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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The construction of norms of linguistic politeness : valorizations of Korean honorification in language how-to manuals Kim, Eun Seon


This thesis aims to examine metapragmatic discourses on linguistic politeness illustrated in Korean language how-to literature. The primary task lies in contextualizing the native awareness of ene yeycel (linguistic politeness in Korean) within the interests or values of certain social groups. The first group, South Korean government-sanctioned agencies, led a linguistic campaign promoting a new standard speech model in 1992. Language professionals, the second group of social actors, produced popular language how-to literature, especially after the establishment of the hegemonic standard speech model. Both language standardizing policy and the participants in the how-to industry represent the cultural process of constructing language and social conventions. The “normative” culture of ene yeycel can be empowered and widely circulated, gaining wider social practice. Standardization of honorification came to the surface as a public issue along with a new “cultural policy” of the Ministry of Cultural Affairs in 1990. In this cultural-political circumstance, the social meaning of standardized honorification was rediscovered as indigenous culture, a group identity shared by Korean speakers. Positively valorizing honorification as linguistic and cultural tradition, the standardized model preserves the sophisticated use of honorifics and reinforces superior-inferior relationships. However, the standard model of ene yeycel can be subjective and arbitrary. Moreover, different styles are too easily proscribed as errors made by sloppy speakers. Language how-to literature produces more diversified interpretations than the standard speech manual. As language users are confronted with the challenges of finding the proper level of honorification, language how-to manuals provide justifications to help speakers prioritize linguistic norms when internalizing social relationships. Positive valorizations of honorification derive from a speaker's respect for the interlocutor's social status or personality. Negative valorizations of honorification view deferential politeness as a kind of discriminatory behaviour indexing power-difference. The positive or negative values of honorification are based on different concepts of ene yeycel and on different identifications of social relationships. Such conceptualizations rationalize whether speakers should support honorification or not, and lead them to discuss language use in current society.

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Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International