Intergenerational Transmission of Cultural Values in Korean American Families: An analysis of the verb suffix –ta, Part 1
Eunjin Park, University of Texas at Arlington
Drawing on the concept of language socialization, this study investigates ways in which parents and grandparents of three–generational Korean–American households socialize children into certain cultural values through the use of a particular linguistic feature in Korean: the verb suffix –ta. All six participating families had at least one child between the ages of two and four, spoke Korean as the mother tongue, and had at least one grandparent who regularly interacted with the child. Approximately 70 hours of family interactions were video–recorded and 202 utterances ending with –ta were examined. An analysis of the –ta utterances reveals that this linguistic marker is used mostly by Korean adults to compliment children's desirable behavior or accomplishments as well as to criticize their undesirable behavior. In addition, –ta is used by parents and grandparents to warn children of the consequences of their actions. Although the children were observed using –ta sometimes, their relatively restricted usage of this linguistic marker was confined to complimenting their own work rather than evaluating their parents' or grandparents' actions, thus reinforcing culturally asymmetrical power relationships between members of different generations in Korean–American families. This paper argues that learning the socially appropriate uses of linguistic markers in Korean such as –ta is made possible largely through sustained intergenerational interaction in informal family situations. The findings suggest the importance of intergenerational socialization in the transmission of heritage languages.
The theoretical framework for this study draws upon the concept of language socialization both "socialization through the use of language and socialization to use language" (Schieffelin & Ochs, 1986, p. 163). Language socialization research seeks to understand the relationship between the cultural context and linguistic practices with and around children (Schieffelin & Ochs, 1986). Cultural context includes community beliefs, specifically ideologies about a certain language or its features, the speakers of a language, its production, how it is taught and learned, and how it is interpreted and understood (Woolard & Schieffelin, 1994). Traditionally, studies of language socialization have concentrated on how these ideologies are reflected on child–caregiver interaction.
Investigation of naturally occurring family interaction involving small children often reveals the ways children are socialized to use language properly to convey highly valued ideas of their society (cf. Kulick, 1992; Smith–Hefner, 1999). By internalizing society's values and ideologies, individuals construct their concept of self (Mead, 1932; Schieffelin & Ochs, 1986), which often determines how they talk with others. Speakers present their social aspect of self —face — and expect others to interact according to their shared value systems (Goffman, 1955). Language socialization process studies provide important information about how members of society construct, challenge, or re–structure their concept of self and societal ideologies (Kulick & Schieffelin, 2004).
Socialization is not unidirectional. Not only do adults socialize children, but children also play an active role in their own socializing processes as well as those of the adults around them (Giddens, 1979; Ochs, 1988). Multiple agencies are at work in any given social interaction (Kulick & Schieffelin, 2004, p. 350), and children are active participants in their own socialization processes. From as early as birth, a child assigns specific participant roles to individuals around him or her (e.g., caregiver, parent, or sibling), and communicates his/her expectations of how these individuals should act (Ochs, 1986). It is particularly interesting that within immigrant families, children's school experiences and fluency in the majority language lead them to socialize their limited English–speaking parents in activities that require the use of the societal language (Ochs, 1986).
Some language socialization studies focus on how language minority children are socialized into their heritage language and ideologies. He (2000, 2004), for example, demonstrates how classroom interactions socialize Chinese heritage language learners into such traditional Chinese cultural values as the authority of the teacher. The research presented in this paper sheds light on how Korean cultural values are transmitted to younger generations in the home, particularly on the ways in which asymmetrical power relationships are reflected through differential uses of the linguistic marker –ta by different members of the family.
Korean marks relational status of interlocutors both linguistically and pragmatically. Hierarchical relationship is marked linguistically in every utterance, and speakers of Korean must be able to assess and recognize the relationship between themselves and others before speaking to or about them. Koreans express their identity in relation to others and based on their understanding of the relational aspect of social structure. Appropriate marking of relational status is highly praised in the speech community as a reflection of proper upbringing and is regarded as polite behavior. Thus, politeness is closely linked to understanding and structuring of one's social identity.
Brown and Levinson's (1978) Politeness Theory, based on Goffman's (1955, 1967) concept of face, has influenced many studies of politeness. Goffman argued that all interactions can be called face–work, "the actions taken by a person to make whatever he is doing consistent with face" (1967. p.12). According to Brown and Levinson, face can be negative or positive: negative face is the desire to be unimpeded by others; positive face is the desire for approval. Face can be lost, maintained, or enhanced in the course of interactions, and acts that go against face–work are face–threatening acts. Although the degree of imposition varies from culture to culture, these theorists argue that universal rules exist to avoid face–threatening acts.
