Exclusion Particle ONLY and Cleft Constructions

Alan Hyun-Oak Kim alanhkim at SIU.EDU
Sat Mar 27 21:33:04 UTC 2004

Dear Linguists:

Of the two lexical items typically used as focus markers for exclusion in
Korean, MAN and PPUN (equivalent to the English ONLY), the latter occurs
always in the pre-copular position of cleft sentences, and the other
elsewhere, as shown in (1).

(1)       a.        Minho-nun mayki-MAN cap-a-ss-ta.
                       Minho-TOP catfish-only caught
                       ‘Minho caught only catfish.’

            b.        Minho-ka cap-un-kes-un mayki-PPUN-i-ta.
                       Minho-NOM caught thing-TOP catfish-only be
                       ‘All thatMinhocaught were catfish.’
                       'What Minho caught were only catfish.’

As the English translations show, one does not immediately see any
significant contrast in meaning between (1a) and (1b), except for the
foregrounding of “only catfish” by a pseudo-cleft construction in the
latter, although a similar effect may also be achieved simply by
stressing ‘only’ in (1a).

Most native speakers of Korean, however, would consider (1a) somewhat odd,
for it sounds as if Minho with a magic hand caught catfish selectively in a
premeditated fashion by eliminating all other kinds of fish. For a normal
interpretation ‘all the fish John caught that afternoon were catfish and
nothing else,’ a Korean speaker would prefer (1b) to (1a). I find this
rather puzzling. Why should there be two distinct lexemes for ONLY in
Korean, while English does the job just fine with a single ‘only’?

Besides its association with cleft constructions, one other property of
PPUN is the semantic feature of recurrence, as seen in Minho’s repetitive
catching action in the example. In this conjunction, Japanese also seems to
make this sort of distinction of ONLY. Consider (2a) and (2b) below.

(2)      a.        Nyuuintyuu-no boku-wo Naomi-DAKE-ga mimai-ni ki-te kure-
                       hospitalized    I-TOP    Naomi-only-NOM visit-come-
                       ‘Only Naomi visited me at the hospital.’

           b.        Nyuuintyuu-no boku-wo Naomi-BAKARI-ga mimai-ni ki-te
                       hospitalized    I-TOP    Naomi-only-NOM visit-come-
                       ‘The only person who visited me at the hospital was

In (2b) with BAKARI, only Naomi repeatedly visited the hospitalized
speaker, whereas the DAKE sentence (2a) is ambiguous in the sense that
either Naomi was the only person who knew the speaker was hospitalized and
made repeated visits or everyone at work knew the speaker was in the
hospital but only Naomi showed up. The contrast between DAKE and BAKARI in
Japanese is very similar to the Korean MAN/PPUN opposition, although BAKARI
has no restriction in distribution, unlike its PPUN counterpart. I refer to
the type of exclusion lexeme PPUN (BAKARI in Japanese) for the sake of
convenience as a marker for ‘inductive exclusion’ or ‘ex post-facto
exclusion'  (Kim 2003).

I am just curious to see what other languages would make such a distinction
observed in Korean and Japanese. Your help is most appreciated.


Kim, Alan Hyun-Oak. 2003. Functional specialization of Exclusion Particles:
Korean man/ppun and Japanese dale/bakari. In Explorations in Korean
Language and Linguistics.Seoul: Hankook Publishing Co. 133-166.

More information about the Lingtyp mailing list