The Syntax-Phonology Interface in Native and Near-Native Korean

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The Syntax-Phonology Interface in Native and Near-Native Korean

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Title: The Syntax-Phonology Interface in Native and Near-Native Korean
Author: Bae, Sun Hee
Citation: Bae, Sun Hee. 2015. The Syntax-Phonology Interface in Native and Near-Native Korean. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
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Abstract: In this thesis, two types of non-native speakers are examined to advance our understanding of the language faculty. Filling a gap in literature, a production study of heritage language speakers of Korean and a comprehension study of heritage and non-heritage language speakers of Korean and of English for phenomena at the syntax-phonology interface are conducted.
In the production study, narrative data collected from American heritage language speakers of Korean from the lower end to the higher end of the proficiency spectrum are examined for error analysis. Various tactics are used in dealing with unfamiliar vocabulary (extending their morphological knowledge of Korean and/or English, circumlocution, asking for the corresponding vocabulary in English, code-switching between Korean and English, and literal translations from English); sentence connections are less than fluent; sentence-level errors are observed with honorifics and with inanimate subjects, along with morpho-syntactic errors concerning misuse of particles (locatives and passives/causatives). Even at the lower-proficiency level, few difficulties in the realm of syntax-phonology interface, or prosody, are observed, motivating the next study.
The comprehension study investigates the issues in the context of prosody and information structure. Information structure in Korean is surveyed, with a proposal laying out the environment in which the otherwise optional case and information-structural particles are mandatory, based on recoverability. A series of listening experiments with seven-point acceptability rating scores as the dependent variable are conducted to answer the following questions about language spoken by non-native speakers: (i) Do non-heritage and heritage learners acquire prosodic information conveying information structure? (ans heritage: yes, non-heritage: no), (ii) Does Sorace & Filiaci's (2006) Interface Hypothesis, which proposes that phenomena involving the interface of syntax and other areas (pragmatics) are less likely to be learned for very advanced learners, extend to the syntax-phonology interface? (ans no).
The current study demonstrates how heritage language study may contribute to our understanding of the language faculty that other types of acquisition studies cannot.
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