Culture and Interdiscursivity in Korean Fricative Voice Gestures


Department of Anthropology
Harvard University
William James Hall
33 Kirkland Street
Cambridge, MA 02138


This paper explores the cultural significance of a type of audible gesture in Korean speech that I call the Fricative Voice Gesture (FVG). I distinguish between two forms of this gesture: the reactive FVG, which serves as a self-standing utterance that signals personally felt intensity, and the prosodic FVG, which can be superimposed upon an utterance as a form of intensification. Based on an ethnographically informed analysis of interviews, Christian sermons, and advertisements for soju, a Korean spirit, in South Korea, I view the interdiscursive link between reactive and prosodic FVGs in terms of the ongoing cultural revalorization of the sound shape. I focus in particular on the shift from harsher to softer FVGs—and their omission altogether—according to different, but related, paradigms of social differentiation such as class, gender, and age. [voice, gesture, prosody, intensification, korean, South Korea]