A study of idioms by clothes in english and vietnamese from a perspective of components
MINISTRY OF EDUCATION AND TRAINING HANOI OPEN UNIVERSITY
NGUYỄN THỊ VÂN
A STUDY OF IDIOMS BY CLOTHES IN ENGLISH AND VIETNAMESE FROM A PERSPECTIVE OF COMPONENTS (NGHIÊN CỨU THÀNH NGỮ THUỘC CHỦ ĐỀ TRANG PHỤC TRONG TIẾNG ANH VÀ TIẾNG VIỆT TỪ BÌNH DIỆN HỢP PHẦN)
M.A. THESIS Field: English Language Code: 8220201
MINISTRY OF EDUCATION AND TRAINING HANOI OPEN UNIVERSITY
NGUYỄN THỊ VÂN
A STUDY OF IDIOMS BY CLOTHES IN ENGLISH AND VIETNAMESE FROM A PERSPECTIVE OF COMPONENTS (NGHIÊN CỨU THÀNH NGỮ THUỘC CHỦ ĐỀ TRANG PHỤC TRONG TIẾNG ANH VÀ TIẾNG VIỆT TỪ BÌNH DIỆN HỢP PHẦN)
M.A. THESIS Field: English Language Code: 8220201 Supervisor: Đặng Nguyên Giang, Ph.D.
STATEMENT OF AUTHORSHIP
I, the undersigned, hereby certify my authority of the study project report entitled “A Study of Idioms by Clothes in English and Vietnamese from a Perspective of Components” submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master in English Language. Except where the reference is indicated, no other person‟s work has been used without due acknowledgement in the text of the thesis. Hanoi, 2018
Nguyễn Thị Vân Approved by SUPERVISOR
Đặng Nguyên Giang, Ph. D. Date:……………………
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS The thesis could not have been completed without the help and support from my suppervisor, teachers and closest relatives. First and foremost, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Mr. Đặng
Nguyên Giang, Ph. D, my supervisor, who has patiently and constantly supported me through the stages of the study, and whose stimulating ideas, expertise, and suggestions have inspired me greatly through my growth as an academic researcher. Many thanks go to my colleagues and many others whose support and encouragement help me to have this thesis accomplished. Last but not least, I am greatly indebted to my family for their patience, endless love, and devotion. Whatever choices I have made, they have always stood by me and believed in me. I am immensely thankful for all the assistance they have given me. It is the support of all of the above that has enabled the completion of this study, and for this I remain eternally grateful.
ABSTRACT An investigation of idioms by clothes in English and Vietnamese in terms of structural and semantic components is carried out in the present study. Componential analysis, describing, comparing and contrasting are regarded as the main methods used in the current thesis. The findings of the study are concerned with the similarities and differences between English and Vietnamese idioms by clothes in terms of (1) structural components and (2) semantic components. In order to collect the data, a hand search approach of the dictionaries in both languages has been conducted, which helps to establish a corpus of 89 idioms by clothes in English and 50 idioms by clothes in Vietnamese.In the present study, a common theoretical framework on idioms by clothes is applied to both English and Vietnamese. The structural and semantic components involve three types of idioms existing in our data: symmetrical, similized, and non-symmetrical (Nguyễn Công Đức (1995), Hoàng Văn Hành (2008)). The structural components of each idiom type are realized, described and analyzed according to grammatical rules suggested by Quirk, Greenbaum, Leech, & Svartvik (1985).The semantic components of each idiom type involve the motivation degrees (transparent, semi-transparent, semiopaque, and opaque) (Fernando & Flavell (1981), Fernando (1996)), the association between the literal readings and the idiomatic meanings (Langlotz, 2006), and the semantic composition of component parts (Hoàng Văn Hành, 2008). The findings of the current study also reveal that most of the idioms in both English and Vietnamese are analyzable and have meanings that are at least partly motivated. The thesis also presents the implications for idiom teaching and translation.
