The rise and fall of a discourse marker

The case of kisil in Korean

Authors

  • Sujin Eom Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
  • Seongha Rhee Hankuk University of Foreign Studies

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.1558/eap.20900

Keywords:

discourse marker, grammaticalisation, (inter)subjectification, periphery, borrowing

Abstract

The Korean discourse marker kisil(un) presents an interesting grammaticalisation scenario. It began its life as a borrowing from Chinese, a syntactic construction to mean ‘that/its fruit’ in Middle Korean, and developed into a single lexeme with more abstract meanings, e.g., ‘essence, reality, fact, truth’ and further grammaticalised into a discourse marker signalling the speaker’s diverse stances in discourse contexts. As it was a borrowing from Chinese, its initial uses carried pedanticism and became officially banned in Modern Korean as part of efforts for ‘language purism’. The journey of kisil(un) exhibits subjectification in meaning and inter-subjectification in function. In particular, speakers use it to invite the interlocutor to some common ground. In discourse it also signals assertiveness and thus rarely co-occurs with hesitance markers. Unlike most discourse markers, kisil(un) does not have much positional freedom but occurs mostly between the subject and the predicate, bridging two contrasting propositions.

Author Biographies

Sujin Eom, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies

Sujin Eom is an instructor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, Seoul, Korea. She received her PhD in Linguistics from the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in 2020. Her primary research interest is to identify cognitive and discursive mechanisms that enable language change from the crosslinguistic and typological perspectives.

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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Published

2021-11-10

How to Cite

Eom, S. ., & Rhee, S. . (2021). The rise and fall of a discourse marker: The case of kisil in Korean. East Asian Pragmatics, 6(3), 381–401. https://doi.org/10.1558/eap.20900