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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Korean vowel harmony: an optimality account Choi, Sohee


This thesis examines two aspects of Korean vowel harmony: the identification of the correct harmonizing feature and neutrality in the harmony system. In this study, I investigate the hypothesis that Korean vowel harmony can be described as tongue root harmony and that the neutrality in the harmony system can be accounted for through the interaction of various constraints within the framework of Optimality Theory; the Theory of Constraint Interaction (Prince and Smolensky 1993, McCarthy and Prince 1993) In Chapter One, the basic phenomena and the problems of Korean vowel harmony are presented. Chapter Two discusses the theoretical background of Optimality Theory. The basic claims and motivation for the theory are dealt with in the first section. In the following section, I consider major studies applying this theory, including: syllable theory (Prince and Smolensky 1993); prosodic morphology (McCarthy and Prince 1993, Prince and Smolensky 1993); and vowel harmony (Pulleyblank 1993) . In Chapter Three, the Optimality account of Present—Day Korean and Later Middle Korean is presented. I further discuss Optimality Theory’s treatment of diachronic change in harmony systems. Concluding remarks and areas for further research are given in Chapter Four.

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