Functional and Semantic Attribution of the Future Tense Grammatical Markers in The Korean Language

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The article discusses functional and semantic status of Future Tense grammatical markers of the Korean language. Despite the fact that discussions on this issue have been going on for more than a dozen years, still among researchers, there is no consensus on how many grammemes make up the category of Tense in Korean, whether it contains an independent Future Tense grammeme, and if so, which markers should be relevant to it. Due to the relevance of the problem, the authors aim to give a brief overview of the opinions on the issue, dividing them into two groups - asserting the presence of the Future Tense grammeme in Korean or denying it, as well as to justify personal position on the status of grammatical markers with prospective semantics. As research material, various Korean grammar researches and Korean grammar (connective and finite endings and constructions with - (으)ㄹ Korean Future Tense participle marker) are used. The result of the study shows that Korean Tense category has no specific Future Tense forms as opposed to the Present and Past Tense forms. All markers with prospective semantics are modal, which means that the Futurum category in Korean implements itself in the functional and semantic field of modality rather than temporality. Authors argue statement that -(으)ㄹ 것이다 Korean construction has the ability to act as neutral non-modal Future Tense marker. According to the point of view of a systemically oriented approach to the grammatical units analysis, presented in the article, the conclusion about Korean -(으)ㄹ 것이다s’ modal status is made.

