The Korean Association for the Study of English Language and Linguistics

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Korean Journal of English Language and Linguistics - Vol. 22

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Korea Journal of English Language and Linguistics - Vol. 22, No. 0, pp. 118-135
Abbreviation: KASELL
ISSN: 1598-1398 (Print) 2586-7474 (Online)
Print publication date 31 Jan 2022
Received 10 Jan 2022 Revised 22 Feb 2022 Accepted 27 Feb 2022

The Restrictions on the Subject and L2 Acquisition of English E-O Psychological Verbs
Jihyun Kim
Lecturer, Korea University (

© 2022 KASELL All rights reserved
This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons License, which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


This study investigates whether the cross-linguistic difference in the semantic constraint imposed on the subject plays a role in L2 acquisition of English E-O psych verbs. It is known that some languages like Korean tend to restrict the subject position to entities that can initiate events, that is, mostly volitional Agents, while other languages like English are relatively open to the kinds of entities in the subject position. Based on this difference between the two languages, English and Korean, the present study compares Korean L2 learners’ and native English speakers’ use of English E-O verb sentences when they describe two different types of causative psychological events. In one type of psychological event, the subject is interpreted as doing something with volition/intention to trigger a change of state. In the other type of psychological event, the subject is not interpreted as doing anything to trigger a change of state, rather it is just inherent property of the subject that causes the Experiencer to feel a certain way. The results of this study show that native English speakers and Korean learners of English use E-O verb sentences in almost similar way when describing psychological events caused by volitional animate subjects. However, in the case of accidentally caused psychological event, Korean learners of English are less likely to use English E-O verb sentences than native English speakers. This finding is taken as an indication that Korean learners of English tend to limit entities in the subject position to volitional animate agents and this makes it difficult for them to use English E-O psych verb sentences where non-volitional or inanimate entities commonly appear in the subject position.

Keywords: the semantic constraints on the subjects, subjects of E-O psych verbs, L2 acquisition of English psych verbs, L1 influence


This paper is based on the second experiment in the author’s Ph.D dissertation.

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