The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Linguistics Colloquium 9/30 - Kie Zuraw

Speaker: Kie Zuraw (UCLA)
Title: Korean sai-siot: phonological and non-phonological factors
Date: Friday, 9/30
Time: 3:30 PM
Location: 32-141

Some Korean compounds are pronounced as though /s/ were inserted, followed by various automatic rules of the language. A following lenis obstruent becomes tensified (/twi+s+pa?/ ? [twip’a?] ‘back room’), and a following nasal becomes lengthened (/p?+s+nol?/ ? [p?nno??] ‘sailors’ song’). This phenomenon is known as sai-siot ‘middle s’. Much literature has debated the nature of the sai-siot morpheme, rule, or constraint (/s/-insertion, mora insertion, etc.), but this talk focuses on sai-siot’s distribution.

This talk uses corpus data to investigate phonological and other predictors of sai-siot that have been noted in previous literature, as well as some new ones. These include the branching structure of compounds, their etymology (Sino-Korean vs. native Korean), frequency of the whole compound and its members, syllable counts of compound members, sonority of the segments surrounding the compound boundary, and presence of an underlying tense consonant.

A recurring finding is that most of these factors interact quantitatively rather than in a strict hierarchy. For example, it’s not the case that compounds can be divided, based on their branching structure, into those that can’t undergo sai-siot and those that may, depending on other factors. Rather, branching structure and other factors all contribute to the probability that a compound will undergo sai-siot. This suggests that phonological and certain non-phonological factors can interact directly, rather than belonging to completely separate modules.