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Sociolinguistic Implications of Korean in Hawaii Dong Jae Lee 0. Introduction This article investigates the Korean language as spoken in Hawaii by the early Korean immigrants who arrived in Hawaii between 1903 and 1924. This language has been largely isolated from the language spoken by Koreans in Korea and has been in contact mainly with English as spoken in Hawaii. Whenever a single language comes to be spoken by separate groups in isolation from one another, divergence results. Such divergence is greater ifthese groups are placed in divergent environments, and Hawaii is quite different from Korea in many respects; for instance, Hawaiian society is much more egalitarian than that of Korea. Much sociolinguistic study of the Korean language is being done in Korea, and this research indicates that the Korean language is undergoing rapid sociolinguistic change. Such rapid change may be ascribed to the introduction of Western egalitarian philosophy (Suh 1979a, b, 1980). The purpose ofthis study is to investigate the sociolinguistic aspect of the Korean language as spoken in the milieu of the egalitarian society of Hawaii. The Korean language has an intricate address system, a number of speech levels, two statuses, and some other honorific and humble expressions , which are chosen on the basis of communicative distance (Peng 1974: 33) between (or among) the people involved. In this complex sociolinguistic system, Howell (1967:56) points out, "a difference of a single year is frequently enough to insure deferential speech on the part of the junior." 1 We will attempt to compare the address terms and speech levels used by the oldest group in Park-Choi's study (1978) with those used by early Korean immigrants to Hawaii. We will also review some of the research methods used in sociolinguistic studies. In section one, we will consider some drawbacks of the widely used 58LEE and almost inevitable media for eliciting data. We discuss in section two the procedure we adopted, and subjects we surveyed, and how the result ofthis study should be interpreted. Section three compares the address terms that Park-Choi's group and our group used and abstracts some sociolinguistic implications. We find that the factors that prompt different address terms differ between these two groups; for example, the adulthood of a family member ofdescending generation does not command deference in Hawaii. The address-term system itselfis also significantly different—both factors and address terms used by the Hawaii group tend to be much simplified, reflecting an egalitarianism. Section four analyzes the speech levels used by both groups. The data indicate that the factors that underlie the choice of speech levels are also significantly different. For example, with respect to adults of descending generation, the factor + kin is replaced by + family. The data show that the speech-level system is not simplified and that Hawaii informants maintain the speech levels that they brought with them some sixty years ago. In section five we summarize our findings and attempt to present plausible hypotheses to account for the fact that the addressterm pattern has been simplified while the speech-level system has been maintained unchanged. 1. Methodology Sociolinguistic studies conducted in Korea have been based mainly on data collected through questionnaires rather than by observation of natural communicative situations. This "shortcut" method, though less than desirable, is in many cases one of the best alternatives to direct observation . After all, it would be almost impossible to record, for example, all the address forms and speech levels used spontaneously by speakers of various ages to addressees of diverse status. Suh (1980) and Cho et al. (1981) correctly point out a drawback of multiple-choice questionnaires, warning that this method tends to elicit the response that informants think "correct" or "appropriate." However, some researchers consider the questionnaire a legitimate instrument for collecting data in a sociolinguistic study. For example Park-Choi (1978:57) claims: since this study seeks "competence" of the speakers of various ages, rather than "performance," it [questionnaire] was perfectlyfine even if the informants report the forms they think "appropriate" or "correct." [emphasis mine] What an informant thinks "appropriate" or "correct" and what he/she does not think "appropriate" or "correct" reflects a speaker's knowledge of explicit, possibly...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-1529
Print ISSN
0145-840X
Pages
pp. 57-88
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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