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A study on english idioms of education with reference to the vietnamese equivalents

MINISTRY OF EDUCATION AND TRAINING
HANOI OPEN UNIVERSITY

M.A. THESIS

A STUDY ON ENGLISH IDIOMS OF
EDUCATION WITH REFERENCE TO THE
VIETNAMESE EQUIVALENTS
(NGHIÊN CỨU NHỮNG THÀNH NGỮ TIẾNG ANH VỀ GIÁO
DỤC TRONG SỰ LIÊN HỆ VỚI TIẾNG VIỆT)

ĐẶNG THU TRANG

Field: English Language
Code: 60220201

Supervisor: Assoc. Prof. Dr. Lê Văn Thanh

Hanoi, 2017

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CERTIFICATE OF ORIGINALITY
I, the undersigned, hereby certify my authority of the study project report
entitled A STUDY ON ENGLISH IDIOMS OF EDUCATION WITH
REFERENCE TO THEIR VIETNAMESE EQUIVALENTS (NGHIÊN CỨU
NHỮNG THÀNH NGỮ TIẾNG ANH VỀ GIÁO DỤC TRONG SỰ LIÊN HỆ VỚI
TIẾNG VIỆT) 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, 2017

Đặng Thu Trang
Approved by
SUPERVISOR

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Lê Văn Thanh
Date:……………………

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
I am grateful to those who have contributed to this thesis and proud to
acknowledge their help.
I would like first and foremost to express my sincere gratitude and
appreciation to my supervisor, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Le Van Thanh, for his inspiring and
invaluable guidance, advice, encouragement and everything that I learnt from him
throughout my work. Without him this thesis would not have been possible.
My sincere thanks also go to all lecturers and the staff of the Faculty of Post
Graduate Studies at Hanoi Open University for their useful lectures, assistance and
enthusiasm during my course.
Last but not least, special acknowledgement is also given to my lecturers at
National College for Education for their precious knowledge, useful lectures in
linguistics, which lay the foundation for this study.
There are many others I should mention here, people who helped me along the way
and provided me support. Listing all of them would fill a book itself, so I merely
will have to limit myself to a few words: I thank you ALL!
Đặng Thu Trang



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ABSTRACT
This study focused on English idioms of education with reference to the
Vietnamese equivalents. Through their syntactic and semantic features, we find out
the similarities and differences between English idioms of education and
Vietnamese ones under the light of contrastive analysis and cross-cultural
perspective. Data used for analysis in this study were mainly collected through
dictionaries and the internet. Through analysis of forms of idioms of education in
English and Vietnamese, it is deduced that idioms are really important in
communication. Idioms are used to express ideas in figurative styles. They bring the
vividness and richness to the speakers' speeches. This is the reason why the more
skillfully a person uses idioms in his conversations, the more effectively he can
establish his communicative relationship. The findings of the thesis illustrate some
implications for teachers, learners of English and translators from the use of
linguistic features of idioms of education in English and focus on the meanings of
the English idioms of education and a comparative analysis with Vietnamese ones.
Hopefully, the study may help learners, teachers, and translators of English avoid
difficulties in realizing and translating English idioms into Vietnamese and vice
versa.

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TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER I: INTRODUCTION ......................................................................... 8
1.1. Rationale for the study ................................................................................ 8
1.2. Aims and objectives of the study ................................................................ 9
1.3. Research questions ...................................................................................... 9
1.4. Methods of the study ................................................................................. 10
1.5. Scope of the study ...................................................................................... 10
1.6. Significance of the study............................................................................ 10
1.7. Design of the study .................................................................................... 11
CHAPTER II: LITERATURE REVIEW .......................................................... 12
2.1 Previous studies .......................................................................................... 12
2.2. Overview of theory of phrase structure ................................................... 13
2.2.1. Phrase structure ..................................................................................... 13
2.2.1.1. Adjective phrases ............................................................................ 13
2.2.1.2. Noun phrases .................................................................................. 15
2.2.1.3. Verb Phrases and Phrasal Verbs ...................................................... 16
2.2.1.4. Prepositional phrases....................................................................... 17
2.3. An overview of idiom ................................................................................ 18
2.3.1. Definitions of idioms ............................................................................. 18
2.3.2. Concept of education ............................................................................. 20
2.3.3. Types of idioms ..................................................................................... 21
2.3.4. Main features of idioms ......................................................................... 22
2.3.4.1. Syntactic features ............................................................................ 22
2.3.4.2. Semantic features ............................................................................ 23
2.4. Summary of the chapter............................................................................ 25
CHAPTER III: ENGLISH IDIOMS OF EDUCATION WITH REFERENCE
TO THEIR VIETNAMESE EQUIVALENTS ................................................... 26
3.1. Syntactic features of English idioms of education with reference to
theirVietnamese equivalents ............................................................................ 26
3.1.1. Idioms of Education in the form of VerbPhraseStructure....................... 26

