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Expression in Korean
as a Function of Social Relationships

A Function in Korean Language Structure

In the Korean language the way in which thoughts are expressed is a function of the social status of the speaker relative to the listener. Korean does not have some linguistic chararcteristics, such as gender, which are common to Indo-European languages, but it does honorifics which are largely non-existent in those languages. Here is an illustration of the way the form of expression is a function of relative social status. The thought to be expressed is X gave him. (The relationship AB means that A's social status is equal or greater than B's social status.)

Relationship
Sentence
Speaker to
Listener
Subject X
to him
Speaker to
Subject X
 
>>>ku-ege
chu-ot-ta
>><ku-ege
chu-si-ot-ta
><>ku-bun-kke
turi-ot-ta
><<ku-bun-kke
turi-si-ot-ta
<>>ku-ege
chu-ot-ta
<><ku-ege
chu-ot-ta
<<>ku-bun-kke
turi-ot-ssumni-ta
<<<ku-bun-kke
turi-si-ot-ssumni-ta
Source:Kim Chin-U, "The Making of the Korean Language," in The Korean Language edit by The Korean National Commission for UNESCO, (Si-sa-yong-o-sa, Inc.: Korea), p. 40.

The relationship can just as well be expressed by the binary variable {1,0} such that ">" = 1 and "<" = 0. The function would then be:

Relationship
Sentence
Speaker to
Listener
Subject X
to him
Speaker to
Subject X
 
111ku-ege
chu-ot-ta
110ku-ege
chu-si-ot-ta
101ku-bun-kke
turi-ot-ta
100ku-bun-kke
turi-si-ot-ta
011ku-ege
chu-ot-ta
010ku-ege
chu-ot-ta
001ku-bun-kke
turi-ot-ssumni-ta
000ku-bun-kke
turi-si-ot-ssumni-ta

The above function is expressed in lingustics in a different notation; i.e.,

NominativeDativeVerb PhraseTense MarkerEnd Marker
Subjecthonorific
for subject
Object honorific
for object
honorific
for subject
   

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