Intergenerational Transmission of Cultural Values in Korean American Families: An Analysis of the Verb Suffix –ta, Part 2
Eunjin Park, University of Texas at Arlington
Mother, Ha–Young (5;10) and Danielle (3;6) are watching the cartoon Tom and Jerry on television. Earlier, Ha–Young and her sister Danielle had been playing with colored clay that they could stretch and stick on flat surface. Mother had told the children not to stick it on the wall or furniture because it would leave a stain. The girls continued playing with the colored clay. When the show was on, they stopped playing and sat down to watch the cartoon. Mother finds a stain on the TV screen, which Ha–Young had made with the colored clay.
|'Tom and Jerry is on.'|
|(2)||Ha–Young:||TOM AND JERRY!|
|(3)||Danielle:||TOM AND JERRY!|
|(4)||Ha–Young:||TOM AND JERRY!|
|'You see there is a stain on the TV, right? [You] will be scolded when Daddy comes later. Then Daddy will not buy a computer for you.'|
|(6)||Ha–Young:||IT'S NOT GONNA COME OUT, SEE?|
|'Daddy sees even things like that.'|
|(8)||Ha–Young:||DADDY WILL COME LATE. HE WILL BE UPSTAIRS. HE WILL SLEEP. HE WILL COME LATE.|
|(9)||Danielle:||HEY, UHUH UHUH UHUH!|
|'What are [you] doing?' [Laugh]|
|(11)||Danielle:||JUST TYING, TYING, TYING. I CANNOT MOVE. (Ties her ankles with the sticky toy)|
|(12)||Ha–Young:||I LIKE JERRY, TOM AND JERRY. I LIKE JERRY BETTER BECAUSE HE IS GOOD, TOM AND JERRY.|
|['What about] Tom? What is written [on the screen]?' (Looking at TV)|
Discovering the stain on the TV, Mother tells Ha–Young that her father will scold her when he comes home and will not buy her a computer (Turn 5). By using the –ta suffix, Mother marks her certainty that if Ha–Young does not listen to her, there will be negative consequences. However, Ha–Young argues that the stain is not visible (Turn 6). Mother says that Daddy is good at finding stains (Turn 7), but Ha–Young argues that her father will not find it because he will come home late and go upstairs (Turn 8). Listening to Ha–Young and Mother's conversation, Danielle draws Mother's attention away to herself by tying the sticky toy around her ankles (Turns 9 and 11). Then Ha–Young changes the topic to the cartoon (Turn 12).
The linguistic markers highlight the different strategies used by Mother and Ha–Young to argue what they think would happen. While Mother marked the certainty of her negative assessment of Ha–Young's behavior with –ta, Ha–Young code–switched into English to disagree with her mother. According to Shin and Milroy (2000), this sort of code–switch builds up a contrast in two continuous stretches of talk to contextualize a speaker's disagreement with other interlocutors. In addition, Ha–Young's use of English, the socially stronger language, can be interpreted as an attempt to equalize her status to that of her mother (Shin, 2005).
Children's Use of –ta
As mentioned earlier, the children in the study produced very few –ta utterances (less than 10% of all –ta utterances in the data). When they did use –ta, it was mainly to state that they had completed their work (e.g., dahaet–ta [done]) or to describe what was happening at the time of the conversation (e.g., bubble nawat–ta [bubbles came out]). However, children also used–ta to compliment their own work. This occurred in Excerpt 1, and more clearly in Excerpt 6.
Natalie (4;10) is coloring in her coloring book. Her grandfather, sitting next to her, is coloring on the adjacent page. Grandfather says repeatedly that Natalie is coloring faster than he can.
|'Wow, Natalie seems like she is going faster than Grandfather. Yes, wow, [you] have done a lot. Look! Wow, Natalie does [it] fast.'|
|'Are [you] done? Uh, then [you] will beat Grandpa.Grandpa has many left. Wow.'|
|'I did it better.'|
|'Let's see.' [Looks at the side Natalie colored] 'Wow, that's right, with two colors. I'm so bad [at coloring].'|
|'How can Natalie do it so fast? Huh? Natalie.'|
|'How do you do like that fast?'|
|'[I] don't know.'|
Throughout this excerpt, grandfather repeatedly denigrates himself and states that Natalie can color better and faster than he can. This is similar to what we saw in Excerpt 1 where Helen's grandmother downplays herself in order to encourage Helen to do a good job making Play–doh figures. Encouraged by her grandfather's self–deprecating compliments, Natalie compliments her own work with a ta utterance in "jalhaet–ta" (I did it better.) (Turn 4). Similar to Helen's use of –ta to compliment her own work in Excerpt 1, Natalie uses –ta to contextualize her assertion that her work was superior to her grandfather's. What is interesting in both cases is that the child's use of –ta to compliment her own work is made possible only when the adult has explicitly allowed it.
