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A study on english and vietnamese idioms relating to women from a cross cultural perspective

MINISTRY OF EDUCATION AND TRAINING

HANOI OPEN UNIVERSITY

M.A. THESIS

A STUDY ON ENGLISH AND VIETNAMESE
IDIOMS RELATING TO WOMEN FROM A
CROSS-CULTURAL PERSPECTIVE
(NGHIÊN CỨU THÀNH NGỮ TIẾNG ANH VÀ TIẾNG VIỆT VỀ
NGƯỜI PHỤ NỮ TỪ BÌNH DIỆN VĂN HÓA)

TRAN THUY LINH

Field: English Language
Code: 60220201

Hanoi, 2017


MINISTRY OF EDUCATION AND TRAINING

HANOI OPEN UNIVERSITY

M.A. THESIS

A STUDY ON ENGLISH AND VIETNAMESE
IDIOMS RELATING TO WOMEN FROM A
CROSS-CULTURAL PERSPECTIVE
(NGHIÊN CỨU THÀNH NGỮ TIẾNG ANH VÀ TIẾNG VIỆT VỀ
NGƯỜI PHỤ NỮ TỪ BÌNH DIỆN VĂN HÓA)

TRAN THUY LINH

Field: English Language
Code: 60220201
Supervisor: Assoc. Prof. Vo Dai Quang, PhD

Hanoi, 2017


CERTIFICATE OF ORIGINALITY
I, the undersigned, hereby certify my authority of the study project
report entitled A STUDY ON ENGLISH AND VIETNAMESE IDIOMS
RELATING TO WOMEN FROM A CROSS – CULTURAL PERSPECTIVE
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

Tran Thuy Linh

Approved by
SUPERVISOR

Assoc. Prof. Vo Dai Quang, PhD
Date:……………………


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. Vo Dai Quang, PhD - 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.
A special word of thanks goes to other lecturers of the Faculty of
Postgraduate

at

Hanoi

Open

University for

their

ideas,

support,

encouragement and help in supplying materials and their valuable suggestion
for me to have this thesis accomplished.
Last but not least, I am greatly indebted to my family for the sacrifice
they have devoted to the fulfillment of this academic work.
This thesis cannot avoid limitation, so I wish to receive comments and
opinions to make it better.


ABSTRACT
This contrastive analysis study is carried out to find out the similarities
and differences in semantic and cultural features of English and Vietnamese
idioms relating to women by using mainly the descriptive and comparative
methods. In terms of semantics, the stylistic devices such as metaphor,
metonymy, hyperbole, simile and symmetry are analysed and mentioned in
semantic fields as social interaction, child bearing and love-marriage in
personal relationship, etc. Cultural features are also discovered as they bring
about distinctive characteristics in these idioms. Basing on the findings taken
from the study, some possible implications will be proposed to help
Vietnamese learners at Ha Nam gifted high school in Ha Nam province have
a better understanding of English idioms relating to women and be able to
translate them from English into Vietnamese effectively in their process of
mastering English as a foreign language.


LIST OF TABLES
Table 3.1: Statistic summary of speakers’ attitude in English idioms
relating to women

27

Table 3.2: Statistic summary of speakers’ attitude in Vietnamese idioms

32

relating to women
Table 3.3: Distribution in image of English and Vietnamese idioms

36

relating to women in terms of social interaction
Table 3.4: Distribution in image of English and Vietnamese idioms

38

relating to women in terms of child bearing
Table 3.5: Distribution in image of English and Vietnamese idioms

41

relating to women in terms of personal relationship
Table 4.1: Percentages of the students’ incorrect answers in Task 1

47

Table 4.2: Percentages of the students’ incorrect answers in Task 2

48

Table 4.3: Percentages of the students’ incorrect answers in Task 3

49


TABLE OF CONTENTS
Certificate of originality

i

Acknowledgements
Abstract
List of tables

ii
iii
iv

Chapter 1 INTRODUCTION .......................................................................... i
1.1 Rationale for the study ............................................................................... i
1.2 Aims and objectives of the study .............................................................. ii
1.3 Research questions .....................................................................................3
1.4 Methods of the study ................................................................................ iii
1.5 Scope of the study .................................................................................... iii
1.6 Significance of the study .......................................................................... iv
1.7 Design of the study .................................................................................. iv
Chapter 2 LITERATURE REVIEW ............................................................. vi
2.1 Previous studies........................................................................................ vi
2.2 Semantics ..................................................................................................8
2.2.1 Definition of semantics .........................................................................8
2.2.2 Sematic features and some stylistic devices ...................................... ix
2.3 Culture ...................................................................................................... xi
2.3.1. Definition of culture ........................................................................... xi
2.3.2. Cultural features ................................................................................. xiii
2.4. Idioms and idioms relating to women ................................................... xvi
2.4.1. Definition of Idiom ............................................................................ xvi
2.4.2 Classification of Idiom ...................................................................... xvii
2.4.3 Idioms relating to women .....................................................................xx
2.5 Summary ............................................................................................... xxii
Chapter 3 IDIOMS RELATING TO WOMEN IN ENGLISH AND
VIETNAMESE FROM A CROSS – CULTURAL PERSPECTIVE ........ xxiii
3.1 English idioms relating to women ....................................................... xxiii
3.1.1 Semantic features of English idioms relating to women .................. xxiii
3.1.2 Cutural features of English idioms relating to women ...................... xxv
3.2 Vietnamese idioms relating to women ................................................ xxvii
3.2.1 Semantic features ............................................................................. xxvii
3.2.2 Cultural features .................................................................................. xxx


