A study on meanings of the english prepstion “ in “ and its VietNamese equivalents from a cognitive semantic perspctive

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A study on meanings of the english prepstion “ in “ and its VietNamese equivalents from a cognitive semantic perspctive Nguyễn Thị Khánh Vân Trường Đại học Ngoại Ngữ Luận văn ThS. Chuyên ngành:English Linguistics; Mã số: 60 22 15 Người hướng dẫn: Dr. Hà Cẩm Tâm Năm bảo vệ: 2009 Abstract: This thesis is aimed at analyzing meanings of the English preposition in and investigating its potential Vietnamese equivalents based on the theoretical framework of cognitive semantics. The present analysis posits that meanings of in are not arbitrary; rather they are systematically related in a network. Specifically, from the central schema designating prototypical meaning of in, other meanings occurs by means of image-schema transformations and metaphorical mappings from spatial domains to non-spatial and abstract domains. In addition, it is interesting to note that in can correspond to not only prepositions but also other non-prepositional expressions in Vietnamese. The emphasis put here is that although spatial cognition exists in any language, there are differences in strategies of spatial conceptualization employed by people using each language. Accordingly, our findings are supposed to be really beneficial, on the one hand, to teaching, learning and translating English prepositions; on the other, to better understanding socio-cultural beliefs associated with the use of language. Keywords: Tiếng Anh; Tiếng Việt; Giới từ; Ngữ nghĩa học tri nhận Content: v TABLE OF CONTENTS Declaration ………………………………………………………………………… i Acknowledgements ……………………………………………………………… ii Abstract ……………………………………………………………………………. iii Abbreviations and Symbols ……………………………………………………… iv Table of Contents ………………………………………………………………… v INTRODUCTION ……………………………………………………………. 1 1. Statement of the Problem ……………………………………………… 1 2. Aims of the Study ………………………………………………………… 3 3. Scope of the Study …………………………………………………………. 3 4. Significance of the Study ………………………………………………… 3 5. Research Questions ……………………………………………………… 4 6. Design of the Study ……………………………………………………… 4 DEVELOPMENT …………………………………………………………… 5 CHAPTER 1: THEORETICAL PRELIMINARIES …………………… 5 1.1. A Brief Overview of Cognitive Linguistics …………………………… 5 1.2. A Brief Overview of Cognitive Semantics ……………………………… 6 1.3. Spatial Prepositions ……………………………………………………… 7 1.3.1. Definition of Spatial Prepositions ………………………………… 7 1.3.2 Syntactic Perspectives on Spatial Prepositions 8 1.3.3. Semantic Perspectives on Spatial Prepositions …………………… 8 1.4. Cognitive Semantics Approach to Spatial Prepositions …………………. 9 1.4.1. Experiential Realism, Image Schemas and Spatial Prepositions……. 9 1.4.2. Metaphor and Spatial Prepositions ………………………………… 11 1.4.3. Prototype, Radial Category and Spatial Prepositions ……………… 12 1.4.5. Polysemy and Spatial Prepositions …………………………………. 13 1.4.6. Perspective and Subjectivity ……………………………………… 14 CHAPTER 2: THE STUDY …………………………………………………. 16 2.1. Research Questions ………………………………………………… 16 2.2. Methodology …………………………………………………………… 16 vi 2.3. Data ……………………………………………………………………… 17 2.4. Analytical Framework …………………………………………………… 18 2.5. Data Analysis, Findings and Discussion ………………………………… 19 2.5.1. Meanings of the English Preposition “in” ………………………… 19 2.5.1.1. Prototypical Schema for “in”………………………………… 19 2.5.1.2. Non-prototypical Meanings of „in‟……………………………. 20 2.5.1.3. Metaphorical Extensions ……………………………………… 22 2.4.1.3.1. Metaphorical extension of the enclosure prototype ……… 22 2.4.1.3.2. Metaphorical extension of the inclusion sense …………… 25 2.4.1.3.3. Metaphorical extension of the medium sense ……………. 26 2.5.1.4. Radial Category of “in” ……………………………………… 27 2.5.1.5. Summary ……………………………………………………… 27 2.5.2. The English Preposition “in” and its Vietnamese Equivalents …… 28 2.5.2.1. “in” in English corresponds to “trong” in Vietnamese ……. 29 2.5.2.2. “in” in English corresponds to “ngoài” in Vietnamese … 30 2.5.2.3. “in” in English corresponds to “trên” in Vietnamese 31 2.5.2.4. “in” in English corresponds to “dưới” in Vietnamese ……. 32 2.5.2.5. “in” in English corresponds to “ở” in Vietnamese ……… 33 2.5.2.6. “in” in English corresponds to “trước” in Vietnamese … 33 2.5.2.7. “in” in English corresponds to “sau” in Vietnamese …… 34 2.5.2.8. “in” in English corresponds to “bên” in Vietnamese …… 35 2.5.2.9. “in” in English corresponds to “bằng” in Vietnamese …… 36 2.5.2.10. “in” in English corresponds to “về” in Vietnamese …… 36 2.4.2.11. “in” in English corresponds to “vào” in Vietnamese …… 37 2.5.2.12. “in” in English corresponds to other Vietnamese Non-prepositional Expressions……………………………… 37 2.5.2.3. Summary ……………………………………………………… 39 2.5.3. Similarities and Differences between English and Vietnamese Spatial Cognition ………………………………………………………… 2.5.3.1. Similarities ……………………………………………………. 2.5.3.2. Differences ……………………………………………………. 40 40 40 vii CONCLUSION ……………………………………………………………… 42 1. Conclusions ……………………………………………………………… 42 2. Pedagogical Implications ………………………………………………… 43 3. Limitations of the Research and Suggestions for Further Research ………. 