Some scholars question the universality of rules proposed by Brown and Levinson. Working mainly from data from non–Western cultures, these researchers argue that Brown and Levinson's (1978) Theory of Politeness may be oversimplified and may not explain politeness in different cultures. (e.g., Gu, 1990; Ide, 1989). For example, as Matsumoto (1988) notes, Japanese interlocutors' indication of their knowledge of relationships cannot be categorized as either positive or negative aspects of public image. Although general preferences exist for using linguistic features like formulaic expressions (e.g., honorifics or verbs that imply asymmetric social relationships), interlocutors strategically choose the usage that is most polite for the particular social context, unless there is reason to do otherwise. In this line of thought, many scholars suggest that any linguistic feature is not inherently polite or impolite (Pan, 2000; Watts, 2003).
Earlier studies have argued that indexing hierarchical relationships by using linguistic or behavioral expressions is considered polite in Korean society (Agha, 1994; Kasper, 1990). Korea's sociocultural norms and decorum can be traced back to Confucianism, the predominant social ideology of the Joseon Dynasty of Korea (1392 – 1910) (Kim, 1996; Koh, 1996; Sohn, 1986). Confucius' teachings identify ideal relationships between members of various social categories: between a king and his people, there should be righteousness; between a husband and wife, deference; between the old and young, order; between parents and children, affection; and among friends, mutual trust. Except for the last, each relationship has shaped Korean society's hierarchical order: people are subordinate to the king, wife to husband, young to old, and children to parents (Kim, 1998; Min, 2000; Sohn, 1986).
Koreans believe that harmony is achieved when people know their status in relation to others and behave accordingly (Kim, 1996). The family is the primary unit of hierarchical structure, and children are raised to be obedient to their parents and other members of the family who are older than they are (Lee, 2000). Traditionally, grandparents in Korean families occupy the highest rank in hierarchical family structure, and promote the transmission of hierarchical cultural values to younger generations. Therefore, children who regularly interact with their grandparents, like those in this study, have more opportunities to observe and practice how to convey respect to those of higher status than children who live in two–generation households (Park, 2006).
These status markings are often conveyed through the use of proper honorifics. Korean honorifics are a set of obligatory linguistic markings, including pronouns and verb endings, that indicate sociocultural status of the speaker (e.g., place in the social hierarchy, gender, age) across a range of speaker relationships, such as speaker–addressee, addressee–person talked about, and speaker–person talked about (Kim–Park, 1996). Table 1 illustrates the verb suffixes used based on four sentence types and seven speech levels.
Table 1. Verb Suffixes in Korean
Note: from Sohn (1999, p. 335).
Table 1 shows that there are at least seven levels of speech in Korean, including the polite level which requires the use of the honorific verb suffix –yo (Lee, 1996; Lee & Ramsey, 2000; Martin, 1964; Sohn, 1986, 1999). The current study focuses on the verb–suffix –ta, the plain–level suffix which is used in conversations of people of the same rank and/or in close relationships (Kim–Park, 1996; Lee & Ramsey, 2000).
The verb suffix –ta is used in declarative statements to indicate plain speech, the lowest level used by a higher status person addressing lower status persons or intimate friends (Sohn, 1999, p. 269–271). Choi (1995) also views –ta as a modal verb, in her study of three Korean children's acquisition of epistemic sentence–ending modal forms and functions. She places the use of –ta into two categories: Type 1 indicates something of which the speakers have just become aware; Type 2 indicates that the speakers view their direct experience as new and noteworthy for the addressees, and it is usually accompanied by a high pitch. In other words, speakers use Type 1 to indicate that the proposition is new information for them, but use Type 2 to indicate that the information is new and important for the addressees. The children in Choi's (1995) study began producing Type 1 ta earlier (e.g., at ages 1;10 (e.g., one year and 10 months), 1;8 and 1;9) and Type 2 later (e.g., at ages 2;5, 2;9 and 3;0).
