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J East Asian Linguist (2014) 23:361392

DOI 10.1007/s10831-014-9123-9

Genitive Case in Korean and its implications for noun


phrase structure
Duk-Ho An

Received: 15 December 2011 / Accepted: 3 July 2013 / Published online: 29 April 2014
Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Abstract I discuss in this paper the behavior of the so-called genitive Case marker
uy in Korean and argue that its occurrence has nothing to do with Case licensing in
terms of GB and Minimalism. To this end, I examine the distribution of uy and show
that it is obligatorily realized on certain elements which do not require Case at all. I
also show that uy is in an allomorphic relation with a type of prenominal inflection
which clearly has nothing to do with Case. This means that, strictly speaking, it is
not correct to refer to uy as a Case marker. Based on the analysis of the distribution
of uy, I also explore the ordering possibilities of certain prenominal elements in
Korean in light of Greenbergs Universal 20 and show that the current analysis
provides a principled account of their behavior. The discussion also has implications
for noun phrase structure in the language, which has not received much attention in
the literature until recently.
Keywords Genitive Case Case marker Noun phrase Prenominal modifier
Genitive drop Case omission Greenbergs Universal 20

1 Introduction
It seems that in many languages, the prototypical function of genitive Case is
marking possessive relations as well as certain arguments of the noun head. In
Korean, the usual assumption is that genitive Case is indicated by the so-called
genitive Case marker uy, as shown in (1).

D.-H. An (&)
Dept of English, Konkuk University, Hwayang-dong, Gwangjin-gu, Seoul, South Korea
e-mail: andukho@gmail.com

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D.-H. An

(1) a. Con-uy
chayk
John-gen
book
Johns book
b. papalian-uy
kongkyek
barbarians-gen attack
Barbarians attack
Note however that the distribution of genitive Case often goes much beyond these
cases. For instance, it is well-known that in some Slavic languages, an NP bears
genitive Case in the scope of sentential negation (Pesetsky 1982).
In this paper, I show that genitive Case in Korean also has exceptional properties.
More specifically, I examine the nature of the genitive Case marker uy from a new
perspective and argue that contrary to the usual assumption, this element is not to be
taken as a genuine indicator of Case licensing of its host. To this end, I begin by
pointing out that the distribution of uy does not easily fit in with any traditional
characterizations of Case in GB and Minimalism,1 based on the observation that
occurrence of uy is not contingent on whether its host is licensed with respect to
abstract genitive Case. Crucially, I show that uy attaches obligatorily to elements
that do not require Case at all, which makes it difficult to maintain that uy is
involved in Case licensing.
The argument is also shown to receive further support from the fact that the
behavior of uy, which is classified as a prenominal modifier suffix in traditional
Korean grammar, parallels that of another prenominal modifier suffix n, which
attaches to verbs and adjectives in prenominal position. It is crucial that for all
intents and purposes, occurrence of n may not be taken to reflect Case licensing. I
suggest further that these two elements are in fact allomorphic realizations of an
abstract prenominal modifier inflection. Thus, if it is correct that uy is an
allomorphic variant of n, which does not have anything to do with Case licensing, it
is reasonable to conclude that uy has nothing to do with Case licensing either. The
intuition that I advocate herei.e., that uy and n are essentially the same thing
actually finds its origin in traditional Korean grammar. In this respect, the current
analysis recasts the old insight in terms compatible with the framework of
generative grammar.
I further show that there is a correlation between the structural position of
prenominal elements and the obligatoriness of uy-marking on these elements (see An
2009, 2010 for relevant discussion and references). Based on this, I explore various
word order possibilities of certain prenominal elements in the language from the
perspective of Greenbergs (1963) Universal 20. In so doing, I show that the current
analysis provides a principled account of why certain prenominal elements never have
to bear the prenominal modifier form and why only certain prenominal elements
conform to Greenbergs Universal 20, while others apparently dont, a problem which
1

Note that the notion of case/Case is formalized differently in various theoretical frameworks (see Blake
1994; Woolford 2006; Malchukov and Spencer 2009 and references therein). It should be borne in mind
that the current discussion is couched exclusively in the framework of generative grammarin particular,
GB and Minimalism. I will not be concerned with recasting the intuition reported here in terms
compatible with other theoretical frameworks.

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363

has not received much attention in the literature until recently. Given this, the current
analysis has implications for the structure of noun phrases in Korean.
This paper is organized as follows: In Sect. 2, I set up the background for the
subsequent discussion by outlining the distribution of the genitive Case marker uy
and illustrate its basic properties, which already makes it unlikely that uy is a
genuine indicator of Case licensing. In Sect. 3, I briefly summarize the theoretical
assumptions about the notion of Case in GB and Minimalism to point out that the
behavior of uy outlined in Sect. 2 does not fit in very well with the role and function
of Case in generative grammar. In Sect. 4, I examine another prenominal modifier
form n and argue that uy and n are allomorphic variants, providing further support
for the current proposal that occurrence of uy has nothing to do with Case licensing
of its host. In Sect. 5, I examine a different aspect of the distribution of uy and
propose a more refined analysis of its distribution. In Sect. 6, I consider the
implications of the discussion in Sect. 5 for various aspects of the behavior of
prenominal elements in Korean, and in Sect. 7, I explore ordering possibilities of
certain prenominal elements in Korean in light of Greenbergs Universal 20 and
show that the current analysis provides a principled account of the properties
observed. Section 8 concludes the discussion.

2 The distribution of Genitive Case in Korean


In my opinion, the most noteworthy property of the genitive Case marker uy is its
wide distribution, which is quite pervasive to prenominal constituents. That is, it
seems that uy can attach to a variety of elements without caring about the nature of
its host. I illustrate below the distribution of uy.
First of all, as (2) and (3) show, uy can attach to arguments of the head noun just
like corresponding elements in other languages.
(2) kongsankwun-uy
chimlyak
communist army-gen invasion
Communist armys invasion
(3) Loma-uy
phagoy
Rome-gen destruction
the destruction of Rome

(Agent)

(Theme)

More importantly, uy can also attach to a much wider range of prenominal


constituents.
(4) a. Chelswu-uy cip
Chelswu-gen house
Chelswus house

(Possessor)

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b. sey-kwen-uy
chayk
three-CL-gen
book
three books
c. ecey-uy
nalssi
yesterday-gen
weather
yesterdays weather
d. Thaiphei-uy
nalssi
Taipei-gen
weather
Taipeis weather
e. hayngpok-uy
swunkan
happiness-gen
moment
a happy moment
f. Chomskhi-wa-uy
inthebywu
Chomsky-with-gen
interview
an interview with Chomsky
g. chong-ulo-uy
kongkyek
gun-instr.-gen
attack
an attack with guns
h. mikwuk-ulopwuthe-uy phyenci
America-from-gen
letter
a letter from America
i. ywulep-ulo-uy
yehayng
Europe-to-gen
trip
a trip to Europe

D.-H. An

(Numeral)

(Temporal)

(Locative)

(Modifier)

(Comitative)

(Instrument)

(Source)

(Destination)

Given this, I believe the data above reveal the crucial question concerning uy
quite clearly. In a nutshell, the distribution of uy seems too widespread to make it
plausible to assume that its occurrence is contingent on the Case licensing of its
host. Note that some of its hosts above are not even noun phrases, which makes
them unlikely candidates for Case licensing. Note also that the hosts of uy do not
seem to form a natural class with respect to their semantic properties either.2 With
these considerations in mind, let us move on to the next section to consider the
status of Case in GB and Minimalism and see how the behavior of uy fits into the
discussion on Case in these frameworks.

3 Case in GB and Minimalism and Genitive Case in Korean


Let me first review some of the major ideas concerning the notion of Case in
generative grammar such as GB and Minimalism. I will then move on to show how
genitive Case in Korean fares with these notions of Case.

See Kim (2011) and references therein for various semantic properties of the hosts of uy.

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365

3.1 Case in GB and Minimalism


Standard Case theory assumes that there are basically two types of Case: structural
and inherent. In the GB framework (e.g., Chomsky 1980, 1981 and 1986),
structural Case is seen as a property assigned to NPs in terms of their S-structure
position, where the type of Case assigned is determined by the nature of the
governing Case assigner. For instance, the subject of a tensed clause is assigned
nominative by INFL; the object of a verb is assigned accusative by the verb.
Concerning inherent Case, it is standardly assumed that its assignment is
contingent on -marking. In particular, Chomsky (1986, pp. 193195) argues that
genitive Case is inherent and is assigned by N to the NP that it -marks at
D-structure.3,4 It is also worth pointing out that coupled with the Case Filter and
its -theoretic reformulation referred to as the Visibility Hypothesis, given in (5)
and (6), respectively, Case theory played (and, still, plays) an important role in
accounting for the distribution of NPs.
(5) *NP if NP has phonetic content and has no Case. (Chomsky 1981, p. 49)
(6) An element is visible for -marking only if it is assigned Case. (Chomsky 1986, p. 94)
In Minimalism, with the elimination of the notion government, Case Theory
had to be reconsidered. For instance, Chomsky (1995) proposed that Case,
assumed to be an uninterpretable formal feature, is checked, not assigned. Thus,
DPs check their Case features with the relevant Case-checkers such as v or T. In
more recent updates of Minimalism, such as Chomsky (2000, 2001, and 2008), the
status of Case has been demoted somewhat in that it does not enter a checking
relation on its own, but is simply valued when the -feature of its host undergoes
Agree.

