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The syntax of Korean anaphora: An experimental investigation

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Thesis type
(Dissertation) Ph.D.
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This dissertation investigates the syntactic and interpretative properties of three Korean anaphora, third-person pronouns, VP anaphors (VPAs), and null objects (NOs), using experimental methodologies. There is no general consensus among previous studies regarding whether Korean third-person pronoun ku ‘he’ can be construed as a bound variable. Three interconnected experiments were conducted to explore this issue, and the findings demonstrated that some Korean speakers consistently accepted the quantificational binding of ku, while others consistently did not. This result is highly suggestive of inter-speaker variation in the bound variable construal for ku. Taking into consideration the historical background of ku and its present status, I conclude that child learners of Korean may not receive sufficient evidence regarding ku from the primary language input data. Given this, adopting Han et al.’s (2007) two-grammar hypothesis and Déchaine and Wiltschko’s (2002) pronominal typology, I propose that some speakers randomly acquire ϕP ku, which complies with the “pronominal grammar”, while others randomly acquire DP ku, which complies with the “demonstrative grammar”. On the basis of the finding that there is inter-speaker variation in the bound variable construal for ku, the present study investigates the syntax of Korean VPAs and NOs. The existing proposals on their syntactic identities can be grouped into ellipsis and pro-form approaches. In two independent experiments designed to diagnose the presence of “hidden” structure within VPAs and NOs, I examined the (un)availability of sloppy readings for VPAs and NOs with antecedents containing ku. Given the standard view that the sloppy reading in ellipsis is due to a pronoun in the ellipsis site being bound, if VPAs or NOs have elided structure that hosts ku, the distribution of sloppy readings for them should correlate with that of quantificational binding of ku. Such a correlation, however, is not expected if they are pro-forms that do not host elided material (and thus not ku). The correlation was found in the experiment for NOs, but not in the experiment for VPAs. Based on these findings, I claim that VPAs are uniform, un-analyzable pro-forms, while NOs are derived from ellipsis, anaphora that have a fully-fledged structure.
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Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Han, Chung-hye
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