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Syntactic features of exclamation in english and vietnamese

MINISTRY OF EDUCATION AND TRAINING
HANOI OPEN UNIVERSITY

M.A. THESIS

SYNTACTIC FEATURES OF EXCLAMATION
IN ENGLISH AND VIETNAMESE
(ĐẶC ĐIỂM CÚ PHÁP CỦA CÂU CẢM THÁN
TRONG TIẾNG ANH VÀ TIẾNG VIỆT)

NGUYỄN THỊ THU VÂN

Hanoi, 2016


Front hard cover
Back hard cover

NGUYỄN THỊ THU VÂN

ENGLISH LANGUAGE


2014 - 2016


MINISTRY OF EDUCATION AND TRAINING
HANOI OPEN UNIVERSITY

M.A. THESIS

SYNTACTIC FEATURES OF EXCLAMATION
IN ENGLISH AND VIETNAMESE
(ĐẶC ĐIỂM CÚ PHÁP CỦA CÂU CẢM THÁN
TRONG TIẾNG ANH VÀ TIẾNG VIỆT)

NGUYỄN THỊ THU VÂN

Field: English Language
Code: 60220201

Supervisor: Assoc. Prof. Dr. Hoàng Tuyết Minh

Hanoi, 2016


CERTIFICATE OF ORIGINALITY
I, the undersigned, hereby certify my authority of the study project
report entitled SYNTACTIC FEATURES OF EXCLAMATION IN
ENGLISH AND VIETNAMESE 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, 2016

Nguyễn Thị Thu Vân

Approved by
SUPERVISOR

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Hoàng Tuyết Minh
Date:……………………



i


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
This thesis could not have been completed without the help and
support from a number of people.
First and foremost, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Hoàng Tuyết Minh, 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.
My thanks also go to 80 students from the class 12A and 12B of Yen
Phong Continuing Educational Centre for their enthusiasm and participation
in this study.
Last but not least, I am greatly indebted to my family and my friends
for the sacrifice they have devoted to the fulfillment of this academic work.

ii


ABSTRACT
This study investigates the syntactic features of exclamations in
English and Vietnamese. It is conducted with the hope of finding out the
similarities and differences between how exclamations are formed in both
languages and suggesting practical applications to the learning and teaching
of English as a foreign language in Vietnam. Data used for analysis in this
study were mainly collected from books, literary works, and questionnaire
which employed 80 participants who are Vietnamese students of English at
Yen Phong Continuing Educational Center in Bac Ninh province. Data
analysis is based on descriptive and contrastive methods. The result of the
study illustrates the fact that Vietnamese and English native speakers are
similar in the choice of interjections as the most prominent element in
exclamations. However, the structures of exclamations are quite different
between two languages. English exclamations are mainly formed by whelements, so/such, and phrases meanwhile particles, adverbs, and idioms
are dominated in Vietnamese.

Moreover, the findings of questionnaire

showed a lot of mistakes made by Vietnamese students in using English
exclamations, so the implications of the study indicate solutions to help
Vietnamese students have more competence as well as confidence when
using English exclamations.

iii


LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS
e.g.

: for example

etc.

: et cetera

i.e.

: it means that

*

: impossible

iv


LIST OF TABLES
Table 1: Common English interjections and their communicative

23

functions
Table 2: Interjection equivalents in English and Vietnamese

54

Table 3: Reasons for mistakes made by the students according to

65

their frequency degree and suggested solutions

v


TABLE OF CONTENTS
CERTIFICATE OF ORIGINALITY

i

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

ii

ABTRACT

iii

LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS

iv

LIST OF TABLES

v

Chapter 1: INTRODUCTION

1

1.1.

Rationale

1

1.2.

Aims of the study

2

1.3.

Objectives of the study

2

1.4.

Scope of the study

3

1.5.

Significance of the study

3

1.6.

Design of the study

3

Chapter 2: LITERATURE REVIEW

5

2.1.

Previous studies

5

2.2.

