Archives for category: linguistics

And the unicorn used this method to memorize all the different types of presupposition triggers for its semantics class.

Observations on new Korean pop star G.NA’s song, “꺼져 줄게 잘 살아 (I’ll Back Off So You Can Live)”:

I. Having natively acquired English (she was born and raised in British Columbia, Canada) has obviously affected how she speaks Korean. She does not seem to have [g] and [k] as her allophones for ㄱ; that is, she only pronounces ㄱ as [g] and not [k] throughout the song. I’m not sure if that’s also true for her regular speech, but it’s something I’ll look out for if I see her on reality TV. I should pay attention to how she uses ㅂ too: Will she use both [p] and [b], or just [b]? *

* For those of you not in the field, this basically involves the following concepts:

  1. In English, whether you choose to use [g] and [k] is important, because it causes a change in word meaning. For example, “GATE” and “KATE” mean two very different things.
  2. In Korean, whether you choose to use [g] and [k] is unimportant. So if you said “GATE” or “KATE”, they would both mean the same thing. It wouldn’t matter which form you used at all. If it makes it easier to understand, it’s kind of like the different ways you could say “POTATO” (although that’s actually a different phenomenon in linguistics): “po-tay-to” and “po-tah-to”. The “ay” and “ah” doesn’t make a difference in meaning.
  3. In G.NA’s case, being a native speaker of English has biased her to differentiating between [k] and [g], even in Korean. In contrast, people who only learnt Korean as their native language will never make that differentiation.

II. The title of the album containing this song is “Draw G’s First Breath”. At first, I assumed  “Draw G” as a proper noun; that is, “Draw” is an adjective describing “G”. But today, I somehow was enlightened of a second interpretation of the entire phrase: Perhaps it’s an instruction! It’s telling me to draw G’s first breath (whatever that looks like). It’s a real-life example of syntactic ambiguity, with a preference towards parsing “draw” as an adjective (since verbs don’t usually occur as the first word in a sentence).

That I feel happy after picking apart a Korean song for linguistic analyses kind of scares me. It’s irrefutable proof  that I’m a total nerd.

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