3.3 Comparison of idioms relating to women in English and Vietnamese from a
cross – cultural perspective ........................................................................ xxxii
3.3.1. In social interaction ......................................................................... xxxiii
3.3.2 In child bearing ................................................................................. xxxv
3.3.3 In personal relationship ................................................................... xxxvii
3.4 Summary................................................................................................... xl
Chapter 4 ACTUAL ERRORS MADE BY LEARNERS OF ENGLISH
WHEN USING ENGLISH AND VIETNAMESE IDIOMS RELATING TO
WOMEN ...................................................................................................... xlii
4.1 Survey questionnaires ............................................................................ xlii
4.1.1 Subject ................................................................................................. xlii
4.1.2 Questionnaire for students .................................................................. xlii
4.1.3 Procedure ........................................................................................... xliii
4.2 Common errors made by learners of English when using English and
Vietnamese idioms relating to women ........................................................ xliii
4.2.1 Common errors made by learners ...................................................... xliv
4.2.2 Causes of committing errors ............................................................. xlvii
4.3 Possible implications for learning English and Vietnamese idioms
relating to women ..................................................................................... xlviii
4.4 Summary .................................................................................................. lii
Chapter 5 CONCLUSION ........................................................................... liv
5.1 Concluding remarks ................................................................................ liv
5.2 Limitation of the study ............................................................................ lvi
5.3 Recommendations/ Suggestions for further study .................................. lvi
REFERENCES ............................................................................................ lviii
APPENDIX 1 English idioms relating to women........................................ lxii
APPENDIX 2 Vietnamese idioms relating to women ............................... lxviii
APPENDIX 3 SURVEY QUESTIONNAIRE........................................ lxxviii


Chapter 1
INTRODUCTION
1.1 Rationale for the study
In today’s global world, the importance of English can not be denied and
ignored since English is the most common language spoken everywhere. With the
assistance of technology, English has been playing a major role in many sectors
including medicine, engineering, and education, which, is the most important arena
where English is needed.
In Vietnamese education system, English is the first foreign language to be
chosen. To master English as the native speakers is not easy; however, it is desire
of all foreign learners in general and Vietnamese learners in particular, they
usually face a lot of difficulties that prevent them from gaining successful
conversations. One of the reasons for these problems lies in the way people
perceive and use idioms. Each language, through words, has different constructs.
These structures represent the cultural thinking, psychology, intelligence and talent
of native speakers. Idiom is one of those constructs. Idioms not only work to make
good text, beautiful images but also to express ideas in a deep, subtle way. By
studying English idioms in comparison with Vietnamese ones, we can find the
similarities and differences, which, therefore, help learners of English to
understand and have better use of English idioms. The meaning of idiom is the
inner meaning, not just on the external form. Idioms open up an approach in which
all aspects of life and society are clearly defined and deeply implied. Therefore,
idioms are chosen as my thesis topic.
Human being is the interesting and familiar topic to many languages.
Especially, it is popular in both Vietnamese and English languages. The image of
human being appears in everyday language, not excepting idioms. In which, I
especially like the image of women – the Muse in literature, one of the most
typical topic that literature has mentioned.
Actually, the English image describing women is very commonly used in
idioms. A large portion of English idioms relating to women are used to describe
people’s attitude (e.g. A scarlet women) or to express a remark or evaluation (e.g.
At your mother’s knee, A plain Jane), etc.


