Genesis and Evolution of Korean Honorifics

Abstract

Korean language is founded on an established and properly coordinated honorific language. This is based on an established morphology according to the Korean culture, and is one of the few cases of such language cases in the world. There are vast mechanisms upon which this morphology thrived, and its related contrasting facets. The Korean honorifics and its relevant diversity have taken time to evolve to its current state through various states all the way through diverse chronology.

Introduction

The Korean language has quite important reflections based on the observations placed by either the writer or the speaker. The relationships between these two players equally extend to cover both the audience and the sentence subject in place. The Korean grammar makes use of wide-ranging system of honorifics. These honorifics reflect the relationship of the speaker to the subject in sentence context.

Additionally, speech levels play a significant role in this relationship to help reflect the relationship between the speaker and the audience. Initially, honorifics expressed the differences exhibited in the social status between the involved speakers. Currently, the contemporary Korean culture advocates for the use of honorifics to differentiate between informal and formal forms of speech. The most important contributing factor in this case is the varied levels of familiarity between the listener and the speaker in question. The three most common aspects captured in the Korean linguistic culture spread across the honorific nouns, honorific verbs, and honorific forms of address. This report seeks to address the aspects related to this genesis and evolution of the Korean honorifics. The Korean honorifics have taken a great deal of time since their genesis and subsequent evolution to the current dimension.

Contributing Factors to the Genesis and Evolution of Korean Honorific Contrasts

  1. Cultural value orientations in Korea:

Cultural values play a great deal in the genesis and evolution of honorific contrasts observable in Korea. A close comparison between the Korean cultural values and those exhibited by the Americans portray contrasting features. Being an important contributing factor in this case, there are five dimensions upon which these value orientations are based. The cultural orientation of the Korean values contributing to the genesis and evolution of honorific language are classified into different hierarchies. Each of the atomistic mechanistic values in the hierarchy is matched to the relevant holistic values relevant to it. These aspects closely compare the American and the Korean values at a very close depiction. The five factors according to the atomistic mechanistic values include Individualism, Egalitarianism, confrontation, pragmatism as well as rationalism. These five atomistic values are closely compared to the Korean holistic values as Collectivism, hierarchism, indirectness, formalism, and emotionalism respectively. In a prototypical structure, the cultural dimensions can be closely monitored in three major groups.

These comparisons include the Embeddedness Vs Autonomy, Hierarchy Vs Egalitarianism, and Mastery Vs Harmony. Additionally, these cultural honorific contrasts are traced from the varied cultural groupings characterize the Korean language. The cultural groupings are technically referred to as the Schwartz cultural groups. The eight Schwartz cultural groupings include the west European, English speakers, Latin Americans, East European, South Asian, the Middle East and African, as well as the Confucian Influenced groups. The Confucian influenced groups include the Vietnam, Korea, Taiwan, Japan, and China. The diversity in the cultural clusters served as one of the main factors contributing to the genesis of the observed Korean honorifics.

  1. Morphological Typology exhibited by the Korean Language.

The second cause for the genesis and evolution of the contrasts in the Korean honorifics is based on the language morphological typology. In this case, diverse languages within the Korean morphology are classified in different categories. These languages include the isolating languages, inflected languages, polysynthetic languages, and the agglutinative languages. This cause is equally important as one of the most outstanding items contributing to the genesis of Korean honorifics.

  1. Grammaticalization mechanisms and language universal principles.

This terminology is defined as the change exhibited by the lexical items as well as constructions. These elements normally come in different linguistic contexts, and are intended to carry out specific grammatical functions. Upon being grammaticalized, the elements continue with their service of developing new sets of grammatical tasks.  This is the most common change contributing to the genesis of honorific language changes in Korea.

In this case, the Korean grammaticalization can be classified into four basic fields. These include; the Old Korean, Middle Korean, pre-modern Korean, and the contemporary Korean. Each of the four honorific classifications has unique particles and suffixes. It is equally important to note that the honorifics are clustered as nominal suffixes, case particles, verbal suffixes, and S-enders. In order for the honorific languages to realize their genesis, major changes that cut across the mentioned classifications contributed massively. The major changes that are evident in the four classifications include the honorific subject of super-polite- which made its first appearance in the post modern Korea.  Second change that can be associated with the genesis and evolution of Korean honorifics is realized under the honorific locative/goal/dative and source which were innovated for the first time during the modern Korean era. During the post modern Korean era, vocative-ha, plural –naj and genitive –s totally lost their honorific features. Additionally, -nim that was most commonly used as a suffixal honorific title got generalized in the post modern Korea.