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3.1.2. Idioms of Education in the form ofNounPhraseStructure ....................... 29
3.1.3. Idioms of Education in the form of Adjective Phrase Structure ............. 32
3.1.4. Idioms of Education in the form of Prepositional Phrase Structure ........ 34
3.2. Semantic features of English idioms of education with reference to their
Vietnamese equivalents .................................................................................... 36
3.2.1. Relationship between Teachers and Learners ........................................ 36
3.2.2. School and Class ................................................................................... 38
3.2.3. Examinations ........................................................................................ 39
3.2.4. Methods/ Ways of Teaching andLearning ............................................. 41
3.2.5. Learners' Personalities/Appearance ....................................................... 42
3.2.6. Level of education ................................................................................. 44
3.3. Comparison between English Idioms of Education with Vietnamese ones
........................................................................................................................... 46
3.3.1. In terms of syntactic features ................................................................. 46
3.3.2. In terms of semantic features ................................................................. 47
3.4. Summary of the chapter............................................................................ 48
CHAPTER IV: APPLICATIONS FOR ENGLISH LEARNERS FROM THE
USE OF LINGUISTIC FEATURES OF ENGLISH IDIOMS OF
EDUCATION ...................................................................................................... 50
4.1. Survey questionnaires ............................................................................... 50
4.1.1. Subjects ................................................................................................. 50
4.1.2. Questionnaires....................................................................................... 50
4.1.3. Procedure .............................................................................................. 50
4.2. Common factors hindering the students’s participation in speaking
English idioms .................................................................................................. 51
4.2.1. Students’ perception of learning speaking English idioms. .................... 51
4.2.2. Learner’s factor that hinder the students’ participation in speaking
English idioms. ............................................................................................... 52
4.3. Suggestions for teaching and learning English idioms of education ....... 61
4.3.1. Suggestions for learning English idioms of education ........................... 61
4.3.2. Suggestions for teaching English idioms of education ........................... 62

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4.4. Summary of the chapter............................................................................ 64
CHAPTER 5: CONCLUSION ............................................................................ 66
5.1. Recapitulation of the study ....................................................................... 66
5.2. Concluding remarks .................................................................................. 66
5.3. Limitation of the study ............................................................................. 67
5.4. Recommendations/Suggestions for further study ................................... 68
REFERENCES .................................................................................................... 69
APPENDIXES ..................................................................................................... 73
Appendix 1A: List of English idioms of education ......................................... 73
Appendix 1B: List of Vietnamese idioms of education ................................... 79
Appendix 2: Questionnaire for students ......................................................... 83

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CHAPTER I: INTRODUCTION
1.1. Rationale for the study
English plays an important role in our lives. English may be a foreign
language, but it is international in its significance. The importance of English
language in our lives is that it is spoken, read or understood in most parts of the
world. Thanks to this language, we can belong to the whole world as well as to our
own country, and especially using idioms is very important in every day
communication for the following reasons.
Firstly, idioms play an important part in a language both in written and
spoken forms. Using idioms in communication is the most effective and interesting
way because they contain not only the literal meanings but the figurative and
expressive meanings as well. They are an integral part of a language and they make
the language more beautiful and more dynamic. In English, the demand for using
idioms is becoming higher because it is taught, learned, and communicated
worldwide.
Secondly, idioms give us many difficulties in communication. Although
idioms help speakers and writers communicate more successfully and make
languages more interesting, they are not easy at all to master and use idioms
appropriately. Listeners and readers also find it really hard to understand idioms
because their meanings cannot often be deduced from the individual components.
Idioms are used both in written and spoken language to emphasize meaning and
make our observation, judgment and explanations more lively and interesting, so
they have aesthetic function. In other words, they are really useful tools for
communicating a great deal of meaning in just a few words. For example, to
indicate the favourite pupil of the teacher, the English people are likely to say "to
be a/ the teacher's pet" or to indicate a person who succeeds easily, with very high
marks or grades, they would like to say "pass with flying colours". When we praise
a pupil who passes examinations and comes first in the test, the Vietnamese say "cá
chép hóa rồng". We are attracted by the question how and why idioms differ from
each other between English and Vietnamese in case of idioms of education.
Moreover, as an English teacher, I find that students of English only tend to
use non-idiomatic ways to express their ideas. There are few students using idioms