3.2 Genitive Case in Korean


Given this background, let us first consider the nature of uy from the perspective of
the proposal that genitive Case is an inherent Case. Concerning this, note that some
of the uy-marked elements above (such as (4b), (4e) and, presumably, everything
from (4f) to (4i) as well) do not seem to be assigned a -role from the head noun
i.e., these elements are not arguments. If this is correct, it is quite unlikely that the

Chomsky (1986) argues that genitive Case is assigned at D-structure and is realized at S-structure in
two different ways depending on the configuration in which the genitive-marked NP is found: It is
realized as of if the genitive-marked NP is in the complement position of N or as -s if the NP is in a
specifier position.

The proposal that genitive Case is an inherent Case is not limited to Chomsky (1986). It is also adopted
in his (as well as many other researchers) later works.

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D.-H. An

occurrence of uy correlates with inherent Case assignment.5 Furthermore, it is


striking that the elements in question obligatorily require uy-marking, as shown in
(7), while other elements which are clearly arguments can sometimes occur without
uy, as shown in (8). (See the discussion in Sect. 5 for further details on the omission
of uy.)

Concerning the claim that the relevant elements in (4f)(4i) are not -marked, an anonymous reviewer
for JEAL points out that corresponding elements in English behave like -marked ones in that they allow
extraction. Thus, it seems that they are not barriers for movement.

(i) a.
b.
c.
d.

I need to find a person to dance with.


This is the knife which John stabbed Bill with.
Where did you send the letter from?
Where are you going to?

(Comitative)
(Instrument)
(Source)
(Destination)

For independent reasons, however, it is difficult to replicate this in Korean. For instance, note that the data
in (i) involve preposition stranding, which is impossible in Korean due to the affixal nature of
postpositions.
(ii) * eti
Con-un
phenci-lul
-eyse
where
John-top
letter-acc
-from
(intended) Where did John send the letter from?)
(cf. eti-eyse Con-un phenci-lul ponayss-ni?)

ponayss-ni?
sent-Q

(cf. (ic))

Even if we change the example in (ii) to avoid postposition stranding, the outcome is still ungrammatical.
(iii) * nwu-ka
Con-un
ku chayk-ul
[ t koyonghan salam]-eykeyse
who-nom
John-top
the book-acc
hired person-from
(intended) Who did John buy the book from the person that t hired?
(cf. Con-un ku chayk-ul [nwu-ka koyonghan salam]-eykeyse sass-ni?)

sass-ni?
bought-Q

The deviance of (iii) may be implying that the relevant elements in Korean are different in that they
disallow extraction, indicating that they are not -marked. However, it may as well be that the deviance
of (iii) is due to an independent factore.g., something like CNPC. Settling this requires further
investigation, for which I do not have space.
In any case, I believe there is still indirect evidence suggesting that -marking is indeed relevant to
distinguishing the elements in question (including (4b) and (4e)) from the rest of the elements in (1)(4),
to the effect that the former are not -marked. That is, according to Saito et al. (2008), only arguments
can be remnants of NP-ellipsis in Japanese. Crucially, Japanese counterparts of the elements in question
behave as adjunctsi.e., they may not be remnants of NP-ellipsis. (For reasons of space, I only include
one representative case below. See Saito et al. (2008) and An (2009) for further details.)
(iv) * Taroo-wa
T.-top
Hanako-wa
H.-top
Taroo reads

iti-niti-ni
one-day-in
[go-satu no
five-CL no
three books in a

[san-satu no
three-CL no
hon] -o
book-acc
day, but Hanako

hon]-o
book-acc
yomu
read
reads five.

yomu ga,
read though

(Japanese)

The tricky part is that Korean does not allow NP-ellipsis (An 2012a, b), so the observation above cannot
be replicated. Nevertheless, given that syntactic properties of noun phrases and ellipsis in Korean and
Japanese are otherwise quite similar (An 2009; Saito and An 2010), I take (iv) to imply that -marking is
relevant in the way suggested above. See also the discussion in Sects. 5 and 6 for other contexts where the
elements in question also contrast with the rest of the elements in (1)(4), which further confirms that the
distinction is real.

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(7) a. * sey-kwen
chayk
three-CL
book
three books
b. * hayngpok
swunkan
happiness
moment
a happy moment
c. * Chomskhi-wa
inthebywu
Chomsky-with
interview
an interview with Chomsky
d. * chong-ulo
kongkyek
gun-instr.
attack
an attack with guns
e. * mikwuk-ulopwuthe
phyenci
America-from
letter
a letter from America
f. * ywulep-ulo
yehayng
Europe-to
trip
a trip to Europe
(8) a. Loma
phagoy
Rome
destruction
the destruction of Rome
b. Chelswu
cip
Chelswu
house
Chelswus house

367

(cf. (4b))

(cf. (4e))

(cf. (4f))

(cf. (4g))

(cf. (4h))

(cf. (4i))

(cf. (3))

(cf. (4a))

Given this, it seems safe to assume that occurrence of uy is not contingent on -role
assignment and, ultimately, inherent Case licensing.6
Assuming that the occurrence of uy has nothing to do with inherent Case
licensing, then if uy indicates Case licensing at all, it should involve structural Case.
In fact, in the literature on Korean, several researchers argue that uy reflects
structural genitive Case. For instance, Kang (1986, pp. 3335) proposes that
genitive Case marking in Korean is structural and is blindly performed under
government by N0. Kangs point is that the occurrence of uy is entirely based on the
structural configuration of its host, not on its thematic property with respect to the
head noun. Bak (2006) also assumes that genitive Case in Korean is structural based
on the fact that non--marked elements can bear uy, as also noted above. Choi
(2009) draws the same conclusion based on the observation that the distribution of
uy is similar to that of structural Case markers. For instance, Choi notes that the

Incidentally, note that the relevant prenominal elements in (7) are not NPs, which suggests that the
deviance may not be accounted for in terms of the Case Filter as formulated in (5). As an anonymous
reviewer points out, however, the Visibility version of the Case Filter in (6) may allow Case marking on
PPs if they are -marked. Nevertheless, it still remains problematic that numerals and adjuncts are
obligatorily Case marked in prenominal position, as in (7a) and (7b). See the discussion in Sect. 5 for
further details.

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D.-H. An

topic marker nun cannot combine with structural Case markers, as shown in (9a),
while it can with (what Choi assumes to be) inherent Case markers, as in (9b).
(9) a. * Chelswu-ka-nun/-lul-un/-uy-nun
Chelswu-nom-top/acc-top/gen-top
b. Chelswu-ekey-nun/-lo-nun
Chelswu-to-top/with-top
Choi further argues that uy is unlikely to reflect inherent Case in that multiple uy-marked
elements are allowed, as shown in (10), while the thematic relations that the hosts of uy
can establish with the head noun are not uniform, as also noted above in (2)(4).7
(10) Chelswu-uy phianokok-uy yencwu
Chelswu-gen piano song-gen play
Chelswus play of a piano song
Given this, I would like to make it clear that I essentially agree with these authors in
assuming that occurrence of uy is determined by the structural configuration of its host.
(See the discussion in Sects. 5 and 6 for further details on this point.) However, I do not
believe the occurrence of uy correlates with Case licensing in terms of GB and
Minimalism (regardless of whether it is inherent or structural). I discuss below the
reasons for this conclusion.
First of all, note that not all of the prenominal elements in (4) are NPs.8 For
instance, in (4b), the host of uy is a numeral-classifier; in (4e), although the host of
uy may be noun-like, it is clearly an adjunct; in (4f, g, h, i), uy is attached to a PP. In
particular, the fact that uy attaches to PPs is crucial evidence that the occurrence of
this element is not contingent on Case licensing.9 Furthermore, recall that, as shown
in (7), it is in fact obligatory that these PPs be marked with uy in prenominal
contexts, which is quite surprising because PPs in GB and Minimalism normally do
not require Case licensing (let alone obligatorily). In this connection, note also that
locative elements can be Case-marked in Korean, as shown in (11) (Kim and Maling
1993; Wechsler and Lee 1996; Sohng 2004, among others). (12) paraphrases (11),
replacing the locative with a PP. (13) shows however that the PP may not be Casemarked in contrast to (11). Interestingly, if we put the same PP in prenominal
position, attachment of uy becomes obligatory, as illustrated in (14).
(11) haksayngtul-i
thulayk-ul
students-nom
track-acc
Students sprinted on the track.

cilcwuhayssta.
sprinted

Choi (2009) seems to assume that inherent Case assignment is associated with a particular -role,
whatever it is, and that this -role can only be assigned once by a given -role assigner. Whether this
view is correct or not is tangential to the current analysis.

