The relationship between stereotypical meaning and contextual meaning of Korean honorifics

Chen, Xi orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-2393-532X and Lee, Jungmin (2020) The relationship between stereotypical meaning and contextual meaning of Korean honorifics. Journal of Pragmatics, 171 . pp. 118-130. ISSN 0378-2166

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In this paper, we investigate the specific way that people’s knowledge of an honorific’s stereotypical meaning contributes to their understanding of its contextual meaning. Stereotypical meanings refer to language users’ conventional belief about how an honorific should be used, while contextual meanings are the meanings created by their active choice of using an honorific in a context. We examine the relationships between the two through the special lens of Kim Jong Un’s use of Korean honorific first-person pronoun ce in a North-South Korea summit. Drawn on thirty metapragmatic interviews with Korean native speakers, we find that contextual meanings of ce are metapragmatically related to different subsets of stereotypical meanings. The varied relationships between the two meanings follow the mechanism that people make cognitive relevance between their language choice and pragmatic interpretations. Participants’ contextual awareness and language ideologies mediate the functionality of the mechanism, and hence explaining how and why one stereotypical meaning instead of another was activated in creating a contextual meaning. The nexus we found between metapragmatics, language ideologies, pragmatic effects and context potentially benefits multiple areas of research such as politeness, ethnolinguistics and second language acquisition.

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