Another major change took place based on the old Korean subject in the horrific suffix. Some suffices remains to posses the longest lifespan compared to others, hence, have been inherited to remain relevant in the modern Korea. Some of the suffixes used in the modern Korea were derived to remain relevant even up to the post modern Korea. These suffixes made functional shifts to remain relevant for effective during the post modern dispensation era. Another change that plays a significant role in the genesis and evolution of Korean honorifics is weakening of the honorific suffix. This aspect is effectively addressed in the dispensations captured during the old Korea and modern Korea. Weakening of the suffix contributed to the loss of honorific feature, subsequently leading to the complete replacement as addressed in the new addressee observed in the contemporary Korea. Another was realized in a super polite addressee based on the honorific suffix developed during the post modern Korea.

Evolution Process of Korean Honorifics Based on the Relevant Addressee

The process of evolution exhibited by the Korean honorifics traces various stages upon which different issues took place.

  • Stage 1:

In this stage, it is evident that solp was used as the main distractive verb. In this case, the subject was intended to give information on an OBJECT attached to a non-sympathetic restriction on its reputation. This stage can be traced during the times of Old Korea and the modern Korea dispensations. The occurrence during the first stage shows relevance to the peculiar restriction, and could not continue to dominate in the later dispensations of the Korean Honorifics.

  • Stage II:

This stage followed the first stage in the evolution of Korean honorifics. In this stage, the auxiliary verb seen in the first stage got diverged from the main context. As a result, the SUBJECT portrays humility to the Object in question.  This split resulted into an occurrence where predicate is followed by another main element. The evolution that occurred during this stage can be traced during the Old Korea and the modern Korean dispensations. There are relevant examples that support this set of Korean honorific evolution.

  • Stage III:

Stage III is the next immediate stage of evolution after stage II. In this evolutionary stage, the auxiliary verb evolves into the honorific suffix involving an object. In this case, the subject grants respect to the concerned object. The third stage occurs in both finitive and embedded predicates, mostly before the subject, and in a slot of morphology. This takes place before the subject suffix in the honorific language. As seen in the first two stages, this stage equally traces its occurrence during the old Korea and the modern Korean dispensation. This third stage of evolution is equally characterized with relevant examples that reveal the exact honorifics in place. The third stage of evolution took place in the 16th century upon which the early stages of modern Korea era are derived.

  • Stage IV:

This stage of dispensation follows the third stage, and it depends on the subjectification of the OH suffix. This stage helps in the indication of the non-subject reference portrayed by the speakers. The speaker in this case displays humility and respect to the indirect object, source comparative as well as the direct object.  The happenings in this stage occur in both the finitive and embedded predicates. The morphological slots just befor the honorific suffix in the subject plays a key role. This fourth stage can be traced during the early modern period until the darn of the 16th century. As evidenced in the first three stages of evolution, this fourth stage of evolution is equally subject to relevant examples. The examples in this case involve the direct objects as well as its close comparables to the source.

  • Stage V:

The fifth stage of Korean honorific evolution is capitalized on the application of subjectified suffix. The suffix used in this stage is –sop together with SH –si. This suffix if formed without the use of any reinforcement connector. In this case, the subject upon which the connector was to reinforce is framed as a superpolite honorific subject. The essence of this evolutionary stage is that it allows the speaker to show high respect to the subject. Additionally, the evolution in this stage occurs in a finite and embedded predicates. The periods upon which this stage of evolution took place include the Modern Korea as well as the post modern Korea. Relevant examples have been used to give more clear examples of this stage of evolution.

  • Stage VI:

This is the second last stage of honorific evolution in Korea. In this stage, an addressee suffix is mostly seen to co-occur with the main original addressee. The speaker, thus, shows respect and humility to the addressee. At this stage of morphology, there is shifting of positions after the honorific subject. The stage of evolution can be traced in the early days of the post modern Korea extending from the period around the 17th century.

  • Stage VII:

This is the last stage of this Korean honorific evolutionary chain. In this case, the only suffix that is used is the AH character, such that the SPEAKER portrays both respect and humility to the ADDRESEE. This stage of occurrence is traced to both the finitive and non-finitive aspects of language. The times upon which this stage of evolution occurred can be traced during both the postmodern and the contemporary periods.

Conclusion

Korean language is founded on an established and properly coordinated honorific language. Korean honorific evolution can be classified into four basic fields. These include; the Old Korean, Middle Korean, pre-modern Korean, and the contemporary Korean. Each of the four honorific classifications has unique particles and suffixes. This is based on an established morphology according to the Korean culture, and is one of the few cases of such language cases in the world.

Currently, the contemporary Korean culture advocates for the use of honorifics to differentiate between informal and formal forms of speech. The most important contributing factor in this case is the varied levels of familiarity between the listener and the speaker in question. The three most common aspects captured in the Korean linguistic culture spread across the honorific nouns, honorific verbs, and honorific forms of address.

Sample