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Introduction As is well-known, in Russian the Tense category is closely connected with the Aspect category of the Verb which is why to make up any verbal Tense forms the expression of the aspect features of an action is obviously a must. The Future Tense grammeme is included in the sets of Tense forms and opposed to the Past and Present Tense forms and thus as a consequence, it’s connected with the verbal Aspect category and belongs to the semantic field of temporality within the Indicative Mood. Although by nature the Future Tense modus is unreal, principally hypothetical and often “in natural languages reflected by means of various modal forms” [1. С. 267], in Russian it’s interpreted as te real one being connected with such modal categories as intention, wish, possibility, etc.1 If in Russian, the issues of the Future Tense grammeme status , its correlation with the Past and Present Tenses grammemes, the verbal category of Aspect and Mood are solved quite easily, in Korean they were and still are under discussion to reveal the polar opinions and multiplicity of approaches to describe the verbal category of Tense as a whole, and the Future Tense, in particular. Thus the issue of the verbal Aspect markers (as in various studies their constituents can vary both in quality and in number), though many scholars have to recognize this category to be optional[2] and state that the Korean language possesses the Tense but not the Tense-Aspect system” [3; 4; 5]. Even more complicated lies the issue of the existence in Korean an independent grammeme of the Future Tense as opposed to the Past and Present Tense forms. Various researches solve it both positive [6; 7; 8; 9; 10; 11] and negative [5; 12; 13; 14; 15], while quite often it’s determined by the point of view on the existing Korean Tense system revealing 2 (Past, Nonpast; Actual, Remote I, Remote II) [5; 12]; 13 (in 3 moods) [9] and even 18 Tenses [8]. Besides, the researchers can’t reach the unified opinion on the grammar prospective markers being temporal or modal-temporal, and which mood markers of modal-prospective meaning belong to[3]. The main target of this study is a short review of the opinions as well as elaborating and stating the authors’ point of view on the issue. 1. Analysis of studies stating the existence of the Future Tense grammeme in the Korean Language One of the earlier studies of Korean - G.J. Ramstedt “A Korean Grammar” [6] one can see the manifold Tense system of the Indicative Mood consisting of 3 goups of forms: declarative, regressive and indecisive ones. Each group consists of 6 tenses: Present, Past, Future, Pluperfect, Past-Future and Future-in-the Past which in general reminds the Tense system in Romanic-Germanic languages with the dominance of the so-called ‘Absolute’ Tense relevant to the moment of speech. In our opinion, the inconsistence appears due to the fact that Korean similar to Russian, is characterized by the dominance of relative tense forms referring to the moment of action [4]. According to G.J. Ramstedt, the Future Tense grammar marker is suffix -겠- (ket) which in combination with suffixes of the Past Tense makes up the Past-Future and Future-in-the Past forms. It’s worth noting that despite belonging to the Indicative Mood the forms with -겠- suffix in translation made by G.J. Ramstedt himself, “acquire” modal senses: 보겠다 he will see; 보았겠다 he must have seen; 보겠었다 he had to see; 보겠지 I assume, h will see; 보겠었지 he might have seen, etc. [6. P. 99-100]. Thus, casting no doubt about the existence of the Future Tense grammeme in Korean, nevertheless, G.J. Ramstedt accepts the associate modality (although not in every form). Korean researcher H.B. Lee in his book on Korean Grammar [8] also suggests extremely complex system of 18 tenses. Its first division demonstrates 2 tense groups: Direct Tenses and Retrospective Tenses with evidential marker -더. Each group is divided into Simple Tenses having temporal meanings within a single word form, and Compound, or Progressive Tenses having temporal meaning complicated by aspect meaning of process expressed by means of analytical construction -고 있-. Future Tense is formed by using -겠- suffix and has got two meanings of Intentive Future used in the sentences with the 1st person singular Subject and Presumptive Present or Future used in thye sentences with the 2nd and 3rd person Subjects. Besides, similar to the G.J. Ranstedt’s classification, -겠- suffix in combination with the Past Tense suffixes and evidentiality, as well as the construction of -고 있-, is used to form quite a number of tenses: Future Progressive (-고 있겠-), Past of Probability (-았/었겠-), Past Perfect of Probability (-았/었었겠-), Past Progressive of Probability (-고 있었겠-), Future Retrospective (-겠더-), Past Retrospective of Probability (-았/었겠더-), Future Progressive Retrospective (-고 있겠더-), Past Progressive Retrospective of Probability (-고 있었겠더-). As is seen, all the tense forms exposed -겠- suffix reflects not temporal, but modal meaning - intention or probability, which involves into classification one more argument - modality. Besides, quite a great number of tenses indicates that the system also tends to denote an absolute rather than relative tense. Thus the