Ambiguity of Response Particles to Negative Utterances in Korean and English

HaeKyung Wee 1 ,
Author Information & Copyright
1Dankook University
*Corresponding Author : Professor, British and American Humanities, Dankook University, 152, Jukjeon-ro, Suji-gu, Yongin-si, Gyeonggi-do 16890, Korea , E-mail:

ⓒ Copyright 2019 Language Education Institute, Seoul National University. This is an Open-Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Received: Oct 02, 2019 ; Revised: Nov 05, 2019 ; Accepted: Dec 26, 2019

Published Online: Dec 31, 2019


This study explores the ambiguity of Korean response particles (RP) ung ‘yes’ and ani ‘no’ responding to long form negation (LFN), in comparison to the ambiguity of RPs to the so-called “high negation” and “low negation” in English. The results show that i) the ambiguity of Korean LFN is due to two possible interpretations, i.e., pragmatic and literal, ii) Korean RPs are anaphors, supporting Krifka’s (2013) propositional anaphoric approach to English RPs, but iii) they refer to only one antecedent from the preceding proposition, that is, for the outermost NegP only, for both SFN (short form negation) and LFN. In contrast, the ambiguity of English high negation is two-fold. One type of ambiguity is due to the two possible interpretations of high negation, pragmatic versus literal, just like Korean; the other type of ambiguity occurs within the literal meaning of high negation and is due to the availability of multiple antecedents, just like with English low negation.

Keywords: response particle; ambiguity; long form negation; short form negation; high negation



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