Here, I am using NP as a cover term for nominal extended projections.

Stowell (1981) argues that Case-assigning categories such as P may not occur in Case-marked
positions, which further supports the point made in the main text.

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Genitive Case in Korean

(12) haksayngtul-i
thulayk-eyse
students-nom
track-at
Students sprinted on the track.

369

cilcwuhayssta.
sprinted

(13) * haksayngtul-i
thulayk-eyse-lul
students-nom
track-at-acc
Students sprinted on the track.

cilcwuhayssta.
sprinted

(14) thulayk-eyse-*(uy)
cilcwu
track-at-gen
sprint
the sprint on the track
This strengthens the point: If the occurrence of uy correlates with Case licensing,
why must the PP be assigned Case in (14), while the same PP resists Case in (13)?
(See also Footnote 9.)
Under the Minimalist formulation of Case, the problem seems to remain the
same: If the occurrence of uy correlates with Case checking, it would be unclear
why PPs obligatorily undergo Case checking in prenominal contexts, while they do
not in clauses. Furthermore, concerning the Agree version of Case licensing, the
question about the status of uy as a marker for structural Case seems to be more
uncertainespecially so in a language like Korean, where morphological agreement is rarely manifested. Here, it is quite unlikely that prenominal PPs and
adjuncts obligatorily undergo -feature agreement with the head noun.
In this section, I have argued that there is strong reason to believe that the socalled genitive Case marker uy in Korean should not be considered a genuine
indicator of Case licensing regardless of whether the process involves Case
assignment, Case checking, or Agree and, also, whether genitive Case in Korean is
structural or inherent. The main motivation for this claim is that uy attaches, often
obligatorily, to elements that do not need Case licensing. In the next section, I
provide further evidence for this claim.
4 Prenominal modifier inflection in Korean
In this section, I discuss additional empirical motivation for the claim that the
genitive Case marker uy is not a genuine marker of Case.
First, it is significant that in the data examined in Sect. 2, all the prenominal
elements marked with uy are specifiable as [V].10 For instance, in (1)(3), and (4a,
c, d, e), the host of uy is a noun. In (4b), it is a numeral-classifier complex, where the
classifier can be considered a noun.11 In (4f, g, h, i), uy is attached to a postposition,
which is also [V]. Given this, one may wonder what happens if a [+V] element
such as a verb or adjective occurs in prenominal position, as illustrated in (15).
10
According to the usual feature-based classification of grammatical categories (Chomsky 1981), nouns
are characterized by the feature specification [+N, V]. Similarly, verbs are assumed to be [N, +V],
adjectives [+N, +V], and prepositions [N, V].
11

In Korean grammar, classifiers are categorized as dependent nouns.

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D.-H. An

(15) a. khi-ka
khu-n ai
height-nom big-n boy
a tall boy
b. cip-ey
ka-n
ai
home-to
go-n boy
the boy who went home
In (15a), an adjective immediately precedes the head noun and a verb does in (15b).
It can be easily noted that these elements have something in commonthat is, the
word-final morpheme n. In Korean grammar, this element is referred to as the
kwanhyengsahyeng emi, where the term kwanhyengsahyeng can be translated
roughly as prenominal modifier form and emi as word ending.12 (For ease of
exposition, I will refer to this element as the K-ending and gloss it as n).13
Before proceeding onto the main proposal, it should be pointed out that in
addition to its basic function of marking certain prenominal modifiers, n has also
been argued to be responsible for such notions as past tense, perfective aspect, realis
mood, etc. (See Mwun 2009; Yang 2010; Kim 2011; Kim 2012, among others.) For
instance, as indicated in (15b), the verb bearing n seems to receive a past tense
reading. However, as Mwun (2009) also points out, the element bearing n in (15a)
does not receive such a reading, which makes it questionable that n is a genuine past
tense marker.14 Furthermore, Kim (2012) argues that the tense/aspect interpretation
of prenominal clauses containing n is not determined clause-internally, but by the
properties of the main clause, which also means that n is not responsible for such
interpretations. It is also significant that n is never used as a marker for tense, aspect,
or mood outside of prenominal contexts. Furthermore, given that such notions as
tense, aspect, and mood are quite heterogeneous and are standardly assumed to
occupy different structural positions, it seems to me to be quite implausible, if not
impossible, to attribute all of these properties to a single item. (The same
considerations apply to l mentioned in Footnote 13.) In this context, it is also
noteworthy that many researchers propose that in Korean, tense, aspect, and mood
can each be instantiated by a null morpheme (Mwun 2009; Yang 2010; Kim 2011;
12
It is also significant that in Korean grammar, the genitive Case marker uy is referred to as the
kwanhyengkyek cosa (Nam and Ko 1994; Lee and Chae 1999; Kim 2011). Here, the first word
kwanhyengkyek comprises two elements kwanhyeng and kyek, where the former means prenominal
modifier form, as discussed in the main text, and the latter case. The second word cosa can be
translated as nominal suffix. The point is that according to this traditional view, uy and n serve
essentially the same functionthat is, they mark prenominal constituents. This has not received serious
attention in the generative literature on Korean, but is in fact the view I advocate in this paper.
13

In fact, n is not the only K-ending for [+V] elements: there is also l, as shown in (i).

(i) cip-ey
ka-l
ai
home-to
go-l
boy
the boy who will go home
As shown in the translation of (i), l is often assumed to be associated with such notions as future tense,
imperfect aspect, irrealis mood, etc. See the main text for further discussion on this point.)
14

Mwun (2009) also notes that in some contexts, n purely serves the function of marking prenominal
modifiers without any implications for tense, aspect, or mood.

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371

Kim 2012, among others). For instance, Chung (2005) argues that Korean allows a
phonologically null tense marker, given the availability of an example like (16).
(16) motwu
(ecey)
yehayngttena-ko
na-man
honca
all
yesterday
go.on.a.trip-and
I-only
alone
(cikum)
cip-ul
cikhi-n-ta.
now
home-acc
keep-pres-dec
All others left on a trip yesterday and I am alone staying home now.
(Chung 2005, p. 553)
Here, although the verb in the first conjunct is bare and is without any tense
marking, it receives a past tense reading, as is indicated by the fact that an adverb
like ecey yesterday can occur in it. Based on this, Chung (2005) argues that
Korean allows a null past tense marker.
Given this, I assume that in the relevant prenominal contexts involving n (or l for
that matter), we are actually dealing with null tense, aspect, or mood elements
combined with an abstract K-suffix, realized as the K-ending n or l.15 Concerning
the choice between n and l, I suggest that when the K-suffix combines with those
null elements that mark past tense, perfective aspect, or realis mood, it is realized as
n, while it surfaces as l when it combines with those null elements that are
responsible for future, imperfect, or irrealis interpretation.16 If this is correct, the
allomorphic relation between n and l can be represented as in (17).
(17) Insertion of the K-sufx
K

n / [NP past/perfect/realis __ N]17


l / [NP future/imperfect/irrealis __ N]

Now, what is crucial for our purposes is the fact that the genitive Case marker uy and
the K-ending n have certain properties in common.18 In fact, I believe that the
similarities are much more than a coincidence. Rather, there is good reason to believe
that the two suffixes are essentially the same elementthat is, uy and n are also
allomorphs, which provides further empirical evidence that uy may not be considered a
genuine Case marker. I illustrate the relevant properties of uy and n below.
First of all, uy and n are allowed only in prenominal contexts. Thus, in nonprenominal contexts, they are excluded.

15

This is also reminiscent of Kangs (1988) proposal that n and l conflate INFL and COMP.

16

I put aside further explorations of the syntactico-semantic properties of these null elements for future
research, as this will take us too far afield.
17

Here, I use NP in its traditional sense to refer to the whole extended nominal projection.

18

Given that l manifests all the relevant properties of n (and also because I assume the two elements to
be allomorphs), I will discuss only n in what follows (unless it is necessary to mention l), assuming that
the same considerations extend to l.

123

372

(18) Con-i/*-uy
[Meyli-uy
John-nom/-gen
Mary-gen
John bought Marys book.

