Korean putting verbs do not categorize space contrastively in terms of "tightness of fit"

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9 Citations (Scopus)


The present study refutes Choi and Bowerman's (e.g. 1991) analysis of Korean putting verbs as showing a crosslinguistically unusual pattern of categorizing space in terms of "tightness of fit." It shows that, in adult Korean, the differences between the "tight-fit" verb kki-ta ('slide the Figure, which is surrounded by or surrounds the Ground, along the inner or outer side surface(s) of the Ground with friction produced between the side surfaces of the two objects') and two "loose-fit" verbs, neh-ta ('move the Figure to a locus where it is surrounded by the Ground') and noh-ta ('deposit the Figure by releasing one's hold of it and leave it the way it exists'), cannot be reduced to "tightness of fit"; in addition, they even show different syntactic behavior. First, the two types of verbs refer to different components and phases of a motion event. Neh-ta and noh-ta are path verbs that refer to the endpoint of a path, whereas kki-ta is a manner + path verb that focuses on an earlier phase; in particular, kki-ta normally requires the Figure and the Ground to produce friction in the course of the motion. Because of this difference, in a verb compound with the connective -e/-a, in which manner/cause verbs must precede path verbs, kki-ta occupies the manner/cause-verb slot, whereas neh-ta fills the path verb slot; noh-ta is usually used as an aspectual marker in the verb compound and goes into the final slot, after the above two slots. Despite Choi and Bowerman's argument for young children's acquisition of language-specific principles of categorization of the input language, their child subjects' errors on their production of kki-ta show deviations from adult usage toward a much simpler pattern of categorizing putting events in terms of whether or not the Figure can easily be separated from the Ground at the endpoint of the path. The present study points out that the experimental studies conducted in recent years, which seem to show that preverbal infants respond categorically to putting events that appear to contrast in terms of "tightness of fit," allow different interpretations, because the categorization principle that the infants used may not be based on "tightness of fit.".

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1801-1820
Number of pages20
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2007 Oct
Externally publishedYes


  • Korean
  • Language acquisition theory
  • Motion verbs
  • Spatial categorization
  • Tightness of fit

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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