TABLE OF CONTENTS Page STATEMENT OF AUTHORSHIP
CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION
1.2. Aims of the Study
1.3. Research Questions
1.4. Scope of the Study
1.5. Significance of the Study
1.6. Research Methods
1.7. Design of the Study
CHAPTER 2: LITERATURE REVIEW
2.1. Theoretical Background
2.1.1. Idioms Defined
2.1.2. Idioms from Traditional and Cognitive Views
2.1.3. Functions of Idioms
2.1.4. Idioms and other Language Units
2.2. Previous Research
2.2.1. Previous Research Works on Idioms in English
2.2.2. Previous Research Works on Idioms in Vietnamese
CHAPTER 3: DATA AND METHODOLOGY
3.1. Componential research
3.2. Analytical research
3.3. Data Collection
3.4. Data Analysis
CHAPTER 4: STRUCTURAL AND SEMANTIC COMPONENTS OF
IDIOMS BY CLOTHES IN ENGLISH AND VIETNAMESE
4.1. Structural Components of Idioms by Clothes in English and
Vietnamese 4.1.1. Symmetrical Idioms by Clothes
4.1.2. Similized Idioms by Clothes
4.1.3. Non-Symmetrical Idioms by Clothes
4.2. Semantic Components of Idioms by Clothes in English and Vietnamese
4.2.1. Motivation Degrees of Symmetrical Idioms by Clothes
4.2.2. Motivation Degrees of Similized Idioms by Clothes
4.2.3. Motivation Degrees of Non-Symmetrical Idioms by Clothes
4.2.4. Composition of Semantic Components of Idioms by Clothes in
English and Vietnamese 4.3. Comparision between English and Vietnamese Idioms by Clothes
4.3.1. In Terms of Structural Components
4.3.2. In Terms of Semantic Components
4.4.Idioms and their Importance for english Language Learners
4.5 Implications for Idiom Teaching and Translation
CHAPTER 5: CONCLUSION
5.1. Summary of the Findings
5.2. Concluding Remarks
5.3. Recommendations for Further Studies
APPENDIX 1: A CORPUS OF 89 IDIOMS BY CLOTHES IN
ENGLISH APPENDIX 2: A CORPUS OF 50 IDIOMS BY CLOTHES IN VIETNAMESE
CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION 1.1.
Rationale Vietnam is on the path of development and intergration not only with the
countries in the region but also with countries around the world. Therefore, learning and using English in communication becomes very important and necessary. All English learners in general and Vietnamese learners in particular desire to master English as native speakers. However, people often face to a lot of difficulties that prevent them from gaining successful conversations. One of the reasons of these problems is that they meet difficulty in understanding and using idioms in communication. Each nation‟s language lies in itself similar and different concepts on many fields such as customs and traditions, ways of thinking, religious beliefts, behavior standards, social conventions, ect. Words and expressions including idioms have formed the vocabulary system of a language and make specific characteristics of each nation both material and spiritual values. Hence, investigating the idioms in both English and Vietnamese always attracts many authors with many different studies. It is clear that studying idioms is not new; nonetheless, it has never been old. In Vietnam, there exist three approaches in studying idioms: etymology, synchronic evolution, and comparison and contrastive analysis (Hoàng Văn Hành, 2008). Firstly, the investigations on idioms under etymology go into macro field. These studies focus on the formation and transformation of each idiom during its existence. It is hard work taking a lot of time and energy. The method mainly used in these studies is the etymologizing, i.e. the origins of idioms are recovered in order to make the forms and the idiomatic meanings transparent. Hoàng Văn Hành (2002) and Tiêu Hà Minh (2007) are the typical authors who pay attention to this area. The second approach in studying idioms is synchronic evolution. Descriptive method is used in these studies from which the underlying cultural factors behind the idioms are partly interpretable. This area of study attracts a lot of authors such as Trương Đông San (1974), Nguyễn Lực & Lương Văn Đang (1978), Nguyễn
Công Đức (1995), Hoàng Văn Hành (2008), etc. Studying idioms under comparison and contrastive analysis is the third approach. The studies under original recovery and synchronic evolution are the backgrounds for comparison and contrastive works. Several attempts have been made to work out the similarities and differences between English and Vietnamese in terms of emotion expressing idioms (Nguyễn Văn Trào, 2009), idiomatic verb phrases (Nguyễn Văn Long 2010), idiom translation (Nguyễn Thị Lan, 2001; Hoàng Thị Minh Phúc, 2009), structural and semantic components of idioms (Đặng Nguyên Giang, 2013), etc. In fact, there have been so far studies on idioms such terms as human feelings, colors, geography, animals, and time and so on from different perspectives. However, to my best of knowledge, there have not been any studies investigating idioms by clothes in English and Vietnamese from a perspective of components. Therefore, this investigation is carried out to help learners of Vietnamese and English as a foreign language improve their understanding of idioms by clothes, especilally from the perspective of components. 1.2. Aims of the Study The study is conducted to improve English teaching and learning in general and idiom teaching and learning in particular. The findings of the study, to some extent, help the teachers and the learners have a better understanding of English and Vietnamese languages through the idioms by clothes. In order to achieve the aim, the study is intended to reach the following objectives: - to uncover how the components of idioms by clothes are organized structurally and semantically in English and Vietnamese; - to find out the similarities and differences between English and Vietnamese idioms by clothes in terms of structural and semantic components; - to give some implications for idiom teaching and translation. 1.3. Research Questions The objectives of the study can be elaborated into the research questions as follows: - How are the components of idioms by clothes organized structurally and semantically in English and Vietnamese?
