Space in tense: The interaction of tense, aspect, evidentiality, and speech act in Korean

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This dissertation investigates the interaction of tense, aspect, evidentiality, and speech acts, using Korean as a test case. I propose that Korean has two types of deictic (indexical) tense-simple deictic tense and spatial deictic tense. This makes possible a systematic account of the temporal interpretation of tenses, aspects, and moods that also incorporates evidentiality. By showing that the Korean evidential system should be analyzed as part of the tense-aspect system, this study contributes to current research on the formal analysis of inflectional systems in the world's languages. First, I give an analysis of the simple suffix -ess and the double form -essess. The distinction between these two parallels the distinction between the perfect and the past manifested in most Indo-European languages. The simple form -ess is a perfect and the double -essess is a deictic past tense. Next, I treat the suffix -te and argue that not only temporality but also the notion of space is relevant to its analysis: it is a spatial deictic past tense denoting a certain past time when the speaker perceived either a given event itself or some evidence of the event. Thus, -te directly relates to evidentiality. In addition, -te has a present tense counterpart, the spatial deictic present form -ney. My analysis results in the claim that some suffixes are ambiguous between aspects or moods and evidentials. For example, if the suffix -ess occurs with a simple deictic tense, it functions as a perfect. But if it occurs with a spatial deictic tense, it functions as an indirect evidential. In sum, a definitive analysis of Korean tense, aspect, and mood morphology incorporates two distinctions that operate in tandem: one distinction is simple deictic tense and aspect and the other distinction is spatial deictic tense and evidentiality. The basic difference between evidential sentences and non-evidential sentences is captured in terms of speech acts: unlike non-evidential (declarative) sentences, evidential sentences do not make assertive claims. Even direct evidential sentences in Korean do not express the speaker's commitment to the truth of the proposition described.

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Department of Linguistics - Simon Fraser University
Thesis type: 
Thesis (Ph.D.)