Honorific language and linguistic politeness in Korean
  • ISSN 0257-3784
  • E-ISSN: 2212-9731
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One of the salient features of the Korean language is honorifics. Two kinds of honorifics have been discussed in the literature, subject honorific and addressee honorific. The subject honorific is characterized by honorific markers on the subject and predicate. The addressee honorific is usually marked by formal and/or polite speech style particles at the end of a sentence. The subject honorific is characterized by its optionality which has raised many questions about its nature, whether it is a type of formal feature agreement or not. The addressee honorific, however, has not received much attention from a theoretical perspective in the literature though much descriptive work is available. In this paper, we attempt to discuss the optionality of subject honorific in the context of the nature of honorifics in general, including the addressee honorific. More specifically, we examine how honorific is encoded in the grammar by focusing on embedding of honorifics. Some empirical data show that embedding of honorifics (or politeness) is restricted in certain constructions. Based on examining these constructions, we claim that there is a generalization that prohibits the occurrence of honorific/politeness marker in the embedded CP domain. We further claim that this restriction interacts with subject honorific in such a way that it forces the agreement of honorific to take place obligatorily in certain constructions, thereby making the optionality of the subject honorific to hold only conditionally and circumstantially.


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