Tuesday Seminar: Nayoung Kwon (10/31)

Speaker: Dr. Nayoung Kwon (Department of English, Konkuk University)

Date & Time: 10/31 (Tues.), 12:00-1:15PM

Place: AGSCI 220

Title: What makes Korean a discourse-oriented language?: Universal vs. Language-specific processing mechanisms

Abstract: One of the underlying assumptions in the studies of language processing is that cross-linguistic parsing mechanisms can be investigated. That is, given that language processing should be constrained by human’s general cognitive processing, by examining the way that various languages are processed, we should be able to uncover universal parsing mechanisms. In this talk, I will also rely on this assumption, presenting experimental results from studies of Korean compatible to those of English. The focus of the talk, however, will be placed on variations across languages despite apparent cross-linguistic similarities.

In Part 1, I will present studies investigating pro (null argument) resolution in Korean. I will show that i) pro resolution elicits the LAN effect similarly to an overt pronoun resolution in English, and ii) pro is assigned an antecedent without any delay similarly to an overt pronoun in English. However, I will also show that pro in Korean is more sensitive to discourse cues than to morpho-syntactic cues unlike an overt pronoun in English.

In Part 2, I will present studies investigating subject-verb honorific agreement in Korean. I will show that i) subject-verb honorific agreement violation in Korean elicits the P600 effect similarly to number/person agreement violation in English and ii) subject-verb honorific agreement in Korean is prone to attraction effects similarly to number/person agreement in English. I will also show, however, that despite these similarities, subject-verb honorific agreement in Korean seems more prone to semantic interference effects than number/person agreement in English.

Based on these results, I argue that while similar parsing mechanisms might indeed underlie the processing of various languages, human language processing is also critically constrained by different grammatical features of individual languages. For example, in the case of Korean, Korean might in general place more emphasis on discourse context than English or Spanish with more obvious morpho-syntactic cues, and this could have led to slightly different processing patterns in these languages. Accordingly, in studies of language processing, it would be important to distinguish between universal vs. language-specific processing mechanisms, and this will be better achieved by cross-linguistic studies.