The Syntax and Interpretation of Korean Semantically Defective kes as an Instance of Deep NP Anaphora

Myung-Kwan Park 1 ,
Author Information & Copyright
1Dongguk University
Corresponding Author: Professor Department of English and Literature Dongguk University 30 Pil-dong-ro 1-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul, 04620 Korea E-mail:

ⓒ Copyright 2023 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: Nov 07, 2023 ; Revised: Dec 06, 2023 ; Accepted: Dec 14, 2023

Published Online: Dec 31, 2023


In Korean, the dependent noun kes, meaning “thing” in English, is widely used in different structures. It is typically used as a semantically contentful generic non-human noun projection, acting as a relative clause (RC) head NP in RC constructions or playing a generic-stance noun-like role in the conventional complement clause—noun head construction, where it constitutes an instance of deep anaphora. It is also used like a function word devoid of semantic content; in such cases, it also acts as an instance of deep NP anaphora whose semantic content is, at the interpretational/construal stage, inherited from a relevant element in the structural context where it occurs. In this study, we argue that the latter use of kes is found in constructions such as internally-headed RCs and cleft structures. The main argument presented here is that structurally, only one kind of kes is represented as an instance of deep anaphora; however, it can be used either as a content noun or a semantically defective function-word-like noun.

Keywords: kes; stance noun; internally-headed RC; cleft; deep NP anaphora



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