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in their speaking and writing. It means students of English miss the chance to reach
the highest effect in communication in general and in communication with
foreigners in particular. If they try consciously to fill their speech and writing with
idioms, the effect will probably be improved.
Lastly, I am interested in the way English and Vietnamese people use idioms
to satisfy their own need in daily communication. Here and there, there are several
studies on idioms with certain linguistic units. However, in range of Open
University, there is no study on English idioms of education. Thus, the topic “A
study on English idioms of education with reference to the Vietnamese
equivalents”, is chosen for my thesis. Hopefully, the result of the study will be
useful for learners of English and contribute a small part into the teaching and
learning English as a foreign language in Vietnam and for people who are interested
in idioms in both English and Vietnamese.
1.2. Aims and objectives of the study
The aims of the study:
This study aims to find out the linguistic features of English and Vietnamese
idioms of education in order to help Vietnamese learners of English to study and
use the idioms effectively.
The objectives of the study:
To point out the syntactic and semantic features of English idioms of
education and their Vietnamese equivalents.
To compare between English with Vietnamese idioms of education with
regard to syntactic and semantic features.
To provide some suggestions for teaching and learning English idioms from
the use of linguistic features of English idioms of education.
1.3. Research questions
1. What are the syntactic and semantic features of English idioms of
education and their Vietnamese equivalents?
2. What are the similarities and differences in syntactic and semantic features
of English and Vietnamese idioms of education?

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3. What are the possible applications for teachers and learners of English in
the process of teaching and learning idioms of education?
1.4. Methods of the study
In order to achieve the aims given, the major method to be employed in the
study is a descriptive one. The descriptive method is used to describe in details the
syntactic and semantic features through the examples of idioms of education
collected from reference books, stories, novels, dictionaries and Internet websites.
Moreover, analysis method is used to point out the similarities or differences
between English idioms of education and Vietnamese ones. Also, the survey
method is done to recognize most difficulties of students when they learn idioms.
This can surely help teachers anticipate problems in the lessons and seek the
possible solutions to solve these problems.
Therefore, the considerations, remarks, consumptions, comments and
conclusions in the thesis are mainly based on data analysis. A number of data
relating to idioms of education in both English and Vietnamese publications are
collected from textbooks, short stories, books on English and Vietnamese
languages.Data collected will then be analyzed in order to find out the similarities
and differences between English and Vietnamese idioms of education.
1.5. Scope of the study
• In this study, semantic and syntactic features of idioms of educationin both
English and Vietnamese are extensively discussed.
• The study focuses only on English idioms of education are analyzed with
reference to their equivalents in Vietnamese.
• The English and Vietnamese idioms in this study are collected from
dictionaries and the Internet; therefore this research may not cover all idioms
of education.
1.6. Significance of the study
The study will be able to provide useful knowledge to enable better use of
idioms of education in English and Vietnamese. The findings of the study can be
the potential source for the teaching and learning English and Vietnamese in
particular as foreign languages.