An overview of sentence

7

2.2.1. Definition of sentence

7

2.2.2. Classification of sentence

10

2.2.3. Minor types of simple sentence

12

2.3.

15

An overview of exclamation

2.3.1. The English linguists’ conception of exclamation

16

2.3.2. The Vietnamese linguists’ conception of exclamation

18

2.3.3. Forms of exclamation

19

2.3.3.1. Forms of English exclamation

19

2.3.3.2. Forms of Vietnamese exclamation

20

2.3.4. Elements used with exclamation

22

2.3.4.1. Interjections

22

2.3.4.2. Intonation

27

vi


2.3.4.3. Exclamation mark

28

2.4.

29

Summary

Chapter 3: METHODOLOGY

31

3.1.

31

Research-governing orientations

3.1.1. Research questions

31

3.1.2. Research approaches

31

3.1.3. Principles/ criteria for intended data collection and data analysis

31

3.2.

32

Research methods

3.2.1. Major methods and supporting methods

32

3.2.2. Data collection techniques

32

3.2.3. Data analysis techniques

33

3.3.

33

Summary

Chapter 4: FINDINGS AND DISCUSSION

34

4.1.

34

Syntactic features of exclamation in English and Vietnamese

4.1.1. Syntactic features of exclamation in English

34

4.1.1.1. Exclamation formed with How

34

4.1.1.2. Exclamation formed with What

36

4.1.1.3. Exclamation formed with So/ Such

39

4.1.1.4. Exclamatory questions

41

4.1.1.5. Other kinds of exclamation

43

4.1.2. Syntactic features of exclamation in Vietnamese

46

4.1.2.1. Exclamation formed by using interjections or exclamatory 46
idioms
4.1.2.2. Exclamation created by particles – thay/ cho/ thay cho/ nhỉ

47

4.1.2.3. Exclamation formed by adverbs

49

4.1.2.4. Exclamation created by intonation

50

4.1.2.5. Exclamatory questions

51

4.2.

A contrastive analysis of syntactic features of exclamation in 54

vii


English and Vietnamese
4.2.1. Similarities in terms of syntactic features of exclamation in 54
English and Vietnamese
4.2.1.1. Exclamatory structures formed by interjections

54

4.2.1.2. Exclamatory questions

56

4.2.2. Differences in terms of syntactic features of exclamation in 57
English and Vietnamese
4.3.

Implications for teaching and learning

61

4.3.1. Setting context

61

4.3.2. Mistakes through exclamations and suggested solutions

62

4.4.

66

Summary

Chapter 5: CONCLUSION

67

5.1.

Recapitulation

67

5.2.

Concluding remarks

67

5.3.

Limitation of the study

68

5.4.

Suggestions for a further study

68

REFERENCES

70

BIBLIOGRAPHY

72

APPENDIX

73

viii


Chapter 1
INTRODUCTION
1.1.

Rationale
Up to now, English has become one of the most important

international languages. Many countries in the world use English as their
first language. In Vietnam, English has not been used as the first or the
second language but it is used widely in many fields of life such as in
politics, economy, national education system and even in daily life.
And we know that both English and Vietnamese people have
thoughts and emotion in common. They also have different tone of emotion
such as anger, joy, happiness, sadness, surprise, fear, despair, disgust, etc.
However, the ways of expressing it out are different. One can use gestures
to show their attitude or feeling because gestures are specific body
movements that carry meaning. While the others express their emotions and
attitude through facial expressions. For instance: our eyes soften or look
thoughtful to show our interest or the pupil can become small because we
are angry or it can become large if we are excited. It is said that the eyes are
the window of the soul. Through the eyes we can feel the emotion, states of
another people. But the most basic and important means is language. It is
easy to recognize the other’s feelings or attitude through their utterances.
People use language to express their shock, surprise, fear, anger, admiration.
These utterances are called exclamations. Exclamation is one of the
sentence types and it attracts much attention from researchers in English as
well as in Vietnamese.
In English, there are many authors studying sentences including
exclamations such as Quirk, R. et al (1972 & 1985), Bolinger, D.L. (1998),
Crystal, D. (1995), Radford, A. (1997), Biber, D. (1999), etc.