- What are the similarities and differences between English and Vietnamese idioms by clothes in terms of structural and semantic components? - What are the possible implications for idioms teaching and translation? 1.4. Scope of the Study This study investigates idioms by clothes in both English and Vietnamese from a perspective of components. The study focuses on the idioms by clothes selected from recently published dictionaries. All the authors of these works affirm that the idioms in their books are both current and used, or undersood, by most native speakers. 1.5. Significance of the Study Theoretically, this study will add some basic theories of English and Vietnamese idioms, specially the idioms by clothes from the perspective of components. This helps to find out the similarities and differences between English and Vietnamese idioms by clothes in terms of structural and semantic components. It also contributes to the knowledge of linguistics in general and of idioms by clothes in particular. Practically, for language teaching (both English and Vietnamese), the study facilitates learners‟ communication because language is for communication, and idioms are an indispensable part of common expressions (Cowie, Mackin & McCaig, 1993, p. x). The work will provide assistance to English-speaking learners of Vietnamese and Vietnamese learners of English to distinguish one kind of idioms from others in each language. The work will also enable learners to tell when idioms in English and Vietnamese are similar and different, which is likely to be useful for their study. Language teachers will be aided to help their learners reach this communicative goal. For translation, knowledge of idioms from this work will help translators find closest equivalents to the expressions in the source language. 1.6. Research Methods 1.6.1. Major Methods Due to the main aims and objectives of the study, description, componential analysis, contrastive exploitation and experimental method have been chosen as major ones. Firstly, the description, componential analysis are utilized in order to give a
full account of the structural and semantic components of English and Vietnamese idioms by clothes. Secondly, the contrastive method is applied to identify the similarities and differences between English and Vietnamese idioms by clothes. Finally, the experimental method is used to uncover the effectiveness of idiom componential analysis applied to idiom teaching at An Duong high school. In conducting the research thesis, last but not least, setting up a regular consultancy with supervisor for a guidance and academic exchange is a critical technique to find out a right direction for doing the research successfully. 1.6.2. Data Collection Techniques The monolingual and bilingual dictionaries of idioms in two languages are useful instruments to collect data. Google search should be accounted because a large number of relevant journals, newspapers, reference materials have been taken thanks to this tool. Hence, to select an appropriate collection of English and Vietnamese idioms by clothes with illustrating examples, the following techniques have also been applied: dictionary checking, Google searching techniques and data categorizing with determined criteria. Regarding dictionary checking techniques, such key words as „idiom‟, names of clothes are used to check the relevant meanings of English idioms containing them. To categorize the data with determined criteria, some data mining techniques like clustering technique and classification technique are used for defining the various semantic features in accordance with certain meaning categories. In addition, others minor techniques are also employed as reading comprehension, meaning comparison and note-taking for selecting desired material of various idioms by clothes apart from the word processing technique for archive of data categorizations. Applying those data collection techniques, English and Vietnamese idioms containing the component parts of clothes have been collected. Simultaneously, a collection of examples extracted from dictionaries and literature works have been gathered as well. 1.6.3. Data Analysis Techniques After finishing the collection of data, they are qualitatively described and analyzed in terms of the structural and semantic components to create a full picture of English and Vietnamese idioms by clothes. In doing this thesis, the data profiling
technique is used in this research thesis to track the frequency, distribution and characteristics of the values that populate the columns of a data set; they then present the statistical results for review and drill-down analysis. The selective idioms by clothes are carefully sorted out together with illustrated examples of the above-mentioned features to find out the similarities and differences between English and Vietnamese idioms by clothes. Checklists and statistical techniques are utilized to quantitatively show the frequency and distribution of English and Vietnamese idioms by clothes. Statistic tables for generalization, comparison and contrastive analysis are used with the purpose of making the investigation clear for discussion and interpretation. 1.7. Design of the Study The study consists of five chapters, in addition to the appendices and the references: Chapter 1, introduction, contains the rationale, the aims, the research questions, the scope, the significance, the research methods, and the design of the study. Chapter 2, literature review, is formed by two main parts: a review of theoretical background and a review of previous research works. Chapter 3, data and methods, discusses theoretical and analytical frameworks, data collection, data analysis and procedures. Chapter 4, structural and semantic components of idioms by clothes in English and Vietnamese, is divided into two main parts: structural components of idioms by clothes in English and Vietnamese, and semantic components of idioms by clothes in English and in Vietnamese. Chapter 5, the last one, is the conclusion which includes the summary of the findings as well as the concluding remarks and recommendations for further studies.
