Processing Null and Overt Pronoun Subject in Ambiguous Sentences in Korean

Soo-Ok Kweon


This study investigates the processing of the null and overt pronouns in intra-sentential coreference in complex sentences that consist of a subordinate clause followed by a main clause in Korean. It tests the Position of Antecedent Hypothesis (PAH), which holds that Ø and overt pronouns have a division of labor and perform different functions. This hypothesis assumes that in Italian intra-sentential anaphora, the null pronoun prefers the subject as antecedent, whereas the overt pronoun prefers the object as antecedent. As Korean is different from Italian in the word order of the main and the subordinate clauses and in the syntactic function of the subject, this study aims to test the PAH to see whether this principle can make a similar prediction for a typologically different language, Korean. Korean university students completed a questionnaire that was designed to test the PAH in sentences that were wholly ambiguous in Korean. The results revealed that Korean speakers preferentially associated Ø with an antecedent in the subject position and the overt pronoun with an antecedent in the object position. This confirms that the PAH makes a correct prediction for Korean as well.

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