D.-H. An

chayk]-ul/*-uy
book-acc/-gen

(19) a. ku
ai-nun
khi-ka
the
boy-top
height-nom
The boy is tall.
b. ku
ai-nun
cip-ey
the
boy-top
home-to
The boy went home.

sa-ss-ta.
buy-past-dec

khu-ta/-*n.
big-dec/-n

(cf. (15))

ka-ss-ta/-*n.
go-past-dec/-n

The second significant property of uy and n has to do with the way these elements
combine with other morphemes. In fact, in traditional Korean grammar, these
elements are both classified as word-final elements, which means that they always
occupy the absolute final position within their morphological complex. Thus,
regardless of how many and what kind of morphemes occur with them, uy and n
always appear at the end of the word. If they occur in any other position than that
indicated in (20), the result is completely ill-formed.
(20) a. haksayng-tul-man-uy
student-pl-only-gen
only for students
b. alumtawu-si-ess-te-n
beautiful-hon-past-evid-n
had been beautiful (polite)
The third crucial property of uy and n has to do with the type of their host. That
is, as already pointed out above, uy can only attach to [V] elements such as nouns
and postpositions, whereas n can only attach to [+V] elements such as verbs and
adjectives. Crucially because of this property, the distribution of uy and n do not
overlap and are completely predictablethat is, to a given prenominal element,
only either one of these elements can be attached. In other words, uy and n are in
complementary distribution.
Now, if we put together these observations, an interesting picture emerges. That
is, the state of affairs concerning the distribution of uy and n fits perfectly into the
standard characterization of allomorphic variation. Given this, I suggest that uy and
n are different contextual realizations of a single abstract kwanhyengsahyeng
prenominal modifier form element. If this is correct, then the distribution of the
prenominal modifier markers in Korean can be schematized as follows:
(21) Insertion of the K-sufx
K n / [NP past/perfect/realis __ N]
l / [NP future/imperfect/irrealis __ N]
uy / elsewhere

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Genitive Case in Korean

373

Crucially, this state of affairs provides additional support for the current proposal
that the genitive Case marker uy may not be considered a genuine Case marker. That
is because if uy is the same thing as n, which clearly has nothing to do with Case
licensing, it should not have anything to do with Case licensing either.
This proposal also receives indirect support from Middle Korean, where one of
the prenominal modifier markers in that timenamely, s, was allowed to attach to
both [+V] and [V] elements in prenominal contexts (see Ko 2000 and Kim 2011,
among others). For instance, in (22a), s is attached to a prenominal noun, while in
(22b), it is attached to an adjective.
(22) a. yenhwa-s
koc-i
na-kenul
lotus flower-s flower-nom bloom-though
though lotus flowers bloom
b. seycon-un
seykyey-yey mas
conhasita-s ttut-i-la
Buddha-top
world-at
the most honorable-s meaning-cop-dec
(intended) It means that Buddha is the most honorable in the world19
(Ko 2000, pp. 223224)
Regarding the distribution of s, Kim (2011, p. 139) also makes the following
remark, which is quite relevant to the present context:
What would have been realized as s in Middle Korean is realized
in contemporary Korean as uy or as the prenominal modifier ending
[i.e., the K-ending (An)] depending on the type of the construction.
(English translation by An)
In light of the current proposal that uy and n in contemporary Korean are different
realizations of a single abstract prenominal modifier form, the distribution of s in
Middle Korean provides evidence that the language indeed allowed such an element
to be overtly realized at some point in the course of its evolution.
In this section, I have provided additional empirical arguments that the so-called
genitive Case marker uy in Korean is not to be taken as a genuine marker of Case: It
has nothing to do with Case licensing at all, as n also does not. In the next section, I
consider the nature of the abstract prenominal modifier form, of which uy and n are
allomorphs.

5 Further on the distribution of the K-suffix


In the previous section, I argued that the genitive Case marker uy and the K-ending
n instantiate an abstract prenominal modifier form, i.e., the K-suffix. In this section,
I consider the nature of the K-suffix from a different perspective. In Sect. 5.1, I show
that, in certain contexts, uy can be omitted from a prenominal constituent. (I discuss
19

The English translation of (22b) can be a bit misleading in that it does not contain any prenominal
modifying element, unlike the original Korean example. In (22b), the last word ttut meaning, to which
the copular is attached, is actually a noun, and all the preceding elements in the example together form a
prenominal clause, of which the final element is an adjective, a [+V] category.

123

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D.-H. An

cases involving omission of n in Sect. 6.) In Sect. 5.2, I consider what the behavior
of uy suggests concerning the distribution of the K-suffix. Then, in Sect. 6, I discuss
the implications and consequences of the proposal concerning the distribution of the
K-suffix made in Sect. 5.2.
5.1 Omission of Uy
As mentioned above, it is significant that in some contexts, the occurrence of uy is
not required even of [V] prenominal elements. (I refer to this phenomenon as
genitive drop (GD, for convenience).) I illustrate three important properties of GD
below.
First, [V] prenominal elements can optionally bear the genitive Case marker uy
when they are -marked by the head noun.
(23) a. Chelswu-(uy)
chayk
Chelswu-gen
book
Chelswus book
b. Loma-(uy)
phagoy
Rome-gen
destruction
Romes destruction
c. kongsankwun-(uy)
chimlyak
communist army-gen invasion
Communist armys invasion
d. ecey-(uy)
nalssi
yesterday-gen
weather
yesterdays weather
e. Thaiphei-(uy)
nalssi
Taipei-gen
weather
Taipeis weather

(Possessor)

(Theme)

(Agent)
(Temporal)20

(Locative)

Second, in contrast to the -marked prenominal elements, non--marked


elements do not allow GD. (Concerning the status of the prenominal constituents in
(24) as non--marked elements, see the discussion in Footnote 5 in Sect. 3.)
(24) a. sey-kwen-*(uy)
chayk
three-CL-gen
book
three books
b. hayngpok-*(uy)
swunkan
happiness-gen
moment
a happy moment
c. Chomskhi-wa-*(uy)
inthebyu
Chomsky-with-gen
interview
an interview with Chomsky

(cf. (4b))

(cf. (4e))

(cf. (4f))

20
Anderson (1983) argues that temporal and locative phrases occupy an argument position within the
noun phrase and function as extended possessors. Larson (1985) also assumes that temporal and locative
phrases are inherently -marked.

123

Genitive Case in Korean

d. dol-lo-*(uy)
stone-with-gen
an attack with stones
e. mikwuk-ulopwuthe-*(uy)
America-from-gen
a letter from America
f. ywulep-ulo-*(uy)
Europe-to-gen
a trip to Europe

375

kongkyek
attack

(cf. (4g))

phyenci
letter

(cf. (4h))

yehayng
trip

(cf. (4i))

Next, although -marking seems to be relevant in the way suggested above, it is


not the only factor that determines the availability of GD. That is, there seems to be
a kind of adjacency requirement to the effect that the element without uy be adjacent
to the head noun. Thus, if there is an intervening element between a prenominal
element and the head noun, GD is normally disallowed, as illustrated in (25).
(25) *

kongsankwun
namhan-uy
chimlyak
communist army South Korea-gen invasion
the communist armys invasion of South Korea

(cf. (23c))

Here, the intervening element does not have to be a uy-marked phrase. N-marked
elements can also block GD in this context.
(26) kongsankwun-*(uy)
[amwuto yeysanghaci motha-n]
communist army-gen
anyone predict
could not-n
the communist armys invasion that nobody could predict

chimlyak
invasion

Interestingly, however, an intervening element does not always block GD either. In


some cases, GD is possible from elements that are not immediately adjacent to the
head noun.21
(27) a. kongsankwun-uy
namhan-uy
communist army-gen
South Korea-gen
the communist armys invasion of South Korea
b. kongsankwun-uy
namhan
communist army-gen
South Korea
the communist armys invasion of South Korea

chimlyak (Gen-Gen)
invasion
chimlyak (Gen-GD)
invasion

21

Caution is necessary in interpreting the data in question. The type of interpretation we are concerned
with here can be schematically represented as in (i), not (ii).
(i) [X [Y N0]]
(ii) [[X Y] N0]

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376

c. kongsankwun
namhan
communist army
South Korea
the communist armys invasion of South Korea
d. * kongsankwun
namhan-uy
communist army
South Korea-gen
the communist armys invasion of South Korea

D.-H. An

chimlyak
invasion

(GD-GD)

chimlyak
invasion

(GD-Gen)