system itself proves to be an artificial construction, firstly definitely striving to apply to the Korean language the Romanic-Germanic tense system, and secondly, violates the principle of background singularity as apart from self-temporal markers uses separate elements of evidentiality, aspectuality and modality categories. Soviet and Russian Orientalist Yu.N. Mazur [10] while treating the Future Tense category attributes to it only one -겠- suffix. He makes up his classification of the Future Tense meanings proceeding from its reference to the Present Tense plane or the Preterit (Past) Tense plane, specifying 4 syntagmatic meanings: 1) Present Hypothetical Future; 2) Present Appellate (Rhetoric) Future; 3) Preterit Hypothetical Future; 4) Preterit Appellate (Rhetoric) Future. This classification ignores and lacks the meaning of Future proper, but contains the indication to its hypothetical character as an essential one. The action of Present Future coincides with the moment of speech and is embedded in the context of the Present Tense. The hypothetical Future means a presupposition of the third person; the Appellate Future denotes “action (situation, feature) in Present which is stated by a speaker as a rhetoric question” [10. С. 158]. The Preterit Future possesses the same meanings but on the Past plane. In our opinion though, such approach to describe the Future grammeme also tends to drift towards absolute tense, and its undoubted advantage belongs to admitting inequitable positioning of grammatical Future in relation to the Past and Present, which makes it possible to pose the question on the -겠- suffix status and the grammeme of the Future. Korean researcher Paek Pong Ja speaks about three grammar tenses - the Past, Present and Future. She also agrees the -겠- suffix to be the marker of the Future Tense. According to her point of view, it is used when the communicants speak about unconfirmed fact existing as a mental image in the speaker’s mind [11. P. 5]. She remarks as well that the meaning of this suffix vary depending on the subject grammar person in the sentence. If the subject has got the form of the 1st person singular, it expresses intention, will of the speaker and could be used to describe the situation both in Present and Future. [11. С. 9]. Examples: 그만 먹겠습니다. I’m not eating/will eat anymore. 앞으로는 이런 잘못을 하지 않도록 하겠어요. From now on, I’ll never make such a mistake. In case the subject has got the form of the 2nd or 3rd person, -겠- suffix expresses the supposition or guess of a speaker. The supposition could concern both - the Present and Future planes, while at that the supposition of the Future should have immediate link with the Present and be supported by personal observation [11. С. 9, 91]. Examples: 10시니까 그이가 지금은 사무실에 있겠어요. [Now] it’s 10 o’clock, so he should have been in the office now. 내일은 날씨가 흐리겠다. Tomorrow it might be overcast. Thus despite the embedding of -겠- suffix in the temporal system to describe the grammatical Future Tense, Paek Pong Ja, the orientation towards modality dominates. The action referring to the Future plane stays inseparable with the Present, and is characterized through the speaker’s reference to it. As soon as the relation to one’s proper action and to the action carried out by some other person a priori couldn’t be one and the same, in various contexts one and the same marker of the Future Tense reveals different meanings. 2. Analysis of the studies denying the existence of the Future Tense grammeme in the Korean Language Modern Korean studies more and more often observe the point of view on the Korean language deficiency of the independent Future Tense category because speaking about the future a Korean speaker means not real, but possible, probable future using the suffix to express intention, readiness or promise, depending on the context, to make the action mentioned, but not the future itself [2; 5; 12; 13; 17; 18]. Thus, A.G. Vasilyev says, ”Whether the examples given above [sentences with -겠- suffix] are the evidence of the -겠- suffix -кет- to denote the Future Tense, as is believed some researchers of the Korean language? As a matter of fact, logically speculating, one has to admit that all the sentences mentioned above denote actions, if they are actually going to take place, will happen just after the moment of speech. But this fact is due to the implication of such concepts as wish, intention, promise and readiness to make any action, but not the meaning of the future expressed by the suffix itself. To assign the temporal meaning to the suffix itself is practically the same if to allege that the Russian sentence “Я хочу навестить друга” (lit.: ‘I’d like to see my friend’) expresses the Future Tense by the infinitive. (…) -겠- suffix itself tells nothing about the time of the event which in predicative forms with -겠- suffix could take place in the future, at present and in the past” [17. P. 9, 15]. Modern Russian orientalist carrying out Korean studies O.A. Trofimenko define the -겠- suffix as a marker to refer the sentence to the plane of the Future, but speaks on the point within the topic of moods in Korean. According to her point of view, this suffix is the marker of the prognostic mood denoting “the situation which hasn’t yet been