CHAPTER 2 LITERATURE REVIEW The literature review is divided into two main parts. The first part gives a review of theoretical background and framework of idioms in English and Vietnamese on which the whole research has been based. The second one presents and discusses the previous research works on idioms in English and Vietnamese. 2.1. Theoretical Background 2.1.1. Idioms Defined The central problem one comes up against in attempting to define idiom is identifying the property (or properties) which will adequately capture all the idioms in a language while excluding all the non-idioms. A number of approaches to idiomaticity together with various definitions of what an idiom is have already been presented in the previous chapter. If one narrowed down the consideration of idiomaticity to the specific problem of definition it is possible to identify two approaches to what idiomaticity is: Those scholars who adopt the first approach look on idiomaticity as manifesting the specific character or genius of a language. Their investigations of idiomaticity are directed towards revealing this specific character which is, in effect part of the underlying conceptual design of the language. Such an approach ultimately leads to the nature of cognition itself and therefore has strong psycholinguistic implications. The chief exemplars of this approach to idiomaticity in the Anglo-American tradition of linguistics, Smith (1925) and Roberts (1944), do not carry their investigations to these depths. Their work, already referred to in Section 1.1, simply outlines the cultural preoccupations, the 'world view' implicit in the idioms of English, together with the pecularities of phrasing and other distinguishing features (e.g. non-literalness) that distinguish expressions as idioms. But the main emphasis in such work is on the conceptual design of the language in so far as it emerges through a consideration of idiomaticity rather than on the structural properties of idioms. Scholars who adopt the second approach are more structurally orientated and seek to define idiomaticity in terms of one or more structural properties. They
are, therefore more selective in their indentification of idioms. The second approach, in addition, enables the linguist to make topological classifications of such idioms on the basis of the properties he adopts as criteria. The majority of the scholars whose work has been examined in Chapter I adopt this second approach which is also the one adopted in this chapter. English is very rich in idiomatic expressions. It is difficult to speak or write English without using idioms. An important fact that must be taken into consideration is that idioms are not only colloquial expressions, as many people believe. They can appear in formal style and in slang. They can also appear in poetry or in the language of the journalist, the writer and the Bible. What, then, is an idiom? Many linguists such as Robins (1989), Palmer (1981), Jackson and Amvela (1998) and others regard idioms as a special kind of collocation. The meaning of an idiom, however, cannot be deduced from the meaning of its constituents. An idiom is distinguished from a collocation, for a collocation is a sequence of lexical items which habitually co-occur and each lexical constituent of a collocation is a semantic component. Hornby (1995) argued in his Oxford Advanced Learner‟s Dictionary, an idiom is “a phrase or sentence whose meaning is not clear from the meaning of its individual words and which must be learnt as a whole unit”. Sharing the same point of view, Seidl and Mordie (1988) defined “an idiom is a number of words which, taken together, mean something different from the individual words of the idiom when they stand alone”. For instance, the collocation of kick and the bucket forms an idiom meaning die, which is not systematically determinable from the meanings of kick and the bucket. This idiom or phrasal lexeme is formally identical with the phrase kick the bucket whose meaning is systematically determinable on the basis of the meaning of the lexemes of which it is composed – hit a certain type of container for liquids with their foot. In Longman Dictionary of Language Teaching and Applied Linguistics (1992), an idiom is also regarded as “an expression which functions as a single unit and whose meaning cannot be worked out from its separate parts”. In addition, Cowie, Mackin & McCaig (1993) state that idioms are groups of words with set meanings that cannot be calculated by adding up the separate meanings of the parts.
