Identity construction through gendered terms of addresses in Korean

Sunwoo Jeong, Seong-hyun Yu


How should a speaker call a hearer? In this paper, we present an experimental study which probes the social and interactional meaning of Korean gendered terms of addresses (GTAs: unnie, oppa, noona, hyung). GTAs prescriptively index genders of both interlocutors, but are beginning to be used in ‘gender- mismatch’ patterns. Based on the experimental results, we argue that both the prescription conforming and the ‘mismatching’ uses of GTAs are each associated with unique, complex webs of meanings which track the shifting gender ideologies in Korea. In particular, mismatching uses of GTAs are shown to often function as speakers’ strategy to break away from established gender norms, including traditional gender roles and the sexualization of female-male relations.


terms of addresses; language and gender; Korean; social meaning; language ideologies

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Copyright (c) 2021 Sunwoo Jeong, Seong-hyun Yu

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