic factors and the necessity of authentic data to fully reflect actualKorean honorific uses. Addressing these issues, the thesis demonstrates the need forteaching materials that introduce how honorific speech levels are used in naturallyoccurring conversation by showing the complexity of how one speaker can use andswitch among speech levels depending on the interlocutors or situations in theconversational interaction.iii

Table of ContentsChapter 1Introduction . 11.0.Introduction . 11.1.Politeness in Korea .31.2.The Korean Honorifics . .61.2.1. Predicate Endings (Speech Levels, Hearer Honorifics) .61.2.2. Honorific Particles . .91.2.3. Honorific Verbs/Nouns and Lexical Markers .101.2.4. First Person Pronouns and Forms of Address .111.3.Social Variables and Politeness .131.4.Social Factors in the Choice of Speech Levels .151.4.1. Age . 161.4.2. Gender . .161.4.3. Degree of Intimacy . 171.5.Teaching Speech Levels . . 181.6.Research Questions . . 201.7.Structure of the Thesis . . 21Chapter 2Data and Methodology . 232.0.Introduction . .232.1.Data Collection . 242.2.Setting and Participants . .252.2.1. Ethnographic Background of Main Participant (So-Yeong) .292.2.2. Main Participant’s Interactional Scenarios .292.3.Transcription . .322.4.Conversation Analysis (CA) . . .332.4.1. Adjacency Pairs . . 352.4.2. Turn-taking . . 352.4.3. Turn-taking in Korean . 362.5.Frequency of Speech Levels . . .372.6.Chapter Summary . 40iv

Chapter 3The Use of Honorific Speech Levels 413.0.Introduction . .413.1.The Use of the Deferential Speech Level in Conversation (-(su)pnita) 413.2.The Use of the Polite Speech Level in Conversation (-(a/e)yo) .463.2.1. Non-Reciprocal Use: Age and Intimacy .463.2.2. Strategy for Interruption .553.2.3. Recipient as Unspecified People .573.2.4. The Relationship with Terms of Address 603.3.Chapter Summary 65Chapter 4The Use of Non-Honorific Speech Levels 664.0.Introduction . . .664.1.The Use of the Intimate Speech Level in Conversation (-a/e) .664.1.1. Reciprocity of Use . . 674.1.2. Special Use: Talking to Oneself 744.2.The Use of the Plain Speech Level in Conversation (-ta) .784.2.1. The Meaning of Plain Speech Level Utterances 794.2.2. The Sequential Position of the Plain Speech Level 874.2.3. Age and Relationship of Interlocutors 964.3.Chapter Summary . .106Chapter 5Conclusion 1085.0.Introduction . . .1085.1.Summary of Findings . 1095.2.Implications for Language Pedagogy . 1135.3.Limitations and Suggestions for Further Research .115References . .117Appendix 1: Intimacy Survey . 128Appendix 2: Conversation Analysis Transcription Conventions 129Appendix 3: Interliner Gloss Abbreviations . 130Appendix 4: Teaching Korean Speech Levels in the Korean Classroom 131v

Chapter 1 Introduction1.0. IntroductionEveryday life entails a constant process of interacting with others through language.Each society has its own rules and norms, which are conventionalized and revealedthrough conversational interaction. Speakers choose what they think are proper forms tointeract with their interlocutors based on these social rules and norms. Therefore,language learners should understand these rules and norms to use target languageproperly.Korea is a vertical and hierarchical society (Yoon, 2004, p. 194). The Korean system ofhonorifics, which forms a significant part of the Korean language, is representative ofthe hierarchical social status of the interlocutors. It is commonly divided into two maingroups: hearer and referent honorifics (Yeon & Brown, 2011, p. 6). These honorifics,more specifically, appear as speech levels (hearer honorifics), particles, lexical markers,honorific verbs, and nouns and pronouns, as well as address/reference terms (Sohn,1999, p. 16). Honorifics play an essential role in social interaction (Wang, 1990, p. 25).For example, speech levels are sentence final suffixes attached to verbs and adjectives(Cho, Lee, Schulz, Sohn, & Sohn, 2010, p. 7). They can be systematically organizedaccording to speakers’ relationships. Speakers must choose among these verb endingsand/or vocabulary items during every interaction. Therefore, the proper use of speechlevels is a key factor in the expression of social identities and the relationships ofspeakers with addressees. The use of speech levels can provide insight into speakers’interpersonal feelings and relationships (Byon, 2006, p. 258).1

