Middle KoreanEdit


From Old Korean (*-ke).

Alternative formsEdit




  1. A very common verbal suffix in fifteenth-century Middle Korean. The meaning of this term is uncertain. There are two main competing hypotheses, and it is also possible that both hypotheses were simultaneously true in some capacity:
    1. A perfective aspect marker, regarding the action of the verb as having completed (either from the perspective of the present, or from some future vantage point). An important argument is that it is commonly used to translate Mandarin (le); another is that it fits the same paradigmal slot as the imperfective 더〮 (-té).
    2. A confirmative mood marker, emphasizing the speaker's subjective certitude that the action of the verb must have taken (or must take) place.

Usage notesEdit

This suffix is one of three Middle Korean suffixes which do not have a fixed underlying pitch, but assume the pitch of the preceding syllable. The two others are ᄂᆞ (-no-) and the epenthetic vowel of 시〮 (-sí-).

(-ke-) is most often, but not exclusively, found with adjectives, intransitive verbs, and the copula. Transitive verbs usually take 아〮 (-á-) or 어〮 (-é-) depending on vowel harmony, and this appears to have had largely the same meaning as (-ke-). The most common explanation is that they were allomorphs of the same suffix, with the choice between the two largely determined by transitivity. However, others have suggested that the two suffixes had different meanings, with 아〮 (-á-)/어〮 (-é-) having a stronger perfective sense.

Related termsEdit

These are believed to have been derived from the suffix, but it is not clear to what extent Middle Korean speakers still saw them as multiple suffixes rather than as single fully grammaticalized suffixes.

See alsoEdit

Middle Korean verbal paradigm
Verb stem Slot 1
Object honorific
Slot 2
Past-related TAM
Slot 3
Subject honorific
Slot 4
Present tense
ᅀᆞᇦ〯 (-zǒW-) 더〮 (-té-, imperfective)
아〮/어〮 (-á/é-, perfective)
(-ke-, perfective)
으시〮/ᄋᆞ시〮 (-usí/osí-) ᄂᆞ (-no-)
Slot 5
Slot 6
Slot 7
(Slot 8)
오〮/우〮 (-wó/wú-) 으〮리〮/ᄋᆞ〮리〮 (-úlí/ólí-) 도〮 (-twó-)
돗〮 (-twós-)
더〮 (-té-)
(Slot 9)
Slot 10
Slot 11
Addressee honorific
Slot 12
Verb-final suffix
오〮/우〮 (-wó/wú-) 으〮니〮/ᄋᆞ〮니〮 (-úní/óní-) 으〮ᅌᅵ/ᄋᆞ〮ᅌᅵ (-úngì/óngì-, very deferential)
(-ng-, deferential)
See Template:okm-sentence enders for sentence-final ones
기르ᅀᆞᄫᆞ〮시니〮ᅌᅵ다〮 (kìlù-zòWó-sì[sí]-ní-ngì-tá, [the honored one] [indeed] brought up [the honored thing], [o honored one]., 月印釋譜 10:19)
주그리로〮소〮ᅌᅵ다〮 (cwùk-ùlì[úlí]-lwós[twós]-wó-ngì-tá, [I] shall die, [o honored one]!, 月印釋譜 21:22)
1 Many additional emotive suffixes, which have not been listed here, are fusional compounds that etymologically incorporate non-emotive morphemes. For example, 닷〮 (-tás-), which is used when the speaker has made a realization about some past state, comes from a merger of the imperfective 더〮 (-té-) and the emotive morpheme (-s-).

It is more appropriate to consider such suffixes as single-unit morphemes that belong to the slot for emotive suffixes, even if they also convey other information. They cause issues in the paradigmal order if they are broken down into their etymological constituents. And while the retrospective and confirmative suffixes share a slot and are hence mutually exclusive, 닷〮 (-tás-) has been attested as co-occurring with the latter.

2 In the fifteenth century, only after Slot 7 is filled by the emotive suffix 돗〮 (-twós-), forming the sequence 돗〮더〮 (-twós-té-), used to emotively convey a realization made in the past.

In the sixteenth century, also appears after prospective 으〮리〮/ᄋᆞ〮리〮 (-úlí/olí-), forming the sequence 으〮리〮러〮/ᄋᆞ〮리〮러〮 (-úlí-lé/ólí-lé), used to convey a past state when something was about to happen.

3 Taken when Slot 7 (emotive) is filled.
Certain suffixes are mutually exclusive.


  • 유필재 (Yoo Pil-jae) (2011), “후기중세국어 '거, 아/어'계 어미의 성조와 형태 분석 [Analysis of pitch and morphology in Late Middle Korean -ke, -a/e-class suffixes]”, in Jindan hakbo, volume 111, pages 243—262
  • 이병기 (Yi Byeong-gi) (2014), “선어말어미 {거}의 연구 성과와 쟁점 [Findings and key topics in the study of the verb-internal suffix -ke-]”, in Gugeosa yeon-gu, volume 19, pages 31—63