Whereas, in Vietnamese idioms, women are described with admiration and
love as: Quốc sắc thiên hương, Đẹp như tiên or Hai sương một nắng, or with
critical meaning as: Ba bà, chín chuyện, Chị bị hột vừng, etc.
Attracted by the idiomatic expressions, especially those relating to the
image of women because they express their richness and diversity in meaning. In
addition, these English idioms sometimes make me confused to figure out their
exact meaning when needed translating into Vietnamese due to their very
specifically different ways of expression in English and Vietnamese.
Therefore, I just focus on the women’s role, fate and image in social
interaction, in child bearing and in personal relationship,… - a very small part of
the huge idiom treasure in: “A study on English and Vietnamese idioms relating to
women from a cross – cultural perspective”.
However, due to different language structures and cultural background,
learners of English in Vietnam have to face with many difficulties and among
which how to use English idioms relating to women effectively, and find some
appropriate Vietnamese ones is one of the most complicated. In reality, learners
seem to pay inadequate attention to idioms relating to women though they have a
very early contact with them. As a result, they frequently fail to use them
satisfactorily. It is found that idioms relating to women are complicated but very
interesting and useful in both oral and written communication. Thus, the above
thesis is being choosen.
Hopefully, my study will meet the demand of the people who are interested
in this issue, and help the foreign language learners recognize, understand and
translate the idioms denoting women into another language. Furthermore, this
study gives out some suggestions for the teaching and learning English idioms to
Vietnamese learners to use them effectively.
1.2 Aims and objectives of the study
The thesis basically studies English and Vietnamese idioms relating to
women from a cross-cultural perspective in order to provide learners of English
with a basic knowledge of this field to use them properly.
In order to achieve these aims, the objectives are:
-

To present the semantic and cultural features of English and Vietnamese
idioms relating to women.

-

To compare idioms relating to women in English and Vietnamese from a

cross-cultural perspective.
(iii) To suggest some implications for learning English idioms to


Vietnamese
learners to use them effectively.
1.3 Research questions
(i) What are the semantic and cultural features of English and Vietnamese
idioms relating to women?
(ii) What are the similarities and the differences between English and
Vietnamese idioms relating to women from a cross-cultural perspective?
(iii) What are the possible implications for the learning process of
Vietnamese learners to use English idioms relating to women effectively?
1.4 Methods of the study
This study is designed to investigate the English and Vietnamese idioms
relating to women, so the descriptive and comparative methods have been chosen
as major ones.
Firstly, the descriptive method is utilized in order to give a full account of
the semantic and cultural features of English and Vietnamese idioms denoting
women. Secondly, the comparative method is applied to identify the similarities
and dissimilarities in their semantic and cultural features of English and
Vietnamese idioms relating to women.
Some others as analytical, synthetic have also been used as supporting
methods. As a matter of fact, to investigate in details the semantic and cultural
features with various nuances of meanings, analytical method is also employed,
and then the synthetic method is used for grouping them on the basis of certain
criteria according to semantic and cultural features. Moreover, quite a few of
research techniques have been combined, such as statistics, componential analysis,
and contrastive analysis.
In conducting the investigation, 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.
1.5 Scope of the study
In this study, idioms relating to women are chosen to study based on
their population, occurrence frequency, and power of expression in English and
Vietnamese as well.
In the thesis, not all idioms relating to women are listed and analyzed
because of the time, knowledge, and material limitation. The data source comes
from more than ten English and Vietnamese dictionaries of idioms as well as on
the Internet. Some typical terms will be chosen to study to make clear the


similarities and differences in idioms relating to women in English and
Vietnamese. Particularly, in terms of semantics, these idioms will be analyzed and
compared to clearly illustrate the differences and similarities between these
components of English. The comparison between two cultures will be mentioned
which points out the cultural features influence the image of women in idioms.
1.6 Significance of the study
In terms of theoretical significance, the study may probably contribute a
certain description of the semantic and cultural features expressed by English
idioms relating to women, hence generalizing their typical categories of meanings
and ways of expression when comparing with the Vietnamese ones. It is somewhat
useful for linguistic researchers or theorists to shape a certain rules or principles in
the fields of semantic or cultural factors study on idioms relating to women.
Regarding practical significance, English idioms relating to women are very
commonly used in English, but a thorough description of their semantic and
cultural features in both English and Vietnamese have not been discussed so far.
By conducting the study to give a full account of semantic and cultural features of
these English idioms, it is believed that the findings of these would be a practical
source of material for learners at Ha Nam gifted high school in Ha Nam Province.
If they take it serious to explore these features, they could not only gain a good
knowledge of English idioms in the light of meanings and the varified culture but
also have a better capability of using them in a natural and authentic ways. In
addition, more or less, the results of this study can be applied to make the
persuasive and effective communication, learn languages or help translators
transferring source idioms into the target language ones more exactly.
1.7 Design of the study
The general outline of this research consists of five chapters that are carried
out in a typical order as follows:
Chapter 1- Introduction: presents the rationale of the study and states what
the thesis is aimed at. Also, the research questions, the methods, the scope, the
significance and the design of the study are included.
Chapter 2 - Literature Review: provides a review of the related
previous studies, fundamental and essential theoretical preliminaries concerning
the subject under consideration which serves as the basis foundation of data
analysis and finding discussion in the following chapters.
Chapter 3 is designed to give out findings and discussions for idioms
relating to women in English and Vietnamese, the semantic and cultural features,


then compare them from a cross-cultural perspective.
Chapter 4 presents the actual errors made by learners when using English
and Vietnamese idioms relating to women with some possible implications for
learning English idioms relating to women and translating them from English into
Vietnamese effectively
Chapter 5 - Conclusion: Summarizes the issues that are discussed in the
thesis. Give limitations of the study, suggestions for further study.
References and Appendix come at the end of the thesis.


