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VIETNAM NATIONAL UNIVERSITY, HANOI
UNIVERSITY OF LANGUAGES AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES
FACULTY OF POST-GRADUATE STUDIES
*******************

PHẠM THỊ THÚY CHINH

A CONTRASTIVE STUDY OF THE PERCEPTION OF TIME
IN ENGLISH AND VIETNAMESE TEMPORAL IDIOMS AND
PROVERBS
(NGHIÊN CỨU ĐỐI CHIẾU CÁCH TRI NHẬN THỜI GIAN TRONG NHỮNG
THÀNH NGỮ, TỤC NGỮ CHỈ THỜI GIAN TIẾNG ANH VÀ TIẾNG VIỆT)

M.A. MINOR PROGRAMME THESIS

Field: English linguistics
Code: 60220201

HANOI - 2017



VIETNAM NATIONAL UNIVERSITY, HANOI
UNIVERSITY OF LANGUAGES AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES
FACULTY OF POST-GRADUATE STUDIES
*******************

PHẠM THỊ THÚY CHINH

A CONTRASTIVE STUDY OF THE PERCEPTION OF TIME
IN ENGLISH AND VIETNAMESE TEMPORAL IDIOMS AND
PROVERBS
(NGHIÊN CỨU ĐỐI CHIẾU CÁCH TRI NHẬN THỜI GIAN TRONG NHỮNG
THÀNH NGỮ, TỤC NGỮ CHỈ THỜI GIAN TIẾNG ANH VÀ TIẾNG VIỆT)

M.A. MINOR PROGRAMME THESIS

Field: English linguistics
Code: 60220201
Supervisor: Dr. Huynh Anh Tuan

HANOI - 2017


DECLARATION
I declare that the thesis titled A CONTRASTIVE STUDY OF THE
PERCEPTION OF TIME IN ENGLISH AND VIETNAMESE TEMPORAL IDIOMS
AND PROVERBS has not been submitted for any other degree or professional
qualification at this or any other university and that it is entirely my work.
I agree that the Library may lend or copy this thesis on request.
Hanoi, 2017

Phạm Thị Thúy Chinh

i


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
The completion of this study could not have been possible without the
support of the people I would like to acknowledge as follow.
First of all, I would like to express my deep sense of gratitude to my
supervisor, Dr. Huynh Anh Tuan for his enthusiastic support, encouragement and


profound guidance he gave me during the time of conducting research.
I would like to take this opportunity to express my thanks to all my lecturers
in Faculty of Post-graduate Studies, University of Languages and International
Studies, Vietnam National University, Hanoi for their valuable instruction and
assistance throughout the realization of this thesis.
Last but not least, I am indebted to my beloved family and friends who have
always inspired me to complete this study.

ii


ABSTRACT
This study is conducted to investigate how the concept of time in English and
Vietnamese idioms and proverbs is perceived, from which the similarities and
differences in how English and Vietnamese people perceive the concept of time are
uncovered. Data for this study are 50 English and 50 Vietnamese idioms and
proverbs about time selected from three idioms and proverbs dictionaries, Oxford
dictionary of idioms (2004), Oxford dictionary of proverbs (2004), Vietnamese
idioms and proverbs dictionary (Nguyen Lan 2011). The idioms and proverbs are
classified and grouped based on the similar source domains. The study adopts the
Conceptual Metaphor Theory as its approach and contrastive analysis as the
research method. The findings suggest that the similarities in how English and
Vietnamese people perceive time are they both think of time as space, motion, a
person, a thing that one can qualify. The prominent difference is that whereas
English people tend to conceptualize time in terms of the tangibles such as a person,
a container, an object, Vietnamese people have the tendency to perceive time as an
abstract concept such as farming seasons, weather and the limit of human existence.