Specifying different prosodic features, Kim (2005) illustrates the distinct interactional functions of Type 2 (higher pitch –ta) from that of Type 1 (lower pitch). She investigated adults' use of high pitch –ta in storytelling and demonstrated that speakers use –ta in high pitch to insert background information, to set the scenes for the next event, and to encourage the addressees' reactions. In other words, speakers use –ta to indicate that the information conveyed in the proposition is interesting or that it requires the addressees' immediate attention or response.
Lee (1991, 1993) suggests that in informal conversations, the declarative –ta has the evidential function of indicating that the information is both newly perceived and important. Using a discourse–pragmatic analysis of epistemic modal verb suffixes, Lee (1991, 1993) puts the declarative –ta in the same category as evidential markers used in Turkish to express a speaker's being unprepared for the new information (Slobin & Aksu, 1982), and a speaker's newly obtained knowledge in Japanese (Akatsuka, 1985) or Lhasa Tibetan (DeLancey, 2001).
The current study investigates the use of –ta utterances by members of three–generation Korean American families to indicate relational status. Korean speakers' expression of politeness by marking interlocutors' hierarchical relationships has only been examined in terms of the use of honorific suffix –yo, which is used by lower status persons to show respect to others (Park, 2006). This study shifts attention to the verb–suffix –ta, which is used by higher or same status persons.
Analysis reveals how parents and grandparents use –ta to socialize children into desirable behavior by teaching cultural values that implicitly confirm the hierarchical family structure. The study also sheds light on how the children take an active role in the socialization process within Korean American families.
Ethnographic and qualitative methods (cf. Smith–Hefner, 1999; Zentella, 1997) were employed to investigate how members of three–generation Korean–American families use the evidential verb suffix –ta and its functions. The study describes the everyday linguistic practices that reflect and construct the Korean community's beliefs and values regarding hierarchy and authority (cf. Clancy, 1986; Fox, 2001; Heath, 1983; Kulick, 1997; Ochs, 1988; Schieffelin, 1990). More specifically, the transmission of cultural values and practices was analyzed in terms of language socialization (Ochs & Schieffelin, 1984).
Community and Participants
Six Korean–American families were recruited through a church network, based on the following criteria: 1) the family included at least one child who was between the ages of two and four years old; 2) both parents' first language was Korean; and 3) the children regularly spent time with grandparents. Four families resided with the grandparents; two saw the grandparents at least once every week.
The families were living in New Jersey, where the number of Asian or Pacific Island immigrants increased by 162% between 1980 and 1991 (Romano, 1991). By 2000, New Jersey had the fifth largest Asian population in the U.S. (Barnes & Bennett, 2002). Due to the large numbers of Koreans in New Jersey, the families in this study had opportunities to hear and speak Korean outside the home.
Table 2 describes each family. The six families had a total of 11 children, ranging in age from 6 months to 7 years. The adults had been living in the U.S. from 10 to 30 years, and all the children had been born in the U.S. Only the interactions including the target children as observers or participants were collected, and the children were always present during the recording sessions.
Table 2. Participants in Each Family
|Target Child and Age (Years;Months)||Sibling||Parents||Grandparents|
|Family 1||Emily (2;8 – 3;3)||Ashley (0;6)||Father (47) Mother (43)||Maternal Grandmother (60s)|
|Family 2||Danielle (2;8 – 3;6)||Ha–Young (5;0 – 5;10)||Father (34) Mother (31)||Paternal Grandmother (60s)|
|Family 3||Sarah (4;0 – 4;6)||Carol (3;1 – 3;8)||Father (32) Mother (31)|
|Family 4||Natalie (4;4 – 4;11)||Jake (7;6 – 7;11)||Father (41) Mother (37)||Maternal Grandmother (61) and Grandfather (66)|
|Family 5||Mike (4;5 – 4;11)||Lily (1;0 – 1;6)||Father (41) Mother (34)|
|Family 6||Helen (4;5 – 4;10)||
Father (32) Mother (31)
|Paternal Grandmother (60s)|
Note. All names are pseudonyms. Children who use their Korean names have Korean pseudonyms and those who use English names have English pseudonyms. Parents and grandparents are referred to by proper kinship terms (appa=Daddy, eomma=Mommy, halmeoni=Grandma, and halabeoji=Grandpa). The age of each child is indicated as years;months. The exact age of three grandparents was not obtained.
Note.Families 2 and 3 are related and have the same grandmother; Families 4 and 5 are also related and have the same grandparents.