Fernando (1996) defines an idiom as “an indivisible unit whose components cannot be varied or varied only within definable limits”. This means that no other words can be substituted for those comprising. Nor are the words of an idiom usually recombinable. In Vietnamese, a great variety of definitions of idioms are also given. Nguyễn Văn Mệnh (1972) and Đỗ Hữu Châu (1981) suppose that idioms are available linguistic units which have stable structures, typical meanings and nominative functions. Having the same viewpoint, Nguyễn Đức Dân (1986) defines that an idiom is a fixed group of words having a complete meaning and descriptive value. To make it clearer, he also adds that idioms express concepts based on separated images. It is the reason why idioms usually have their own figurative meanings. For example, the phrase quần là áo lượt (very formal and well- dressed) is considered as an idiom because its idiomatic meaning cannot be infered from the meanings of its constituents (quần, là, áo, lượt). Another definition of idiom from Hoàng Văn Hành (2008, p. 31) is that an idiom is a fixed group of words which is firm in terms of structure, complete and figurative in terms of meaning, and is widely used in daily speaking. As can be seen from the above definitions, there are different ways of defining an idiom. In general, most of the linguists share the same point of view that an idiom is a fixed expression whose meaning cannot be worked out by looking at the meanings of its individual constituents. What is given below is regarded as a summary of the defining features of an idiom. Such an idiom: - is a fixed unit whose components cannot be varied or varied under definable control; - is regarded as a complex scene with a bipartite semantic structure: a literal reading and an idiomatic meaning; - has the meaning which is usually different from the meanings of the combination of its components; - expresses a pure concept. 2.1.2. Idioms from Traditional and Cognitive Views i) Idioms from Traditional Views Traditionally, in English, idioms are considered to be unpredictable or non-
compositional (Chafe (1970), Chomsky (1965/1980), Katz (1973), Fernando & Flavell (198), etc). This results in the concept that although we have learned the meaning and syntactic property of each word of an idiom, we are still unable to capture its idiomatic meaning. In other words, the meaning of an idiom cannot be derived from the meanings of its constituents. According Fernando & Flavell (1981), the meaning of an idiom is not the result of the compositional function of its constituent parts. They regard an idiom as a lexeme. Vietnamese idioms are traditionally thought to be unpredictable or noncompositional (Nguyễn Văn Mệnh (1972), Đỗ Hữu Châu (1981), Nguyễn Công Đức (1995), Hoàng Văn Hành (2008), etc). In summary, according to traditional view, the meaning of an idiom is the special chemical mixture of all components‟ meaning, which is completely new in quality. It means that there is no link between the literal reading and the idiomatic meaning. However, in fact there exist a lot of idioms in English and in Vietnamese, the idiomatic meanings of which can be derived from the meanings of their component parts, i.e. their syntax is correlative. Indeed, the traditional view cannot be applied to explain all types of idioms. It is regarded as the limitation of this view. ii) Idioms from Cognitive Views In English, from cognitive view, most idioms are believed to be analyzable and have meanings that are at least partly motivated (Geeraets (1995), Gibbs (1990/1995), Kốvecses & Szabo (1996), Nunberg et al. (1994), Fernando (1996), Taylor (2002), Langlotz (2006), etc). According to Nunberg et al. (1994, p. 497), “saying an expression is an idiomatic combination (i.e. idiomatically combining expression) doesn‟t require us to explain why each of its parts has the figurative interpretation it does, so long as we can establish a correspondence between it and the relevant element of the idiomatic denotation”. Nunberg et al. (1994) also divides idioms into two categories. They are idiomatically combining expressions whose constituent parts carry identifiable parts of their idiomatic meanings, and idiomatic phrases whose idiomatic meanings cannot be derived from their parts. For example, the phrase spill the beans, which means „divulge the information‟, can be analyzed by looking at the action of „spill‟ as the action of divulging and „beans‟ as the information.
Gibbs (1990/1995) supposes that most idioms are motivated by cognitive-semantic mechanisms such as metaphors, metonymies and conventional knowledge. According to cognitive view, most Vietnamese idioms are also believed to be analyzed and their meanings are at least partly motivated. For example, the idiom “kéo áo người đắp bụng mình” meaning “one who is greedy and only think about his/her benifits”.| In a word, the psychological experiments conducted by Gibbs (1990/1995) prove that the figurative meanings of most idioms are not arbitrary. Sharing the same points with the authors above, in the present study we once again suppose that most idioms in both English and Vietnamese are analyzable and have meanings which are at least partly motivated through the component parts forming idioms. 2.1.3. Functions of Idioms Idioms may play different roles. They are used to name objects, actions or describe situations. They may express certain generalizations, advice, make evaluation, emphasize… Traditionally, from the point of view of the function of idioms, we can refer to the following basic groups: -
idioms with a nominative function - express concepts and name objects, states, processes, actions, qualities, etc. They have the structure of a phrase. Examples: while elephant, pull somebody 's leg, cool as a cucumber, body and soul.
idioms with a communicative function - describe situations and express independent statements. They have the structure of a sentence, e.g. all that glitters is not gold, the coast is clear.
idioms with both nominative and communicative functions (including idioms with a mixed, limited variable structure), e.g. break the ice - the ice is broken, close the door on - the door is closed, lead somebody by the nose somebody is led by nose.
idioms without any distinctive nominative and communicative function linguists usually include here modal and interjectional idioms, or idioms which have a cohesive function, e.g. like hell, what on earth, on the other hand, as well as, by the way.
In relation to words, within the group of idioms with a nominative function (lexemic idioms), we can refer to idioms equivalent to single words, i.e. they may be replaced by a single word (of course = certainly, kick the bucket = die, in the family way = pregnant). They may also correspond to non-idiomatic phrases (collocations: a big fish = an important person, as red as a turkey cock = very angry), or they may be correlated with approximate (free) description, e.g. have green fingers = have natural ability in growing plants. Nominative idioms correlate with word classes (parts of speech). They may be divided into: noun, verbal, adjectival and adverbial idioms, etc., for example: a dark horse (noun), make give up (verbal), as white as a sheet (adjectival), once in a blue moon, tooth and nail (adverbial). Their function is not completely identical with that of single words, since their meaning usually includes a higher degree of both expressiveness and evaluation. From the pragmatic point of view and discourse, some linguists, including Fernando (l996) speak about: -
"ideational" idioms ("the state and way of the world" idioms, expressing namely: actions, events, situation, people, things, attitudes, emotions, etc.): red herring, bury the hatchet, as white as a sheet
"interpersonal" idioms (expressing greetings, agreement, rejections, etc.): so long, never mind.
