ABSTRACT

This study investigates the pragmatic functions of ettehkey, a discourse marker derived from a question word in colloquial Korean. Ettehkey, as an interrogative word that corresponds to how in English, is commonly considered a contracted form of ettehakey, which derives from an interrogative adjective, ettehata. Ettehkey is also used as an indefinite word that refers to a nonspecific referent. Several studies have highlighted discourse-pragmatic aspects of Korean wh-question words as discourse. However, the research on pragmatic features of ettehkey as a discourse marker is scarce. Therefore, the present study examines how ettehkey pragmatically functions in natural conversation, considering this development as a grammaticalization process. The study argues that pragmatic functions of the discourse marker ettehkey can be broadly categorized as a hearer-centered mitigator and a speaker-centered intensifier. As a hearer-centered mitigator, it can be realized as a hedging device in bringing up a new topic, allowing the hearer some freedom in response or mitigating a question's imposition. As a speaker-centered intensifier, ettehkey tends to emphasize the speaker's unexpected or perplexed stance at an interlocutor's (non)verbal action or a topic of conversation. For this study, 50 naturally occurring telephone conversations from the Korean Telephone Conversations Speech Corpus were analyzed.

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