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TABLE OF CONTENTS
DECLARATION ................................................................................................................................ i
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ............................................................................................................... ii
ABSTRACT ...................................................................................................................................... iii
TABLE OF CONTENTS .................................................................................................................. iv
PART 1: INTRODUCTION .............................................................................................................. 1
1. Rationale .................................................................................................................................... 1
2. Research questions ..................................................................................................................... 1
3. Significance of the research ....................................................................................................... 2
4. Scope of the research ................................................................................................................. 2
5. Organization of the thesis........................................................................................................... 3
PART I. DEVELOPMENT................................................................................................................ 4
CHAPTER 1: THEORETICAL BACKGROUND AND LITERATURE REVIEW ........................ 4
1.1. Idioms and Proverbs................................................................................................................ 4
1.1.1. Idioms............................................................................................................................... 4
1.1.2. Proverbs ........................................................................................................................... 5
1.1.3. Distinction between Idioms and Proverbs ........................................................................ 5
1.1.4. Idioms and proverbs about time ....................................................................................... 6
1.2. Cognitive Linguistics and Cognitive Semantics ..................................................................... 6
1.2.1. Cognitive Linguistics ....................................................................................................... 7
1.2.2. Cognitive semantics ......................................................................................................... 8
1.3. Contrastive analysis .............................................................................................................. 13
1.3.1. Definitions ...................................................................................................................... 13
1.3.2. Guiding principles of Contrastive analysis .................................................................... 14
1.4. Previous studies related to the research................................................................................. 15
CHAPTER 2: METHODOLOGY ................................................................................................... 18
2.1. Research questions ................................................................................................................ 18
2.2. Research approach ................................................................................................................ 18
2.3. Data ....................................................................................................................................... 19
2.4 Research method .................................................................................................................... 19
CHAPTER 3: DATA ANALYSIS AND DISCUSSION ................................................................ 21
3.1. How the English people perceive through their idioms and proverbs about time................. 21
3.1.1. Time is perceived as space ............................................................................................. 21

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3.1.2. Time is perceived as motion .......................................................................................... 23
3.1.4. Time is perceived as container ....................................................................................... 25
3.1.5 Time is perceived as a person ......................................................................................... 26
3.1.6 Time is perceived as an object ........................................................................................ 27
3.1.7. Summary ........................................................................................................................ 29
3.2. How the Vietnamese people perceive time through their idioms and proverbs about time .. 29
3.2.1. Time is perceived as space ............................................................................................. 29
3.2.2. Time is perceived as motion .......................................................................................... 30
3.2.3. Time is perceived based on the continuity of action ...................................................... 31
3.2.4. Time is perceived based on the relationship between human and production ............... 32
3.2.5. Time is perceived as the limit of human existence ........................................................ 34
3.2.6. Time is perceived as an object that one can qualify ....................................................... 35
3.2.7. Time is perceived as a person ........................................................................................ 36
3.2.8. Summary ........................................................................................................................ 36
3.3. Similarities and differences in how the concept of time in English and Vietnamese idioms
and proverbs is perceived ............................................................................................................. 37
3.3.1. Similarities ..................................................................................................................... 37
3.3.2. Differences ..................................................................................................................... 38
PART III. CONCLUSION ............................................................................................................... 43
1. Recapitulation .......................................................................................................................... 43
2. Pedagogical implications ......................................................................................................... 44
3. Limitations and suggestions for further researches .................................................................. 45
REFERENCES................................................................................................................................. 46
APPENDICES .................................................................................................................................... I
APPENDIX 1: LIST OF ENGLISH IDIOMS/PROVERBS ABOUT TIME ..................................... I
APPENDIX 2: LIST OF VIETNAMESE IDIOMS/PROVERBS ABOUT TIME ......................... VI
APPENDIX 3: FREQUENCY AND PERCENTAGE OF TIME PERCEPTION IN ENGLISH
AND VIETNAMESE IDIOMS AND PROVERBS ABOUT TIME ............................................... IX

v


PART I: INTRODUCTION
1. Rationale
Time is an abstract concept that belongs to the natural world. Human beings
are born and develop depending completely on the nature so it is apparent that they
must have a close relationship with nature in general and with time in particular.
The relationship between human and time is clearly expressed through human
beings‟ history. It can be said that there is no human‟s historical event that is not
involved in a concrete timeline. Also, due to the involvement, people need to
perceive the abstract concept and try to convey those perceptions through their own
languages. Therefore, language becomes one of the major devices to give
expression to the time perception of human beings.
Time perception can be investigated into many areas of a language such as in
literature or in communication. However, the focus of this thesis will be English and
Vietnamese idioms and proverbs about time because idioms and proverbs are
considered special linguistic units with the very long existential time in which the
traditional culture, national custom, praxis of thinking are contained (Huu Dat,
2011). The consideration of idioms and proverbs as the generalization of thinking
through language of a nation may be the reason why people should study on its
idioms and proverbs when they want to investigate into a nation and its language.
On the ground of cognitive linguistics, there are many researches on time
perception in English or in Vietnamese but few researches on it in both English and
Vietnamese were conducted. Therefore, this study is conducted to delve into the
similarities and differences in how the concept of time in English and Vietnamese
idioms and proverbs about time is perceived.
2. Research questions
The purpose of this study is to investigate how the concept of time in English
and Vietnamese idioms and proverbs about time is perceived so the findings of the
research are hoped to bring some insights into cognitive process on time that occurs
in English and Vietnamese people‟s mind.
1


To achieve the aim of this study, the following research questions have to be
answered:
1. How is the concept of time in English and Vietnamese idioms and proverbs
about time perceived?
2. What are the similarities and differences in how the concept of time in
English and Vietnamese idioms and proverbs is perceived?
3. Significance of the research
This study, to some extent, would like to shed light on the temporal cognitive
mechanism happening on human mind by analyzing English and Vietnamese
idioms and proverbs about time on the basis of the conceptual metaphor theory (a
subfield of cognitive semantics theory).

