Skip to content
Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton January 8, 2020

From inquisitive disjunction to nonveridical equilibrium: Modalized questions in Korean

  • Arum Kang EMAIL logo and Suwon Yoon
From the journal Linguistics


The goal of the present study is to identify a novel paradigm of epistemic modal operator derived from disjunction. Our main data involves an inquisitive disjunction marker nka in Korean, the presence of which enhances a speaker’s epistemic uncertainty and forms a modalized question. We show how nka contributes the modal effects in question within a theory of nonveridicality. In particular, we propose that the prerequisite of nka are non-homogenous nonveridical states that are partitioned in equipoised epistemic spaces because of the absence in ranking between them. The distinct notions of disjunction, question, and possibility modals can thus be systematically captured under the framework of nonveridical equilibrium. The current analysis offers important insights into the relationship between the classes of nonveridical and modal ingredients involved in inquisitive disjunction: First, Korean facts importantly reveal that modalized questions do not form a uniform class with regular questions, since interrogative semantics alone cannot predict the epistemic uncertainty. Second, languages parameterize as to how they lexicalize the function of manipulating modal base. The implication of our findings is that disjunction needs to be recognized as a novel device for encoding a speaker’s weakest perspective on epistemic modality.


We are greatly thankful to Anastasia Giannakidou, Ming Xiang, Itamar Francez for their stimulating discussions and invaluable comments. We also thank Luis Alonso-Ovalle, Jae-Woong Choe, Beom-Mo Kang, Magdalena Kaufmann, Jong-Bok Kim, Chungmin Lee, Maria Polinsky, Kjell Johan Sæbø, Christopher Tanncredi, Mark de Varies, James Hye Suk Yoon for their helpful feedback. This paper has benefited from the valuable comments of the audience at ICKL & Harvard-ISOKL 2015, LSA 2016, SICOGG 18, the 24th J/K Linguistics Conference, the 30th PACLIC. We deeply appreciate the editor and two anonymous reviewers’ insightful suggestions and encouragement, which have significantly improved the paper. Any remaining errors are our own responsibility.


Aloni, Maria. 2011. Modal inferences with marked indefinites. Handout of a paper presented at the Department of Linguistics, University of Chicago.10.1075/la.219.02aloSearch in Google Scholar

Anand, Pranav & Adrian Brasoveanu. 2010. Modal concord as modal modification. In Martin Prinzhorn, Viola Schmitt & Sarah Zobel (eds.). Proceedings of Sinn und Bedeutung 14. 19–36.Search in Google Scholar

AnderBois, Scott. 2009. Non-interrogative questions in Yucatek Maya. In Suzi Lima (ed.), Proceedings of SULA 5 (UMOP 41), 1–16. Amherst, MA: GLSA.Search in Google Scholar

AnderBois, Scott. 2011. Issues and alternatives. Santa Cruz, CA: University of California Santa Cruz dissertation.Search in Google Scholar

AnderBois, Scott. 2012. Focus and uninformativity in Yucatec Maya questions. Natural Language Semantics 20. 349–390.10.1007/s11050-012-9084-3Search in Google Scholar

Bartels, Christine. 1999. The intonation of English statements and questions: A compositional interpretation. London: Routledge.Search in Google Scholar

Choi, Yoon-Ji. 2011. Correlation between disjunction and modality: Focused on inka (written in Korean). Journal of Korean Linguistics 60. 146–181.10.15811/jkl.2011..60.006Search in Google Scholar

Ciardelli, Ivano. 2009. Inquisitive semantics and intermediate logics. Amsterdam: University of Amsterdam MA thesis.Search in Google Scholar

Ciardelli, Ivano & Floris Roelofsen. 2011. Inquisitive logic. Journal of Philosophical Logic 40. 55–94.10.1007/s10992-010-9142-6Search in Google Scholar

Constant, Noah. 2012. English rise-fall-rise: A study in the semantics and pragmatics of intonation. Linguistics and Philosophy 35(5). 407–442.10.1007/s10988-012-9121-1Search in Google Scholar

Curme, George O. 1931. A grammar of the English language in three volumes, vol. III: Syntax. Boston, MA: D. C. Heath and Company.Search in Google Scholar

Farkas, Donka & Floris Roelofsen. 2017. Division of labor in the interpretation of declaratives and interrogatives. Journal of Semantics 34(2). 237–289.10.1093/jos/ffw012Search in Google Scholar

