Journal of East Asian Linguistics

, Volume 19, Issue 2, pp 137-179

First online:

Stem-final obstruent variation in Korean

  • Jongho JunAffiliated withDepartment of Linguistics, Seoul National University Email author 

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It has been observed in the literature that stem-final coronal obstruents of nouns in Korean are generally in variation with [s] in the prevocalic position: for example, /pathh-ɨl/ [pathh-ɨl] ~ [pasɨl] ‘field, accusative’. In addition, nouns with final noncoronal stops have variants ending in lenis stops: for example, /iph-e/ [iph-e] ~ [ipe] ‘leaf, locative’. Recent survey and experimental studies reveal that a wide set of coronal obstruents [s, ch, th, c, t] may occur as variants. Moreover, there is an order of preference among them: in general, s >> ch, th >> c, t. This paper first shows that the observed relative preference among variants is matched by the distribution of lexical final obstruents in noun stems. Building on Albright’s Paradigm Learning Model, I provide a unified account for the occurrence of most variants and their relative preference by proposing stochastic rules deriving the paradigmatically related forms of noun stems. In addition, a wug-test is carried out to investigate the productivity of such rules. Results suggest that these rules are productive, providing the evidence for their cognitive presence.


Variation Stochastic rule Lexical frequency Korean noun