"relational” idioms (ensuring cohesion, etc): by the way, in addition to, last but not least Other linguists give more detailed categorization of idioms. Some idioms
may have more than one function. Moon (1998), for example, distinguishes the following groups of idioms: -
informational (conveying information of different kind: in the red, rub shoulders with, one’s kith and kin)
evaluative (giving the speaker‟s attitude to the situation: works wonders, wash one’s hands off something, a different kettle of fish.
situational (expressing conventions, clauses, exclamation, relating to extralingual context: walls have ears, so long, talk of the devil, long time no see)
modalizing (expressing modality, truth values, advice, request: mark my words, more or less, at all, in effect)
organizational (organizing the text, signaling discourse structure: by the way, all in all, let alone, in the light, on the other hand, in other words)
2.1.4. Idioms and other Language Units That idioms share some common syntactic and semantic features with other phraseology units in the language makes it difficult for learners to distinguish. The confusion often occurs between idioms and words, idioms and proverbs or idioms and slangs. i) Idioms versus Words “Words are the smallest language units having their own meanings and fixed forms, and are used to build sentences” (Institute of linguistics, 2004). According to this definition, words have the following features: - Words are independent language units and have their own meanings. - Words are available language units and have their own fixed forms. - Words usually have nominative functions. It means that they are the names of things, phenomena, activities, properties, states, etc. - Words are basic language units used to build sentences. The biggest difference between idioms and words is that they are compared with single words: The smallest idioms consist of at least two single words. Moreover, the determination of words closely connects concepts. For example, hẻo lánh (out of the way) is a word and khỉ ho cò gáy (out of the way) is an idiom. Both of these semantically express the same meaning. However, hẻo lánh (out of the way) has literal meaning which is quite objective and neutral; khỉ ho cò gáy (out of the way) has figurative meaning containing the speaker‟s emotional colorings and comments: It is a boring hard place to live and work. Words are the smallest language units which are independent and have their own meanings. The meanings of compound words such as rain coat, coffee table and pocket dictionary are usually clear and easy to deduce by looking at the literal sense of their components. However, it is impossible to understand the meanings of idioms by doing like that (except comparative idioms in Vietnamese) because idioms have figurative meanings.
ii) Idioms versus Proverbs According to Hornby (1995), a proverb is defined as „a short well-known sentence or phrase that states a general truth about life or gives advice, e.g. Better safe than sorry or Don’t put all your eggs in one basket‟. More particularly, Vũ Ngọc Phan (2000, p. 39) regards a proverb as „a complete saying expressing one idea of comment, experience, morality, justice or criticism‟. It is obvious that idioms and proverbs share some common features and it is necessary to put them side by side to distinguish. First of all, both idioms and proverbs are ready-made units which are mainly orally transmitted from generation to generation and naturally accepted in daily life. Secondly, both of them are setexpressions whose components are stable and not able to be substituted. It is nearly impossible to add, omit or replace any components of an idiom or a proverb because it will make them lose their figurative meanings. In addition, the meaning of most idioms and proverbs is understood metaphorically rather than literally. This is the reason why it is arduous to discover their true meaning just by looking up the individual words in a normal dictionary. Finally, some proverbs originate from idioms. An example of this is the proverb keep something under your hat (a person who always keep someone‟s secrets) which contains the idiom under your hat (keep secrets in someone‟s mind). Besides the similarities, both idioms and proverbs have their own typical features that distinguish one from another. The first and most obvious difference lies in their syntactic structures. In terms of syntactic structures, idioms are phrases which are parts of sentences; thus, they are equivalent to words. In contrast, proverbs are complete sentences or phrases which can express the whole idea by themselves. What is more, idioms and proverbs are also different in terms of their functions. Proverbs are short well-known sentences or phrases that express a judgment, general truth about life, advice or moral lesson. They contain three main literature functions namely perceptive, aesthetic and educational functions. Therefore, a proverb can be considered as a perfect literature work. The Congolese proverb A pretty face and fine clothes do not make character illustrates this point clearly. Its perceptive function is to make people aware that clothes is not much effect to sb‟s character. Moreover, the proverb is expressed in a figurative and picturesque way which helps readers