Moreover, a contrastive analysis is

conducted in this research with the aim of finding out the similarities and the
differences in how the concept of time in English and Vietnamese idioms and
proverbs about time is perceived in the two languages. This thesis is also hoped to
make a small contribution to the overall stock of cognitive semantic investigation
into time from a cross-linguistic perspective. The finding of this study will explore
the way how people think of time and try to construe partially the reason why they
perceive time as the way they do.
4. Scope of the research
This thesis is restricted to investigating the time perceptions expressed in
Vietnamese and English temporal idioms and proverbs. This investigation is based
on my manual selection of 50 English and 50 Vietnamese idioms and proverbs
related to the concept of time which are collected from three sources, viz. Oxford
dictionary of idioms (2004), Oxford dictionary of proverbs (2004) and Vietnamese
idioms and proverbs dictionary by Nguyen Lan (2011).
The conceptual metaphor theory proposed by Johnson and Lakoff (1980) are
used as research approach in analyzing the time perceptions in the selected idioms
and proverbs.

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5. Organization of the thesis
This thesis is divided into three main parts. The first part is
INTRODUCTION which states the rationale of the study, the research questions,
significance of the research, scope of the research and the organization of the thesis.
The next and also most important part is DEVELOPMENT that is subdivided into
three chapters: CHAPTER 1 is the discussion on the general theoretical background
of the study; CHAPTER 2, the mainstay of the research, is the presentation on the
methodology in which the research questions, research method, data and analytical
framework is discussed; CHAPTER 3 presents data analysis and discussions. The
last part is CONCLUSION that will summarize all the major points of the thesis and
also gives some implications together with limitations and suggestions for further
researches. As a rule, the thesis will end with REFERENCE and APPENDIX.

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PART II. DEVELOPMENT
CHAPTER 1: THEORETICAL BACKGROUND AND LITERATURE
REVIEW
This study is a contrastive analysis of the perception of time in English and
Vietnamese temporal idioms and proverbs so this chapter reviews the literature in
term of the following:
- The definitions of idioms and proverbs; the distinction between idioms and
proverbs; idioms and proverbs about time;
- Cognitive Linguistics and Cognitive Semantics, the guiding principles of
Cognitive Semantics and its major theories;
- Contrastive analysis and its guiding principles;
- Previous researches related to the study.
1.1. Idioms and Proverbs
In this section, some definitions of idioms and proverbs are presented, from
which the distinction between idioms and proverbs is clarified, followed by the
discussions concerning idioms and proverbs about time.
1.1.1. Idioms
There is a variety of definitions of idioms defined in many dictionaries.
Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (2000:643) defines an idiom as „a group of
words whose meaning is different from the meanings of individual words‟. Collins
Co-build Learner’s Dictionary (1996: 547) states “an idiom is a group of words
which have a different meaning when used together from the one they would have if
you took the meaning of each word individually”. According to Longman
Dictionary of Contemporary English (1988, p.711), an idiom is “a phrase which
means something different from their meanings of the separate words from which it
is formed”. Besides, in Vietnamese idioms and proverbs dictionary by Nguyen Lan
(2011), he states that idioms are fixed phrases that convey certain concepts. Or, in
English Idioms in Use Advanced by Cambridge University Press, the definition of
idiom is given that „Idioms are fixed combinations of words whose meaning is often
4


difficult to guess from the meaning of each individual word.‟ All aforementioned
definitions shows that idioms, at first, are fixed phrases whose structures cannot be
substituted or rearranged otherwise their original meanings are lost. Secondly, the
meanings conveyed in idioms are figurative so it is absolutely difficult to
understand their meanings from the meaning of each individual word.
1.1.2. Proverbs
Proverbs are defined in many different ways. According to Wikipedia, „a
proverb is a simple and concrete saying, popularly known and repeated, that
expresses

