A morpho-syntactic study of Korean verbal inflection

Date of Completion

January 1994


Language, Linguistics




The thesis investigates properties of verbal inflectional/functional categories such as Infl, Comp, and negation in Korean. We take up two central issues. First, we explore how a nd whether verbal inflectional/functional elements are projected, represented, and amalgamated with verbal stems. Second, we explore some effects of the interaction between these morphemes and the categories that they relate to or license (such as temporal arguments, and verbal Case, and negative polarity items).^ We start with investigation of the clausal structure of Korean. It is argued that the negative marker in Korean is not an inflectional marker but a negative adverbial clitic, unlike that in Japanese. It is then shown that the verb raising hypothesis is untenable in Korean. After demonstrating that distribution of inflectional morphemes in coordinate structure provides compelling evidence that Infl and Comp are projected independently of a verbal stem in the syntax, we argue that Infl and Comp in Korean, without verb movement involved, suffix to the phrases which they subcategorize for.^ Turning to the second issue, we explore the interaction between tense features and a null VP that is created by VP-fronting or VP-ellipsis. Particularly, we look into the parametric variation between English and Korean in allowing VP-ellipsis. In contrast to English, in Korean a VP cannot be elided or deleted. We argue that an elided VP requires its 'verbal Case' to be checked and identified by 'strong' tense features. Given this consideration, we attribute the contrast between English and Korean in VP-ellipsis to the strength of tense features.^ We then investigate the interplay between tense and the time (T) argument of a predicate. In this regard we examine the stative vs. nonstative distinction in the complement clause of the periphrastic causative verb and the mit 'believe'-type verb constructions in Korean, which affects Case-marking of the embedded subject. It is demonstrated that the interaction of the different licensing requirements for the T-argument of stative and nonstative predicates with the presence or absence of the null present tense marker determines whether the embedded subject of the constructions is Nominative or Accusative Case-marked. This has a consequence that in Korean, $\lbrack$+$\rbrack$ tense features that are provided by the null present tense marker are responsible for Nominative Case marking and theta-binding the T-argument of a nonstative predicate. ^