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1.7. Design of the study
The thesis consists of 5 main chapters, excluding the appendixes and the references.
• Chapter I: Introduction, consists of the rationale, the aims and objectives,
the research questions, the methods of the study, the scope of the study, the
significance of the study, and the design of the study.
• Chapter II: Literature review, consists of previous studies, an overview of
theory of syntax and semantics, and an overview of idioms.
• Chapter III: English idioms of education with reference to their
Vietnamese equivalents 1)Syntactic features of English idioms of education
with reference to their Vietnamese equivalents, 2) Semantic features of
English idioms of education with reference to their Vietnamese equivalents,
3) Comparison between English idioms of education with Vietnamese ones.
• Chapter IV: Applications for English teachers, learners of English and
translators from the use of linguistic features of English idioms of
education 1) Survey questionnaires, 2) Common difficulties made by
learners of English when using English idioms, 3) Suggestions for
translation, teaching and learning English idioms of education
• Chapter V: Conclusion, consist of concluding remarks, limitation of the
study, and recommendations for further study.

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CHAPTER II: LITERATURE REVIEW
2.1 Previous studies
Up to now, there have been many researchers who pay attention to idioms. In
fact, many writers and linguists started studying English idioms at the beginning of
the twentieth century. Some authors have made great contributions to the collection
of English idioms. For example, Mc Modie(1909)with "English Idioms and How to
Use Them" is considered among the first authors to study on the field of English
idioms. Other authers include Logan Pearsall Smith with "Idioms" (1922), Collins
(1958) with "A book of English Idioms with Explanation". Collins (1986) with
"American English Idioms", Broke (1994) with "Idioms for Everyday Use" Cowies,
Martin and Cairo (1994) with "Oxford Dictionary of Current Idiomatic English",
Lord Quick, Douglas Bibber and Rod Bonito with "Longman Idiom
Dictionary"(1998), Teachers and Researchers from Cambridge University with
"Cambridge International Dictionary of Idioms" (1999). Their interests in idioms
reveal the awareness of the persuasiveness of idioms in language productive skills
and the perception of the difficulty of understanding idioms in terms of syntax and
semantics as well as the differences between idioms and other language units. In
this field, Cruse (1986) mentioned the traditional definition of idioms as "an idiom
maybe briefly characterized as a lexical complex which is semantically complex" in
"Lexical Semantics" (1987). He also made the conception of idioms in his book
clearer by distinguishing idioms from collocations and "dead" metaphor. According
to him, most idioms are homophonous with grammatically well- formed transparent
expressions.
Palmer, F.R.(1990), who defines idioms as sequences of words whose
meaning cannot be predicted from the meanings of the words themselves.
Cowie A.P.(1994) analyzes the way their grammar and meanings
complemented each other to create idiomaticity as well as "the possibility of
internal variation, or substitution of part for part" of idioms. Besides, the author also
suggested "techniques" to distinguish idiomatic units from other multiword
expressions. More principally, the author discussed about idiom's grammatical and
lexical information clearly.

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According to Halliday (1989), in the light of functional grammar and Đỗ
Hữu Châu (1981) in "Từ vựng và ngữ nghĩa Tiếng Việt" observes idioms with
different views as a class of words functioning as subject, predicator, complement
and adjunct in idiomatic structure.
In Vietnam, however, many authors show their interests in this new, difficult
subject. For example, Bùi Phụng (1997) with "Từ Điển Giải Thích Thành Ngữ Tục
Ngữ Việt-Anh; Phạm Văn Bình (1986) with "Thành Ngữ và Tục Ngữ Tiếng Anh" ;
Lã Thành (1995) with "Từ Điển Thành Ngữ Anh-Việt".
In terms of Vietnamese idioms, many Vietnamese authors did research into
and gave out worthy collections such as: Nguyễn Lực, Lương Văn Đang (1978),
who made the first significant contribution to the field in "Thành ngữ Tiếng Việt";
Bùi Phụng (2006) explains the meanings of commonly used Vietnamese
idioms and proverbs to help English learners understand more clearly their literal
meanings in English; Hoàng Văn Hành (2008) analyzed idiom's structural and
semantic features deeply.
All in all, the above authors have presented every aspect related to idioms.
However, up to now no studies on the linguistic features of idioms related to
education in English and Vietnamese. This reason makes the researcher devote
herself to the study of this topic.
2.2. Overview of theory of phrase structure
2.2.1. Phrase structure
2.2.1.1. Adjective phrases
According to Greenbaumin the English Grammar [14, p.288], the adjective
phrase has as its head an adjective, which may be preceded by pre-modifiers and
followed by post-modifiers."
An adjective phrase does the work of an adjective. They describe, modify, or
give some information about a noun or a pronoun.
The adjective phrase in English has four functional constituents:
• Pre-modification, those modifying,
constituents which precede thehead.

