Korean Historical Linguistics
  • ISSN 0257-3784
  • E-ISSN: 2212-9731
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This paper examines the accent systems of Middle Korean (MK) and the contemporary Korean dialects (North/South Kyengsang, Hamkyeng/Yanbian) both synchronically and diachronically, focusing on native simplex nouns. In an analysis of the MK accent system, we clarify correlations between a syllable’s segmental shape and the accent class of the stem, and propose that in Proto-Korean native nouns did not have a distinctive pitch accent. We also show that MK (as well as Proto-Korean) had a right-to-left iambic prominence system in which the unaccented stem class had an underlying floating H tone reflecting an apocopated syllable from an earlier stage of the language. We then examine the regular accentual correspondences between MK and the contemporary dialects and hypothesize that the accent retraction found in the Kyengsang dialects (“Kyengsang accent shift”) took place after the introduction of Sino-Korean vocabulary. Finally, based on an Optimality Theoretic analysis, we show that all dialects including MK tend to avoid a lapse in accent at the right edge of the word, which is accomplished by different repair strategies.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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