'내'의 공손한 표현으로서의 '우리' [The Korean determiner 'uri [our]' as a polite form of 'nae [my]']

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Abstract
[Author's note: although this paper is written in Korean, it is archived here in the hope of bringing it to the attention of a wider audience including scholars of pragmatics and of Korean linguistics.] Recently, Korean linguists and philosophers of language have engaged in discussions on the meaning and usage of the Korean determiner ‘uri’ as in such phrases as ‘uri manura [our wife]’ which might seem strange given the monogamous marital institution of Korea. The aim of this paper is to provide a new interpretation of such expressions as ‘uri manura’. To that end, various proposals concerning the meaning and usage of the determiner ‘uri’ in those expressions will be critically examined first. Then it will be argued that ‘uri manura’ is a polite form of ‘nae manura [my wife]’ and is used when one needs, or wants, to speak in a polite tone in deference to the hearer or the wider audience. The upshot will be that the ubiquitous use of ‘uri’ in Korean is not due to the collectivist nature of the Korean society, as has often been claimed, but rather results from the linguistic embodiment of the Confucian tradition in Korea that values courteous words and behavior.
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KIM-31
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Archival date: 2020-07-06
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2020-07-06

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