describing,

or

qualifying

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• The head, which is an adjective or participle serving as the focus of
thephrase.
• Post-modification, that modifying constituent which follows thehead.
• Complementation,
(the
major
subcategory
of
postmodificationhere)thatconstituent which follows any post-modification and
completes the specification of a meaning implied by the head.
To see some examples of adjective phrases, examine the table below.
Table 2.1. Function and Form of Adjective Phrase
(According to Greenbaum, in the English Grammar [14])
Functional
Constituents

Pre-modifier

Head

Post-modifier

happy
interested

EXAMPLES

Partly

indeed

cloudy
young

in spirit

Very

energetic

for his age

So extremely

sweet

Too

good

to be true

hot

enough for me

Quite

worried

about the results of the text

Unusually

sunny

for this time of year
Adverb

FORM

Adverb
Adverb Phrase

Adjective

Prepositional Phrase
Infinitive Clause

Notice that the order of constituents in the adjective phrase, like all other
phrase structures in English, is relatively fixed, helping us determine the constituent
elements.

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2.2.1.2. Noun phrases
According to Greenbaum [14], the noun phrase has as its head a noun, a
pronoun, a nominal adjective, or a numeral.
Like all phrases, the constituents of the English noun phrase can be analyzed
into both functional constituents and formal constituents. From a functional point of
view, the noun phrase has four major components, occurring in a fixed order:
• The determinative, the constituent which determines the reference of the
noun phrase in its linguistic or situationalcontext.
• Pre-modification, that comprises all the modifying or describing constituents
before the head, other than thedeterminers.
• The head, around which the other constituentscluster.
• Post-modification, those which comprise
constituents placed after thehead.

all

the

modifying

Some of the possible arrangements of form and function in the noun phrase
are presented in the table below:
Table 2.2. Function and Form of Noun Phrase
(According to Greenbaum, in the English Grammar [14])
Function

Determiner

Pre-modifier

Head

Post-modifier

tigers
The
The

EXAMPLES

Some

FORM

old
information
badly needed

age
each

of the pupils

time

with the family

This

conclusion to the story

All my

pupils

Several

new mystery

films

which we recently enjoyed

Such

marvelous

data bank

filled with information

A

Better

person

than I

Pronoun

Participle

Noun

Prepositional Phrase

Article

Noun

Adjective

Relative Clause

Quantifier

Adjectiv
e Phrase

Pronoun

Nonfinite Clause
Complementation

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2.2.1.3. Verb Phrases and Phrasal Verbs
+ Verb Phrases
According to Greenbaum [14], the verb phrase definition as "a verb phrase
has its head a main (or lexical) verb. The main verb may be preceded by up to four
auxiliaries (or auxiliary verbs).
The verb phrase (VP) in English has a noticeably different structure, since
the information it carries about mood, tense, modality, aspect, and voice is quite
different from the information carried by a noun phrase. The verb phrase has two
functional parts:
• The auxiliary, a grammatical morpheme carrying information about mood,
tense, modality, andvoice.
• The main verb, a lexical morpheme carrying its lexical information and,
usually, aninflection.
Another way to illustrate some of the relationships between form and
function in the verb phrase is presented in the following table.
Table 2.3. Function and Form of Verb Phrase
(According to Greenbaum, in the English Grammar [14])
FUNCTION

Auxiliaries

Main
do

Can
EXAMPLES

May

Might

Go
have

Gone
is

Going

has

been

waiting

have

been

waiting

are
Should
Might
FORM

Modal

Verb
believe

Were

hired

Being

hired

be
have

been

trying
Being

Perfect Progressive Passive

interviewed
Auxiliary
Support

Main Verb

The verb phrase can be expressed both as an experiential structure and
logical structure. While the experiential structure is extremely simple, most of the

