Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Linguistics (Interdepartmental Program)

Document Type



This study is an examination of a corpus of computer mediated Korean discourse (i.e., e-mail), based on a folk-cultural category, nunch’i. Nunch’i is actively involved in linguistic feature use in terms of [+age] and [+distance] of human relationships. Many Koreans think that the world has an inherent hierarchy according to age. This idea has been reflected through nunch’i, a culture-specific system for maintaining harmonious social relationships especially between [+age] and [–age] people. Nunch’i has a function of foresight, in that it is part of the way that people read the situations and the faces of addressers and addressees. Like oral and written language, Korean e-mail discourse shows that when a younger writer communicates with an older recipient, s/he perceives nunch’i and then uses grammatical and lexical forms to communicate deference. The experiment was based on one occasion and three different social relationships, and between one sender and three different receivers. Fifteen Korean participants were asked to send three e-mails: to a senior professor, an equal aged close friend, and a younger aged close friend. Results of the experiment in e-mail language use show that there is a normative honorific system between [+age] and [–age]. However, the results of the experiment did not completely overlap with the findings in the application, which involved real-life e-mail data. The application shows that the normative honorific system can be modified by the level of [+distance] relationship between the addresser and the addressee. Thus, if a younger addresser does not perceive the pressure of nunch’i in a close relationship with an older recipient, the younger addresser does not change his or her language forms honorifically. Therefore, the results of this study argue that Koreans vary their Korean language use in systematic but not always traditional ways.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Mary J. Brody



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Linguistics Commons