1


Moving on Vietnamese linguistists, we cannot but mention Nguyễn
Kim Thản (1963), Nguyễn Thiện Giáp (1997 & 2008), Cao Xuân Hạo
(1998), Diệp Quang Ban (2004) & (2008), Nguyễn Thị Lương (2005), etc.
All of these books could be used as the valuable references of this
thesis. However, there has been so far no research into exclamations in
terms of syntax in details in both languages. Moreover, practically, learners
often make confusion in using exclamations both in English and
Vietnamese. Because they have syntactic forms that look like statements or
question but their usages are quite different. So we decided to choose the
topic “Syntactic features of exclamation in English and Vietnamese” to
find out the similarities and differences of exclamations in terms of syntax
between two languages.
1.2.

Aims of the study
The study is aimed at investigating syntactic features of exclamation

in English and Vietnamese and making a contrastive analysis on the syntax
of exclamation between two languages in order to help the teaching and
learning of English exclamation to Vietnamese learners of English more
effectively.
1.3.

Objectives of the study
The study is intended to:
- Identify and describe syntactic features of exclamation in English

and Vietnamese.
- Point out the similarities and differences of syntactic features of
exclamation in English and Vietnamese.
- Suggest some implications for teaching and learning English
exclamation to Vietnamese learners of English better.

2


1.4.

Scope of the study
In the framework of the study, exclamations in English and

Vietnamese are considered in terms of syntax and 300 samples of
exclamations are based on literary works and grammatical books provided
in references.
1.5.

Significance of the study
Theoretically, with the purpose of doing the research into syntactic

features of exclamations in English and in Vietnamese, this study could help
learners have a deeper understanding about syntactic features of
exclamations in English and Vietnamese.
Practically, the study provides the similarities and differences about
exclamations in English and in Vietnamese in terms of syntax. So it could
help learners grasp the use of exclamations in these two languages and use
exclamations effectively in their learning process as well as in their daily
life.
1.6.

Design of the study
The thesis consists of five chapters

and references as presented

below.
Chapter 1, Introduction,

presents the reason why the topic is

chosen, the aims, the objectives, the scope, and the significance of the
study.
Chapter 2, Literature Review, is about the brief review of the
previous studies. This chapter is also devoted to the presentation of the
basis of establishing exclamation.

3


Chapter 3, Methodology, covers the research method, the research
questions, the description of the samples and research procedures.
Chapter 4, Findings and Discussion, describes and

analyzes

exclamations in English and Vietnamese concerning the syntactic features.
Then a contrastive analysis of syntactic features of exclamation
between both languages is drawn out. Some implications for teaching
and learning English exclamation are also included in this chapter.
Chapter 5, Conclusion, summarizes the major points of the thesis
along with concluding remarks, the limitations of the study and the
suggestions for further study.
References comes at the end of the study.

4


Chapter 2
LITERATURE REVIEW
2.1.

Previous studies
In English, there have been many authors carrying out studies on

exclamations. However, their approaches are different in some ways.
Quirk et al (1972 & 1985) use the term “exclamative” to refer to the
grammatical category. They recognize several different form types that can
be used as exclamations, but still prevail in the belief that there exists an
exclamatory form type on a par with declaratives, interrogatives and
imperatives. Since the publication, these books have been the standard
reference work used by professional grammarians.
David Crystal (1995) explores the many facets and varieties of the
English language, bringing life to this large and complex subject. Rarely has
a book so packed with accurate and well researched factual information
been so widely read and popularly acclaimed. David Crystal recognizes four
types of sentence functions: statements, questions, commands, and
exclamations. Exclamations can have either minor or major sentence status
and are mainly investigated in syntactic form.
Andrew Radford (1997) provides a concise, clear, and accessible
introduction to current syntactic theory. Radford defines an exclamative as “a
type of structure used to exclaim surprise, delight, annoyance etc.” and goes on
to say that “in English syntax, the term is restricted largely to clauses beginning
with wh-exclamative words like what! or how!”. The use of the word
“structure” seems to indicate that he regards the exclamative as a syntactic
phenomenon

