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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Use of Final Suffixes in the Negotiation of Interactional Identity and Listenership: A Study of the Endings ‘-supnita/-supnikka’ and ‘-eyo’ in Korean Institutional Conversations

  • Author(s): Jo, Jaehyun
  • Advisor(s): Sohn, Sung-Ock Shin
  • et al.

What makes the rich verbal inflection system in Korean grammar even more tangled is the reported presence of formal (‘-supnita/-supnikka’) and casual (‘-eyo’) endings. Many scholars have traditionally categorized them in terms of formality or the level of deference and affection. This approach, however, has paid little attention to how Korean speakers actually ‘code-switch’ between the two forms in a rather dynamic manner at each turn at talk. More recent studies from a more functional perspective mainly focus on the speaker’s side of the interaction. This dissertation analyzes spontaneous conversational data from various institutional settings such as the news interview, variety show, parliamentary hearing, courtroom conversation, and presidential TV debate in an attempt to examine the interactional role of the two Korean endings, ‘-supnita/-supnikka’ and ‘-eyo,’ in the service of social action. I first transcribed the data following the conventions widely used in Conversation Analysis, then marked all the endings employed in 1st pair part questions and 2nd pair part answers by who issued it, and in which pair part and with what local context it was issued. It has been argued that different languages employ different linguistic devices to project and reshape identities of the other(s) present in real-time interaction. My analyses show that in the institutional conversation of Korean, speakers use the two endings in a highly selective manner to achieve the interactional goal of properly registering the other interactant(s) either as an ordinary person (i.e. INTERPERSONAL use coupled with ‘-eyo’) or as one of his/her social roles (i.e. INSTITUTIONAL use paired with ‘-supnita/-supnikka’). This view helps us understand why speakers code-switch between the two endings even when both the situational and the topical formality remain unchanged. Especially, the institutional use can further explain, in a sense that it is a type of non-personal use, the interesting mobilization of ‘-supnita’ in delivering unidirectional notification that does not require any responses from the recipient even within the sequence in which the interpersonal use of ‘-eyo’ is predominant by the same speaker. This unidirectional type of ‘-supnita’ addresses ‘detached’ listenership (i.e. IMPERSONAL use). Also, when these endings appear in a mixed manner, there are distinct sets of co-occurring linguistic devices for different positions in which each ending appears within the same sequence of talk. This study contributes to a more comprehensive understanding of the dynamic grammar use driven by the interactional goal of negotiating the moment-by-moment identities of the listener through ongoing talk. It is also demonstrated in this study that by focusing on the ways in which the speaker carefully projects the listener, we can explain and incorporate two seemingly different types: bidirectional usage (interpersonal ‘-eyo’ and institutional ‘-supnita’) and unidirectional usage (impersonal ‘-supnita’) of the endings into one comprehensive model in relation to different interactional identities and distinct types of listenership.

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