London Korean Links

Covering things Korean in London and beyond since 2006

Modal Questions in Korean and Japanese: free SOAS linguistics talk

A bit short notice I’m afraid, but there’s a free talk at 5pm today, 9 June at SOAS
Venue: Room B104, First Floor, Brunei Gallery, Russell Square Campus
The abstract below may have lost a little in translation from Word to OpenOffice.

Modal Questions in Korean and Japanese
Yukinori Takubo (Kyoto University)
Summi Kim (Miyazaki University)

In this talk we will discuss constraints on questions with modals in Korean and Japanese. In Korean there are two expressions for expressing future: -겠-(keyss) and -을 것이(-ul kes-i: -future adnominal form+thing+copula). They can be used more or less in the same way, as in )a,b, when they express intention. The differences begin to emerge when they are attached to non-volitional predicates.

(1) a. Nayil tangsin-un o-keyss-upni-kka?
    tomorrow you-TOP come-keyss-HON-Q
‘Are you coming tomorrow?
b. Nayil tangsin-un o-l kes-i-pni-kka?
tomorrow you-TOP come-l kes-i-HON-Q
‘Are you coming tomorrow?

(2) a. (Situation:the speaker greets a farmer looking up at the sky)
  Nayil pi-ka o-keys-ssupni-kka?
    tomorrow rain-NOM come-keyss-HON-Q
‘Will it rain tomorrow?’
b. (same as in a)
*Nayil pi-ka o-l kes-i-pni-kka?
   tomorrow rain-NOM come-l kes-i HON-Q
‘Will it rain tomorrow?’

(2) b cannot naturally be interpreted as an epistemic question, asking if the addressee thinks it will rain, in contrast to a, which can. In a very special context, (2)b can be coerced to be interpreted as asking someone who can control rain, e.g. a deity or a scientist who is conducting an artificial rain experiment.
The distribution of ul kes-i can be accounted for if we assume that it expresses epistemic necessity. As can be seen in (1)-(2), sentences expressing epistemic necessity cannot be questioned in English (3) or in Japanese (4).

(3) a. It must rain in the afternoon.
b. ??Must it rain in the afternoon?
(4) a. Gogo-ni ame-ga huru hazu-da.
afternoon-in rain-NOM fall must
‘It must rain in the afternoon.’
b. ??Gogo-ni ame-ga huru hazu-kai?
afternoon-in rain-NOM fall must-Q
‘Must it rain in the afternoon?’

A sentence expressing epistemic necessity can be made into a question by changing it into a meta-question, i.e. a question asking about the modal force itself: whether it is necessary or not. In Japanese, such a meta-question can be formed by adding no, the complementizer. We will show that the only way that ul kes-i can be interpreted as a meta-question is to interpret it as expressing the predetermined future, thereby accounting for the special coerced interpretation of ul kes-i .

I never understand why there are Korean grammars which don’t have a a single letter of hangeul in them…

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