ASPECTS OF KOREAN NARRATION
A dominant trend in linguistics has been sentence grammar, which deals with structures leading up to the sentence level. With more studies on semantics and pragmatics, however, there has been a growing concern for discourse grammar. Discourse, I believe, is the most natural unit of language that forms a meaningful whole. The reasons for discourse study derive from four sources: (1) from phonology come suprasegmental considerations like intonation and pitch which typically stretch over the sentence boundary; (2) from semantics comes the sense that the meaning or message is conveyed through the overall discourse, not through aggregates of sentences; (3) from grammar comes the analysis of formal structures in a discourse analogous to those in a sentence; and (4) from pragmatics comes the appropriate use of language based on shared assumptions, knowledge, and context in communication situations.
Within such a framework of discourse grammar, this study focuses on one type of discourse, namely, narrative discourse. Folktales and short stories from Korean are studied in their syntagmatic structures that consist of stage and episodes. These encoded plot structure slots of exposition, inciting moment, climax, etc. I also present visual respresentations of such structures as profiles and discuss the linguistic features making peaks.
Next I present a hypothesis on a scale of relative structural importance of information as signaled by features in verbs, such as tense, aspect, mode, transitivity/voice, verb types, and sentence structure. Each of these features is viewed as forming a continuum in terms of the scale of information importance. For example, among the verb types classified according to case frames, there is a gradation ranging from action-process through action, process, state, and existential to equative; all six types of features in verbs provide simultaneously intersecting clues to determine the relative importance of given information.
Finally, I study the use of nouns in participant reference as to why an overt reference to a participant is made in discourse and how it is done. The study shows that a participant tends to be referred to overtly, when there is a role switch, or when the narrator resumes the event line after description of non-events, or when starting a new paragraph, etc. In the overt reference to participants the subject particle ka is found to occur in clauses that characteristically report supportive material with a focus on nouns, while the topic particle nun tends to occur in clauses that focus on verbs, i.e., actions and events as related to participants.