A cognitive account of the Korean morpheme-se

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Traditional treatments of Modern Korean consider the morpheme -se as strictly a clause combining element, similar in function to the coordinating conjunction 'and' and the adverbial conjunctives 'and then' or 'because' in English. However, the morpheme also appears in a number of postpositional opposition pairs such as ey 'to' and eyse 'from,' myen 'if/when' and myense 'while, at the same time,' ulo 'toward' and ulose 'as, in the capacity of.' And it is here that traditionalists do not recognize this instance of -se as meaningful in and of itself. That is, traditional views consider such opposition pairs as ey 'to' and eyse 'from' as simply opposite notions of goal and source, respectively, with the second member constituting a full 'chunk,' not distinctly analyzable into two separate morphemes, i.e., ey+se. This paper proposes a unified analysis of -se, both as a clausal connector as well as a bound morpheme in postpositional opposition pairs. All instances of -se will be analyzed as one and the same signal, the basic meaning of which is "groundedness." Specifically, we will demonstrate that -se with its meaning of 'groundedness,' functions to establish inclusiveness and thus to link entities to each other, to link entities to locations and/or events, and to link events to other events. Through this signal-meaning-function approach, it will be shown throughout this paper that the addition of -se, by virtue of its meaning of groundedness, serves to transfer entities and events from the domain of IRREALIS to the domain of REALIS. As such, far from being a non-existent morpheme beyond its clause-combining function, it will be shown that -se actually carries powerful semantic meaning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)375-392
Number of pages18
JournalLanguage Sciences
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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