In (27), the (a) and (b) examples simply illustrate basic cases, while the (c) and
(d) examples deserve some attention. In (27c), note that the agent argument is not
immediately adjacent to the head noun, although it still can undergo GD.
Interestingly, (27d) shows that such non-local GD is impossible when the
intervening element is marked with uy. Thus, it seems that for non-local GD to
be possible, the intervening element should also undergo GD. This leads us to
predict that if the intervening element belongs to those categories that do not allow
GD, as in (24), non-local GD will not be possible. This prediction is borne out.
(28) a. papalian-*(uy)
dol-lo-uy
barbarian-gen
stone-with-gen
barbarians attack with stones
b. Con-*(uy)
sey-kwen-uy
John-gen
three-CL-gen
Johns three books
c. kica-*(uy)
Chomskhi-wa-uy
reporter-gen
Chomsky-with-gen
a reporters interview with Chomsky
d. pwupwu-*(uy)
hayngpok-uy
couple-gen
happiness-gen
a couples happy moment
e. paynangyehayngkayk-*(uy) yulep-ulo-uy
backpacker-gen
Europe-to-gen
backpackers trip to Europe

kongkyek
attack
chayk
book
inthebyu
interview
swunkan
moment
yehayng
trip

In sum, it turns out that there are contexts where uy does not have to appear on a
prenominal [V] constituent: when the element in question is -marked by and is
also local to the head noun.
5.2 On the distribution of the K-suffix
I have shown above that two factors play a crucial role in determining the
availability of GD: the -markedness and the position of the prenominal element.
Based on this observation, I consider the distribution of the K-suffix below.
First, concerning the locality requirement that a prenominal element without uy
be local to the head noun, I suggest that this property follows from the fact that
-marking is done in a local configuration, given the observation that GD targets
only -marked constituents. More specifically, I assume that in cases like (23), the
prenominal elements without uy are all sitting inside the local domain of the -role

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Genitive Case in Korean

377

assigner, which is basically the lexical projection of the head noun, i.e., NP. In other
words, a -marked prenominal constituent surfaces without a K-suffix if it stays
within the NP, where it is -marked. Furthermore, assuming that only -marked
elements can reside within the lexical projection of the head noun, I suggest that
non--marked elements, which fail to undergo GD, as in (24), sit outside the domain of the head noun and are required to bear the K-suffix. This means that the
absence and presence of uy on a given prenominal element is determined by its
structural position within the extended projection of a noun to the effect that an
element without uy resides in the lexical projection of the head noun, whereas those
with uy are outside of it.22
Given this, anticipating the discussion in Sect. 6, let me recast the proposal
above. More specifically, I suggest that within the extended projection of a noun, if
the merger of an element is triggered by a selectional property, such as -marking,
the K-suffix is not realized on the element, while the K-suffix is required on the
element if its merger does not involve selection.
(29) Within the extended projection of a noun,
a. if an instance of merger is motivated by a selectional property,
no K-suffix is realized on the merging element;
b. if the merger is not motivated by a selectional property, the K-suffix is
required on the merging element.
Note that the proposal here is reminiscent of Saito et al. (2008) proposal
concerning the genitive Case marker no in Japanese, where its insertion is argued to
be determined by the structural context of its host. These authors actually refer to no
as a contextual Case marker, whose insertion is subject to the following condition:
(30) Mod-Insertion
[NP XP N] [NP XP Mod N], where Mod = no.
(Saito et al. 2008, p. 249, attributed to Kitagawa and Ross 1982)
Translated into the current analysis, (30) means roughly that in Japanese, a
prenominal element merged with the (extended) projection of a noun, regardless of
selection, is assigned the genitive Case marker no. The difference between Japanese
and Korean is that although the genitive Case marker uy may also be considered a
contextual Case marker, its insertion is more restrictedthat is, it is inserted after
an element in the extended projection of a noun when its merger is not motivated by
a selectional property.23
22

This is the aspect in which the pattern of occurrence of uy resembles that of structural Case, although I
argued above that its behavior does not fit in with the GB and MP formulations of the notion of Case.
Given this, it is not surprising that several researchers working on Korean assumed uy to be a structural
Case marker.

23

I should also mention that several native speakers of Japanese have informed me that a Japanese
counterpart to GD is apparently not available. Although further investigation is necessary, this seems at
first blush consistent with the proposal that the condition of insertion of the genitive Case marker in
Japanese is more lenient than that in Korean.

123

378

D.-H. An

The current proposal is also reminiscent of Cho and Sellss (1994) proposal in the
framework of LFG that prenominal elements should be specified with the type
feature [N-SIS], which is required to allow an element to be merged with a nominal
projection. Under their analysis, uy is considered a realization of [N-SIS] and, thus,
suffixing uy to a constituent licenses that element as a sister to a nominal projection
(Cho and Sells 1995, p. 135), which is quite similar to what I am proposing here.
(See also Yoon 1995 and Lee 2009 for relevant discussion.)

6 Implications and consequences of GD


Let me illustrate here how the analysis of GD proposed in the previous section
extends to other data and, also, consider its implications.
6.1 Locality effects on GD
First, the basic cases of the locality effect on GD in (25) and (26), repeated below as
(31a) and (31b), are straightforwardly accounted for. Here, the intervening elements
bear a K-suffix, which indicates that they are outside NP. This means that the initial
elements are outside NP as well, where they must be marked with the K-suffix,
realized in this case as uy. This way, the unavailability of GD in (31) is captured.
(31) a. kongsankwun-*(uy) namhan-uy
chimlyak
communist army-gen South Korea-gen
invasion
the communist armys invasion of South Korea
b. kongsankwun-*(uy) [amwuto yeysanghaci motha-n]
communist army-gen anyone
predict
could not-n
the communist armys invasion that nobody could predict

chimlyak
invasion

Concerning the grammatical cases of non-local GD, as in (27c), repeated below, I


assume that the prenominal elements are all within NP.24
24

Concerning (32), an anonymous reviewer for JEAL asks what happens if the order of the two
prenominal elements is reversed. For some reason, it turns out that the example is bad, regardless of
whether the displaced element bears uy or not. (N.B. (i) is acceptable under the reading where the initial
phrase is understood as the agent and the second one as the theme. This reading is irrelevant here.)
(i) a. * namhan-uy
kongsankwun
chimlyak
South Korea-gen
communist army
invasion
(intended) the communist armys invasion of South Korea
b. * namhan
kongsankwun
chimlyak
The example is still unacceptable when the second phrase is uy-marked.
(ii) a. * namhan-uy
kongsankwun-uy
chimlyak
South Korea-gen
communist army
invasion
(intended) the communist armys invasion of South Korea
b. * namhan
kongsankwun-uy
chimlyak

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Genitive Case in Korean

379

(32) kongsankwun
namhan
chimlyak
communist army
South Korea
invasion
the communist armys invasion of South Korea
6.2 [+V] Prenominal elements and GD
It should first be noted that n normally does not allow an equivalent of GD.25 Thus,
it is not easy to find a context where n is omitted from a prenominal element. Under
the current analysis, this is actually not surprising, because in prenominal position,
[+V] elements are typically modifiers and, for that reason, their merger is not
motivated by the selectional properties of the head noun, which thus requires the Ksuffix.26
Given this account, as an anonymous reviewer for JEAL also points out, the
question arises naturally concerning noun complement clauses in Korean. That is,
do these clauses bear n or not? The answer is actually yes, as shown below.
(33) Chelswu-ka
Yenghi-lul coahantanu-n sasil
Chelswu-nom Yenghi-acc like-n
fact
the fact that Chelswu likes Yenghi.

Footnote 24 continued
Here, the deviance of (ib) and (iib) can be captured by the current analysis: Assuming that the theme
starts out from a lower position than the agent, its remerger in the surface position cannot be -driven,
which thus requires uy on it. On the other hand, (ia) and (iia) seem to involve additional factors. First,
concerning (ia), I suspect that the deviance is on a par with the ungrammaticality of (iiia).
(iii) a. * pap-ul
Chelswu
mekesse.
rice-acc Chelswu
ate
(intended) Chelswu ate the rice.
b. Chelswu
pap-(*ul) mekesse.
Next, concerning (iia), I suggest that it is basically the same as (iva).
(iv) a. * kay-ka
Chelswu-ka
dog-nom
Chelswu-nom
(intended) Chelswu is afraid of dogs.
b. Chelswu-ka
kay-ka
Chelswu-nom
dog-nom
(intended) Chelswu is afraid of dogs.

mwuesepta.
afraid
(cf. Good as The dog is afraid of Chelswu.)
mwuseppta.
afraid

In any case, it seems clear that there are interfering factors involved in (iii) and (iv), which I suspect have
to do with more general properties of scrambling and (multiple) Case marking. I put aside further
explorations of these issues for future research.
25

But, see Sect. 7 for some special cases involving n.

26

It should also be noted that the stem of [+V] elements in Korean is typically a bound morpheme,
which requires suffixes to be attached to it for their morphological well-formedness. (See Kang 1988 for
the notion of morphological closure.) This may be considered another reason why n-drop is not
available. See Sect. 7.

