Journal of East Asian Linguistics

, Volume 17, Issue 2, pp 117–139

Argument structure and event structure: the case of Korean imperfective constructions


DOI: 10.1007/s10831-008-9022-z

Cite this article as:
Lee, E. J East Asian Linguist (2008) 17: 117. doi:10.1007/s10831-008-9022-z


This paper uncovers a systematic correlation between semantics of aspect and syntactic argument structure as manifested in the difference between two imperfective aspect markers -ko iss and -a iss in Korean. Unlike the common assumption that the -ko iss form is a progressive marker, while the -a iss form is a resultative marker, this paper argues that the difference between the two derives from their different argument structure: -ko iss selects transitive and unergative verbs, which have an external argument, while -a iss selects unaccusative and passive verbs, which only have an internal theme argument. It is argued that the difference in argument structure is determined by semantic event structure depending on agentivity in Korean. The results of the paper have broader implications for the issues of syntax and semantics interface and unaccusativity.


Korean imperfective aspect Argument structure Agentivity versus dynamicity Unaccusativity Syntax/semantics interface 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of LinguisticsUniversity at Buffalo, The State University of New YorkBuffaloUSA

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