Chapter 2
LITERATURE REVIEW
2.1 Previous studies
Idioms are available phrases, sentences, relatively fixed, sustainable, not
intending to express an idea. Idioms are used to emphasize meaning with lively
expression, contributing to the colour of art so that idioms are not only a treasure
in daily communication language but also a valuable source of material for literary
creation. Many researchers have manipulated idioms, both native – like discourse
by English as well as a foreign language speaker. In English, there are some
important books such as “Cambrige Idioms Dictionary” by Cambridge university
press [1], “The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms” by Ammer [3], “Idioms
and Idiomaticity” by Fernando, C. [9] or “Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms”
by Ayto [20] and so on.
Dr. Montgomery Howwar of Aligarh Muslim University wrote an article
about “Seeking the Nature of Idioms: A Socio-Cultural Study in Idiomatic English
and Arabic meanings” [26] on International Journal of Scientific and Research
Publications, he analysed some Arabic and English idioms taking into
consideration their bound culture, equivalence and context in order to explore the
types of idioms, and to focus on using one of the techniques of dealing with idioms
that is equivalence.
Furthermore, some other articles also took English idioms into
consideration. Dr. Richard Xiao [39] from Edge Hill University paid more
attention to “Can ‘translation universals’ survive in Mandarin? Idioms, word
clusters, and reformulation markers in translational Chinese.” In which three
linguistic features investigated in translation studies – namely idioms, word
clusters and reformulation markers, in translational Chinese as represented in a
one-million-word balanced corpus of translated Chinese texts in comparison with
native Mandarin represented in a comparable corpus of non-translated Chinese
texts.
In Vietnamese, there are many famous researchers who have studied about
idioms such as: Thành ngữ Tiếng Việt by Nguyen Luc [43], Thành Ngữ học Tiếng
Việt by Hoang Van Hanh [41], Thành ngữ tiếng Việt by Luong Van Dang [40], Từ
điển Thành Ngữ và Tục Ngữ Việt Nam by Vu Thuy Anh [46].
Being aware of the importance of idioms in daily speech as well as in
learning language, many researchers have given out efforts in studying issues and
aspects of this field. Some researchers have concentrated on analyzing in syntactic


and semantic features in English and Vietnamese idioms denoting human body
parts, animals, etc such as “A contrastive analysis of the grammatical and semantic
features of words and idioms denoting intelligence and wisdom in English and
Vietnamese”, written by Phan Thị Minh Chau, (2005) [2] or “A study of some
characteristics of structures, meaning and culture of English idioms about
animals” by Pham Thi To Nhu, Danang University. “A contrastive analysis of
English and Vietnamese idioms using the terms of body parts” by Nguyen Thi
Hiep carried out in 2001. The thesis “Semantic structures of words denoting
human body organs in English -Eye-Ear-Nose-Mouth - (versus Vietnamese)” was
written by Nguyen Duong Nguyen Hao in 2001. In “An investigation into idioms
and proverbs relating to women in English and Vietnamese”, Ho Thi Hoang Ngan
[27] painted clearly the syntactic and semantic features of the image of the women
in English and Vietnamese idioms and proverbs (2012). However, the cultural
factors in English and Vietnamese idioms relating to women have not been dealt
with so far.
In another linguistic thesis named “Đặc trưng ngôn ngữ - văn hóa của các
từ chỉ bộ phận con người trong thành ngữ tiếng Việt (so sánh với tiếng Anh)”,
Nguyen Thi Phuong [44] described and analyzed words denoting human-body
parts in English and Vietnamese idioms to find out similarities and differences.
About 1100 English idioms and 867 Vietnamese ones were collected and she
found that the appearance of words denoting human-body parts in these two
languages was quite different.
In Nguyen Huong Giang’s study “The image of mouse, horse, cat, chicken
in English idioms and proverbs with reference to Vietnamese equivalents” [12], the
image of these animals in English and Vietnamese are resorted as a way of
explaining human behavior, human feelings and even human relations. Although,
cultures of both countries are different, there are similarity meaning in English as
well as Vietnamese idioms and proverbs.
Besides, it may be helpful for cross-cultural communicators in dealing with
people from other cultures (English or Vietnamese) to avoid cultural shocks. In
addition, we can found a number of contrastive studies of various aspects relating to
idioms and proverbs in English and Vietnamese carried out to master students in the
nationwide universities, which can be considered as a reliable source reference for
the thesis.


