Topicality and Modality in Null Subjects in Child Korean

Volume 15
Issue 3
Sook Whan Cho
The purpose of this study is two-fold. One purpose was to examine the pattern of change over time in the production of null subjects, in topic recoverability, and in subject-modal agreement in the speech of two Korean children at several time points. A second purpose was to investigate whether topic recoverability and verb modality relate to null subject use in Korean children. While the major issue of this paper was change over time in child use of null subjects, I was also interested in looking into the development of the production of modals and sensitivity to topic recoverability, in light of the view that subject drop is potentially motivated by the grammatical and pragmatic conditions. For these purposes, it was hypothesized in this study that the frequency of null subjects will increase with age in cases where the referents are recoverable (old information) and predictable from the modals marked for particular person. Main findings indicated that at around 2;0 Korean children were able to distinguish old and new information, and drop or overtly report the subject accordingly. Our data also demonstrated a possibility that two-yearold Korean children gradually became sensitive to the connection between modal suffixes and the subjects that agree with them. Based on these findings, it is speculated that, along the lines suggested in Rispoli (1995, p. 345), Soracea et al. (2009), and Shin & Ecker (To appear in 2015), pragmatics on one hand, and speech act and inflectional morphemes on the other, are possible information sources for the construction of the relation between the meaning of predicates and the discourse-pragmatic and syntactic roles encoded by a subject. 

Key words: null subject, Korean modality, topic recoverability, null subject in Korean children, Korean ellipsis, pragmatic condition in subject use in child language, morpho-syntax in subject-drop in child language