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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Discourse-Pragmatic Uses of the Korean Interrogative Sentence Enders -Na/-(u)Nka, -Nya, and -Ni

  • Author(s): JEONG, SEUNGGON
  • Advisor(s): Sohn, Sung-Ock
  • et al.

This dissertation attempts to contribute to the study of Korean sentence enders by investigating one particular type of sentence enders—i.e., interrogative sentence enders. By exploring the discourse-pragmatic functions of the familiar and plain speech level interrogative sentence enders -na/–(u)nka, –nya, and –ni that are employed in naturally-occurring informal conversations, this dissertation seeks to illuminate the discourse-pragmatic functions of these interrogative sentence enders and thereby move beyond the traditional account of these interrogative sentence enders as a sentence type and speech level marker. This dissertation shows that the familiar speech level interrogative sentence ender -na/-(u)nka, which is often prosodically realized as a high boundary tone, functions as an epistemic modality marker of uncertainty and is employed for various pragmatic uses as follows: (a) to ask other-addressed questions, (b) to tentatively assert factual information, (c) to allude to disagreements, (d) to express thoughts and feelings in the form of rhetorical questions, and (e) to ask self-addressed questions. It also shows that the speakers use the plain speech level interrogative sentence enders –nya and –ni for stance taking or discourse organization. –Nya and –ni that are used to form a rhetorical question function as an alignment marker. As a divergent alignment marker, –nya is used to index the current speaker’s disagreement with the prior speaker’s stance whereas –ni, as a convergent alignment marker, is employed to index the current speaker’s agreement with the prior speaker’s stance. –Nya and –ni that are used as genuine information-seeking questions function as a discourse-organizing marker. –Nya functions as an index of topic discontinuity and is used to form a question that deals with a new topic whereas –ni functions as an index of topic continuity and is employed to inquire about a previously established topic. By documenting the discourse-pragmatic functions of�-na/-(u)nka�as an epistemic modality marker as well as�those of�–nya�and�–ni�as an alignment marker and a discourse-organizing marker, this dissertation demonstrates that sentence enders are�not only a syntactic resource but also a�discourse-pragmatic resource.

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