a

truth

based

on

common

sense

or

experience.‟

(www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proverb). The English Advanced Learner’s Dictionary
(2000) defines a proverb as „a well-known phrase or sentence that gives advice or
says something that is generally true‟. In Mieder (1993:5), „a proverb is a short,
generally known sentence of the folk which contains wisdom, truth, morals, and
traditional views in a metaphorical, fixed, and memorable form and which is handed
down from generation to generation‟. Nguyen Lan, in his Vietnamese idioms and
proverbs dictionary (2011), states that proverbs are sentences or utterances that are
comments, complaints, advice or sayings about natural or social experiences. From
the definitions mentioned above, it can be seen that a proverb is a sentence or an
utterance which contains experiential lessons in them.
1.1.3. Distinction between Idioms and Proverbs
Many linguistic researchers when studying idioms and proverbs tried to give
a clear discussion about the definition of idioms and proverbs so that from which
the distinction between idioms and proverbs can be given. From the definitions of
idiom and proverb discussed above, the distinction between idiom and proverb can
be seen as follows.
Idioms

Proverbs

 are fixed phrases
 do not contain a moral

 are sentences or utterances
 contain moral lessons or advice
based on natural or social
experiences

Table 1: Distinction between idioms and proverbs
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This distinction, however, is sometimes not completely a clear-cut. Many
linguists found it a challenging task to distinguish between the two. Some proverbs,
in fact, have similar features of idioms and vice versa. For example, in the Idioms
Organizer by Jon Wright (2002), „time is money‟ is classified as an idiom although
syntactically it is a sentence and semantically it contains an experiential lesson. Or,
in Vietnamese, „trèo cao ngã đau‟ (climb high, fall painful) is considered an idiom
by some linguists but some others regard it as a proverb because they argue the
figurative meaning of this saying is that a person who is too ambitious will be
desperate when being failed, this saying is also an experiential lesson (see Huu Dat
2011). Therefore, when analyzing the time perception of English and Vietnamese
people through their idioms and proverbs, the study is not intended to make a clear
distinction between idioms and proverbs.
1.1.4. Idioms and proverbs about time
Idioms and proverbs about time are the idioms and proverbs that contain
words denoting time or have the meaning of time. According to Seild and Mordie
(1993), English idioms and proverbs are divided into a lot of special groups such as
body parts, animals, colors, numbers, and time. The authors state that idioms and
proverbs about time is a special kind in which time terms with special meaning are
considered key words. They belong to one specific group of idioms that
demonstrate the way each person use time terms in set expressions and how they
associate these terms with other things in the world.
In the study, the idioms and proverbs about time are selected based on the
two criteria: containing words denoting time or containing the meaning of time.
1.2. Cognitive Linguistics and Cognitive Semantics
The study is conducted to find out how English and Vietnamese people
perceive time in their idioms and proverbs so it belongs to cognitive semantic
researches. Thus, in this section, a brief overview on Cognitive Linguistics and
Cognitive Semantics is given.

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1.2.1. Cognitive Linguistics
During the 1960s and 1970s, the emergence and development of the
cognitive sciences, particularly cognitive psychology, rooted the birth of a new
approach to the study of language: Cognitive Linguistics.
Cognitive linguistics […] is an approach to language that is based on our
experience of the world and the way we perceive and conceptualize it.
(Ungerer & Schmid, 1997: x)

Primarily, Cognitive Linguistics is concerned with investigating the
relationship between human language, the mind and socio-physical experience
(Croft & Cruse, 2004; Evans & Green, 2006; Langacker, 1987). Johnson (1987)
considers linguistic knowledge as part of general cognition and thinking; linguistic
behavior is not separated from other general cognitive abilities which allow mental
processes of reasoning, memory, attention or learning, but understood as an integral
part of it. In the same vein, Fauconier (2000) also emphasizes that Cognitive
Linguistics is the study of language use because language is an integral part of
cognition which reflects the interaction of social, cultural, psychological,
communicative and functional cognitive development and mental processing which
can be understood in the context of a realistic view of acquisition.
The emergence of Cognitive Linguistics in the 1970s (Fillmore, 1975; Lakoff
& Thompson, 1975; Rosch, 1975) is originally a reaction against formal approaches
to language which were dominant at that time, viz. generative grammar and truthconditional (logical) semantics. Therefore, it rejects the main claims made by
Generative Linguistics and Truth-conditional Semantics: (1) language is an innate
and autonomous cognitive faculty; (2) to know a language is to know its grammar,
which consists of a finite number of combinatory rules; (3) syntax (form) is the
main focus of linguistic analysis (and thus semantics (meaning) is largely
overlooked). Consequently, it proposes three major hypotheses: the first is that
language is not an autonomous cognitive faculty; the second is that grammar is
conceptualization; and the third is that knowledge of language emerges from

