Author ORCID Identifier

Year of Publication


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Linguistic Theory and Typology (MALTT)

Document Type

Master's Thesis


Arts and Sciences


Linguistic Theory & Typology

First Advisor

Dr. Rusty Barrett


Rhyming Tactics in Korean Hip-Hop with Two Approaches of English and Korean Syllable Structures

Today, Korean Hip-Hop (KHH) has been slowly moving beyond a localized pop culture through the internet and media. This study finds that rhyming patterns in KHH are much more complex than prior research suggests. Especially, this study focuses on an evolution of Korean Hip-Hop through the time such as since 1989 to 2015. Park (2016) discusses how Korean rappers think about using rhyming tactics as "[m]over, the concept of rhyming was not conceptualized as belonging to the Korean language by most of rappers. Even if rappers understand rhyme conceptually, it is necessarily a straightforward matter for them to 'use' rhyme in their creative processes at the pragmatic level" (p. 284). However, this study suggests that the rhyming patterns of Korean rap lyrics are actually quite similar to those found in English (Alim 2003). While Park assumes that the rhyming structure of Korean should be identical to that of English, this study examines rhyme from a Korean perspective suggested by perceptual phonetic experiments. In a series of experiments such as a sound similarity judgement (SSJ) and concept formation (CF), Yoon and Derwing (2001) find evidence to argue for a left-branching syllable for Korean. Yoon and Derwing (2201) suggest that, in contrast to a language like English, speakers of Korean are more sensitive to similarities between Onset-Nucleus CV pairs than to Nucleus-Coda VC pairs. Building on this work, this study analyzes Korean rap lyrics in light of a left-branching syllable patters. Alim (2003) shows a wide range of rhyming tactics including end rhymes, chain rhymes, assonance, alliteration and so on. Park (2016) shows only a couple of rhyming tactics such as end rhymes or assonance in his study, but concludes that rhyme does not play an important role in Korean Hip-Hop. However, considering the rhyming patterns associated with left-branching syllables shows a much more complicated set of rhyming tactics than Park (2016) describes. If Alim (2003)'s tactics are applied with left-branching syllable structure, then there are many tactics that Korean rappers deploy in their lyrics and the differences in syllable structure between languages (and not because of some rejection of rhyme on the part of Korean rappers as Park suggests). The ultimate goal of this study is how Korean rhyming tactics have been evolved base on 1) Onset-Nucleus CV pairs and 2) Nucleus-Coda VC pairs that both are allowed in Korean syllable structures through the time since 1989 to 2015. Presumably, many rappers have been using more complexed rhyming tactics than early rappers and they have been deploying them with those possible Korean syllable structures beautifully.

KEYWORDS: Soiolinguistics, Korean linguistics, Syllable structure, Rhyme tactics in Hip-Hop, Korean Hip-Hop

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Funding Information

A Teaching/Research Assistantship in the Linguistics Department of University of Kentucky awarded directly to Gihyun Gal from August 2017 to May 2019.