45 REFERENCES ………………………………………………………… APPENDIX ………………………………………………………………… 46 I 1 INTRODUCTION 1. Statement of the problem There is a well-established fact that learners of English as a Foreign Language more often than not confront a great many difficulties in actively mastering the language. As a general rule, they seemingly hold the view that English notional categories, namely nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs are crucial, hence striving to learn as many of them as possible, and that such functional categories as prepositions are of minor significance because they are limited in number and their meanings are not important to the meaning of the whole sentence. What is more, the traditional view considers that all the senses of a preposition are highly arbitrary and are not related to one another. As a matter of fact, both dictionaries and grammars provide long lists of unrelated senses for each preposition and its possible uses in different contexts. In other words, EFL learners resort to a great many linguistic materials whose authors have made monumental efforts to describe this type of words on the grounds of only functions and positions other than semantic factors contributing to determining their choices in use. For the above reasons, prepositions are generally troublesome to the learners for whom English is a foreign/second language (Celce-Murcia and Larsen-Freeman, 1999). Boers and Demecheleer (1998) argue that prepositions are difficult for ESL/EFL learners because they have literal as well as figurative meanings. For instance, we say, we are at the hospital; or we visit a friend who is in the hospital, or we lie in bed but on the couch. Actually, much work has been done in the last decades to find a relationship between the different senses of English prepositions. Cognitive Linguistics has paid great attention to polysemy, and specifically to the meaning of prepositions (Lindner, 1982; Vandeloise, 1991; Pütz & Dirven, 1996; Tyler & Evans, 2003). Interestingly, cognitive linguists, especially cognitive semanticists have been making momentous contribution to explaining polysemy in terms of radial categories (Lakoff, 1987) and therefore consider that the meaning of a polysemous word can be seen as a big semantic network of related senses. Furthermore, it now seems evident that there is a highly schematic common core to all the related senses of a preposition, which all derive from a primary spatial schema or proto-scene (Tyler & Evans, 2003) to other non-spatial, abstract senses “by means of generalization or specialization of meaning or by metonymic or metaphoric transfer” (Cuyckens & Radden, 2002) 2 It is also worth noting that cognitive semantics is concerned with investigating the relationship between experience, the conceptual system, and the semantic structure encoded by language (Lakoff, 1987). To put it plainly, cognitive semanticists have employed language as the lens through which these cognitive phenomena can be investigated. As fas as spatial prepositions are concerned, cross-language research in cognitive semantics has shown that although spatial cognition exists in any language, there are differences in strategies of spatial conceptualization employed by people using each language. In other words, it is evident that human experiences with space are held to be identical, since human beings are endowed with the same biological features and can be exposed to similar experiences with the environment. The linguistic encoding of spatial concepts in different languages is, however, different (Choi & Bowerman, 1991; Levinson, 2001) The preposition in represents one of the most typical spatial prepositions in English. Vietnamese EFL learners in general and those at the Military Science Academy in particular are almost not sure when in is acceptably used. Additionally, it can be observed that they just tend to apply straightforward correspondence to prepositions in their mother tongue; for instance, English preposition in means trong in Vietnamese, on means trên, for means cho, to name just a few – irrespective of complements that are attached to the prepositions, and they think the job is done. Apparently, the magnitude of this error is so enormous that it may delay the fluent native-like mastery of the target language. Accordingly, it is essential to grasp the related meanings of the English preposition in within the framework of cognitive semantics and in this way immensely understand what native English speakers conceptualize spatial relations of the physical world objects and how they map from these spatial domains to non-spatial domains via metaphor and metonymy. Moreover, how this preposition can be translated in to Vietnamese when they are in different collocations have so far not been thoroughly investigated. The present thesis hopes to contribute to the on-going research into how different languages express the various spatial relations that can hold between entities in the world. Last but not least, teachers can apply appropriate teaching methods to help students master the meanings of prepositions. Besides indispensable roles of the teachers in the students’ learning achievements, students should be provided with suitable learning strategies to better language competence as well as cross-cultural awareness. 3 For all the above-mentioned reasons, it is strongly desirable for the author to conduct this thesis. 2. Aims of the study The current thesis aims at - uncovering a semantic description of the English preposition in in light of cognitive semantics - investigating potential Vietnamese equivalents of the English preposition in - embarking on pedagogical implications for teaching, learning and translating English prepositions. 