7


language use. According to Lakoff (1990), Cognitive linguistics is also
characterized by the two fundamental commitments, namely Generalization
Commitment and Cognitive Commitment. The Generalization Commitment
represents a commitment to openly investigating how the various aspects of
linguistic knowledge emerge from a common set of human cognitive abilities upon
which they draw, rather than assuming that they are produced in encapsulated
modules of the mind. Together, the Cognitive Commitment represents the
commitment to providing a characterization of these principles that reflects what is
known about human cognition. Thus, the combination of the two commitments
leads to a universal commitment of cognitive linguistics which is committed to
characterizing the general principles governing all aspects of human language while
being faithful to empirical discoveries from parallel disciplines of cognitive science
such as cognitive psychology, developmental psychology, psychophysical and
neuro-physical research about the nature of our mind and/or brain, and artificial
intelligence.
This study is well situated in cognitive linguistics because it seeks to explore
the relationship between human brain and practice which is reflected in their
language use. More specifically, the investigation explores how English and
Vietnamese people conceptualize time through their use of idioms and proverbs
about time.
1.2.2. Cognitive semantics
Cognitive Semantics, together with Cognitive Grammar as the two main
areas of Cognitive Linguistics, was born to reject the formal theories of meaning
based on the objectivist world view, such as the theories of truth conditional
semantics which argued that „meaning was seen as the link between the world and
words, completely disengaged from human cognition‟ (Sweetser, 1990:4).
Cognitive Semantics, however, states that linguistic meaning is a manifestation of
conceptual structure which emerges from bodily experience. Accordingly,
Cognitive Semantics is concerned with the relationship between experience, the

8


conceptual system and the semantic structure encoded by language (Rosch, 1973;
Lakoff & Johnson, 1980; Lakoff, 1987; Johnson, 1987; Langacker, 1987, 1990,
1999). In specific terms, scholars working in cognitive semantics investigate
knowledge representation (conceptual structure), and meaning construction
(conceptualization). Cognitive semanticists have employed language as the lens
through which these cognitive phenomena can be investigated. Consequently,
researches in cognitive semantics tend to be interested in modeling the human mind
as much as it is concerned with investigating linguistic semantics.
In the light of cognitive semantics, this study is conducted to find out the
relationship between the concept of time and the temporal bodily experience of
English and Vietnamese people conceptualized in their idioms and proverbs about
time.
1.2.2.1. Guiding principles of Cognitive Semantics
Like Cognitive Linguistics, Cognitive Semantics is an approach rather than a
specific theory so it also has adopted a number of guiding principles. There are four
guiding principles in Cognitive Semantics: (1) Conceptual structure is embodied;
(2) Semantic structure is conceptual structure; (3) Meaning representation is
encyclopedic, (4) Meaning construction is conceptualization (Evans & Green, 2006:
157).
Firstly, Conceptual structure is embodied, exemplified by Image Schema
theory of Mark Johnson. This principle derives from the findings of cognitive
sciences about the nature of human‟s body. It is well-known that human beings are
the most complex organism on earth with the extremely developed brain so they
have not only a species-specific view but also their own distinct and independent
viewpoint of the world from which all concepts are structured. Therefore, the
conceptual system formulated from the viewpoint is embodied experiences. From
this assumption, conceptual structure is a consequence of the nature of human‟s
body and thus is embodied.

9


Secondly, Semantic structure is conceptual structure, typified by Theory of
Conceptual Structure of Talmy. This principle asserts that language refers to the
concepts in mind of the speaker rather than, directly, to the entities which inhere in
an objectively real external world. In other words, Semantic structure (the meanings
conventionally associated with words and other linguistic units) can be equated with
Conceptual Structure (i.e., concepts) (Rosch, 1973). However, it does not mean that
Semantic structure and Conceptual structure are identical because in the reality,
there are still many thoughts, feelings and ideas that we cannot encode them in
language. Therefore, linguistic concepts are only a subset of the full set of concepts
in the minds of speaker-hearer (Evans, 2006; Evans & Green, 2006).
Next, meaning representation is encyclopedic, exemplified by Frame
Semantics of Fillmore. This principle holds that semantic structure is encyclopedic
in nature. It means lexical concepts do not present „neatly packaged bundles of
meaning […] but serve as point of access to vast repositories of knowledge‟ (Tyler
& Evans, 2006: 160). Accordingly, in fact, in order to understand the meaning of a
given utterance, the hearer is necessary to draw upon her/ his encyclopedic
knowledge relating to the specific situation represented by the utterance to construct
its meaning.
Finally, meaning construction is conceptualization, exemplified by Mental
Space theory of Faucconier. This principle states that language itself does not
encode meaning. Meaning is constructed through the process of conceptualization.
Consequently, „Meaning construction is […] a dynamic process whereby linguistic
units serve as prompts for an array of conceptual operations and the recruitment of
background knowledge. It follows from this view that meaning is a process rather
than a discrete „thing‟ that can be „packaged‟ by language.‟ (Tyler & Evans, 2006:
162).
This study follows the four guiding principles of semantic cognitive to find
out how the concept of time in English and Vietnamese idioms and proverbs about
time is perceived and the similarities and differences in their perception of time. By

