Sunday, May 31, 2015

Endings of Sentences

Since the stems of verbs and adjectives cannot be used alone, they are always used with endings. Korean has many different endings that convey much of the grammatical functions such as tense, aspects, sentence types, conjunctions, speech levels, and so on.
The endings can be categorized into two types: pre-final endings and final endings, depending on where they are placed in the verb or adjective.

Pre-final Endings

Pre-final endings are inflectional elements that come between the stem and the final ending. They include the honorific suffix -(으)시, past tense marker 었/았, and so on.
Consider the following example:

* Pre-final Ending
Notice that the pre-final endings appear between 보, the stem “see”, and 어요, “a sentence final ending”.

Non-sentence-final Endings

There are two types of final endings: non-sentence-final endings that ends a verb or an adjective but not the sentence, and sentence-final endings that ends both the verb and the sentence. Non-sentence-final endings include various clausal conjunctives such as -고(and then), -어/아서(because), -으면서(while), -지만(although), -도록(in order to), and so on.
Consider the following sentence.

* Final Endings
Notice that the conjunctive -고(and then) does not end the sentence but does end the verb stem 마시(drink). On the other hand, the ending 어요 ends the verb “eat” as well as the sentence.

Sentence-final Endings

The typical examples of sentence-final endings are various speech-level endings. Korean has six speech levels as shown below. These speech-level endings indicate the speaker’s interpersonal relationship with the addressees or attitude toward them.
The deferential speech level is the highest among the six, followed by the polite speech level and so on. In addition, each speech level has four endings that indicate the type of sentence: declarative(statement), interrogative(question), imperative(command/request), and propositive(suggestion):

Sentence-final Endings
Among the six speech levels, the use of (3) blunt and (4) familiar speech levels have been declining especially among young generations. We however must be familiar with the deferential, polite, intimate, and plain levels, which are still widely used for all Koreans regardless of age differences. Consequently, the debate around blunt and familiar speech levels will not be discussed in this book.
Let us apply four of the endings above to the verb stem 먹(eat). When saying “(someone) eats”, one needs to use one of the four interrogative endings like -습니까, -어요, -어, and -냐.


Notice that the verb stem in each speech level as well as the referential meaning are the same. In addition, different endings render different social meanings, such as speaker’s attitude toward the hearer and the formality of the situation. Consequently, choosing the right speech level is critical, and it all depends on who you talk to.

* Click to Read a related post
Grammar for Beginners
Predicates of Sentences
Negation (부정문)

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