2.2 Semantics
2.2.1 Definition of semantics
In languages, idioms are the type of unit in which one can find a great
deal of information in terms of language, culture, national identity and even
human philosophy.
Semantics is the study of the meaning of words, phrases, and sentences.
It focuses on the conventional meaning conveyed by the use of words and
sentences in language.
According to Nguyen Hoa [13], semantics as a discipline will not limited to
meaning of word, but semantics has to expand into such a fuzzy or more gray area:
the meaning of, and the distinction between the meaning of the sentence and the
utterance. And meaning reflects human conceptualization of our possible words or
reality.
Further more, semantics focuses on the relation between signifiers, such
as words, phrases, signs and symbols, and what they stand for, their denotata.
Semantics tries to understand what meaning is as an element of language and
how it is constructed by language as well as interpreted, obscured and
negotiated by speakers and listeners of language.
The study of semantics looks at how meaning works in language, and
because of this it often uses native speaker intuitions about the meaning of
words and phrases to base research on.
Semantics also looks at the ways in which the meanings of words can be
related to each other. Here are a few of the ways in which words can be
semantically related.
Synonymy: Words are synonymous/ synonyms when they can be used to
mean the same thing (at least in some contexts - words are rarely fully identical
in all contexts), for example, begin and start.
Antonymy: Words are antonyms of one another when they have opposite
meanings (again, at least in some contexts), for example, big and small.
Polysemy: A word is polysemous when it has two or more related
meanings. In this case the word takes one form but can be used to mean two
different things. In the case of polysemy, these two meanings must be related in
some way, and not be two completely unrelated meanings of the word, for
example, mouse (animal) and mouse (computer hardware).
Homophony: Homophony is similar to polysemy in that it refers to a
single form of word with two meanings, however a word is a homophone when


the two meanings are entirely unrelated, for example, pen (writing instrument)
and pen (small cage).
Semantics looks at these relationships in language and looks at how these
meanings are created, which is an important part of understanding how
language works as a whole. Understanding how meaning occurs in language
can inform other sub-disciplines, such as Language Acquisition, to help us to
understand how speakers acquire a sense of meaning, and Sociolinguistics, as
the achievement of meaning in language is important in a social situation.
Semantics is also informed by other sub-disciplines of linguistics, such
as morphology, as understanding the words themselves is integral to the study
of their meaning, and syntax, in which researchers in semantics use extensively
to reveal how meaning is created in language, as how language is structured is
central to meaning.
2.2.2 Sematic features and some stylistic devices
Some main features of semantics are mentioned above, however, to
match the topic of this study, several stylistic devices are discussed to clarify
the meaning as the following.
2.2.2.1. Metaphor
Ellis and Barkhuizen (2005) stated that “a metaphor consists of a
comparision between two dissimilar notions where one notion is to be
understood in terms of the other notion”. We can see that metaphor is the
process of seeing sooth as something rather than comparing something. It is an
expression that describes a person or object by referring to something that is
considered having similar characteristics.
A metaphor is a figure of speech that describes an object or action in a
way that isn’t literally true, but helps explain an idea or make a comparison.
Here are the basics: A metaphor states that one thing is another thing. It
equates those two things not because they actually are the same, but for the sake
of comparison or symbolism.
Metaphor is used in poetry, literature, and anytime someone wants to add
some color to their language.
Metaphor is a form of figurative language, which refers to words or
expressions that mean something different from their literal definition. In the
case of metaphors, the literal interpretation would often be pretty silly. For
example, imagine what the metaphor would look like at face value: Love is a
battlefield while the inner meaning is Love is difficult.


As a common figure of speech, metaphors turn up everywhere from
novels and films to presidential speeches and even popular songs. When they’re
especially good, they’re hard to miss.
2.2.2.2. Hyperbole
In English, according to Galperine I.R. (1971), hyperbole is deliberate
overstatement or exaggerate, the aim of which is to identify one of the
features of the object in questions to such a degree as will show its utter absurdity.
Hyperbole, derived from a Greek word meaning “over-casting,” is a figure
of speech that involves an exaggeration of ideas for the sake of emphasis.
It is a device often employed in the day-to-day speech. Hyperbole is used to
create an amusing effect, or to emphasize our meaning. However, in literature it
has very serious implications. By using hyperbole, a writer or a poet makes
common human feelings remarkable and intense to such an extent that they do not
remain ordinary. In literature, usage of hyperbole develops contrasts. When one
thing is described with an over-statement, and the other thing is presented
normally, a striking contrast is developed. This technique is employed to catch the
readers’ attention, as in I am dying of shame, which means I am very hungry.
2.2.2.3 Metonymy
Metonomy is based on a type of relation between the dictionary and
contextual meaning, a relation based on affinity but also on some kinds of
association connecting to concepts which these meanings represent.
A metonymy is a literary device in which one representative term stands
in for something else. We also use metonymy frequently in our everyday life.
For a better understanding, as can be seen in the example The pen is mightier
than the sword (Pen refers to written words and sword to military force).
2.2.2.4. Simile
A simile is a figure of speech that directly compares two different things,
usually by employing the words "like", "as", in To fight like cat and dog, or As
fussy as a hen with one chick, …
Even though both similes and metaphors are forms of comparison,
similes compare two things directly, whereas metaphors indirectly compare
the two ideas and allow them to remain distinct in spite of their similarities.
Metaphor is the process of seeing sooth as something rather than comparing
something and is mainly used in the meaning transfer of idioms. For instance, a
bitten child dreads the dog, baby in the wood, over the hill, young saint old devil.