5


In terms of pragmatics, there is only the research of Beijer F.
(2001). In this research, the author aims at separating what has been called
exclamatives from other kinds of expressive/emotional utterances. The term
“exclamative” does not refer to a syntactic phenomenon, but to a pragmatic one.
In Vietnamese, we cannot but mention Nguyễn Thiện Giáp, Đoàn
Thiện Thuật & Nguyễn Minh Thuyết (1998). According to these authors,
exclamative theory was developed greatly from 18th to 20th century. Those
who advocated this theory were Humbon, Stundan, Russo said that human’s
language derived from the sounds of anger, joy, sadness, anguished cried
expressed when we were moved. In some cases, interjections are signals of
our emotion and thoughts. In the other one, the relationship between the
sounds of words and emotive state of human is considered such as the
combination of sound causing the impression in our soul that is similar to
the one caused by things.
In the thesis of Hà Thị Hải Yến (2000), the consideration of
Vietnamese exclamations is taken into seriously. But actually, this thesis
deals with the scope of a study of conversation interactions. She focuses on
the exclamative function of each move in each conversation without
paying much attention to illocutionary force of exclaiming though it is an
illocutionary act in speech acts.
Besides that there have been some publications on sentence types
including exclamations such as Câu trong tiếng Việt (Cao Xuân Hạo,
1998); Ngữ pháp Việt Nam – phần câu (Diệp Quang Ban, 2004); Giáo
trình ngôn ngữ học (Nguyễn Thiện Giáp, 2008); Nghiên cứu ngữ pháp
tiếng Việt (Nguyễn Kim Thản, 1963); Câu trong tiếng Việt (Nguyễn Thị
Lương, 2005); etc.

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However, there has not been so far a study on syntactic features of
exclamations in English and in Vietnamese. So it is necessary to do a
research on this matter to have a deeper understanding about exclamations
in the two languages.
2.2.

An overview of sentence

2.2.1. Definition of sentence
The sentence is probably the most familiar of all grammatical terms.
We are introduced to it in our early school years, and it quickly becomes
part of our linguistic awareness. We imagine we speak in sentences, and we
teach children to write in them, making sure that they put in all the periods.
It might therefore be thought that sentences are early things to identify and
define. There are different ways to define a sentence but we would prefer a
traditional grammar-based definition. There are many authors giving
different definitions about English sentence.
According to David Crystal (1995), there are three general points
applying to any English sentences.
- Sentences are constructed according to a system of rules, known by
all the adult mother-tongue speakers of the language, and summarized in the
grammar. A sentence formed in this way is said to be grammatical.
- Sentences are the largest constructions to which the rules of
grammar apply. This means that, before we can satisfactorily carry out the
task of identifying sentences, we need to know something about
grammatical analysis.
- Sentences are constructions which can be used on their own units of
meaning which seem to make sense by themselves.
Alexander (1988) cites that sentence is a complete unit of meaning.
When we speak, our sentences may be extremely involved or unfinished, yet
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we can still convey our meaning through intonation, gesture, facial
expressions, etc. when we write, these devices are not available, so
sentences have to be carefully structured and punctured. A written sentence
must begin with a capital letter and end with a full stop (.), a question mark
(?) or an exclamation mark (!).
Another idea of sentence structure comes from Alice Oshima & Ann
Hogue (2006). They states: The subject is a word or a group of words that
name the person, thing, or place that a sentence is about. It is usually a
noun or a pronoun. The predicate makes a statement about the subject. It
consists of a verb and its modifiers or complements. The verb is the most
important point of the predicate expressing an action or a state of being.
Normally, the subject of the sentence, in word order of a statement,
stands before its verb predicate. However, the order of the sentence can vary
according to the types of sentences (statement, question, request, etc.).
Moreover, sentence structure, in concentrating on the elements (subject,
verb, direct object, indirect object, adverb, subject complement, object
complement) is used to form a sentence.
In Vietnamese grammar, many authors have been trying their best to
give out exact and full definitions of sentences.
According to Nguyễn Thiện Giáp (2008), sentence is the smallest unit
of language being capable of conveying a thing, an idea, a feeling, or an
emotion. The definition shows two characteristics of the sentence:
- In terms of functionality, sentence is a unit being capable of
declaration. Thanks to this feature, it is possible to distinguish the sentences
from its lower rank (words).