123

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D.-H. An

If we assume that the prenominal clause in (33) is in the -marked complement


position of the head noun, the presence of n, which is actually obligatory here, may
appear problematic for the current analysis. However, there are several reasons why
the occurrence of n here does not pose a problem for the current analysis. First, it
has been argued by several researchers that noun complement clauses do not occupy
a -marked position. For instance, Stowell (1981) proposes that noun complement
clauses are appositive modifiers. In addition, Murasugi (2000) argues that, in
Japanese, there is no distinction between relative clauses and noun complement
clauses: They are both clausal modifiers of nouns, which occupy the specifier
position of some functional projection above NP.27,28 Furthermore, An (2007)
shows that in many languages, including Serbo-Croatian, Tagalog, Brazilian
Portuguese, and English, noun complement clauses are obligatorily parsed as
separate intonational phrases, which suggests that they are not sitting in a -marked
complement position. If these proposals are on the right track, the obligatory
occurrence of n in noun complement clauses (as well as in relative clauses) in
Korean actually provides additional support for the current analysis rather than
posing a problem for it.29
6.3 GD and compounding
An anonymous reviewer for JEAL raises the question whether GD involves
compounding. This is a reasonable question, but there is reason to believe that
compounding is not relevant. For instance, GD is possible for syntactically complex
elements, as shown below.
(34) [ku [mikwuk-eyse o-n]
haksayng]-(uy) ilum
that America-from came-n student-gen
name
the name of that student who came from America
Here, the prenominal noun haksayng student is itself modified by the demonstrative ku that as well as the relative clause mikwuk-eyse o-n who came from

27

Recall also that n obligatorily shows up in relative clauses as well.

28

Although I cannot go into the details of Murasugis (2000) arguments here for reasons of space, the
types of construction she examines are also attested in Korean, except for some cases where certain
language-specific properties interfere. Thus, I believe that to a large extent, her arguments can be directly
extended to Korean as well. In particular, the obligatory presence of n in relative clauses and noun
complement clauses is consistent with Murasugis proposal that there is no distinction between relative
clauses and noun complement clauses.
29

An anonymous reviewer for JEAL raises the question whether n can be considered a marker of
relativization. This is a reasonable question, as several researchers argue that even prenominal adjectives
bearing n are reduced relative clauses. However, as discussed in the main text, the predicate of a noun
complement clause also bears n. This indicates that regardless of the construction type, a prenominal
[+V] category is always marked with n. Recall also that n is referred to as a prenominal modifier marker
in Korean grammar. See also Murasugi (2000), mentioned in the previous footnote, for relevant
discussion.

123

Genitive Case in Korean

381

America.30 If GD involved compounding, the availability of GD in (34) would


appear mysterious.
In addition, Hans (1994) discussion of n-insertion in compounding in Korean
provides further evidence that we are not dealing with compounding in GD
contexts.31 Han characterizes the environment for n-insertion as in (35).
(35) n / [ C ] [ __ i ]

( = prosodic word)

Given this, (36) exemplifies n-insertion.


(36) pwuek
il
kitchen
work
(roughly) chores in the kitchen

[pukh] [il] [punil]

What is interesting is that in GD contexts, we do not find n-insertion.


(37) a. Lasnik-uy
Lasnik-gen
Lasniks theory
b. Lasnik
c. [rasnik] [iron]

ilon
theory
ilon

(GD)
[rasnikiron] / *[rasniniron]

Thus, GD behaves differently from compounding with respect to the phonological


phenomenon of n-insertion, which I take to indicate that these two processes are
different in nature.
Furthermore, I have argued above that thematic relations between the
prenominal constituent and the head noun matter in determining the possibility
of GD, so that only -marked elements can undergo GD. However, in the context
of compounding, it seems that such restrictions do not hold. For instance, in (38),
the first word in each compound is arguably a modifier and does not seem to be
-marked by the head noun.

30
As expected, if the prenominal constituent in (34) is separated from the head noun, GD is no longer
possible.

(i) [Con-i
sswu-n] [ku [mikwuk-eyse o-n]
haksayng]-(uy) ilum
John-nom wrote-n that America-from came-n student-gen
name
the name of that student who came from America, which John wrote
(ii) [ku [mikwuk-eyse o-n]
haksayng]-*(uy) [Con-i
sswu-n] ilum
that America-from came-n student-gen
John-nom wrote-n name
31

Note that the n in question is different from the K-suffix n. The latter is a word-final ending, whereas
the former targets word-initial position. Furthermore, insertion of the former element is governed by
phonological conditions, as shown in (35), whereas that of the latter is governed by morphosyntactic
conditions, as argued above.

123

382

D.-H. An

(38) a. tol-tari
stone-bridge
a stone bridge
b. kiwa-cip
tile-house
a tile roofed house (cf. kiwa Korean traditional roofing tile)
I take these to indicate that, in GD contexts, we are not dealing with the process of
compounding.
6.4 The position of prenominal arguments and GD
An anonymous reviewer for JEAL points out that under the current analysis, the
prenominal elements in (27a), repeated below as (39a), and those in (27c), repeated
below as (39b), should occupy different structural positions.
(39) a. kongsankwun-uy
communist army-gen
the communist armys
b. kongsankwun

namhan-uy
chimlyak
South Korea-gen invasion
invasion of South Korea
namhan
chimlyak

It is correct that, under the current analysis, the uy-marked elements in (39a) are
outside of NP, while the prenominal element without uy in (39b) are inside of NP.
The question is whether there is any independent way to show this structural
difference. Devising a test for that requires further investigation, but I think the
following contrast is suggestive:
(40) a. kongsankwun-uy
namhan-uy
twu-pen-uy
chimlyak
communist army-gen South Korea-gen two-CL-gen
invasion
(roughly) the two instances of the communist armys invasion of
South Korea
b. * kongsankwun namhan twu-pen-uy chimlyak
The pattern here is actually predicted by the current analysis: Given that the first two
prenominal elements precede an element marked with uy, they are expected to be
uy-marked as well. But, that also illustrates that the prenominal elements in (40a)
and (40b) do not occupy the same position: Only uy-marked elements can occur
before the numeral-classifier.32

32
Interestingly, the uy-marked elements in (40a) allow all of the logically possible combinations
concerning their order (as long as the order between the agent and theme is preserved (cf. Footnote 24).

(i) a. kongsankwun-uy namhan-uy


twu-pen-uy chimlyak
b. kongsankwun-uy twu-pen-uy
namhan-uy chimlyak
c. twu-pen-uy
kongsankwun-uy namhan-uy chimlyak
I take these ordering possibilities to reflect the status of these prenominal elements as adjoined elements.
See also the discussion in Sect. 7.

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Genitive Case in Korean

383

6.5 Numeral-classifiers and Uy-marking


Concerning the obligatory uy-marking on numeral-classifiers in Korean, as shown in
(24a), an anonymous reviewer for JEAL points out that in Japanese, where a direct
counterpart of (24a) is available, the sequence noun + Num-CL is also possible.
In fact, Korean allows such a sequence as well.
(41) a. na-nun
I-top
I bought
b. na-nun
I-top
I bought

[sey-kwen-uy
three-CL-gen
three books.
[chayk
book
three books.

chayk]-ul
book-acc

sassta.
bought

sey-kwen]-ul
three-CL-acc

sassta.
bought

(= (24a))

The question is why the numeral-classifier in (41b) is not marked with uy.
Before addressing this issue, I should perhaps note first that analyzing the
numeral-classifier construction is not my primary concern and will certainly take us
far afield, which prevents me from going into too much detail here. Still, I would
like to point out a couple of things that might be relevant. Here, the crucial factor is
the inverted order of the relevant prenominal elements. There seem to be several
possibilities for deriving (41b), putting aside the question about the relation between
(41a) and (41b). One is to suppose that the noun head moves up (via head movement
or even NP movement) from below the position of the numeral-classifier. Then, the
question arises why the numeral-classifier is not marked with uy, although it would
have been prenominal before the movement of the noun. One of the possibilities
that comes to mind is that perhaps, realization or insertion of uy is based on the
configuration in the postsyntactic component (or S-structure, so to speak), which is
actually not far removed from the current analysis.33 Thus, at the relevant point, the
numeral classifier is no longer prenominal, which presumably does not qualify for
uy-insertion. Alternatively, note that in (41b), the numeral-classifier is actually
marked with the accusative Case marker ul, which is licensed by the main verb.
Thus, perhaps, when there is competition between uy and other structural Case
markers like ul, the latter kind wins out. There may still be other options to explore,
but I leave them aside for future research.
6.6 Uy-Marking and interpretation of prenominal elements
Finally, the current analysis may also provide a potential account of the often-made
observation that uy-marked prenominal elements, unlike those without uy, tend to be
interpreted to be more specific, D-linked, definite, or salientproperties often
associated with displaced elements (Choi 2009; Ahn and Cho 2007, among others).
Although further details need be worked out, it seems that this tendency can be
derived at least partly from the current analysis, where prenominal elements without
33
Recall that in Saito et al. (2008) terms, no, the genitive Case marker in Japanese, which shares many
properties with uy (An 2009), is a contextual Case marker, which I assume can essentially be extended
to uy as well.