understand the proverb easily then be deeply convinced. On the contrary, idioms do not express judgments; give advice or state general truth about life, which means they do not have functions of perception and education but only aesthetic function. Lacking these two functions, idioms cannot be considered as a literature work, but as a language unit only. The idiom eat my hat illustrates that a person saying this when he doesn‟t belive that something is going to happen. iii) Idioms versus Slang Slang, as defined in Oxford Advanced Learner‟s Dictionary (1995), is “very informal words and expressions that are more common in spoken language, especially used by a particular group of people, for example, children, criminals, soldiers, etc.” Slang is firstly created only to satisfy the need of secret-keeping, or it can be the signs to recognize people of the same group. Slang can appear as a brand new word, a new meaning for an existing word, an abbreviation for a word, or a word that becomes more generalized than its former, narrow meaning. Though both idioms and slangs are almost fixed in structure and meaning, they differ from each other in some aspects. It can be inferred from the definition that slang is used by only some specific communities whereas idioms are used more commonly. In other words, other group people may find it difficult to understand the slang and slang is a means of identifying and reinforcing certain sub-groups in society which can be divided according to age, occupation, criminals, etc. However, there is a close relationship between slang and idiom. It can be said that idiom is yesterday‟s slang and slang is tomorrow‟s idiom. In other words, idiom is slang that has through use and over time, become acceptable to use in informal language. Slangs are words that are usually made up and stand alone on their own, often used as euphemisms - but not always. They are typically used in informal language, and are very often tied to locale, profession or cultural cliques. For example: Pants the American default word for the article of clothing that covers the legs and pelvic region seems pretty general and innocuous to English speakers in the U.S. To the actual English, however, „pants‟ is the primary word they use for „underwear.‟ And while American cinema and television typically writes the word „knickers‟ for underwear into the vocabulary of British characters that‟s probably just for comedic effect since „pants‟
wouldn‟t induce any response the most common British word for underwear really is „pants.‟ Americans tend not to notice how often they refer to their so-called pants until someone from the U.K. joins their ranks. Once that happens they begin to notice restrained snickering every time „pants‟ are referenced in a polite conversation. In summary, have many things in common with words, proverbs and slangs that remind learners to take them into parallel consideration when studying language. Despite these similarities among them, they are still distinguishable. 2.2. Previous Research 2.2.1. Previous Research Works on Idioms in English According to Makkai (1972) divides idioms into two main kinds: encoding and decoding. Then, decoding idioms are subdivided into lexemic and semantic. Semantic idioms consist of six categories: phrasal verbs, tournures, irreversible binomials, phrasal compounds, incorporating verbs and pseudo-idioms. Seidl and McMordie (1988), Cowie, Mackin & McCaig (1993) mention the categories of idioms based on their topics and grammatical patterns. From transformational grammar, Fraser (1970) regards an idiom as a constituent or a series of constituents whose meaning does not come from the meanings of individual parts. He also mentions six level scales of idioms: unrestricted, reconstitution, extraction, permutation, insertion, adjunction and completely frozen. Semantically, Quirk (1996) investigates idioms and proverbs having constituents of animals in English. In this study, typical cultural properties conveyed by this type of idioms and proverbs are established. This is regarded as an initial research investigating English idioms and proverbs in terms of their semantic properties from component perspective. Fernando & Flavell (1981) are the linguists who realize the limitations of the previous scholars. They suppose that idiom and idiomaticity are not the same. They focus on the nature of idioms such as morpho-syntacite composition, semantic properties, homonymity, syntactic properties, etc. They also examine several issues which focus attention on the idiom as a single lexeme that is noncorrelative in its syntax and therefore non-literal in terms of its constituents. The most
sensitive criterion to establish idiomaticity is
undoubtedly the semantic one. Semantically, Fernando & Flavell (1981) establish the transparent - opaque axis for analyzing idioms. In defining idiom, they stress three features in particular: a non-correlative syntax resulting in non-literalness, homonymity and institutionalization. From cognitive view, Nunberg et al.