Data Collection and Analysis
Naturally occurring interactions among family members were video recorded, and detailed field notes were taken by the author to assist in the analysis of the spontaneous speech. Families were visited at various times (e.g., weekend mornings, weekdays, dinnertime, before and after school), and a range of activities were recorded (e.g., playing with blocks, doing homework, eating, watching TV). Each family was recorded between 9 and 19 times, and each recording session lasted from 30 minutes to one hour. In total, approximately 70 hours of recordings were collected over a 15–month period. Recordings of interactions involving the use of –ta were selected and transcribed following the New Romanization System.1 Transcripts were standardized according to the CHAT system of the Child Language Data Exchange System (CHILDES) (MacWhinney, 2000).
Utterances ending in –ta were coded and analyzed in terms of the relational status of interlocutors, the functions of each coded utterance, and the possible intentions of the speakers. The most frequently used functions were selected for detailed analysis (Table 3).
Table 3. Pragmatic Functions and Frequencies of –ta Utterances
|Function||Example||Number of Utterances|
|Compliment||Jalhan–ta (doing well); jalhaet–ta (well done)||54|
|Criticism||Khabun–ta (being silly)||10|
|Prediction of a Positive Outcome||Jaemitget–ta (will be fun)||7|
|Prediction of a Negative Outcome||Mangkajin–ta (will be broken); Oppahante honnan–ta ([you will]] be scolded by elder brother)||13|
|Current Condition||Geurin–ta (drawing)||40|
|Other Functions||Yeogit–ta (Here [it] is/[Ifoundit]); Jeogi itna bo–ta ([it] must be there); Gan–ta ([I will] go)||53|
Compliments, criticisms, and predictions of positive or negative outcomes were coded.2 These utterances co–occurred with conditionals, as in X hamyeon Y –ta (if you do X, Y will happen), and also appeared independently, as in dachin–ta (you will hurt yourself). Predictions also included possible reactions of a third person.
Table 4 summarizes the frequency of –tautterances by speaker and addressee. Overall, –tawas mostly used by an older speaker to a younger addressee. When used by a younger speaker to an older addressee, it usually occurred when the two interlocutors had a close relationship. For example, a mother used –ta when speaking with her mother (her child's grandmother) or husband (her child's father).
Table 4. Frequency of –ta Utterances and their Functions
|Grandmother||0||n/a||0||Other (1)||Completion (2) Compliment (1) Other (1)|
|Father||0||0||n/a||Other4(1)||Current condition (1)|
Positive outcome (1) Other (4)
|Compliment5 (1)||Other (2)||n/a||
Completion (4) Current Condition (2) Other (4)
|Child||Compliment (13) Completion (4) Current condition (4) Other (5)||Compliment (20) Current condition (8) Criticism (5) Negative outcome (2) Positive Outcome (1) Completion (1) Other (7)|
|Total = 202||31||45||15||94||17|
The data show that the occurrence of –ta is heavily skewed toward adults' speech directed to children. The adults in the study produced 185 (92%) of the total 202 –tautterances while the children produced 17, a mere 8% of the total. As will be explained in the following section, the adults in the study used –tato communicate their preference for or disapproval of children's behavior as well as to warn children of the consequences of their actions.
Analysis of –ta Utterances
The following sections will focus, in turn, on (1) adults' positive and negative evaluations of children's behavior (compliments and criticism, respectively) (2) a discussion on adults' use of –ta utterances to warn children of the consequences of their behavior (including possible reactions of others); and (3) the children's use of –ta.
Adults used –ta to evaluate children's ongoing work or accomplishment. Positive evaluations or compliments tended to include the adverb jal (well/great) and often reflected such positive values as ippeu–ta (pretty) or chakha–ta (nice). These comments are similar to the Japanese comments, ii (is good), or Sonna koto shite–tara okashii yo (If you keep doing that, it's strange) (Clancy, Akatsuka & Strauss, 1997, p. 30–31). Just as Japanese mothers inform their children about what is desirable or undesirable behavior, the parents and grandparents in this study specified what was preferred behavior and what was not.
Excerpt 1 demonstrates how adults used –ta to encourage children to continue doing good work. (Numbers in the excerpts indicate speaker turns.)