123

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D.-H. An

uy are supposed to stay in situ in the local domain of the head noun, while those
bearing it are merged with some functional projection above the lexical domain.

7 Greenbergs Universal 20 and noun phrase structure in Korean


In this section, I introduce a different set of prenominal elements and discuss their
properties. In particular, I examine these prenominal modifiers in light of
Greenbergs (1963) Universal 20, which states that there is a strong crosslinguistics tendency concerning the order of demonstratives, numerals, and
adjectives in prenominal position. That is, they are arranged in the order Dem [
Num [ A. I show however that prenominal modifiers in Korean do not behave
uniformly concerning Greenbergs Universal 20 and argue that the state of affairs
can be accounted for under the current analysis. The discussion is also shown to
have implications for noun phrase structure in Korean, which has not received much
attention in the literature until very recently (see Hong 2010; Kim 2010; and Kim
2012 for relevant discussion and references).
7.1 Ordering of prenominal modifiers in Korean and Greenbergs Universal 20
As mentioned above, Greenbergs (1963) Universal 20 (henceforth, GU20) states
that, in prenominal position the order of demonstrative, numeral, and adjective
conforms to the order Dem [ Num [ A.34 That said, note that Korean is one of the
representatives of so-called free word order language. Indeed, prenominal
elements in Korean seem to enjoy a great deal of freedom in word order, as
illustrated in (42).35
(42) a. ku
the
the two new
b. ku
c. twu-chay-uy
d. twu-chay-uy
e. saylowu-n
f. saylowu-n

twu-chay-uy
two-CL-gen
buildings
saylowu-n
ku
saylowu-n
ku
twu-chay-uy

saylowu-n
new-n

kenmwul (Dem [ Num [ A)


building

twu-chay-uy
saylowu-n
ku
twu-chay-uy
ku

kenmwul
kenmwul
kenmwul
kenmwul
kenmwul

(Dem [ A [ Num)
(Num [ Dem [ A)
(Num [ A [ Dem)
(A [ Dem [ Num)
(A [ Num [ Dem)

On the surface, this state of affairs seems to be inconsistent with the predictions
of GU20. I think situations like this have unduly rendered unattractive any serious
attempts at investigating the structure of noun phrases in the language from a more

34
Although Dem [ Num [ A is by far the most commonly observed order of prenominal elements
across languages, it is not the only order GU20 is concerned with. However, those other possibilities are
not relevant to the current discussion. See Cinque (2005) for further discussion and references.
35
The examples in (42) may differ slightly from one another with respect to scope interpretation.
However, what is important for us is the fact that all of the logically possible combinations of the relevant
prenominal elements are attested in the language.

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Genitive Case in Korean

385

general theoretical point of view, which, in turn, has led to the relative paucity of the
discussion on the topic in the literature.
Nevertheless, it is hasty to conclude that noun phrases and prenominal elements
in Korean behave in a way that is completely unexpected by GU20. In fact, it turns
out that there is a set of prenominal elements whose distribution conforms to the
predictions of GU20. 36 The relevant elements form a relatively small set consisting
of demonstratives, numerals, and adjectives, which are of native Korean origin and
are usually monosyllabic.37 Crucially, the relative order of these items is strictly
Dem [ Num [ A, as shown below.
(43) a. ku
the
the two
b. * ku
c. * twu
d. * twu
e. * say
f. * say

twu
say
two
new
new buildings
say
twu
ku
say
say
ku
ku
twu
twu
ku

kenmwul
building

(Dem [ Num [ A)

kenmwul
kenmwul
kenmwul
kenmwul
kenmwul

(*
(*
(*
(*
(*

Dem [ A [ Num)
Num [ Dem [ A)
Num [ A [ Dem)
A [ Dem [ Num)
A [ Num [ Dem)

This is in sharp contrast with the behavior of the prenominal elements in (42), which
are semantically very close to the prenominal elements in (43). (Below, in places
where a distinction has to be made, I refer to the numerals and adjectives in (42) as full
numerals and full adjectives and the corresponding elements in (43) as bare numerals
and bare adjectives.) Thus, at first blush, it appears that there are two different classes
of prenominal modifiers in Korean, which behave differently with respect to GU20.38

36
After I submitted the first draft of this paper, I learned that Kang (2005) had also investigated similar
elements in relation to GU20, although the focus of his analysis is somewhat different than mine. I refer
the reader to Kangs work for details.
37

I present below a few more examples.

(i)
(ii)
(iii)
See

Demonstratives: i this, ku that, ce that, etc.


Numerals: han one, twu two, sey three, etc.
Adjectives: say new, yeys old, ttan other, mayn most, etc.
also Kang (2005), Hong (2010), Kim (2010), and Kim (2011) for relevant discussion.

38
Given the data in (42) and (43), an anonymous reviewer for JEAL asks whether demonstratives have a
longer form bearing uy. To answer the question first, there does not seem to be a longer form of
demonstratives unlike bare adjectives and bare numerals. In fact, there are a few other aspects in which
demonstratives differ from adjectives and numerals. For instance, certain defective nouns can combine
with demonstratives, but not with numerals and adjectives, regardless of whether the latter are bare or
full. (Here, defective nouns are a class of native nouns which must be used with a preceding modifier such
as a demonstrative, a modifying clause, or another noun (Sohn 1999).)

(i) i/ku/ce cuum around this/that time, i/ku/ce ccum about this/that much, etc.
(N.B. It is a bit difficult to translate cuum and ccum into English. They both indicate some sort of
approximation.)
In addition, intuitively, demonstratives seem to have less lexical content than numerals and adjectives.
At the moment, I am not sure why these differences exist. This might as well be an accident. In any
case, this does not seem crucially relevant for the current analysis and, thus, I put aside these issues for
future research.

123

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D.-H. An

7.2 Reconciling prenominal modifiers in Korean with GU20


The question that arises here is whether the prenominal modifiers in (42) are
genuine exceptions to GU20 and whether there is any principled way to account for
the differences between (42) and (43). Concerning this, I believe that the exceptions
to GU20 illustrated by the data in (42) are only apparent and that prenominal
elements in Korean do indeed conform to GU20 in their essentials.
First, concerning the fixed order of the prenominal elements in (43), I assume,
essentially following Cinque (2005), that their Dem [ Num [ A order follows
from the fact that they each head independent projections and contribute to the
expansion of the extended nominal projection in a manner illustrated in (44). (Here,
for the sake of argument, I assume the head-initial phrase structure and ignore
certain irrelevant details in the tree diagram. See also Kayne 1994 and Cinque 2005
for relevant discussion.)
(44)

DemP
Dem

NumP
Num

AP
A

NP

Next, notice that there is an important difference between the prenominal


elements in (42) and those in (43). That is, the prenominal elements in (42) (except
for the demonstrative ku the/that) bear the K-suffixes uy and n, as in twu-chay-uy
two and saylowu-n new, whereas none do in (43). More importantly, only the
prenominal elements without a K-suffix conform to the order dictated by GU20, as
noted in (43).
Given this, I suggest that these two properties are not coincidental. That is, note
that as the tree diagram in (44) illustrates, the merger of the prenominal elements in
(43) is triggered by selection, as they form a series of head-complement relations.
Thus, under the analysis of the K-suffix proposed above, it follows that the
prenominal elements in (43) never have to bear the K-suffix although they
exclusively occur in prenominal position.39 Concerning the full numerals and full
adjectives in (42), which manifest free word order, I assume that not being selected
elements, they can adjoin to or occupy the specifier position of some functional
projection above NP, where the K-suffix is required of them.40
39

In fact, the elements in question (as well as those in (iii) in Footnote 37) can only be used attributively.