3. Scope of the study The study is limited to investigating senses of the English preposition in and their Vietnamese equivalents within cognitive semantic theoretical framework. Not only prototypical but also derived meanings of the preposition motivated from image-schema transformations and metaphorical conceptual mappings will be taken into account. This investigation is based on my manual corpus of 681 in-examples in form of (NP) + in + NP and NP + V + in + NP, where in functions as a preposition, to the exlusion of others where in plays the role of an adverb or an affix. The data were collected from three sources, namely, the English versions of Vanity Fair by Thackeray, W. M., Jane Eyre by Brontë, C., and English-Vietnamese translation course books for third and fourth- year English majors at the MSA. Vietnamese equivalents of those 681 in-occurrences were also identified and grouped in terms of frequency and percentage to explore differences and similarities between English and Vietnamese spatial conceptualization and cognition. 4. Significance of the study This thesis, to some extent, enumerates strong evidence in cognitive semantics that the typically English preposition in possesses numerous but related senses, suggesting that the use of a particular word reflects the way in which native English speakers conceptualize the physical world basing on their experience. Additionally, the thesis takes a comparative stance and looks for cross-linguistic equivalents. Potential Vietnamese equivalents of this preposition investigated in the current study will probably construe how Vietnamese people convey spatial meanings. The thesis hopes to contribute to the overall stock of cognitive semantic studies on prepositions from a cross-linguistic perspective. The findings of the study, as a result, will substantially contribute to language teaching and 4 learning English as well as English-Vietnamese translation. The results and data may also be useful for lexicographers when compiling new general and specialized dictionaries. 5. Research questions The following questions are proposed in the current research: - What meanings are conveyed by the English preposition in from a cognitive semantic perspective? - What are Vietnamese equivalents of the English preposition in? This study in turn, hopes to contribute to enriching pedagogical proposals for teaching English prepositions and translation of prepositions to English major students at the MSA. 6. Design of the study The present paper is organized in four main parts. The INTRODUCTION part is devoted to presenting statement of the problem, aims of the study, scope of the study, significance of the study, research questions and organization of the study. The DEVELOPMENT part is subdivided into two chapters: CHAPTER 1 discusses the general theoretical background of the study and CHAPTER 2, the backbone of the thesis, comprises the methods of the study, data collection, analytical framework, data analysis, findings and discussion. The CONCLUSION part demonstrates the conclusions of this piece of research, pedagogical implications, and suggestions for further studies. References are also included. 46 REFERENCES In Vietnamese 1. Nguyễn Đức Dân (1988), Lôgích của từ nối trong tiếng Việt và các ngôn ngữ Đông Nam Á, Nxb Khoa học Xã hội, Hà Nội. 2. Đào Thản (1983), “Cứ liệu từ vựng ngữ nghĩa tiếng Việt về mối quan hệ không gian thời gian”, Ngôn ngữ (3) 3. Lý Toàn Thắng (1994), “Ngôn ngữ và sự tri nhận không gian”, Ngôn ngữ (4). 4. Lý Toàn Thắng (2005), Ngôn ngữ học tri nhận, từ lý thuyết đại cương đến thực tiễn tiếng Việt, Nxb Khoa học Xã Hội, Hà Nội. 5. Lý Toàn Thắng (2006), Hai hình thức phản ánh và hai cách nhìn không gian trong ngôn ngữ. 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The Semantics of English Prepositions Spatial Scenes, Embodied Meaning and Cognition, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 49 Vandeloise, C (1991), Spatial Prepositions: A Case Study from French, Chicago: University of Chicago Press 50 Zelinsky-Wibbelt, C (ed) (1993), The Semantics of Prepositions: From Mental Processing to Natural Language Processing, Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter ... Application, New York: Plenum Press 45 Talmy, L (2000), Toward a Cognitive Semantics Volume I: Concept Structuring Systems, Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press 46 Taylor, J R (1989), Linguistic Categorization Prototypes in Linguistic Theory, Oxford: Oxford University Press 47 Taylor, J R (2002), Cognitive Grammar, Oxford: Oxford University Press 48 Tyler, A and Evans, V (2003), The Semantics of English . investigating its potential Vietnamese equivalents based on the theoretical framework of cognitive semantics. The present analysis posits that meanings of in are not arbitrary; rather they are systematically. collection, analytical framework, data analysis, findings and discussion. The CONCLUSION part demonstrates the conclusions of this piece of research, pedagogical implications, and suggestions for. metaphorical mappings from spatial domains to non-spatial and abstract domains. In addition, it is interesting to note that in can correspond to not only prepositions but also other non-prepositional
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