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semantic load is carried by the logical structure. There is not a regular distinction
between finite and non finite verb forms in Vietnamese language like the way
English is.
+ Phrasal Verbs
A phrasal verb is a compound verb formed by one of the following
combinations:
• verb and adverb, e.g. breakout
• verb and preposition, eg. breakin
• verb with both adverb and preposition, eg. break outin.
2.2.1.4. Prepositional phrases
According to Greenbaum[14], "a prepositional phrase consists of a
preposition followed by a prepositional complement, which is characteristically a
noun phrase or a wh-clause or V-ing clause." The prepositional phrase is a 'nonheaded' construction in English since no one constituent functions as the center
of the phrase, the center on which the other elements depend. Instead, the
structure is divided into two functional components - the preposition followed by
its complement. In general, a prepositional phrase expresses a relationship
between the complement of the preposition and some other constituent of the
sentence. Diagrammatically, the structure of the prepositional phrase looks like
the following table that is found in the English prepositionalphrase.
Table 2.4. Function and Form of Prepositional Phrase
(According to Greenbaum, in the English Grammar [14])

EXAMPLE

Function

Preposition Complement
For

Now

With

Her

In

Time

Next to

the table

Into

the thick of things

By

the time that you read this

Before

slipping off to sleep

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After

running more than 500 miles in one week

To

whomever it may concern

From

what I can see
Adverb
Pronoun
Noun

FORM

Noun Phrase
Prepositio
-ing Clause
n
Relative Clause

2.3. An overview of idiom
2.3.1. Definitions of idioms
Words have their own meanings. They, however, do not just come
individually; they also come in expressions or in groups. Idioms are among the most
common of these expressions. And it is impossible to master a language without
learning idioms – a very important part of the language. What is an idiom? The
question may have many answers.
According to Longman Dictionary of English Language and Culture (2005),
an idiom is “a fixed phrase that has its own special meanings and it is impossible to
guess the meanings from separatedwords".
According to Oxford Dictionary of English (2010), "a group of words in a
fixed order that have a particular meaning that is different from the meanings of
each word understood by its own" is called an idiom.
In Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, Crowder (1995) defines an idiom as “a
phrase whose meaning is difficult or sometimes impossible to guess by looking at
the individual words it contains”; or, an idiom can be defined as a number of words
which when taken together, have a different meaning from the individual meaning
of eachword.

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Cowie (1994) defines that an idiom is "a group of words with set meanings
that cannot be calculated by adding up the separate meaning not deducible from
those of the separatewords..."
As for Cruse (1986), an idiom is defined as "an expression the meaning of
which cannot be inferred from the meaning of its parts".
Jennifer Seidl and Mordie (1978) defines an idiom as “a number of words
which, when taken together, have different meanings from the individual meanings
of each word”.
There are also many definitions of idioms in Vietnamese.
Hoàng Phê (1997) states that an idiom is considered to be “a set of
expression whose meaning is generally inexplicable simply through the meanings of
individual words it contains”.
Hoàng Văn Hành (2002) defines an idiom as “a stable word group with a
solid formation and structure, and a complete and figurative meaning, used in
everyday communication, especially in spoken language”.
For example
"Cá vượt Vũ Môn" is used to indicate a student who passes the exams.
"Cần công kiệm học" is used to refer to a person that has to both studyand
work hard.
According to Đái Xuân Ninh (1978),"An idiom is a set of expressions whose
constituents lose their independence to some extent and combined into a rather
complete and stable unit".
Idioms, like proverbs, are common sayings. However, they usually do not
make sense at first sight and do not offer any advice. For example, to sting to the
quick means to make someone angry. So, idioms are fixed expressions that are
commonly used. They are not complete sentences but words – An idiom is equal to
a phrase...
Idioms do not give comments, experiences, a moral lesson, advice that make
idioms aesthetic not educated; that is the reason why an idiom does not become a
literary work – idioms belong to the language. Therefore, idioms do not bring about

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the full understanding about lives and any lessons of the people’s relationships in
the society.
These definitions are more or less different, however most authors agree
upon the following general points:

(1) Idiom is a set expression which works as a lexeme in sentence
building.

(2) Integrity of meaning: none of the idiom components is separately
associated with any referents of objectives reality, and the meaning of
the whole unit cannot be deduced from the meanings of
itscomponents.

(3) Lexical and grammatical: no lexical substitution is possible in an
idiom in comparison with free or variable word-combinations
(with an exception of some cases when such substitutions are made
by the author intentionally).

