Speaker:  Dr Narah Lee, Korean Lecturer, School of Languages and Cultures, UQ

Narah Lee teaches Advanced Korean, Korean Popular Culture and Korean Film Review at SLC since she joined the School in December 2019. She received her doctoral degree in Linguistics at the Australian National University in 2019 and had taught Korean at the ANU between 2013 and 2019. Her research interests include pragmatic implicatures, person reference, (im)politeness, socio-pragmatic interaction in spoken discourse, and teaching Korean as a second language.  

TitlePragmatic Perspective to Subject Expression in Korean


This research examines the pragmatic and sociolinguistic meaning of overtly expressed subjects in spoken Korean where subject omission is known to happen frequently. I focus on first and second person that are not just an agent of a predicate in a sentence but also an active participant of spoken discourse and test the actual occurrence of them. The distribution of first and second person subjects in the corpora reveals that the rates of subject expression are 31% for first person and 22% for second person and that the expressed subjects are in various referential forms rather than simply in first or second person pronouns.

While some Korean linguistics claim that an overt subject tends to appear in the context of contrast or turn shift, detailed analysis has been missing in the literature. I provide clearer evidence that overt first and second person subjects are widely and actively utilised in displaying contrast and discourse organisation in spoken discourse. I also find that overt first and second person subjects are used with indexical and interpersonal functions. For the indexical function, an overt first or second person subject is used to attract extra attention to the subject of the particular speech act. In the data, they are frequently found in certain speech acts that include recalling information to confirm, taking responsibility and giving credit. The interpersonal function is in effect when different referential forms from those normally expected in the context are chosen and deliver interpersonal attitudes, such as intimacy or (im)politeness.

In spoken Korean discourse, an overt subject can raise multiple effects that are not conveyed by an unexpressed alternative. Applying extensive discourse analysis on empirical data, this research sheds light on explaining the phenomenon of subject expression that has been less well understood in the literature on the grammar of subject omission.



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