Geurts, Bart. 2005. Entertaining alternatives: Disjunctions as modals. Natural Language Semantics 13(4). 383–410.10.1007/s11050-005-2052-4Search in Google Scholar

Geurts, Bart & Janneke Huitink. 2006. Modal concord. In Paul Dekker & Hedde Zeijlstra (eds.), Concord and the syntax-semantics interface, 15–20. Malaga: ESSLLI 06.Search in Google Scholar

Giannakidou, Anastasia. 1994. The semantic licensing of NPIs and the modern Greek subjunctive. In Ale de Boer, Helen de Hoop & Henriëtte de Swart (eds.), Language and cognition 4: Yearbook of the research group for theoretical and experimental linguistics, 55–68. Groningen: University of Groningen.Search in Google Scholar

Giannakidou, Anastasia. 1995. Subjunctive, habituality and negative polarity items. Semantics and Linguistic Theory 5. 94–111.10.3765/salt.v5i0.2703Search in Google Scholar

Giannakidou, Anastasia. 1999. Affective dependencies. Linguistics and Philosophy 22. 367–421.10.1023/A:1005492130684Search in Google Scholar

Giannakidou, Anastasia. 2013. Inquisitive assertions and nonveridicality. In Maria Aloni, Michael Franke & Floris Roelofsen (eds.), The dynamic, inquisitive, and visionary life of ϕ, ?ϕ and possibly ϕ: A festschrift for Jeroen Groenendijk, Martin Stokhof and Frank Veltman, 115–126. Amsterdam: University of Amsterdam.Search in Google Scholar

Giannakidou, Anastasia. 2014. The modality of the present and the future: Greek, Dutch, and beyond. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 32(3). 1011–1032.10.1007/s11049-014-9234-zSearch in Google Scholar

Giannakidou, Anastasia. 2016. Evaluative subjunctive and nonveridicality. In Joanna Blaszczak, Anastasia Giannakidou, Dorota Klimek-Jankowska & Krzysztof Migdalski (eds.), Mood, aspect, modality revisited: New answers to old questions, 177–217. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.10.7208/chicago/9780226363660.001.0001Search in Google Scholar

Giannakidou, Anastasia & Alda Mari. 2018. The semantic roots of positive polarity: Epistemic modal verbs and adverbs in Greek and Italian. Linguistics and Philosophy 41(6). 623–664.10.1007/s10988-018-9235-1Search in Google Scholar

Gil, David. 1991. Aristotle goes to Arizona, and finds a language without and. In Dietmar Zaefferer (ed.), Semantic universals and Universal Semantics, 96–130. Berlin & New York: Foris.10.1515/9783110870527-007Search in Google Scholar

Giorgi, Alessandra & Fabio Pianesi. 1997. Tense and aspect: From semantics to morphosyntax. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Groenendijk, Jeroen & Floris Roelofsen. 2009. Inquisitive semantics and pragmatics. Paper presented at the Workshop on Language, Communication, and Rational Agency at Stanford, May 2009.Search in Google Scholar

Groenendijk, Jerson & Martin Stokhof. 1984. Studies in the semantics of questions and the pragmatics of answers. Amsterdam: University of Amsterdam dissertation.Search in Google Scholar

Gunlogson, Christine. 2008. A question of commitment. Belgian Journal of Linguistics 22. 101–136.10.1075/bjl.22.06gunSearch in Google Scholar

Hagstrom, Paul Aalan. 1998. Decomposing questions. Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology dissertation.Search in Google Scholar

Halliday, Michael & Alexander Kirkwood. 1970. Functional diversity in language as seen from a consideration of modality and mood in English. Foundations of Language 6. 322–361.Search in Google Scholar

Hamblin, Charles Leonanrd. 1973. Questions in Montague grammar. Foundations of Language 10. 41–53.Search in Google Scholar

Han, Chung-Hye. 2002. Interpreting interrogatives as rhetorical questions. Lingua 112. 201–229.10.1016/S0024-3841(01)00044-4Search in Google Scholar

Hara, Yurie & Christopher Davis. 2013. Darou as a deictic context shifter. In Kazuko Yatsushiro & Uli Sauerland (eds.), Proceedings of formal approaches to Japanese linguistics, vol. 6 (FAJL 6), 41–56. Cambridge, MA: MITWPL.Search in Google Scholar

Haspelmath, Martin. 1997. Indefinite pronouns. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Huitink, Janneke. 2012. Modal concord: A case study of Dutch. Journal of Semantics 29. 403–437.10.1093/jos/ffr012Search in Google Scholar