(4) Separability: the structure of an idiom is not indivisible something,
certain modifications are possible within certain boundaries.

(5) Expressivity and emotiveness: idioms are also characterized by
stylistic coloring. In other words, they evoke emotions or add
expressiveness.
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 that an
idiom is a fixed expression whose meaning cannot be worked out by looking at the
meaning of its individual words.
Idioms don't usually cross language boundaries. In some cases, when an
idiom is translated into another language, the meaning of the idiom is changed or
does not make any sense as it once did in another language. Idioms are probably
thehardest thing for a person to learn in the process of learning a new language.
This is because most people grow up using idioms as if their true meanings actually
make sense.
2.3.2. Concept of education
According to the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (2000), Education
is defined as “a process of teaching, training and learning, especially in schools or
colleges to improve knowledge and develop skills”. Therefore, we can work out the

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definition of idioms of education represent a kind of idioms relating to or
concerning the process of teaching, training and learning, especially in schools or
colleges to improve knowledge and develop skills. Besides, idioms of education are
a special group in which the topics in idioms sometimes have little or no relation to
teaching, training and learning in schools or in colleges. This group of idioms
consists of idioms relating to experience from daily life.
Some illustrations are as follows:
“My sister was always the teacher's pet when she was in thefirstgrade
atschool”.
"Thằng bé ngày nào cũng học ra rả như cuốc kêu, mà không biết có hiểu
gìhaykhông?"
2.3.3. Types of idioms
In terms of syntax, McCarthy (2002), indicates types of idioms by showing
this table:
Form
verb + object/complement

Example

Meaning

(and/or adverbial)

two
useful
kill two birds with one produce
results by just doing one
stone
action

prepositional phrase

in the blink of an eye

in an extremely short
time

compound

a bone of contention

something which people
argue and disagree over

simile /'simili/ (as + adjective
+ as, or like + noun)

as dry as a bone

very dry indeed

binomial (word + and + word)

rough and ready

crude
and
sophistication

lacking

trinomial (word + word + and cool, calm and collected
+ word)

relaxed, in control, not

whole clause or sentence

to tell the main points,
but not all
the fine details

to cut a long story short

nervous

In terms of semantics, Fernando (1996) divides idioms into three types: pure
idioms, semi-idioms, and literal idioms.

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A pure idiom is known as “a type of conventionalized, non-literal multiword
expression”. Spill the beans, for example, has nothing to do with beans. In contrast
to its literal counterpartmeaning “letting fall leguminous seeds”, a non-literal
meaning is imposed on the idiom as awhole: “commit an indiscretion”.
A semi-idiom has one or more literal constituents and at least one with a
non-literal subsense, usually special to that co-occurrence relation and no other:
drop has the meaning “overuse” only when it co-occurs with names. Other
examples are catch one's breath “check”, foot the bill“pay”, etc. Some of these
semi-idioms, like their kin, restricted collocations with specializedsubsenses, permit
lexical variation, for example, blue “obscene”film/joke/gag/story/comedian.
Literal idioms (on foot, tall, dark and handsome, waste not, want not, on the
contrary, a (very) happy birthday, a merry Christmas and a happy New Year, etc.)
meet the salient criterion foridioms: invariance or restricted variation. They are,
however, less semantically complex thenpure and semi-idioms.
2.3.4. Main features of idioms
2.3.4.1. Syntactic features
The stability in idioms in both English and Vietnamese is very high. Cruse
[8, p.67] shows that "the typically resist interruption and reordering of parts".
Actually, we cannot modify, omit or replace parts without breaking or distorting
their real meaning. Structurally, in an idiom the central part of an idiom may be
verbs (drop out of school, học hay cày giỏi), nouns (a walking dictionary, văn hay
chữ tốt), or adjectives (loud and clear, dốt đặc cán mai).
An idiom is a fixed group of words or ready-made utterances. The grammar
and words that make up these idioms are almost impossible to change. The elements
in idioms are usually bound together.
For instance, we cannot put "important' before "basics" in the English idiom
"back to basics"or put "như" after "dốt" in the Vietnamese idiom "dốt có đuôi".
We cannot change words or the positions of components in these idioms because
they are made by nonsense or just a common sentence. For example, in the
Vietnamese idioms, we cannot say "thò lò học trò mũi xanh" instead of "học trò
thò lò mũi xanh" or the English idiom "town-and-gown" cannot be changed into
"gown-and-town".