10


analyzing English and Vietnamese idioms and proverbs about time, it can be seen
that the concept of time is embodied. For example, English people perceive time as
money because of their embodied experience on the value of time which is
explained clearly by Lakoff „the way the concept of work has developed in modern
Western culture, where work is typically associated with the time it takes and time
is precisely quantified, it has become customary to pay people by hour, week or
year. In our culture, TIME IS MONEY in many ways: telephone message units,
hourly wages, hotel room rates…‟ (Lakoff, 1980:130). The metaphorical link
between a source domain and a target domain which is conceptual structure is
reflected in the semantic structure TIME IS MONEY.
1.2.2.2 Major theories of Cognitive Semantics
Through this section, some of the most important theories in cognitive
semantics that are utilized for the thesis analysis will be discussed briefly.
1.2.2.2.1. Conceptual metaphor theory
Conceptual metaphor theory, sometimes called Cognitive Metaphor theory is
one of the most significant theories to take a cognitive semantic approach. The
fundamental tenet of Conceptual Metaphor Theory is that metaphor operates at the
level of thinking. Metaphors link two conceptual domains: a source domain – the
source of the literal meaning of the metaphorical expression, and a target domain –
the domain of experience actually being described by the metaphor (Croft & Cruse
2004:55). Thus, in the influential book Metaphors we live by, Lakoff and Johnson
(1980) present the theory of metaphor whose basic premise is that metaphor is not
an attribute of individual linguistic expressions and their meanings, but of whole
conceptual domains. In other words, any concept from source domain can be
utilized to profile a concept in the target domain. For instance, we can think and talk
about TIME in terms of MONEY as in TIME IS MONEY metaphor (Lakoff and
Johnson 1980). In this metaphor, TIME is the target domain and MONEY is the
source domain. The source domain MONEY which is a concrete valuable asset and
possessed/ used by human beings is employed to identify the target domain TIME

11


which is abstract and intangible. TIME, thereby, is clarified as a valuable thing also
owned and used in the same way as MONEY is.
The Conceptual Metaphor theory directly concerns two of the major
assumptions associated with cognitive semantics: one is the thesis that semantic
structure reflects conceptual structure and the other is the embodied cognition
thesis. In Lakoff and Johnson (1980), a formula TARGET DOMAIN IS SOURCE
DOMAIN is used to describe the metaphorical link between domains. The source
domain consists of a set of literal entities, attributes, processes and relationships,
linked semantically and apparently stored together in the mind. The „target‟ domain
tends to be abstract, and takes its structure from the source domain, through the
metaphorical link which is conventionally expressed in semantic structure. By that
means, the Conceptual Metaphor theory relates to the assumption of cognitive
semantics that is semantics structure is conceptual structure. Secondly, conceptual
metaphor is closely related to the notion of embodiment. In Metaphors we live by,
Lakoff and Johnson mention experiential gestalts which are based on the nature or
our body, our interactions with our physical environment and with other people
within our culture. These experiential gestalts which are developed as image
schema by Johnson (1987) serve as the grounding of conceptual metaphors (Lakoff
and Johnson 1980:117).
In the light of Conceptual metaphor theory, this study will uncover how the
concept of time in English and Vietnamese idioms and proverbs about time is
perceived by indicating source domains and clarifying the mappings from source
domains into the concept of time.
1.2.2.2.2. Image schema theory
Mark Johnson and George Lakoff together invented the term „image schema‟
in their 1987 books. In his book titled The body in the Mind, Johnson proposes that
one way in which embodied experience demonstrates itself at the cognitive level is
through image schema. As his statement, image schema is „a recurrent pattern,
shape and regularity‟ in or of „actions, perceptions and conceptions‟ that are on-