40

As an anonymous reviewer for JEAL points out, numeral-classifiers in some languages, for instance,
Chinese, have often been argued to establish a head-complement relation with the noun they modify
(Tang 1990; Cheng and Sybesma 1999; and Li 1999). As mentioned in the main text, I assume however
that numeral-classifiers in Korean are adjuncts. Concerning this, note that the obligatory presence of uy on
numeral-classifiers in Korean, which parallels other non-selected elements, is a question to be answered

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387

There is further evidence in support of this analysis. In Korean, there is a group


of adjectives containing the morpheme cek (Hong 1994, 2010; and Bak 2006). Cek
is a derivational morpheme that typically attaches to Sino-Korean nouns to derive
adjectives. In prenominal contexts, the cek-adjective can be used in two different
forms. In one case, the adjective is followed by the copula i and the K-suffix n, as in
(45a) (call it long-form); in the other case, the adjective stands alone without n, as
in (45b) (call it short-form).
(45) a. yelcengcek-i-n
enthusiastic-cop-n
an enthusiastic youngster
b. yelcengcek
enthusiastic
an enthusiastic youngster

chengnyen
youngster
chengnyen
youngster

What is interesting for our purposes is that in some respects, the short-form cekadjective is similar to GD. For instance, the alternation between the long-form and
short-form cek-adjectives is not free. That is, under normal circumstances, the shortform cek-adjective is allowed only if it is adjacent to the head noun; if the adjective
is not adjacent to the head noun, we must resort to the long-form, as shown in (46)
and (47).
(46) a. ce
yelcengcek-i-n
that
enthusiastic-cop-n
that enthusiastic youngster
b. ce
yelcengcek
that
enthusiastic

chengnyen
youngster

(47) a. * yelcengcek
enthusiastic
b.
yelcengcek-i-n
enthusiastic-cop-n

chengnyen
youngster
chengnyen
youngster

ce
that
ce
that

chengnyen
youngster

(46) illustrates that when the cek-adjective is adjacent to the head noun, both the
long-form and short-form cek-adjectives are allowed. On the other hand, when it is
separated from the head noun, as in (47), the short-form cek-adjective is not
possible. This is reminiscent of the locality condition on GD.
Given this, I suggest that the short-form cek-adjective is special in that it behaves
like the bare adjective in (44), which is why this element does not bear the K-suffix.
Footnote 40 continued
by anyone who tries to extend the head-complement analysis to numeral-classifiers in Korean. The
adjunct analysis also receives further plausibility from the fact that numeral-classifiers in Korean can be
reordered rather freely with respect to other uy-marked elements, as shown in Footnote 32. In addition, in
comparing numeral-classifiers in Chinese and Japanese, Saito et al. (2008) argue that numeral-classifiers
in Japanese are adjuncts unlike their Chinese counterparts. Given that numeral-classifiers in Korean and
Japanese are quite similar in the relevant respects, this also provides indirect support for the current
analysis.

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D.-H. An

Furthermore, given (44), the ungrammaticality of (47a) follows straightforwardly: It


goes against GU20. Given this, an anonymous reviewer for JEAL points out that
under the current analysis, it is predicted that the short-form cek-adjective can be
followed by a prenominal constituent, if the latter undergoes GD. This prediction is
actually borne out, as shown below.
(48) Chelswu-uy
yelcengcek thongsalon kanguy
Chelswu-gen passionate syntax
lecture
Chelswus passionate lecture on syntax (adapted from Hong 1994)
Here, the short-form cek-adjective yelcengcek passionate precedes the theme
argument thongsalon syntax, which is without the genitive Case marker uy.41
Concerning the long-form cek-adjective, recall that it involves the copula, which
I take to indicate that the adjective is actually bigger than a simple A0: it is rather
like a prenominal modifying clause.42 Therefore, this element does not establish a
head-complement relation with NP and is adjoined to (or occupies the spec position
of) some functional projection above NP. It is then correctly predicted that this
element bears the K-suffix. Crucially, only when it bears the K-suffix does it have
freedom of word order, just like the cases we examined in (42).
To summarize, I have addressed in this section the following questions: (i) Why
is it that some prenominal elements do and others do not conform to the predictions
made by GU20? (ii) Why is it that certain prenominal elements are never required to
bear the K-suffix? (iii) Why is it that only those elements in (ii) conform to GU20? I
have suggested that those elements mentioned in (ii) and (iii) project independent
projections and their introduction to the structure is licensed by selectional relations,
requiring no K-suffix. Regarding those elements that apparently do not conform to
GU20 and enjoy freedom of word order, I have suggested that they occupy nonselected positions and thus must be realized with the K-suffix. Finally, I have also
shown that the behavior of a special class of adjective, called the cek-adjective,
further corroborates the current analysis.

41

It is also significant that (48) becomes degraded if the theme argument is marked with uy.

(i) * Chelswu-uy yelcengcek thongsalon-uy kanguy


C.-gen
passionate syntax-gen
lecture
Chelswus passionate lecture in syntax
This implies that the lowest NP-external position, where a prenominal element is obligatorily marked
with the K-suffix, is higher than the position of the bare adjective (including the short-form cek-adjective).
Crucially, this also indicates that the distribution of the relevant prenominal elements here can provide a
toolbox for examining the fine-grained structure of noun phrase in Korean, which I put aside for
subsequent research for reasons of space.
42
Kim (2012) argues more generally that n-marked adjectives in prenominal position, including the
long-form cek-adjective, involve reduced relative clauses.

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389

8 Conclusion
In this paper, I presented a fresh perspective on the nature of the so-called genitive
Case marker uy in Korean. In particular, I argued that the occurrence of uy is not
contingent on the licensing of abstract genitive Case of its host. For instance, I
showed that it obligatorily attaches to prenominal PP modifiers and adjuncts. Seen
from the perspectives of Case in generative grammar, the behavior of uy does not
seem to qualify as something crucially involved in Case licensing. In this respect, it
actually seems inappropriate to refer to this element as a Case marker.
I also argued that uy is in an allomorphic relation with the K-ending n, which
clearly has nothing to do with Case licensing. I argued that uy and n are different
contextual realizations of an abstract K-suffix, where K stands for kwanhyengsahyeng prenominal modifier form, a term borrowed from traditional Korean, nongenerative grammar. As mentioned earlier, uy and n are both categorized as some
type of kwanhyengsahyeng prenominal modifier form, an intuition that has not
drawn any attention in the generative literature on Korean. In this respect, the
current analysis presents a generative reinterpretation of an old insight from Korean
grammar.
Moreover, I showed that the current analysis has implications for the structure of
noun phrases in Korean. In particular, I addressed this issue from the perspectives of
Greenbergs Universal 20, which describes a cross-linguistic tendency in the order
of prenominal elements. I argued that the superficial counterexamples to Greenbergs Universal 20 are only apparent and are in fact amenable to a principled
explanation under the current analysis. I also explained why certain prenominal
elements never occur with the K-suffix and why only these elements conform to
Greenbergs Universal 20.
Finally, one of the questions I leave open here is the extent to which the current
proposal can be extended to other types of Case markers in Korean. It is also worth
mentioning that an anonymous reviewer for JEAL raises the question whether
nominal arguments of nouns need Case in Korean, if uy indeed has nothing to do
with Case. I think the question can be asked in more general terms: Do noun phrases
in Korean need Case? Concerning this, I believe the answer should be in the
positive, if one assumes the formulations of Case in GB or Minimalism to be
universal at least in their essentials. However, based on the behavior of the so-called
genitive Case marker uy, I argue in this paper that the surface realization of the Case
marker in question does not tell us whether a given noun phrase is licensed with
respect to Case. To some extent, the same may be applicable to other Case markers.
As is well-known, there are many contexts where nominative and accusative Case
markers (let alone the genitive Case marker) in Korean behave quite differently
from corresponding Case forms in other languages: For instance, there are multiple
nominative and accusative constructions; nominative and accusative markings are
sometimes available on elements which are not noun phrases or not even arguments;
these Case markers can be omitted in certain contexts, etc. Given this, one could
entertain the hypothesis that nominal arguments in Korean are licensed for Case in a
way not morphologically reflected on the surface and that traditional Case markers
serve some other functions than Case licensing, similarly to what I proposed

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D.-H. An

concerning uy. An extreme view along that line would be that Case in Korean is
more abstract than that of English in that it is never reflected morphologically.
Similarly, concerning the reviewers question mentioned above, one could assume
that, as in English, nominal arguments of nouns are assigned an inherent Case,
although it is not phonologically realized (and uy is simply a marker of a prenominal
modifier, as argued above). In any case, it seems that the various phenomena
involving Case markers mentioned above are curious enough to warrant a rethinking
of the notion of Case and Case marking in the language (as well as other languages
employing Case markersmost notably, Japanese), which I put aside for future
research.
Acknowledgments I owe my deepest gratitude to Mamoru Saito for his insightful comments,
encouragement, and kindness. I am also grateful to several other people who contributed to this research
at its various stages, including but not limited to, Hee-Don Ahn, Jonathan Bobaljik, Zeljko Boskovic,
Tomohiro Fujii, Teresa Griffith, Yu-On Kang, Hideki Kishimoto, Keiko Murasugi, Bum-Sik Park, Masao
Ochi, and Sandra Wood. I also thank three anonymous reviewers for JEAL for their comments which
helped improve the paper significantly.

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