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Doing so would hinder the temp of perception of the listener as well as the
reader and the above expressions are surely not idioms.
However, there are also some idioms which can be broken or changed more
or less in their structures. For example, we can sometimes say "bảng vàng bia đá"
(bia đá bảng vàng), "a rough diamond"(a diamond in the rough).
Each idiom has a stable structure and meaning, so using idioms makes the
sentences smoother and more flexible.
2.3.4.2. Semantic features
Unlike common words, lexical meaning of an idiom follows a different rule.
Every idiom has a complete meaning as a set block generalized by all its forming
elements. Although an idiom is composed of words, they are not the combination of
the meaning of each element forming it. For instance, an idiom "get a first" means
to obtain a honours first-class honours degree on graduation at auniversity.
Most idioms have the imaginary quality because of their symbolic
expression. Except metaphor and metonymy, the meaning of words is directly and
rationally perceived in common word. The perception of the general meaning can
only come through lively imagines of forming elements. For example, we use the
image of "học như vẹt" to describe someone who learns something by heart but
he/she doesn't understand it.
Transference of meaning (those are simile, metaphor, metonymy and
hyperbole) is the most important expression of an idiom. Specific image is used to
express as the symbol of characters, qualities, activities, etc.
+ Simile

Lakoff, G. and Johnson, M. (1980), A simile is a figure of speech that
indirectly compares two different things by employing the words "like", "as", or
"than".
For examples:
- He fights like alion.
- She walks as gracefully and elegantly as acat.
- I'm happier than a tornado in a trailerpark.
+ Metaphor

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Ellis and Barkhuizen (2005) state that: "A metaphor consists of a comparison
between two dissimilar notions where one notion is to be understood in terms of the
other notion." We can see that metaphor is an expression that describes a person or
object by referring to something that is considered having similar characteristics.
For examples:
- John is a snake.
+ Metonymy
According to Crowder, J. T. (1995), “Metonymy is based on a type of
relation between the dictionary and contextual meaning; a relation based on not
only on affinity but also on some kinds of association connecting the two concepts
which these meaning represent.”
For examples:
- He is always running after the skirt. ("skirt" refers to a woman or girl)
+ Hyperbole
According to Crowder, J. T. (1995), "Hyperbole is deliberate overstatement
or exaggeration, the aim of which to intensify one of the features of the object in
question to such a degree as will show its utter absurdity."
In the conversation the speaker usually uses utterances which describe his
appraisal or attitude. That is the reason why idioms have high evocativeness. For
example, in order to talk about hard and diligence studying, we use the idiom "nấu
sử sôi kinh", or "giùi mài kinh sử".
Idioms, in general, have connotative meaning with various meanings like
comparative, metaphorical, metonymical one and so on. The connotative meaning is
the basic characteristic of idioms that helps investigate whether a certain phrase is
idiomatic or not. Guessing the meaning of an idiom through denotative meaning of
the component parts is extremely difficult and almost impossible. However, there
are quite a few idioms whose connotative and denotative meanings are nearly
similar in both English and Vietnamese. For instance,"learn parrot-fashion" in
English and "học vẹt" in Vietnamese.

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2.4. Summary of the chapter
The first part of chapter two has presented a review of related previous
studies in English and Vietnamese.
In the next part an overview of theory of phrase structure, and main features
of idioms is mentioned. The next one an overview of idioms including definitions of
idioms, concepts of education and types of idioms.
In the last part, the relationship between language and culture is mentioned.
Language and culture always exist together and reinforce each other and the
relationship between them is so close that we could not understand or appreciate the
one without the knowledge of the other.
In short, this chapter has reviewed the previous studies relating to this study.
Many researchers have studied idioms so far and discussed them in many books.
However, no studies have been carried out on Idioms of education in English and
Vietnamese. Moreover, this chapter has also presented general notions of idioms as
well as syntactic and semantic structures which will all be the foundation for
analysis in Chapter Three.

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