12


going. Also, image schemas are defined as schematic versions of images which are
representations of specific, embodied experiences (Fillmore 1975:123). Therefore,
image schemas are not particular images but are schematic. They represents
schematic patterns arising from imagistic domains, such as containers, paths, links,
forces, and balance that recur in a variety of embodied domains and structure our
bodily experience (Lakoff 1987:453; Johnson 1987:29). For example, the
CONTAINER schema defining the predicates IN and OUT would work as the basis
for understanding the body as container, the visual fields, and set models. Or, the
LINK schema helps conceptualize social and interpersonal relationships. According
to Lakoff and Johnson, image schemas structure not only our bodily experience but
also our non-bodily experience via metaphor (Lakoff 1987; Johnson 1987). In other
words, metaphor helps to constitute the link between abstraction and bodily
experience.
In this study, the image schema theory is adopted to analyze the way English
people perceive time as a container.
1.3. Contrastive analysis
1.3.1. Definitions
Contrastive Analysis (CA), or Contrastive Linguistics, as Fisiak (1981:1)
puts it, is defined as a sub-discipline of linguistics concerned with the comparison
of two or more languages or subsystem of languages in order to determine both the
differences and similarities between them. In the same vein, Fallahi (1991:6) also
states that Contrastive analysis (CA) is a branch of linguistics that brings two
language system together, sets them against each other, and seeks to define the
similarities and differences between them.
Although the field is explicitly defined to seek to formulate similarities and
differences of two languages, Contrastive analysis mainly focuses on studying
differences much more than similarities „… as the term contrastive implies, it is
more interested in differences between languages than in their likenesses‟ (James,
1980: 2).

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In this study, by analyzing English and Vietnamese idioms and proverbs
about time to find out how English and Vietnamese people perceive time, the
contrastive study is also conducted to explore the similarities and differences in the
perception of time of the two nations.
1.3.2. Guiding principles of Contrastive analysis
Contrastive analysis was originally based on the ideas of linguistic
structuralism and was initially aimed not at linguistic studies, but at helping foreign
language teachers. This aim was intended to show in what ways the two respective
languages differ, in order to help in the solution of practical problems such as
making it easier to understand learning a second language and how to teach it most
effectively. However, it then led to large-scale linguistic projects and now it is not
merely relevant for second language teaching and learning but it can also make
useful contributions to machine translating and linguistics typology. It is relevant to
the designing of teaching materials for use in all age groups. Consequently,
Chaturvedi (1973) suggests guiding principles for contrastive study as follow:
(i)

To analyze the mother tongue and the target language independently

and completely.
(ii)

To compare item-wise of the two languages at all levels of their

structure.
(iii) To arrive at the categories of
a) similar features
b) partially similar features
c) dissimilar features – for the target language.
(iv) To arrive at principles of text preparation, test framing and target
language teaching in general.
Based on the guiding principles of contrastive analysis, this thesis analyzes
English and Vietnamese idioms and proverbs about time separately to find out how
each of nations perceives time then compares the findings to see the similarities and

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differences in how the concept of time in English and Vietnamese idioms and
proverbs about time is perceived.
1.4. Previous studies related to the research
In cognitive linguistics, there are many famous linguists conducting studies
on the way people think of/ perceive time. Among them, the investigation of Lakoff
and Johnson (1980, 1999) into conceptual metaphor, concepts and embodiment in
metaphor and especially time perception from the cognitive linguistic perspective is
extremely prominent. The significant finding of their study is the so-called „spaceto-time metaphor‟, that is, spatial metaphor for time. This finding holds that people
can not perceive time directly because it is too abstract a concept to be fully grasped
cognitively, thus spatial metaphors are used to understand time. Following that
finding, Boroditsky (2001, 2008, 2010) carried out some researches on spatialtemporal metaphors and their influence on the way people perceive time. These are
empirical cross-linguistic studies which were made up of some experiments
involving Mandarin L1/ English L2 and native English speakers. And the results of
the researches indicate that firstly spatial metaphors are used in both languages to
understand and represent temporal aspects. Secondly, language habits have an
impact on temporal thought regardless of the language one is currently using
(Boroditsky, 2001). Thirdly, both English and Mandarin use left-to-right axial
spatial metaphor when talking about the notion of past time, which means in their
mind, time is perceived to move horizontally from left to right on the spatial
metaphor.
Along with the finding on TIME AS SPACE, Lakoff and Johnson
(1980,1993, 1999) also raise the second finding that is TIME IS MOTION
THROUGH SPACE conceptual metaphor. In their study in 1999, Lakoff and
Johnson argue that time is based on human perceptuo-motor experience of moving
around in the world and of perceiving objects moving in the world. More
specifically, human experience of time, in their opinion, emerges largely on account
of a metaphorical understanding of embodied experience, especially motion events.