In addition, similes are like metaphors, but metaphors aren’t similes. A
metaphor makes a comparison by stating that one thing is something else, but a
simile states that one thing is like something else.
2.2.2.5 Symmetry
Symmetry is the quality of having parts that match each other, especially
in a way that is attractive, or similarity of shape or contents.
In the idioms containing two parts such as happy wife/ happy life, like
mother/ like daughter, the relation of opinion between two parts of idioms is
established due to the corresponding in terms of grammatical and semantic
field. They express the same semantic category, the same word class and the
same grammatical catergory. Symmetry axis among the words in two sides is
also the symmetry axis between the two sides of an idiom.
2.2.2.6. Antithesis
Antithesis, literal meaning opposite, is a rhetorical device in which two
opposite ideas are put together in a sentence to achieve a contrasting effect.
Antithesis emphasizes the idea of contrast by parallel structures of the
contrasted phrases or clauses, i.e. the structures of phrases and clauses are
similar in order to draw the attention of the listeners or readers. For example:
Setting foot on the moon may be a small step for a man but a giant step for
mankind, the use of contrasting ideas, “a small step” and “a giant step”, in the
sentence above emphasizes the significance of one of the biggest landmarks of
human history.
In order to characterize a thing or phenomenon from a specific point of
view, it may be necessary not to find points of resemblance or association
between it and some other things or phenomena, but to find points of sharp
contrast. Antithesis is based on relative opposition which arises out of the
context through the expansion of objectively contrasting pairs.
2.3 Culture
2.3.1. Definition of culture
In Notes towards the Definition of Culture. Faber & Faber, 2010,
according to the point of view of Eliot, Thomas Stearns, the culture will appear
to be the product of the religion, or the religion the product of the culture.
Culture is the characteristics and knowledge of a particular group of
people, encompassing language, religion, cuisine, social habits, music and arts.
(By Kim Ann Zimmermann, Live Science Contributor | July 12, 2017 10:12pm
ET). The Center for Advance Research on Language Acquisition goes a step


further, defining culture as shared patterns of behaviors and interactions,
cognitive constructs and understanding that are learned by socialization. Thus,
it can be seen as the growth of a group identity fostered by social patterns
unique to the group.
"Culture encompasses religion, food, what we wear, how we wear it, our
language, marriage, music, what we believe is right or wrong, how we sit at the
table, how we greet visitors, how we behave with loved ones, and a million
other things," Cristina De Rossi, an anthropologist at Barnet and Southgate
College in London, told Live Science.
The word "culture" derives from a French term, which in turn derives
from the Latin "colere," which means to tend to the earth and grow, or
cultivation and nurture. "It shares its etymology with a number of other words
related to actively fostering growth," De Rossi said.
According to Cambridge Dictionary, culture is the way of life, especially
the general customs and beliefs, of a particular group of people at a particular time.
In the book “Intercultural Communication”, Nguyen Quang [30] states that
culture is as “a shared background” (e.g. national, ethic, religion) resulting from a
common language and communication style, customs, beliefs, attitudes and
value.”
The meaning of the word in a language reflects the social consciousness of
the ethnic community uses that language as its mother tongue. In other words, the
meaning of the word reflects the relationship between the symbolic world and the
real world. The relationship is culture and is expressed as a particular type of
ethnic community compared to another ethnic community. From a cultural view,
the meaning of each word is a culture that represents the common culture of the
human community, and the particular culture of a community of people.
Culture, in fact, is different from particular societies. It’s the specialized
behavioral patterns, understandings, adaptations and social systems that summarize
a group of people’s learned way of life”. Supporting to this, culture is described as
organic system of material and spiritual values created and accumulated during
human process of real activity as well as their contact with natural and social
environment. He also states the cultural differences between the East and the West
caused by the different living condition of the communities. Therefore, the East
has cultural features of agricultural origin and the West has culture of nomadic
origins.