realized, but is close to the realization, that is being potential. This mood often makes up the principle means to define the events referring to the future” [14. P. 72]. The Potential Mood an action is being anticipated and treated as possible, presupposed or bound, which is why the -겠- suffix bearing meanings of intention and presupposition is the marker of “the grammar category of potential mood” [14. P. 72], and bearing modal but not temporal meaning inherently thus it can combine with the suffixes of the Past and Present Tenses. Another Korean scholar Seo Jeong Su [13] also shares the opinion to deny the Korean Future Tense grammeme existence. He assumes only two tenses - the Past and the Nonpast, and remarks that neutral modal form of the Nonpast Tense could express the meaning of the future as in Korean, there’s no independent Future Tense form. The -겠- suffix and the participle construction of the Future Tense -(으)ㄹ 것이다 are considered as strictly modal ones without any reference to any moment of speech. Lee Keedong [12] argues in the similar vein. According to him, the Korean language discriminates two tenses - actual (Actual, with -ㄴ/는- marker) and remote, having two forms (Remote I, -았/었-; Remote II, -았/었었-). The -겠- suffix and -(으)ㄹ 것- construction he treats within the category of modality, similar to Seo Jeong Su. Attractive view on the issue of the number of Korean tenses and the grammar markers is developed in the study by S. Sonh Sung-Ock [5], who proves the Korean tense system to involve two grammemes - the Past with the -았/었- marker being the sole marker of the aspect category and Nonpast with its zero morpheme marker (-Ø). According to the scholar, the -겠- and -(으)ㄹ/리-, as a rule, treated in the traditional grammar as the markers of temporality or aspectuality, in fact have nothing in common either with tense or aspect because they make the modality category elements with meanings of will and wish, verification, circumstantial guess/presupposition (-겠-) and prognosis (-(으)ㄹ/리-). They are treated as the markers of the Future due to the zero suffix (-Ø), which is unobvious to mark the forms of Nonpast (Present/Future) Tense [5. P. 46]. Summing up the review of the issue on the existing or not of the independent Korean grammeme of the Future Tense, it would be useful to turn to the dissertation by E.N. Kondratyeva [19], devoted to the diachronic study of predicativity of The Early/New Korean literary text dating back to the XVIII century. The linguist states that “the Middle Ages Korean didn’t have the special morpheme to render the meaning of the future” [19. С. 59], while in modern Korean studies, the participle marker -(오/으)ㄹ, having a high rank of objectivity (in comparison with the -겠- suffix) is the marker of probability modality, that is, implicit mood, or unreality. Nevertheless, according to E.N. Kondratyeva, the -(으)ㄹ 것이다modern Korean construction after all reveals the meaning of modally neutral Future Tense in case if the predicate function belongs to stative verbs, the이- copula or the verbs of existence/non-existence있-/없-, and their “zero form[4] couldn’t be used to express the Future Tense” [19. P. 58]. Although such approach to understanding the semantics of -(으)ㄹ 것이다construction could be accepted, the researcher herself stresses the fact that in Korean, it doesn’t speak in favour of grammatical symmetry between the Future, on the one hand, and the Present/Past, on the other hand. One has to remark that modern Korean studies share two points of view on the -(으)ㄹ 것이다 construction nature. According to the first one, it contains in itself “the highest degree of subjective certainty in the future event” [19. P. 59], which naturally includes it in the modality category. According to the second one, this construction adds to the sentence more objective character, in comparison with the -겠- suffix, and presents the future impartially. “Thus ability to objectivize (…) attributes a specific status to the construction within the epistemic modality, thus discriminating it from pure modal constructions (…), and also providing for its evolution towards the marker of the Future Tense” [19. P. 60]. We’d rather disagree to the second approach as, in our opinion, it contains a contradiction. On the one hand, despite the fact that the -(으)ㄹ 것이다construction does reveals the greater degree of sentence objectivity than the -겠- suffix, one can’t deny the modal senses it involves. According to the grammatical dictionary, it expresses the intention (ambition, willingness) or presupposition of a speaker [11. С. 91][5]. Examples: 나는 내일 집에 없을 겁니다. (Russian: Меня завтра не будет дома; English lit.: I won’t stay at home tomorrow); 공과대학은 올해 경쟁이 심할 것입니다. (Russian: В университете Конгва в этом году будет жесткая конкуренция. English lit.: There’s going to be a strong concurrence at the Kongva University). Though the intention and presupposition have an objective character, they still stay intention and presupposition, that is, modal categories. Besides, The possibility itself to evaluate the degree of objectivity/subjectivity of the -(으)ㄹ 것이다 construction by means of semantic comparison with the -겠- suffix, doesn’t allow consider it to be a temporal marker. These assumptions makes us accept that “the objectivity” of the construction is nothing else but the highest degree of subjective belief. Among other issues, discrimination the -(으)ㄹ 것이다 construction from “pure” modal constructions, we thus confirm the ambivalent objective and subjective character of its semantics, which depending on the lexical environment, should fulfil opposite functions: to objectivize the contexts, or vice versa to add modality to it. The existence of such functional contradiction within the only one grammar marker causes much doubt. 