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L1 acquisition of the tense-aspect markers -ess (past-perfective) and -ko iss (imperfective) in Korean

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 May 2022

Ju-Yeon RYU*
Aichi Shukutoku University, JAPAN
Yasuhiro SHIRAI
Case Western Reserve University, USA
Corresponding author: Ju-Yeon Ryu, Aichi Shukutoku University, 23 Sakuragaoka, Chikusa-ku, Nagoya, Aichi 464-8671, JAPAN. E-mail:


This study investigated whether Korean children follow the acquisition pattern predicted by the Aspect Hypothesis (Shirai & Andersen, 1995), and the relationship between caretakers’ and children’s speech. Accordingly, we analyzed a Korean corpus (Ryu-Corpus) on the CHILDES database (MacWhinney, 2000), which comprised longitudinal video-recorded interactions of three Korean children and their caregivers. Results indicate that the children used the past marker -ess principally with telic verbs, consistent with the Aspect Hypothesis. Each child’s usage closely reflects the caretaker’s frequency, yielding a high correlation (τb = 0.79). However, the acquisition of the imperfective marker -ko iss did not show a predicted association with activity verbs, contrary to the Aspect Hypothesis. Furthermore, caretakers’ input did not correlate with the children’s utterances of the imperfective marker (τb = 0.40). We argue that multiple factors such as input frequency, language-specific organization of aspectual semantics, and individual differences should be considered to explain tense-aspect acquisition.

© The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press

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L1 acquisition of the tense-aspect markers -ess (past-perfective) and -ko iss (imperfective) in Korean
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