8


- In terms of structure, sentence is the smallest language unit. For
example, if we consider a paragraph, or even an article, a chapter, a book
are declarative units, these units are split into several smaller units while the
sentence is not split any more.
Diệp Quang Ban (1996) cites that sentences are the largest units of
structure in the grammatical organization of a language. Here are some
main characteristics of sentences:
- In terms of function, the sentences are used to carry out the acts of
base language. Such sentences are considered as a minimum speech act.
- In terms of meaning, sentences covey complete thoughts, believes,
attitudes, feelings, and emotions of the speakers.
- In terms of form, sentences have inner form and have an ending
intonation.
Sửu ơi! Giáp về rồi à? Mình có chút việc muốn gặp Giáp.
(Diệp Quang Ban, 1996)
The bold part is a sentence because it express interrogative act
(Function), indicate an event which has already happened – Giáp về
(Meaning), and has an inner structure – Giáp is subject, về rồi is predicate,
and ending intonation (i.e,the listener does not have the feelings to wait
anymore for the speaker).
Mai Ngọc Chừ, Vũ Đức Nghiệu & Hoàng Trọng Phiến (2008) state
that a sentence is the language unit which has independent inner and outer
grammatical structure and ending intonation. It bears a relatively complete
thought enclosed with the speaker’s attitude or only displaying the
speaker’s attitude, which helps form, show, and communicate ideas and
affection as the smallest information unit.

9


In short, different schools have their own definitions about sentences.
They have tried to elicit the good and radical points from many different
ideas to present the most reasonable one. In fact, no definition about
sentences has been perfect so far. Anyway, they can help each of us have a
general idea of what a sentence is. Personally, sentence can be understood
from the opinion of Nguyễn Thiện Giáp (2008) that sentence is the smallest
unit of language conveying something such as a thing, an idea, a feeling, or
an emotion.
2.2.2. Classification of sentence
As we look through the pages of a novel or a daily newspaper, there
must be a large number of sentence patterns in English. These patterns can
be grouped into different types as follows.
In terms of structure, sentences can be classified into 3 types: simple
sentences, compound sentences and complex sentences.
According to Alexander (1988), a sentence which contains one clause
is called a simple sentence (e.g., Stephen apologized at once) or it may
contain more than one clause, in which case it is either a compound
sentence (e.g., Stephen realized his mistake and (he) apologized at once) or
a complex sentence (e.g., When he realized his mistake Stephen apologized
at once).
David Crystal (1995) divides sentences into two main types: regular
and irregular sentences. Regular sentences are often referred to as major
sentences, irregular ones as minor sentences.
The major sentences are ones which can be broken down into a
specific and predictable pattern of elements.

10


I / give / the / letter / to / Mary.
The visitor / brought / a book / for you.
(David Crystal, 1995)
Minor sentences are no constructed in irregular way. They use
abnormal patterns which cannot be clearly analyzed into a sequence of
clause elements as can major sentences. Minor sentences do not follow all
the rules of grammar.
David Crystal (1995) states some minor sentence types as follows.
1. Formulae for stereotyped social situations, such as Hello, How do
you do? Thanks and cheers!
2. Emotional or functional noises (traditionally called interjections),
many of which do not follow the normal pronunciation patterns of the
language such as Eh? Ugh? Ow? Tut tut and shh!
3. Proverbs or pithy sayings such as Easy come, easy go.
4. Abbreviated forms, such as are used in postcards, instructions or
commentaries, as in Wish you were her! Mix well! and One lap more!
5. Words and phrases used as exclamations, questions and commands
such as Nice day! Taxi ? and All abroad !
If sentences are divided into 2 types above, exclamations belong to
minor sentences. Those are frequently used in every day conversation and
look quite complex because they have no grammatical rules. The speaker of
any language can accomplish a great many communicative tasks with the
sentences of their language. They can start a conversation, order someone to
do something, narrate a tale, ask for information, promise to do something