2.3.2. Cultural features
2.3.2.1 Culture and language
In this thesis, the theoretical framework bases on the relationship
between language and culture.
Idioms not only belong to a language but also reflect much of its culture.
In other words, they are considered to be a mirror reflecting social-cultural
traditions in the most reliable ways. For all these things above, we can conclude
that there is a close relation between language, culture and proverb and idiom.
Both proverb and idiom reflect values, beliefs across culture.
In “Language and Culture”, Kramsch definite that language is the principle
means whereby we conduct our social lives. When it is used in contexts of
communication, it is bound up with culture in multiple and complex ways.
At first, language expresses cultural reality. The words people utter refer to
common experience. They express facts, ideas or events that are communicable
because they refer to a stock of knowledge about the world that other people share.
Words also reflect their authors' attitudes and beliefs, their point of view that are
also those of others.
Secondly, language embodies cultural reality through verbal or non-verbal
aspects. Members of a community or social group do not only express experience;
they also create experience through language. They give meaning to it through the
medium they choose to communicate with one another, for example, speaking on
the telephone or face-to-face, writing a letter or sending an e-mail message,
reading the newspaper or interpreting a graph or a chart. The way in which people
use the spoken, written, or visual medium itself creates meanings that are
understandable to the group they belong to, for example, through a speaker's tone
of voice, accent, conversational style, gestures and facial expressions. Through all
its verbal and non-verbal aspects, language embodies cultural reality.
Finally, language is a system of signs that is seen as having itself a cultural
value. Speakers identify themselves and others through their use of language; they
view their language as a symbol of their social identity. The prohibition of its use
is often perceived by its speakers as a rejection of their social group and their
culture. Thus we can say that language symbolizes cultural reality.
Brown describes the relationship between them this way, “a language is a
part of culture and culture is a part of a language; the two are intricately
interwoven so that one cannot separate the two without losing the significance of
either language or culture”. Culture depends on language and language pushes


forward cultural transmission. The relationship between culture and language is
mutual restraint and interdependent.
Language is an important and indispensable aspect of culture, a main
expression of culture, and plays a very important role in culture. Without language,
the existence, inheritance and transmission of culture would not be possible.
Meanwhile, language is a carrier of culture. Language develops with the
development of society and culture. The use of language is strongly influenced and
shaped by culture. There is no language without culture content. Culture
determines one’s behavior and the way one thinks and speaks. Brown stated
precisely, “Culture is really an integral part of the interactions between language
and thought. Culture patterns, customs, and ways of life are expressed in language;
Cultural-specific world views are reflected in language”.
“Although a language may be regarded as a relatively small part of a
culture, it is also indispensable to both the functioning and perpetuation of culture.
“Language and culture are two interdependent symbolic systems”, Nida said.
Human culture without language is unthinkable. Without language, there is
no culture. Language is the keystone of culture. Without culture, language will
lose all its meanings and vanish in the end. “A language is a part of a culture and a
culture is a part of language, the two are intricately interwoven so that one cannot
separate the two without losing the significance of either language or culture”
Douglas said.
Language and culture are interdependable and have influence on each
other. Language is the very important carrier of culture; but culture has
constrains on language. Language is the crystallization of ethnic culture, due to
the wide and popular diffusion of language, culture was widely circulated, and
culture whereby development. The transformation and development of language
always accompany the development of culture. So if we want to study cultural,
we have to study language and vice versa.
2.3.2.2 Cultural identities
By approaching the question of the meaning of idioms relating to women
from the semantic point of view, the meaning of the word is a cultural fragment, as
stated in Phan Van Que's perception of symbolic problem. It is true that there are a
large number of idioms denoting women in symbolic expressions, especially when
those expressions are comparative, Đẹp như tiên in Vietnamese idiom and As quiet
as a mouse, As blind as a bat in English.


A number of folk songs about family give us the image of women as the
most lyrical, most enduring, and the most important character. They are the central
nucleus of every family relationship. They are the understanding partner, the
hardworking wife, good daughter-in-law, great sister and gentle mother.
In spite of being influenced by foreign cultures throughout thousands of
years of domination, Vietnamese women still retain their own beauty in the life.
As society grows, people are more civilized, but the traditional virtues of women
from rural to urban are still valuable, which is the beauty in their family and in the
society: the beauty of the wife, the mother; the beauty of business woman, singer,
poet, actor, …; the beauty of intelligence; the beauty of career, …
The modern features combine with traditional virtues to create the
appearance and character bringing the meaning of pure Vietnamese, representing
the class of Asian women.
While it is impossible to compete with men in terms of stature, talent, or
fighting, much family and social work is needed the role of women. History of
Vietnam has recorded daily images of traditional women: Sớm ra ruộng lúa, tối về
nương dâu.
Image of a woman Bán mặt cho đất, bán lưng cho trời - the main labor
force in food production, is very common in Vietnamese villages. Their job is to
make copper, pottery, rowing, selling things, spinning, weaving fabric, sewing
clothes,… besides, they are also artists who compose and sing and dance folk
songs… Everything in the family can not be done without their skillful hands.
With the admiration and respect of the whole society, Vietnamese women
do not neglect the virtues to the tradition: Công. Dung, Ngôn, Hạnh.
Công: values a woman's ingenuity and thoughtfulness towards household
chores.
Dung: emphasizing the beauty of the woman’s soul rather than the
appearance of the outside.
Ngôn: the beauty of the mind and spirit when the woman makes speech.
Hạnh: beautiful behavior, virtue (in love, in family, in the relationship with
others,…)
Nowadays, women are equal citizens of the community. They are not only
responsible for housework, but also for work, for the society. To the community,
they have ambition and effort at work, show the moral quality characters. To their
family, it is said that woman is for their home or “Man make house, woman makes


