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Definiteness in Korean: Contrastive study between Korean and Italian

Posted By admin On May 30, 2013 @ 1:25 pm In Abstracts for 2013, Linguistics and Language Teaching | Comments Disabled

Imsuk JUNG, lecturer/contract professor

Università di Roma La Sapienza


The present work aims to explore the nature of bare nominal arguments in Korean and to examine how Italian-speaking learners can perceive the definite or indefinite concept in NP during their acquisition of the Korean language as L2.

The purpose of this paper is to deepen the contrastive analysis between Korean and Italian with regard to the concept of semantic and pragmatic definiteness. The concept of definiteness is mostly based on Western languages (e.g. Romance languages, Germanic languages), especially by the article system and by the specification of gender and number.

Korean language, however, is characterized by a lower definiteness, without definite or indefinite articles. A particular feature of the languages that have not developed the category of the article is that the determination and the indetermination are expressed by other functional elements that could substitute articles (e.g. demonstrative pronouns as ‘that, the’, numeral classifiers or quantifiers, case markers like –ŭn/nŭn and –i/ka or pragmatic context).

As a result of these linguistic differences, we have issues that are useful to examine. In the translation approach, for example, the combination of +/- definiteness occurs continuously, thereby forcing the translator to adopt alternative strategies and to abandon some significant nuances of the original text.

In the first section my research will concern the question of determining the functional structures of NP (Nominal Phrase) as arguments and examine them throughout the syntactic, semantic and pragmatic comparison with Italian. In this section I will analyze how Korean and Italian NP are constructed with the contrastive point of view. To compare the classification of Korean and Italian nouns I will need to reproduce the distributional criteria of the nouns proposed by Chomsky (1965:82) as follows: a. N à [+N, ± common], b. [+ common] à [± countable], c. [+ countable] à [± animate], d. [- common] à [± animate], e. [+ animate] à [± human], f. [- countable] à [± abstract].

In the second section the usage of null and marked topic/subject will be examined in the contrastive study. Korean, as is well known in the linguistic literature, is a discourse-prominent language, and nominals can drop for pragmatic reasons, if predictable in the immediate environment. I will focus my research on topic and null arguments in Korean through the syntax and discourse which often produce the opacity relating to the definiteness (Park, Egedi, Palmer 2011).

In fact, another object of linguistic debate on the Korean language is the exact role of particles and the case markers –ŭn/nŭn and –i/ka, markers, respectively, for the topic and the subject of the sentence. Theses case markers can easily be omitted and elicited from the discourse or context. There is no doubt that, even here, the lack of clarity in the use of such markers in some way contributes to the lack of definiteness in the Korean language. Therefore we will be interested in finding out how and in which context Korean native speakers produce or drop these markers on noun phrases and how Italian learners use or omit them, based on the pragmatic and syntactic properties governing them.

The third section will take into account the contrastive study applied to teaching, summarizing the previous analysis relating to the concept of definiteness: syntactic contrast, semantic contrast and pragmatic contrast. We will focus on the issue of how the Korean topics and null arguments can be easily analyzed and acquired by Italian natives despite the lack of overt ‘determiners’ in Korean, a focus which will make the comparative study with Italian more interesting.

Much research on definiteness has focused on languages where it is easily identified by articles, but less research has concentrated on languages like Korean where the definiteness can be marked via other linguistic elements (case markers, demonstrative pronouns, numeral classifiers or quantifiers or pragmatics). In this work, I will provide an introduction of methodology and procedures, characterizing the different syntactic constructions in Korean and Italian and analyzing the definiteness expressed with and without an article. Cross-linguistic correspondence patterns and contrastive aspects of Korean collocations with Italian equivalents will be suggested, thus contributing to an almost new area of research.

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URL to article: http://www.najaks.org/?p=961