Revisiting “polite” –yo and “deferential” –supnita speech style shifting in Korean from the viewpoint of indexicality

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


This article revisits the question of why Korean speakers switch between two different speech styles (‘‘polite’’ --yo and ‘‘deferential’’ --supnita) in public speech. Although two recent articles (Eun and Strauss, 2004; Strauss and Eun, 2005) have approached this problem, their explanations that --yo/--supnita shifting is grounded in the marking of information status and the indexing of stances of inclusion/ exclusion have some underlying problems, which I address in the opening sections. I then analyze a Korean talk show to arrive at a more appropriate model for describing --yo/--supnita shifting. The data shows that participants in this talk show use --supnita as a resource for indexing presentational and performative stances of authority and to mark talk as public or ritualistic. From this, I posit that the underlying direct indexical meaning of --supnita is ‘‘formal presentational stance.’’ Although --yo tends to occur in more casual and emotionally unrestrained sequences of the talk show, I argue that affective stances are only indirectly indexed by this form when it occurs in opposition to --supnita in public speech. Crucially, these affective meanings are mediated by the co-occurrence of --yo with interactional particles. © 2015 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-59
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • korean
  • Japanese
  • Honorifics
  • speech style shifting
  • indexically
  • politeness

Cite this