homes”. For women, children are always their blood, the most precious thing in
their life.
Today, women needn’t waste much time staying at home do the housework.
However, their work, especially caring for a young child is no longer as hard as it
used to be, but the mother still has a heavy responsibility on her shoulders to make
their home happy with warm feelings and to direct her children to the future of a
fulfilling physical and spiritual life.
They are models of Giản dị mà sâu sắc, kín đáo mà không tĩnh lặng
expressed in deep verses such as: Tình mẹ bao la như biển Thái Bình dạt dào..., the
love of motherhood is compared to the Pacific Ocean.
2.4. Idioms and idioms relating to women
2.4.1. Definition of Idiom
The Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary of Current English states that
“idiom” refers to “phrase or sentence whose meaning is not obvious through
knowledge of the individual meanings of the constituent words but must be learnt
as a whole, e. g. give away, in order to, be hard put to it, and so on.”
Larson gives out the definition of idiom as “a string of words whose
meaning is different from the meaning conveyed by the individual words”, and he
states that idiom “carries certain emotive connotations not expressed in the other
lexical items”. Richard et al defines: “An idiom is an expression which functions
as a single unit and whose meaning cannot be worked out from its separate parts”.
This view is also shared by Robin, Palmer, Cruse and Jackson and Evenla [15].
Hornby argued in his Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary [14], an idiom
is “a phrase or sentence whose meaning is not clear from the meaning of its
individual words and which must be leant as a whole unit”.
Idioms best mirror the national characteristics embodied in a language and
are thus always rich in cultural connotation and national flavor. Lots of cultural
information is embedded in idioms. In some senses, idioms are the reflection of the
environment, life, historical culture, etc. of the native speakers and are closely
associated with their innermost spirit and feelings. Idioms usually carry more
impact than non-idiomatic expressions because of their close identification with a
particular language and culture, according to Nida, for one thing, most idioms,
though composed of few words, contain an extremely profound and rich meaning,
for another most idioms carry a vivid image.
Words do not just come individually; they also come in expressions - ingroup. Idioms are among the most common of these expressions by Wright.


According to him, idiom is an expression with following features. Firstly, idiom is
fixed and is recognized by native speakers. We cannot make up our own idioms.
The second feature is that idiom uses language in a non-literal-metaphor-way. As
mentioned in Oxford Dictionary idiom is defined as “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”.
In fact, in English and Vietnamese, the content and form of idioms and
proverbs are extremely diverse, rich and complex. In terms of form, idioms are not
always phrases. A number of idioms has the clause structure, such as Nước đổ đầu
vịt, Ếch ngồi đáy giếng ... This form of mastering is often a cause of difficulty in
distinguishing idioms and proverbs. In terms of content, both are the products of
people's perception about things and phenomena of the objective world, which
contain and reflect the knowledge of the people; are the experience, the intellectual
crystallization of the masses, all from the generalization of reality to find out the
nature, the law. The content of the idiom is usually about expressing something
that is random and individual whereas the content of proverbs expresses the nature,
general, inevitable, rules. Grammatically, idiom, in general, is just a word, not a
complete sentence because the idioms are only intended to raise an image, a
phenomenon, in contrast, proverb is a complete sentence, a complete message, a
specific conclusion, a certain statement, a lesson learned from the fact. For
example, Con không chê cha mẹ khó, Chó không chê cha mẹ nghèo, ...
Functionally, proverb is a brief, concise message, while idiom has the function of
identifying, expressing things, action… similar as a word. An idiom does not
undertake the notification function. On the other hand, a proverb performs this
function perfectly. It is clear that there is a real boundary between idiom and
proverb. However, this boundary is not absolutely separated. Therefore, there are
sayings that are considered by the author as idioms, other authors as proverbs.
From these above definitions, it is difficult to define idioms exactly but we
can recognize that idioms is a word, a phrase, a set expression or “fixed phrase”
whose meaning does not concern the meaning of the individual words in the
expression.
2.4.2 Classification of Idiom
When studying on idioms, some typical features of idioms were realized
as following:
Firstly, in terms of semantically, idioms are composed of words,
however, they are not the combination of the meaning of each element


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