11


at some future time, report what they have known or have heard, express
surprise or dismay, suggest a joint action, give permission for someone to
do something, make a bet, offer something to someone and so on. For some
of these uses of sentences, a language will have specific syntactic
constructions, or even specific forms. Such a coincidence of grammatical
structure and conventional use, we call a sentence type.
In terms of purposes, sentences may be divided into four major
syntactic classes whose use correlates with different communicative
functions: statements, questions, directives (commands), and exclamations
(Quirk et al, 1985)
a. Statements are primarily used to convey information.
b. Questions are primarily used to seek information on specific
points.
c. Directives are primarily used to instruct someone to do something.
d. Exclamations are primarily used for expressing the extent to which
the speaker is impressed by something.
Andrew

Radford

(1997)

recognizes

the

same

types

of

clauses/sentences as Quirk et al (1985) do, namely declarative,
interrogative, imperative and exclamative sentences.
2.2.3. Minor types of simple sentence
Most grammarians have chosen to describe exclamatives as either
one of the major clause types on a par with declaratives, interrogatives, and
imperatives, or as a minor clause type. This is not surprising since

12


utterances lacking inversion, beginning with what and how do not function
in the same way as ordinary declaratives or interrogatives.
We know, however, that declarative clauses, for instance, can be
used to fulfill many different functions in natural languages, i.e. there is no
one–to–one relation between language form and language function.
Consequently, exclamations need not be of a clause type, but may instead
be a pragmatic phenomenon, a claim comes from the fact that those who
consider exclamations to be of a sentence type (e.g. Quirk et al 1972 &
1985) have to introduce minor sentence types having the same exclamatory
function as the sentences they call exclamations. Quirk et al (1972)
recognize four major classes in which simple sentences may be divided,
and the division seems to have been made on the basis of (syntactic) form
and (pragmatic) function.
Statements, i.e. sentences in which the subject is always present and
generally precedes the verb, such as John will speak to the boss today.
Questions, i.e. sentences marked by one of the following three
criteria:
a) The placing of the operator in front of the subject, as in Will

John speak to the boss today?
b)The initial positioning of a wh-element, as in Who will John

speak to?
c) Rising question intonation: You will speak to the boss?

Commands, i.e. sentences which normally have no overt
grammatical subject, and whose verb is in the imperative mood, e.g. Speak
to the boss today!

13


Exclamations, i.e. sentences which have an initial phrase introduced
by what or how, without inversion of subject and operator, e.g. What nice
clothes she wears!
(Quirk et al, 1972)
In Vietnam, Diệp Quang Ban (2004) also classified sentences into
declarative,

interrogative,

imperative

and

exclamative

based

on

communication purposes.
Declaratives are used to narrate, confirm, or describe something.
Besides the falling intonation, declarative sentences have some particles as
in example below.
Tôi đi đây.
Con gà này béo lắm.
(Diệp Quang Ban, 2004)
Interrogative can be classified into sub-types based on the ways of
forming: using interrogative pronouns such as ai, gì, nào, như thế nào, bao
nhiêu, bao lâu, đâu, etc., using connectors hay, hay là, some interrogative
particles có…không, đã….chưa, xong…chưa, or rising intonation as
examples below.
Anh tìm ai?
Họ đã đến hay chưa?
(Diệp Quang Ban, 2004)
Imperatives usually begin with hãy, đừng and end with particles nào,
thôi, đi, etc.
Ta đi đi nào!
Anh hãy ngồi xuống đây!
(Diệp Quang Ban, 2004)
Exclamatives are ussually formed by using interjections ô hay, ôi, ơ,
etc., using a combination of interjection and content word buồn ơi là buồn,

14


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