Helen (4;5) is playing with her grandmother, who were using Play–doh to make Teletubby characters from a children's TV program. Grandmother compliments Helen by telling her that her work is much better than her grandmother's.
|(1)||Grandma:||[Giggles and looks at Helen's work]|
|'Why are [you] laughing?'|
|'Helen, Grandma does not make it better than Helen. XX cannot do it right.'|
|'Nose xxx and'|
|'[You] really did this. Well done!'|
|'Gee, [I] wanted to do it nicely.'|
|'Gee, it is strange but Grandma cannot do it well. Our Helen can do it so much better. There, I [did] it well this way. Oh! Oh! Well done! [I] will put all these together and give it to [you], so do [it], okay? If there is something [you] need, tell [me].'|
|'Yes. Look at the nose!'|
|'Yes, [you] did [it] well. Wow! [You] did [it] well!'|
|'Helen is making it much prettier [than Grandma]. Look here!'|
|'[You] did [it] well!'|
|'Now [I'm] almost done.'|
|'Uh, [you] should make the body, too.'|
|'Which one are you making now?'|
|'By the way, I need this one.'|
|'Yes, if [you] need [it], take [it].'|
|'Shall I make the mouth pretty [for you]?'|
|'[I] see. [I] will make it pretty [for you].'|
In Turn 3, notice that Grandmother praises Helen's work by criticizing her own work. Grandmother deprecates her own creation again in Turn 9, stating that although she tried to make it well, she could not. Then she piles on praise, including using the –ta compliments as jalmandeun–ta and jalmandeuleot–ta (Turn 11); she repeats that she cannot make it better than Helen, that Helen is doing so well. Encouraged by Grandmother's compliment in Turn 13, Helen praises herself ('Helen is making it much prettier than grandma'), and asks Grandmother to look at another part of what she is making (Turn 14), which leads Grandmother to produce another –ta compliment in Turn 17. These compliments encourage Helen to keep doing good work.
The above conversation demonstrates that using –ta to express a compliment indirectly by stating what the child accomplished is one of several ways in which adults positively reinforce children's desirable behavior. Other socializing tools include the grandmother's use of self–deprecating commentsthat have the effect of increasing the child's confidence (e.g., 'Helen makes it better than Grandma'). Furthermore, notice that Helen uses no honorifics (e.g., –yo) in her speech addressed to grandmother and grandmother does not require her to do so. By and large, the conversation between Helen and grandmother reflects an intimate speech level (Table 1), in which hierarchical rules of behavior are not applied strictly.
Adults also socialize their children by providing negative assessments of the children's behavior, as illustrated in the following excerpt in which a grandmother's criticism of the child's coloring is expressed in –ta utterances.
Ha–Young (5;0) is coloring in a coloring book with her grandmother. Ha–Young's younger sister Danielle (2;8) is playing nearby. Grandmother mistakenly colors an object green in the coloring book because she thinks it is a tree, but it turns out to be the ocean. Ha–Young finds that there are fish in the "tree" that Grandma has colored green and asks why fish are living in a tree. Grandmother tells her that she had thought the waves were leaves.
|'Why do fish live in the tree?'|
|'No, these are waves, waves. If [we] go to the sea, the water splash, splash like this, right? Uh? Because this ship is passing by, the water goes up like this.' (Moving her hand like waves)|
|'Grandma, [I] saw this xx, but [I] thought [it's] green.'|
|'Uh, Grandma thought this one was grass. [It] is like this because [the book] is upsidedown. [We] should put it right. (Turns the coloring book towards herself) There, [it's] done. If [we] do it like this, [it's] water. [It's] done. [It's] water. This one is a bubble, big bubble. But [it's] too dark, right?'|
|'This one is too dark.'|
|(8)||Ha–Young:||(Comes to the video–camera)|
|'I want to look at [it].'|
|'Uh, not now.'|
|(10)||Grandma:||NO NO NO NO!||Danielle||iruwabwa.||Ha–Young|
|No no no no||Danielle||here–come||Ha–Young|
|'No, no, no, no! Danielle, come here. Ha–Young, come here.'|
|'Look at this one. Do the rest of this, quickly.'|
|'No, no, no, no! Danielle, come here. HaYoung, come here. Look at this one. Do the rest of this, quickly. Which color should [we] use for this one, HaYoung?'|
|'Which color should [we] use to color this one?'|
|'Which one?' (Goes to grandmother)|
|'This one, this one.' [Pointing to a spot on the coloring book]|
|'This one, brown.'|
|'Brown? Why is [it] brown? Isn't [it] black?'|
|(17)||Ha–Young:||(Returns to the video camera)|
Explaining why she had colored the sea in green like a tree, Grandmother states that they should put the coloring book right side up, not upside down (Turns 2 and 4). Then she offers a negative assessment of Ha–Young's coloring, namely that the color Ha–Young used for a bubble is too dark (jjinha–ta in Turn 4). Notice that grandmother's use of –ta is accompanied by 'geuji'(right?), which has the effect of softening her criticism.
