From truth to reality to effect

The journey of sasilsang in Korean


  • Seongha Rhee Hankuk University of Foreign Studies



discourse marker, sasilsang, reality, (inter)subjectification, stance-marking


The Korean discourse marker sasilsang, literally ‘in fact’, developed from the Sino-Korean nouns sasil ‘truth, fact’ and sang ‘top’ as a compound. Unlike its original meaning making reference to religious truth, its later meanings are concerned with reference to reality, hidden reality, etc. The hidden reality meaning prompted the word’s development into a discourse marker as a signal to indicate the surprising nature of the information to be presented. Interestingly, hidden reality is often the speaker’s interpretive reality rather than objective reality. The strategic use of the discourse marker engendered such discursive functions as marking common-ground solicitation, pause-filling, hesitance, and politeness, among others. The development of the discourse marker can be characterised as an instance of subjectification and intersubjectification. The oft-cited peripheral asymmetry, however, cannot be confirmed by the development of the discourse marker sasilsang.

Author Biography

Seongha Rhee, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies

Seongha Rhee is a professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, Seoul, Korea. He received his PhD in Linguistics from the University of Texas at Austin in 1996. His primary research interest is to identify cognitive and discursive mechanisms that enable language change from the crosslinguistic and typological perspectives.


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How to Cite

Rhee, S. . (2021). From truth to reality to effect: The journey of sasilsang in Korean. East Asian Pragmatics, 6(3), 331–353.