3. Analysis of modal endings and constructions of final and non-final predicates with the -(으)ㄹ ending of the Future Tense participle To demonstrate modal possibilities of the -(으)ㄹending of the Future Tense participle we’d get down to describe a number of linking and finite constructions. -(으)ㄹ게- used to express speaker’s intention, oath or promise against a fact to take place in the future. Examples: 극장표는 내가 살게. (Russian: [Тогда] я куплю билеты в театр. English lit.: [Then] I will buy tickets to the theater). 새해부터는 술과 담배를 끊을게. (Russian: С нового года брошу пить и курить. English lit.: After the New Year I will quit drinking and smoking). -(으)ㄹ까? - has a number of meanings; 1) a sentence with the subject of the 1st person singular makes a question to a communicator about his opinion on the action which the subject is going to fulfil, or it could be an Imperative phrase in the form of a question, e.g., 창문을 닫을까요? (Russian: [Мне] закрыть окно? English lit.: Shall I close the window?). 이사장님의 비서를 부를까요? (Russian: Не позвать ли [вам] секретаря директора Ли? English lit.: Shall you call director’s secretary?); 2) a sentence with the subject of the 1st person plural makes up an invitation for a common action, e.g., 주말에 우리 둘이 여행이나 떠날까? (Russian: Съездим куда-нибудь на выходных? English lit.: Shall we go out during the weekend?); 3) a sentence with the subject of the 3rd person is a presupposition of a speaker against the action or condition of a subject, e.g., 누가 이길까요? 한국 선수가 이길까요? (Russian: Как думаешь, кто выиграет? Корейский спортсмен? English lit.: What do you think, who is going to win? Korean sportsman?); 4) a sentence makes up a question to a communicant on the possibility to fulfil an action of somebody/something, e.g., 길이 미끄러운데 버스가 여기까지 올까요? (Russian: На дорогах скользко. Думаешь, автобус сможет сюда доехать? English lit.: The roads are slippery. Is it possible the bus could come here?); 5) a sentence could make a rhetoric question (a confirmation in a question form), and in this case, it stresses disagreement of a speaker with the content, e.g., 그렇게 큰 회사에서 월급을 제 날짜에 안 줄까요? (Russian: [Неужели] в такой большой фирме не выплачивают зарплату вовремя? English lit.: Do you say they are not paying the salary on time in such a big firm?). -(으)ㄹ라 - is a warning of a communicator about some unpleasant or unwelcome situation could take place in the future (Admonitive), e.g., 쓸데없는 말은 하지 말아. 오해할라. (Russian: Не говори без надобности. [Тебя] могут неправильно понять. English lit.: Don’t speak if not necessary. You might be misunderstood). -(으)ㄹ라고? - expresses a negative attitude or doubt of a speaker about the truth of any fact, e.g., 박 선생이 나에 대해서 그런 나쁜 생각을 할라고? (Russian: [Разве] господин Пак может думать обо мне так плохо? English lit.: If Mr. Pak could think of me so bad?). -(으)ㄹ래야 - expresses incapability (inner or outer) to fulfil an action despite the effort applied, e.g., 너무 빨라서 쫓아갈래야 쫓아갈 수가 없었다. (Russian: [Он шел] слишком быстро, и как бы [я] ни бежал за ним, [я] не смог его догнать. English lit.: [He was] walking too fast, and the more [I] tried to run after him, [I] couldn’t have catch him). -(으)ㄹ래 - it renders the intention of the sentence subject to fulfil an action, e.g., 방학에는 해외 여행이나 떠날래요. (Russian: На каникулах хочу/собираюсь съездить в путешествие за границу. English lit.: On holidays I’m going to travel abroad). -ㄹ세 - the main meaning of the ending is the softening of the sentence tonality. The characteristic feature of the Korean culture is to evade the directness of the speech, so Korean abound in constructions which are softening expressions by a speaker by means of presuppositions and uncertainty. It’s simple to guess that, firstly, all the constructions are modal, and secondly, they are often formed with the Future Tense participles with the ending -ㄹ/을. Another similar means is the speech softening using -겠- modal suffix.[6] Consequently, in Korean more polite sentence tonality by means of expressing a nuance of uncertainty, takes place through appealing to the Future plane which means to a speaker not the fact but just a possibility evaluated as a probability of its realization. Literal word-by-word (and often adequate) translation of such nuances into Russian doesn’t seem possible. -(으)ㄹ까 봐(서) - renders troubling, worrying of the realization of any action or the possibility of any situation to come (apprehensive), e.g., 결혼식날 비가 올까 봐 걱정했어요. (Russian: [Я] боялась, что в день свадьбы может пойти дождь/пойдет дождь. English lit.: [I] was afraid it was going to rain on a wedding day). -[(으)ㄹ] 뻔하다 - is a construction which used to be translated into Russian by such words like «почти» (almost) and «чуть не» (hardly) with verbs in the Past Indefinite. However, the translation does’t