However, interpersonal feelings and relationships are hard to explain based on the actualuse of speech levels. Previous studies of speech levels (hearer honorifics) show that twoaspects of interpersonal relationships between participants in a conversation affect theuse of honorifics: vertical distance (social status, age, gender) and horizontal distance(the degree of intimacy) (Han, 2002; Hijirida & Sohn, 1986; Lee, 1994). In terms ofusing the speech levels, vertical distance (power) and horizontal distance (solidarity) areinversely related (Yoo, 1994). However, Lee (2012) argues that Yoo’s explanation onlypartially explains how participants’ relationships and speech situations influencehonorific speech level use. Y. S. Park (1995, pp. 566–567) also argues that the use ofspeech levels is not related to solidarity. Similarly, in Japanese, which also has hearerhonorifics, the use of speech levels can vary depending on interpersonal relationships,contextual features, or indexical meanings (Cook, 1996; Maynard, 1993; Okamoto,2011). These studies, mentioned above, show the complexity of relationships on the useof speech levels.For this reason, and because of the complexity of the honorific system, many Koreanlanguage learners feel that it is difficult to learn Korean speech levels (Byon, 2000, p.275). Several researchers have examined Korean textbooks and language teaching interms of Korean honorifics (e.g., Brown & Wen, 1994; Brown, 2010; Byon, 2000; Choo,1999; Ha, 2010; E. K. Lee, 2005; J. B. Lee, 2005). They have pointed out severalproblems in current teaching materials and emphasized the importance of pragmaticfactors and the necessity of authentic data to fully reflect actual Korean honorific use.For example, Brown (2010) explored the Korean honorific speech levels in secondlanguage teaching by analyzing three textbooks published in Seoul. He argues that thesimplicity of textbooks’ explanations leads to the use of speech levels being presented in2

an inauthentic and inappropriate way that betrays preconceptions regarding the abilitiesand the social roles of Korean language learners. Thus, there is a need for teachingmaterials that introduce how honorific speech levels are used in ordinary speech andhow one speaker can use and switch among speech levels depending on theinterlocutors or situations in the conversational interaction.This thesis examines the use of speech levels in Korean based on naturally occurringconversational data and analyzes the complexity and diversity of speech levels’ use. Inparticular, by showing how one speaker uses and changes speech levels with a range ofinterlocutors and in different contexts, the study examines the actual use of Koreanspeech levels in detail.This chapter is organized as follows: Section 1.1 discusses linguistic politeness. InSection 1.2, I provide a general explanation of Korean honorifics including hearerhonorifics (speech levels). Sections 1.3 focuses on social variables and politeness andSection 1.4 discuss social factors such as age, gender, and degree of intimacy. Section1.5 presents the situation of teaching speech levels. In Section 1.6, I present the researchquestions of this thesis. The structure of the thesis is explained in Section Politeness in KoreaLinguistic politeness is closely linked to the concept of ‘social distance’, which is ‘acomposite of psychological factors’ (age, gender, degree of intimacy, etc.), to show the‘degree of respect’ within a given speech situation (Thomas, 1985, p. 766). It is alsorelated to how language is used to control human interaction in order to establish mutual3


Korean language textbooks and language teaching in terms of Korean honorifics. They have pointed out several problems in current teaching materials and emphasized the importance of pragmatic factors and the necessity of authentic data to fully reflect actual Korean honorific uses. Addressing these issues, the thesis demonstrates the need for teaching materials that introduce how honorific .

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