Jang, Youngjun. 1999. Two types of question and existential quantification. Linguistics 37. 847–869.10.1515/ling.37.5.847Search in Google Scholar

Jayaseelan, Karattuparambil A. 2004. Question movement in some SOV languages and the theory of feature checking. Language and Linguistics 5. 5–27.Search in Google Scholar

Jayaseelan, Karattuparambil A. 2008. Question particles and disjunction. Hyderabad: The English and Foreign Languages University. in Google Scholar

Kang, Arum. 2015. (In)definiteness, disjunction and anti-specificity in Korean: A study in the semantics-pragmatics interface. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago dissertation.Search in Google Scholar

Kang, Arum. 2017. Epistemic constraint on the modal disjunctive particle in Korean: The condition of minimal variation and irrealis value on the anti-specific disjunction. Korean Semantics 57. 49–72.10.19033/sks.2017.9.57.49Search in Google Scholar

Kang, Arum & Suwon Yoon. 2016. Two types of speaker’s ignorance over the epistemic space in Korean. In Patrick Farrell (ed.), The Proceedings of the Linguistic Society of America 1(2016). 21. in Google Scholar

Kaplan, David. 1989. Demonstratives: an essay on the semantics, logic, metaphysics, and epistemology of demonstratives and other indexicals. In Joseph Almog, John Perry & Howard Wettstein (eds.), Themes from Kaplan, 481–614. New York: Oxford University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Karttunen, Lauri. 1977. Syntax and semantics of questions. Linguistics and Philosophy 1. 3–44.10.1007/BF00351935Search in Google Scholar

Kim, Chonghyuck. 2010. Korean question particles are pronominals: A transparent case of representing discourse participants in the syntax. in Google Scholar

Koo, Hyun Jung & Seongha Rhee. 2013. On an emerging paradigm of sentence-final particles of discontent: A grammaticalization perspective. Language Sciences 37. 70–89.10.1016/j.langsci.2012.07.002Search in Google Scholar

Kratzer, Angelika. 1981. The notional category of modality. In Hans-Jürgen Eikmeyer & Hannes Rieser (eds.), Words, worlds, and context: New approaches in word semantics, 38–74. Berlin & New York: Walter de Gruyter.Search in Google Scholar

Kratzer, Angelika. 1991. Modality. In Arnim von Stechow & Dieter Wunderlich (eds.), Semantics: An international handbook of contemporary research, 739–650. Berlin & New York: Mouton de Gruyter.Search in Google Scholar

Kuroda, Sige-Yuki. 1965. Generative grammatical studies in the Japanese language. Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology dissertation.Search in Google Scholar

Lee, EunHee, Sean Madigan & Mee-Jeong Park. 2015. Introduction to Korean linguistics. London: Routledge.10.4324/9781315678016Search in Google Scholar

Lee, Gyu-ho. 2006. Classification and list of conjunctive particles. Urimalgeul: The Korean Language and Literature 37. 171–195.Search in Google Scholar

Lee, Hyo Sang. 2015. Modality. In Lucien Brown & Jae Hoon Yeon (eds.), The handbook of Korean linguistics, 249–268. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.10.1002/9781118371008.ch14Search in Google Scholar

Lee, Jungmee. 2011. The Korean evidential -te: A modal analysis. Empirical Issues in Syntax and Semantics 8. 287–311.Search in Google Scholar

Lim, Dongsik. 2010. Evidentials and interrogatives: A case study from Korean. Los Angeles, CA: University of Southern California dissertation.Search in Google Scholar

Littell, Patrick, Lisa Matthewson & Tyler Peterson. 2009. On the semantics of conjectural questions. Paper presented at the MOSAIC Workshop (Meeting of Semanticists Active in Canada), Ottawa.Search in Google Scholar

Lyons, John. 1977. Semantics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Matthewson, Lisa. 2010. Cross-linguistic variation in modality systems: The role of mood. Semantics and Pragmatics 3. 1–74.10.3765/sp.3.9Search in Google Scholar

Mauri, Caterina. 2008. Coordination relations in the languages of Europe and beyond (Empirical Approaches to Language Typology [EALT] 42). Berlin & New York: Mouton de Gruyter.10.1515/9783110211498Search in Google Scholar