(1994) divides idioms into two
categories (i) idiomatically combining expressions whose constituent parts carry identifiable parts of their idiomatic meanings, and (ii) idiomatic phrases whose idiomatic meanings cannot be derived from their parts (see Section 1.1.3). Fernando (1996) also divides English idioms
idioms, semi-idioms and literal idioms. Grammatically, Taylor (2002) mentions the interrelated topics of idioms and constructions. The topics are interrelated in that both idioms and constructions are possibly considered as symbolic units, which associate a phonological (or „formal‟) representation with a semantic reading. According to his points of view, constructions are usually specified at a high level of schematicity and likely to sanction an open set of expressions. Nevertheless, a construction‟s usage range may not be fully predictable: constructions, in other words, display varying degrees of idiomaticity. Idioms generally need to be specified at a lower level of schematicity. Taylor (2002) also points out that the difference between idioms and constructions turns out to be a gradient distinction, having to do, essentially, with the schematicity at which a unit is specified. Langlotz (2006) explores alternative types of adnominal modification in occasional variants of English verbal idioms. Following the cognitive-linguistic framework, he states that the dimensions of idiom-transparency result from the language user‟s ability to remotivate the bipartite semantic structure by conceptual metaphors and metonymies. In short, idioms in English are studied in terms of several aspects such as grammar, semantics, rhetoric, pragmatics, etc which are investigated from different views. However, the majority of scholars pay their attention to the two approaches. Scholars who adopt the first approach are more structurally orientated. They describe the idioms and their idiomaticity in terms of one or more structural properties. The idiomatologists who adopt the second approach study idiomaticity
as manifesting hidden conceptual design of the language. Such an approach leads to the nature of cognition itself and accordingly has valid psycholinguistic. 2.2.2. Previous Research Works on Idioms in Vietnamese In the vocabulary system of Vietnamese, idioms which are usually placed in a certain position can define themselves with other linguistic units such as compounds, collocations and proverbs. Due to this direction, it can be seen that several studies on vocabulary and grammar or the boundary issues among lexical units have been carried out (Đỗ Hữu Châu ( 1981), Nguyễn Văn Mệnh ( 1986), Nguyễn Thiện Giáp ( 1985), Hồ Lê ( 1976), etc). Some other Vietnamese authors such as Trương Đông San (1974), Hoàng Văn Hành (1976) study the forms and meanings of similized idiom. Nguyễn Công Đức (1995) studies Vietnamese idioms from formal-semantic perspectives. It is a research investigating idioms quite systematically from both structural and semantic perspectives. Based on the forms, he divides Vietnamese idioms into three categories: idioms with symmetrical structure, idioms with comparison structure and idioms with nonsymmetrical structure. For idioms with symmetrical structure, the most important characteristic is the reciprocal or contrast of meaning of the two parts of idioms, i.e. it is the relation of symmetrical contents. From this relation, these idioms form other relations such as the relation of symmetrical words, i.e. symmetry or repetition between components. Like other linguists, he supposes that idioms with comparison structure are formed according to a general formula A như B (e.g. trắng như bông (very white). Idioms with non- symmetrical structure are generally formed by phrases, especially verb phrases: vén tay áo sô đốt nhà táng giấy (show a person who always waste money). The meaning formation process of idioms consists of three stages: creating constituent parts including explicit and implicit components, establishing the meanings through the internal relations among components, generalizing and identifying the idiomatic meanings with things and concepts in everyday life. He also comments that the meanings of idioms are generally formed according to symmetrical, contrastive, harmonious, convergent and random relations. Like other linguists, Hoàng Văn Hành (2008) regards idioms as fixed groups of words having stable forms and fully figurative meanings. The stable
particularity of idiom forms is the stability of vocabulary components (It is normally so fixed that they cannot be replaced by any synonyms). This stable characteristic is the result of dimming or forgetting the relationship between grammar and semantics. However, he also notes that the stability of idioms in the standard system and their flexibility in usage are not two contradict aspects and don‟t exclude each other. The full particularity of idiomatic meanings is also explained from nominal senses. Differing from other normal parts of speech, idioms are considered as the nominal units of the second class. From this point of view, he emphasizes that idioms have bipartite meanings: literal (base, origin); figurative (used in reality and formed by the emblematized process). The emblematized process of idiom meanings is expressed by two forms: comparative and figurative. Due to this, Hoàng Văn Hành (2008) classifies Vietnamese idioms as follows: i) Based on the formation of meanings, there are two kinds of idioms: similized and figurative. Figurative idioms can be sub-classified into symmetrical figurative and non-symmetrical figurative. ii) Due to the structures, idioms can be classified into symmetrical and nonsymmetrical. Non-symmetrical idioms can be sub-classified into non-symmetrical similized. The differences in classification above are only in view, or rather in selecting the criteria for each level of classification. Due to that thought, Hoàng Văn Hành (2008) considers each sub-category as an issue for investigation. And, basing on this way, he continually divides each sub-category into smaller subcategories. For example, symmetrical figurative idioms can be classified into two types: coordination - meeting of meanings and no meeting of meanings. Symmetrical figurative idioms with non-coordination - meeting of meanings can be further divided into balance, focus and alternative. Hoàng Văn Hành (2008) also states that the general pattern of similized idioms (A như B) given by the previous authors is right but very reduced. It does not reflect the nature of comparison in terms of both logic and language. According to him, in any case the logical structure of comparison is At1 như Bt2 (t1 is the attribute of A; t2 is the attribute of B). Based on that general model, he