In sum, children's lack of –ta utterances to compliment, criticize, or mention positive or negative consequences when conversing with adults demonstrates the discrepancy between adults' and children's language use in family settings. It also supports language socialization research, which argues that children not only reproduce what they hear from adults but also acquire the social expectations on proper speech (Ochs & Schieffelin, 1984). The children in this study may have perceived the inappropriateness of using –ta in their speech with adults. Because children occupy the lowest rank of hierarchy within the family, they are not to use those –ta utterances that imply the speaker's higher status. The only exceptions are found in cases where the adult has purposefully chosen to take a lower status in order to encourage the child to do better and try harder.
This study has examined the use of the Korean verb suffix –tain intergenerational family interactions in Korean American homes. Analysis of the talk–in–interaction suggests that adults use this suffix mostly to compliment or criticize children's actions, or to warn children of the consequences of their misbehavior. The children in this study used –tainfrequently; when they did, usage was limited to complimenting their own work in the context of adults' self–deprecating comments. By internalizing family values, children construct their own "social identity" (Ochs, 1993, p. 288). Because they occupy the lowest rank within the family hierarchy, they are expected to respect their parents' and grandparents' authority and knowledge by using appropriate speech. These values become part of children's sense of self, and they present their public side of self –face – according to the rules they have learned at home. In this way, the young Korean American children in this study seem to have internalized conventions of socially appropriate speech to indicate hierarchical relationships.
In three–generation households, children can observe or participate in multi–status interlocutors' interactions. For example, children can learn how to speak with someone older by observing how their parents speak with their grandparents. In this study, although the adults never told the children not to use –ta utterances to compliment or criticize adults, the children seemed to have learned that it would be undesirable for them to do so since they rarely see their parents using it when speaking to the grandparents. Thus, observation of daily family interactions enables children to acquire the rules of polite speech and to understand what is acceptable when speaking with adults. Although heritage language classrooms can certainly teach the subtle nuances of the various linguistic markers in Korean, these markers are not usually fully grasped by non–heritage speakers. It is mainly through meaningful and sustained interactions with parents and grandparents that immigrant children learn socially appropriate speech.
Many writers note the importance of intergenerational transmission in heritage language maintenance and development (Campbell & Christian, 2003; Fishman, 1991, 2001; Shin, 2005, 2006; Skutnabb–Kangas, 1988). This study demonstrated that expectations of socially acceptable speech are transmitted to next generation through everyday interaction within three–generational families. To maintain heritage language that conveys the culture and ideologies of the speakers, our society must increasingly acknowledge and support the important role that parents and grandparents play in this regard.
I would like to express my appreciation to Dr. Sarah J. Shin and Dr. Jin Sook Lee for their insightful discussions and comments on this paper. I am responsible for any errors.
Agha, A. (1994). Honorification. Annual Review of Anthropology, 23, 277–302.
Akatsuka, N. (1985). Conditionals and the epistemic scale. Language, 61, 625–639.
Barnes, J. S., & Bennett, C. E. (2002). The Asian population: 2000, Census 2000 brief. Washington D.C.: U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved February 13, 2008, from http://www.census.gov/prod/2002pubs/c2kbr01-16.pdf.
Brown, P., & Levinson, S. C. (1978). Politeness: Some universals in language usage. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Campbell, R., & Christian, D. (Eds.). (2003). Directions in research: Intergenerational transmission of heritage languages. Heritage Language Journal, 1(1), 1-44.
Choi, S. J. (1995). The Development of Epistemic Sentence-Ending Modal Forms and Functions in Korean Children. In J. Bybee & S. Fleischman (Eds.), Modality in grammar and discourse (pp. 165–204). Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Father Benjamins Publishing Co.
Clancy, P. M. (1986). The acquisition of communicative style in Japanese. In B. B. Schieffelin & E. Ochs (Eds.), Language socialization across cultures (pp. 213-250). New York: Cambridge University Press.
Clancy, P. M., Akatasuka, N., & Strauss, S. (1997). Deontic modality and conditionality in discourse: A cross–linguistic study of adult speech to young children. In A. Kamio (Ed), Directions in functional linguistics (pp. 19-58). Amsterdam: Father Benjamins.
Fishman, J. A. (1991). Reversing language shift: Theoretical and empirical foundations of assistance to threatened languages. Clevedon, England: Multilingual Matters.
Fishman, J. A. (2001). Can threatened languages be saved? Clevedon, England: Multilingual Matters.
Goffman, E. (1955). On face work: An analysis of ritual elements in social interaction. Psychiatry, 18, 213-231.
Goffman, E. (1967). Interaction ritual: Essays on face-to-face behavior. New York: Pantheon Books.
Gu, Y. (1990). Politeness phenomena in modern Chinese. Journal of Pragmatics, 14(2), 237–257.
He, A. W. (2000). The grammatical and interactional organization of teacher's directives: Implications for socialization of Chinese American children. Linguistics and Education, 11(2), 119-140.
He, A. W. (2004). Identity construction in Chinese heritage language classes. Journal of Pragmatics, 14(2/3), 199–216.
Heath, S. B. (1983). Ways with words: Language, life, and work in communities and classrooms. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Ide, S. (1989). Formal forms and discernment: Two neglected aspects of linguistic politeness. Multilingua, 8(2/3), 223–248.