Grandmother may have used the –ta utterance to teach Ha–Young how to color well; however, the –ta criticism in this conversation seems to have produced no change in her behavior, for immediately after that criticism and her younger sister Danielle's distraction (Turn 5), Ha–Young leaves her coloring to play with the video camera (Turn 8). Ha–Young ignores both the investigator's (Turn 9) and her grandmother's pleas (Turn 10) to return to coloring and goes to play with the video camera (Turn 17).
New and Important Information
In addition to using –ta utterances to offer children assessments of whether certain behaviors are desirable or not, the parents and grandparents in this study often encouraged or prevented the children from committing certain acts by telling them about the possible consequences of their behavior.
Clancy et al. (1997) formulate this relationship between children's actions and possible consequences as "desirable leads to desirable; undesirable leads to undesirable" (p. 37). In their study, Korean–speaking caregivers frequently used prohibitions, instructions, permissions, promises, and threats to their children to communicate moral obligations by using such conditionals as in ttayli–myeon an–tway. ("If you hit her, it won't do.") The researchers argue that these comments explicitly teach children what is desirable and preferred conduct and imply authority of adults who want to "ensure the welfare and safety of the children" (p. 50). Similarly, parents and grandparents in this study used ta utterances to state that a certain act would bring desirable or undesirable consequences for children.
The following excerpts demonstrate how adults used ta utterances to inform the children of a positive outcome, a negative outcome, and the possible reactions of a third person. Excerpt 3 illustrates how a mother uses –ta to tell her child and husband (child's father) that if they do as she suggests, they can make the work great (or pretty) and have fun doing it.
Helen (4;10) is playing with her mother and father. They are making a fishing–frog sculpture with Play–Doh. Mother shows a fishing–frog sculpture to Father and Helen and tells them to make one just like that.
|Iya,||I LIKE IT!|
|wow||I like it|
|'Daddy, please look at this and make it. Wow, I like it!'|
|'Did (you) say to make this?'|
|'Yes, yes. Please make this [for us]. Do that and then make [it] small here, and then [you] make [it] stand here. [It] must be really pretty, right?'|
|'Daddy, what [can I] make for you? Shall I make a fishing pole? Yes?'|
|'Okay, Helen, make a fish and Daddy +/.'|
|'Helen, make this fish.'|
|'Daddy will make a frog.'|
|'Helen should make [it] like this.'|
|'Daddy makes a frog and Mommy makes a fishing pole, and then, uh, I will make eyes for you, too, okay? Yeh! It must be fun.'|
|(16)||Mother:||FISH, LIKE THIS, OKAY?|
|(17)||Helen:||I NEED BLACK.|
|(18)||Mother:||YOU NEED BLACK?|
|(18)||Helen:||SEE? EYES xx [unintelligible] THIS!|
|(19)||Mother:||AH, OKAY, OKAY, OKAY, OKAY|
|'Make it pretty like this, like this.'|
Mother asks Father to make a frog shape like the figure she is showing him and to make it stand up (Turns 1 and 3). Then she offers her assessment using –ta, saying it is going to be really pretty (yaeppeuget–ta). Notice that the mother's assessment is hedged with 'geuji' (right?). Helen agrees with her mother (Turn 4). Then Mother suggests that she will make a fishing pole (Turn 5). Father assigns Helen to make a fish shape (Turn 6), and Mother repeats Father's order to make sure Helen has understood what she should do (Turns 7 and 9). Father tells Helen that he will make a frog shape (Turn 11), and Helen shows excitement (Turn 12).
Mother also tells Helen how she should make a fish shape (Turns 13 and 15), and makes sure that Helen makes a fish shape just like the figure. After giving everyone their assignments (e.g., Father makes a frog, Mother makes a fishing pole and the eyes for Helen, who is making a fish), Mother ends her suggestions for Helen with another –tastatement, saying it must be fun (jaemitget–ta). In Turn 16, Helen takes up her mother's offer to keep working and asks for the color black. By suggesting the likely positive outcomes, such as producing pretty work (yaeppeuget–ta) or having fun (jaemitget–ta), Mother seems to be trying to encourage her co–participants to continue doing good work. While Mother explicitly instructs Helen on what to do, she also implies that Helen is expected to listen to her mother, which will, in turn, bring desirable consequences.