Park, Jae Yon. 2005. 인식 양태와 의문문의 상관 관계에 대하여 [insik yangthaywa uymwunmwunuy sangkwankwankyeyey tayhaye] [On the correlation of epistemic modality and interrogative. Language Research 41(1). 101–118.Search in Google Scholar

Portner, Paul. 1992. Situation theory and the semantics of propositional expressions. Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts dissertation.Search in Google Scholar

Portner, Paul. 1997. The semantics of mood, complementation, and conversational force. Natural Language Semantics 5. 167–212.10.1023/A:1008280630142Search in Google Scholar

Portner, Paul. 1999. The semantics of mood. Glot International 4(1). 3–8.Search in Google Scholar

Portner, Paul. 2009. Modality. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Pruitt, Kathryn & Floris Roelofsen. 2011. Disjunctive questions: Prosody, syntax, and semantics. Paper presented at the Georg August Universität Göttingen, April 2011.Search in Google Scholar

Pruitt, Kathryn & Floris Roelofsen. 2013. Interpretation of prosody in disjunctive questions. Linguistic Inquiry 44. 362–350.10.1162/LING_a_00141Search in Google Scholar

Rhee, Seongha. 2004. Grammaticalization and lexicalization of rhetorical questions in Korean. Studies in Modern Grammar 35. 111–139.Search in Google Scholar

Rhee, Seongha. 2011. From politeness discourse strategy to grammar: Grammaticalization of stance markers. The Journal of Linguistic Science 59. 253–282.Search in Google Scholar

Roelofsen, Floris. 2019. Two alternatives for disjunction: An inquisitive reconciliation. In Malte Zimmermann, Klaus von Heusinger & V. Edgar Onea Gaspea (eds.), Questions in discourse, 251–274. Leiden: Brill.10.1163/9789004378322_009Search in Google Scholar

Roelofsen, Floris & Sam van Gool. 2010. Disjunctive questions, intonation, and highlighting. In Maria Aloni, Harald Bastiaanse, Tikitu de Jager & Katrin Schulz (eds.), Logic, language, and meaning: Selected papers from the seventeenth amsterdam colloquium, 384–394. Berlin & Heidelberg: Springer.10.1007/978-3-642-14287-1_39Search in Google Scholar

Seo, Jeong-Mok. 1987. 국어 의문문 연구 [kwuke uymwunmwun yenkwu] [The study of Korean questions]. Seoul: Top Publishing Company.Search in Google Scholar

Slade, Benjamin M. 2011. Formal and philological inquiries into the nature of interrogatives, indefinites, disjunction, and focus in Sinhala and other languages. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois dissertation.Search in Google Scholar

Sohn, Ho-min. 2013. Korean. Seoul: Korea University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Szabolcsi, Anna. 2015. What do quantifier particles do? Linguistics and Philosophy 38(2). 159–204.10.1007/s10988-015-9166-zSearch in Google Scholar

Uegaki, Wataru. 2018. A unified semantics for the Japanese Q-particle ka in indefinites, questions and disjunctions. Glossa 3(1). 14. 1–45.Search in Google Scholar

Wymann, Adrian Thomas. 1996. The expression of modality in Korean. Bern: University of Bern dissertation.Search in Google Scholar

Yoon, Jeong-Me. 2005. Two historical changes in wh-constructions in Korean and their implications. Studies in Generative Grammar 15. 457–487.Search in Google Scholar

Yoon, Suwon. 2011. ‘Not’ in the Mood: the Syntax, Semantics, and Pragmatics of Evaluative Negation. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago dissertation.Search in Google Scholar

Yoon, Suwon. 2013. Parametric variation in subordinate evaluative negation: Korean/Japanese versus others. Journal of East Asian Linguistics 22. 133–166.10.1007/s10831-012-9100-0Search in Google Scholar

Zaroukian, Erin. 2013. Quantification and (un)certainty. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University dissertation.Search in Google Scholar

Zeijlstra, Hedde. 2008. Modal Concord. In Masayuki Gibson & Tova Friedman (eds.), Proceedings of semantics and linguistic theory conference (SALT), vol. 17. 317–332. Ithaca, NY: CLS Publications.10.3765/salt.v17i0.2961Search in Google Scholar

Zimmerman, Thomas Ede. 2001. Free choice disjunction and epistemic possibility. Natural Language Semantics 8. 255–290.10.1023/A:1011255819284Search in Google Scholar

Published Online: 2020-01-08
Published in Print: 2020-02-25

© 2020 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

Downloaded on 22.2.2024 from
Scroll to top button