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Volume 52, Issue 3


Knowing is not always knowing: The Korean cwul al- construction in mental-spaces theory

Iksoo Kwon
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  • Department of English Linguistics, College of English, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, 107 Imun-ro, Dongdaemun-gu, Seoul, South Korea
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Published Online: 2014-04-30 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ling-2014-0006


The aim of this paper is to shed light on the meaning of the construction ‘a relativizer-cwul [complementizer] -al- ‘know’ ’ in Korean, specifically on its semantic ambiguity between meaning ‘believe that . . .’ and meaning ‘know that . . .’. When it is followed exclusively by psych predicates in present-day Korean, particularly either al- ‘know’ or molu- ‘not.know,’ cwul comes to have its extended function as a complementizer from its original sense meaning ‘method,’ or ‘way.’ I argue that the ambiguity belongs to the overall construction, which is licensed by the neutral epistemic stance encoded by the complementizer cwul. I also contend that the cwul al- construction that contains the predicate al- ‘know’ shows asymmetrical usages of first and nonfirst-person subjects; the present-tense cwul al- construction with a first-person subject is not normally licensed. This paper employs mental-spaces theory to account for the ambiguity and the asymmetry, which stem from the covert interactions between the two viewpoints. I show that the theory captures the speaker's backgrounded knowledge with backgrounded information accommodation, a specific mental-space evocation mechanism, which is crucial in the construal of the construction.

Keywords: cwul; complementizers; experiential predicates; psych predicates; epistemic stance; knowledge; belief; mental spaces; perspective phenomena

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Published Online: 2014-04-30

Published in Print: 2014-05-01

Citation Information: Linguistics, Volume 52, Issue 3, Pages 731–757, ISSN (Online) 1613-396X, ISSN (Print) 0024-3949, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ling-2014-0006.

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