In addition to making encouraging positive statements, adults also used –ta utterances to tell children that they were certain about what would happen if the children misbehaved. Marking their warning with –ta indicated that they wanted their children to pay immediate attention to the matter at hand and change their present behavior. In the following excerpt, Mother uses a –ta utterance among various strategies to convince her son Mike to drink his orange juice in the kitchen.
Mike (4;8), his younger sister Lily (1;3) and their mother just finished having lunch in the breakfast area in the kitchen. Mother is moving empty plates to the sink and beginning to wash the dishes. Lily is playing on the kitchen floor. The TV is on in the family room, so Mike is going there to watch it. Lily has already drunk her orange juice, but Mike still has his on the table. Mother tells Mike to drink his orange juice. Lily has a cold, so Mother is concerned about Mike's health and wants him to drink all of his juice.
|'Mike, please drink all the orange juice and give [it] to Mommy.'|
|(2)||Mike:||(Drinks some of the orange juice and gives the glass to his mother)|
|(3)||Mother:||LET ME SEE. NO, FINISH YOUR ORANGE JUICE!|
|(4)||Mike:||I DON'T WANT TO.|
|(5)||Mother:||YOU HAVE TO.|
|'Mike, [you should not] get sick. What did Mommy say? I said [you] should drink lots of orange juice, right?'|
|(6)||Mike:||xx [unintelligible]||ORANGE JUICE. (Goes toward the family room)|
|'Please drink [it] here and don't take [it] to there. [You will] spill [it].'|
|(Goes to the family room)|
|(Comes back to the kitchen and tap on the table with the cup. Finishes drinking and puts the cup into the sink)|
|(11)||Mother:||LET ME WIPE THEM OFF,|
|'Don't leave [it] there.'|
|(Wipes Mike's nose with paper towel)|
To get Mike to drink all of his orange juice in the kitchen, Mother first uses a higher–level honorific yo, as in juse–yo (Turn 1), which is often used in making polite requests. Mike drinks some of his juice and gives the glass to Mother (Turn 2). Mother switches to English and uses a direct directive to order Mike to finish his juice (Turn 3). Mike resists (Turn 4), but Mother reinforces it (Turn 5). Then Mother reminds Mike that he needs to drink the orange juice so he does not get sick and asks if he agrees by ending with a tag–question "geuraetji? (I said it, didn't I?)" (Turn 5). Mike again resists and goes into the family room to watch TV (Turn 6). When Mother insists that Mike drink it in the kitchen (Turn 7), she uses –yo again and adds a –ta utterance, saying he will spill the juice if he brings it into the family room. The suffix –ta indicates that Mother is certain that Mike will spill it. When Mike does not listen to Mother (Turn 8), she says "please" (Turn 9). Finally, Mike comes back into the kitchen and finishes drinking his juice (Turn 10).
The above excerpt demonstrates how adults try to control children's behavior by using various strategies (e.g., using directives, asking for agreement, using the high–level honorific suffix –yo, and saying "please"), as well as telling them the possible negative consequences, which are often marked with –ta to indicate their certainty. Such types of –ta utterances are also used to imply that listening to parents and grandparents will save them from facing an undesirable situation in the near future. Thus, –ta is one of the strategies used by parents and caretakers to communicate their warnings.
In the conversations we recorded, parents and grandparents also frequently mentioned that children's misbehavior may lead to negative reactions of other people not involved in the conversation. In the following example, Mother warns her daughter Ha–Young (5;10) that if she does not stop playing with sticky toys, her father will not buy her a computer.
1. The Korean Ministry of Culture and Tourism instituted this system in 2000 and has subsequently extended it to publications, signs, and official communications. (back)
2. Compliments and criticisms are defined as utterances in which a speaker evaluates the addressees' work or current actions. Evaluative functions, specifically the compliment function of –ta utterances, is categorized as an evidential function in Lee's study (1991, 1993). (back)
3. In this utterance, the child compliments her own work. (back)
4. In this utterance, the mother tells the father that she asked for directions at the airport, muleobwat–ta ([I] asked). (back)
5. In this utterance, the grandmother speaks to the mother, but compliments the child. (back)
Published: Monday, July 07, 2008