Kasper, G. (1990). Linguistic politeness: Current research issues. Journal of Pragmatics, 14(2), 193–218.
Kim, K. (1996). The reproduction of Confucian culture in contemporary Korea: An anthropological study. In W. Tu (Ed.), Confucian traditions in East Asian modernity: Moral education and economic culture in Japan and the four mini-dragons (pp.202–227). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Kim, S. H. R. (2006). High pitch as a resource for social action in conversation: the Korean sentence–ender –ta. Presented at the Joint American Association for Applied Linguistics and Association canadienne de linguistique appliquee/Canadian Association of Applied Linguistics 2006 Conference (AAAL & ACLA/CAAL). Montreal, Canada.
Kim, T. L. (1998). Korean family in a changing society: A psychological approach to better family relationships. In S. O. Lee & D. S. Park (Eds.), Perspective on Korea (pp.568–576). Honolulu: Wild Poeny.
Kim-Park, J. (1996). Linguistic variation and territorial functioning: A study of the Korean honorific system. Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Pennsylvania.
Koh, B. (1996). Confucianism in contemporary Korea. In W. Tu (Ed.), Confucian traditions in East Asian modernity: Moral education and economic culture in Japan and the four mini–dragons (pp. 191–201). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Kulick, D. (1997). Language shift and cultural reproduction: Socialization, self, and syncretism in a Papua New Guinean village. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Kulick, D., & Schieffelin, B. B. (2004). Language socialization. In A. Duranti (Ed), A companion to linguistic anthropology (pp. 349–368). Malden, MA: Blackwell.
Lee, H. S. (1991). Tense, aspect, and modality: A discourse-pragmatic analysis of verbal affixes in Korean from a typological perspective. Unpublished Ph.D. Dissertation, University of California, Los Angeles.
Lee, H. S. (1993).Cognitive constraints on expressing newly perceived information, with reference to epistemic modal suffixes in Korean. Cognitive Linguistics, 4-2, 135–167.
Lee, I., & Ramsey, S. R. (2000). The Korean language. New York: State University of New York Press.
Lee, Y. S. (2000). Korean child-rearing practices in the United States: An ethnographic study of Korean immigrants in the cultural transition. Unpublished EdD Dissertation, University of San Francisco.
MacWhinney, B. (2000). The CHILDES project (3rd ed.).Volume I: Tools for analyzing talk: Transcription format and programs. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Matsumoto, Y. (1988). Re–examinations of the universality of face. Journal of Pragmatics, 12, 403-426.
Mead, G. H. (1932). Mind, self and society: From the standpoint of a social behaviorist. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Min, P. G. (2000). Korean–American's language use. In S. L. McKay & S. C. Wang (Eds.), New immigrants in the U.S. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Much, N. C., & Shweder, R. A. (1978). Speaking of rules: The analysis of culture in breach. New directions for child development, 2, 19-39.
Ochs, E. (1988). Culture and language development: Language acquisition and language socialization in a Samoan village. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Pan, Y. (2000). Politeness in Chinese face–to–face interaction. Stamford, CT: Ablex.
Park, E. (2006). Grandparents, grandchildren, and heritage language. In Kondo-Brown, K. (Ed.), Heritage language development: Focus on East Asian immigrants (pp. 57-86). Amsterdam, Netherlands: John Benjamins.
Romano, J. (1991, March 10). Bursting with change, New Jersey's soul becomes more diverse. The New York Times, pp. 1.
Schieffelin, B. B., & Ochs, E. (1986). Language socialization. Annual Review of Anthropology, 15, 163–191.
Schieffelin, B. B. (1990). The give and take of everyday life: Language socialization of Kaluli children. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Shin, S. J. (2005). Developing in two languages: Korean children in America. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.
Shin, S. J. (2006). High–stakes testing and heritage language maintenance. In K. Kondo–Brown (ed.), Heritage language development: Focus on East Asian immigrants (pp.127–144). Amsterdam, Netherlands: John Benjamins.
Shin, S. J., & Milroy, L. (2000). Conversational code–switching among Korean–English bilingual children. International Journal of Bilingualism 4(3), 351-383.
Skutnabb–Kangas, T. (1988). Multilingualism and the education of minority children. In T. Skutnabb–Kangas & J. Cummins (Eds.), Minority education: From shame to struggle (pp. 9-44). Clevedon, England: Multilingual Matters.
Smith–Hefner, N. J. (1999). Khmer American: Identity and moral education in a diasporic community. Berkeley and Los Angeles, California: University of California Press.
Sohn, H. M. (1986). Linguistic expeditions. Seoul: Hanshin.
Sohn, H. M. (1999). The Korean language. UK: Cambridge University Press.
Watts, R. J. (2003). Politeness. UK: Cambridge University Press.
Woolard, K. A., & Schieffelin, B. B. (1994). Language ideology. Annual Review of Anthropology, 23, 55-82.
Zentella, A. C. (1997). Growing up bilingual: Puerto Rican children in New York. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.
Published: Wednesday, July 09, 2008