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Philosophers have noted for a long time that time is conceptualized and lexicalized
in terms of motion in space. For example, Smart (1949) describes two metaphorical
conceptions for time, in which time is conceived in terms of motion towards an
observer, or an observer‟s motion towards the future. Adopting the observation,
psychologists and linguists develop the two basic models of conceptualizing time as
motion: the Moving Time model (MT) and the Moving Ego model (ME) (Clark
1973; Lakoff 1993). The distinction between MT and ME space-to-time motion
models was formalized by Lakoff and Johnson (1980, 1999) as figure-ground
reversals of the more general TIME PASSING IS MOTION conceptual metaphor.
Apart from the two major aforementioned findings of Lakoff and Johnson,
some other linguists carry out cross-linguistic studies of time perception and get
some remarkable findings. For instance, Casasanto et al. (2004), in a study
comprising three experiments which is to indicate across-linguistic difference
among English, Indonesia, Greek and Spanish, find that time is perceived as
distance and quantity. Young-Ok lee, in his research titled „Perceptions of time in
Korean and English‟, finds that metaphorical expressions about time in both Korean
and English reveal time as an animal to capture or to be chased by, time as a living
existence that wields great power, time as a precious thing to use or spend. Or, in
the study ‘Time perception across Russian and American cultures’ by Maria
Lebedko (2001), time is perceived as monetary concepts, parametrical concepts,
ethnical concepts, Juvenile- gerontological concepts, axiological concepts, activity
concepts.
In Vietnam, many famous linguists also pay attention to study the concepts
of time from cognitive linguistic perspective such as Nguyen Duc Dan, Tran Van
Co, Huu Dat. As in the study of Nguyen Duc Dan (2009), he states that words
indicating space are formed before words indicating time. Also, in this study, he
regards TIME AS A MOVING ENTITY. As his arguments, the movement of
human occurs simultaneously in space and time. Time in the already-passed space
appearing first is regarded as the past time and time in the coming space happening

16


later becomes the future time. As a consequence, the movement of human from the
previous space to the later space is concurrent with the movement of time from past
to future. Therefore, when the movement of time is projected to the observer‟s
position, the past time is understood to be behind him/her and the future time is
ahead him/her. Or as Tran Van Co (2007), there are two models of time: the cyclic
model and the linear model. And when investigating time perception, he proposes
that there are two types of time: subjective time and objective time. By and large, all
the above exemplified findings are great contribution to cognitive linguistics in
Vietnam but regarding the concern of this thesis, the study by Huu Dat (2011) titled
„temporal and spatial cognition in Vietnamese idioms and proverbs‟ is realized to
be its fundamental. The findings of Huu Dat on time perception, besides the ones
are grounded on the TIME AS SPACE and TIME AS MOTION metaphor proposed
by Jakoff and Johnson, are that time is perceived based on the continuity of action,
on human‟s experiences, on the relationship between human and production.
Generally speaking, studies on time from cognitive linguistic perspective are
plentiful but there are not many researches on time perception that contrasts English
and Vietnamese. Thus, this thesis hopes to be one of the English - Vietnamese
contrastive studies on the perception of time that may be a contribution to cognitive
linguistic field.

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CHAPTER 2: METHODOLOGY
This chapter discusses the research approach, research method, the data, data
collection procedure, data classification and the analytical framework for the study.
2.1. Research questions
This study is conducted to seek answers to the two following research
questions:
1. How is the concept of time in English and Vietnamese idioms and
proverbs about time perceived?
2. What are the similarities and differences in how the concept of time in
English and Vietnamese idioms and proverbs is perceived?
2.2. Research approach
The present study investigates into how the concept of time in English and
Vietnamese idioms/proverbs about time is perceived in the light of conceptual
metaphor theory.
Conceptual Metaphor Theory (CMT) is an important sub-field of Cognitive
semantics which focuses on the cognitive processes behind linguistic expressions
and on the conceptual motivation behind figurative meaning. Its fundamental tenet
is that metaphor operates at the level of thinking. Metaphor is the mapping between
a source domain and a target domain. The source domain consists of a set of literal
entities, attributes, processes and relationships, linked semantically and apparently
stored together in the mind. The target domain tends to be abstract, and takes its
structure from the source domain, through the metaphorical link which is
conventionally expressed in semantic structure. Thereby, according to Lakoff and
Johnson (1980), metaphor is a way to create new meanings for abstract concepts.
Consequently, the Conceptual Metaphor Theory, maybe, becomes one of the most
useful approaches to research the concept of time. In this study, from all the English
and Vietnamese idioms and proverbs about time selected, the source domains are
identified and mapped into the concept of time so as to find out how English and
Vietnamese people perceive time.
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