render all the senses hidden in the construction. Firstly, in complex sentences it is used in the principle part which attaches the subordinate of condition. Secondly, the auxiliary verb 뻔하다 is used in the Past Tense while the main verb acquires the ending -ㄹand forms the Future Tense participle thus expressing the meaning of intention (or “aiming of an action”), which fortunately wasn’t fulfilled, e.g., 조심하지 않았으면 넘어질 뻔했습니다. Russian: Я был близок к тому, чтобы упасть, и если бы не был осторожен, упал бы. English lit.: I was close to falling, and if I hadn’t been careful I would have fallen. The translation proposed here is the closest one to the original sentence, however, to preserve all modal senses we had to make it longer so that to divide these senses into 2 predicative centers, which in Korean are rendered by a unified construction (넘어질 뻔했습니다): (I was close to falling and would fall). A word-by-word translation of such a sentence (even if it sounds naturally) is impossible as the Russian language has no means to combine two semantic cores in one word form or a compound predicate: 1. The indication of the obligatory consequence following the hypothetical reason (lays in the -ㄹ ending of the Future Tense participle) mentioned in the first part of the sentence (a hypothetic condition); 2. The indication of this consequence having been not realized (the 뻔하다 auxiliary verb in the Past Tense), but there was a little effort to its realization as well as the realization of the reason itself. As is seen, the Future Tense participle form within the given construction loses its temporal meaning in general[7] and preserving just the modal meaning. -(으)ㄹ 걸 그랬다 - expresses the speaker’s regret about the unaccomplished action. The principle verb acquires the Future Tense participle form and denotes the action to be fulfilled willingly or necessarily. The 그랬다 auxiliary verb joins the Past Tense suffix and demonstrates that in fact the situation refers to the plane of the Past Tense and the action wasn’t fulfilled, e.g., 우산을 가져올 걸 그랬어요. I should have taken an umbrella. 아까 그 구두가 꼭 맞던데 살 걸 그랬어요. Those shoes were just right, I should have bought them. The carried out analysis lets confirm that in Korean the system of the means to express prospective semantics the center of which is formed with the -겠- suffix and the -(으)ㄹ ending of the Future Tense participle belongs to the functional field of modality - the zone of unreal. The evidence follows: 1. It possesses the clearly expressed modal meanings of intention, probability, possibility/impossibility, wish, necessity, etc. 2. It can combine with the Past Tense suffix. 3. Due to the hypothetical meaning it is used as the means to soften speech tonality. Coming back to the discussion of the -(으)ㄹ 것이다 construction, we’d like to remark that in our opinion it doesn’t seem logical to specify just one element of the wholesome system of linguistic means of the modality functional field and ivest it with a special status just on the basis that one of its meanings could express a greater degree of objectivity that all the other markers of the prospect thus merging in the functional field of temporality and becoming the sole irregular element of the system. It’s much more natural to acknowledge that assuming the general, universal systemic orientation of the markers with prospective semantics to render modal senses, the -(으)ㄹ 것이다 construction points out not the objectivity as it’s used to be understood, but the objectivity within the category of modality, that is, “the subjective objectivity” or the highest degree of certainty. Conclusion Finally, “the principle difference in expressing temporality in Russian and Korean lays in the different structure of the grammar category of tense. In Russian, the category of tense consists of three grammemes - The Past, Present and Future, at that, the Future Tense has a special grammatical expression and is included in the Indicative mood system. In Korean, the Tense category consists of two grammemes: the Past and Nonpast Tenses” [2. P. 22]. The Nonpast Tense form with the marker (according to various sources) of the -ㄴ 는 ending or zero morpheme -Ø, due to the logic of its naming, depending on the context, could render both the meaning of the Present and the Past Tenses. However, the markers of the prospective semantics itself are those of modal markers of certainty, intention, wish, promise, etc. (-겠-, -을 거-, -을게 and others), so it would be correct to say that one of the special features of the Korean language is the way to make explicit the Future Tense meaning not in the forms of an independent grammatical category belonging to the functional an semantic temporal field, but by means of modal markers and contexts.

About the authors

Alexander S. Mamontov

Pushkin State Russian Language Institute

Author for correspondence.
6, Akademika Volgina st., Moscow, Russian Federation, 117485

PhD (Advanced Doctorate), Professor, Department of Language Arts and Intercultural Communication

Alexandra G. Stolyarova

Pushkin State Russian Language Institute

6, Akademika Volgina st., Moscow, Russian Federation, 117485

PhD student, Department of Language Arts and Intercultural Communication


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