a study on semantic features of english adjectives denoting “big” with reference to their vietnamese equivalents

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MINISTRY OF EDUCATION AND TRAINING HANOI OPEN UNVERSITY + PHÙNG THỊ THANH THỦY A STUDY ON SEMANTIC FEATURES OF ENGLISH ADJECTIVES DENOTING “BIG” WITH REFERENCE TO THEIR VIETNAMESE EQUIVALENTS (NGHIÊN CỨU VỀ ĐẶC TRƯNG NGỮ NGHĨA CỦA TÍNH TỪ TIẾNG ANH BIỂU THỊ KHÁI NIỆM “TO LỚN” VÀ LIÊN HỆ VỚI TIẾNG VIỆT) M.A THESIS Hanoi, 2016 MINISTRY OF EDUCATION AND TRAINING HANOI OPEN UNVERSITY PHÙNG THỊ THANH THỦY A STUDY ON SEMANTIC FEATURES OF ENGLISH ADJECTIVES DENOTING “BIG” WITH REFERENCE TO THEIR VIETNAMESE EQUIVALENTS (NGHIÊN CỨU VỀ ĐẶC TRƯNG NGỮ NGHĨA CỦA TÍNH TỪ TIẾNG ANH BIỂU THỊ KHÁI NIỆM “TO LỚN” VÀ LIÊN HỆ VỚI TIẾNG VIỆT) M.A THESIS Field: English Language Code: 60220201 Supervisor: Ph.D Lưu Thị Phương Lan Hanoi, 2016 CERTIFICATE OF ORIGINALITY I, the undersigned, hereby certify my authority of the study project report entitled A Study on Semantic features of English Adjectives denoting “Big” with reference to Vietnamese equivalents 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 Phùng Thị Thanh Thủy Approved by SUPERVISOR Lưu Thị Phương Lan Date: 28/ 11/ 2016 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 Ph.D Lan Luu Thi Phuong, 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 colleagues and many others, without whose support and encouragement it would never have been possible for me to have this thesis accomplished Last but not least, I am greatly indebted to my family, especially my mother for the sacrifice they have devoted to the fulfillment of this academic work ii ABSTRACT English is, at this moment, the most common language in the world Therefore, there has been a lot of research to make comparison between the meaning of the word in English and corresponding in Vietnamese The comparison range means “Big” of the adjective would more practical applications, especially, in teaching Indeed, the adjectives, however, cannot occur in just any order, and native speakers of English have very particular intuitions about what order is more correct, even if they have never been explicitly taught ordering rules In this study, I describe the adjective have meaning denoting “Big” and compare with synonym in Vietnamese After learning and researching about my thesis, I prove the existence of using English adjectives denoting “Big” with reference to their Vietnamese equivalents Additionally, I want to give a briefly discussion about the prosodic differences between English and Vietnamese adjectives as well as a development about semantic theory that describes how pre-nominal adjectives are ordered based on their semantic properties, with adjectives that depict “intrinsic” properties closer to the noun, and adjectives that are “speaker relative” in a more distant position In the theory, the use of multiple adjectives is described as being equivalent to a sequential series of restrictions placed on the set of properties for a given noun iii TABLE OF CONTENT CERTIFICATE OF ORIGINALITY .i ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ii ABSTRACT iii TABLE OF CONTENT iv LIST OF TABLE vii Chapter INTRODUCTION 1.1 Rationale for the research 1.2 Aims of the research 1.3 Objectives of the research 1.4 Scope of the research 1.5 Significance of the research 1.6 Structure of thesis Chapter LITERATURE REVIEW 2.1 Review of previous studies 2.1.1 Previous studies overseas 2.1.2 Previous studies in Vietnam 10 2.2 Theoretical background 11 2.2.1 Theory of semantics 11 2.2.2 Theory of adjectives 12 2.2.2.1 Definitions of adjectives 12 2.2.2.2 Adjective Ordering 14 2.2.3 Synonyms 23 2.2.4 Context 25 iv 2.2.5 Collocation Range 26 Chapter 31 METHODOLOGY 31 3.1 Research-governing orientations 31 3.1.1 Research approaches 31 3.2 Research methods 35 3.2.1 Major methods and supporting methods 35 3.2.3 Data analysis techniques 36 3.3 Summary 37 Chapter 38 FINDINGS AND DISCUSSION 38 4.1 Preamble 38 4.1.1 Adjectives in English 38 4.1.2 Adjectives in Vietnamese 39 4.2 Semantic features of adjectives denoting “Big” in English 40 4.2.1 “Big” in Size, Dimension, or Space 40 4.2.2 “Big” in Number or Amount 42 4.2.3 “Big” in Degree 44 4.2.4 “Big” in Value, Significance or Importance 46 4.3 Relative frequency of occurrence of adjectives denoting “Big” in English 49 4.3.1 Frequency of Occurrence of Adjectives Denoting “Big” in English 49 4.3.2 Trend 50 4.4 Discussion of findings 51 4.4.1 English Adjectives Denoting “Big” and Their Vietnamese Equivalents 51 4.4.2 Conclusion 53 Chapter 54 CONCLUSION 54 v 5.1 Recapitulation 54 5.2 Concluding remarks 55 5.3 Limitations of the current research 56 5.4 Some implications for teaching and translating English adjectives denoting “Big” 56 5.4.1 Implication on the language teaching 56 5.4.2 Implication on translation work 57 5.5 Suggestions for further study 58 REFERENCES 59 BIBLIOGRAPHY 62 vi LIST OF TABLE Table 2.1 Inherent and non-inherent adjective……………………………… …… … 21 Table 4.1 “Big” in Size, Dimension and Space in English and Vietnamese… ….41 Table 4.2 “Big” in Number and Amount in English and Vietnamese……… … 43 Table 4.3 “Big” in Degree in English and Vietnamese………………… …………….45 Table 4.4 “Big” in Value, Significance or Importance in English and Vietnamese…….48 Table 4.5 The frequency of occurrence of value adjectives denoting “Big”……………50 Table 4.6 The summarizing table of adjectives denoting “Big” both in English and Vietnamese……………………………………………………………………………… 52 vii Chapter INTRODUCTION 1.1 Rationale for the research Many writers across the world agree that English is the “queen of languages” Indeed, English is generally acknowledged to be the world’s most important language There are thousands of different languages in the world, and each will seem uniquely important to those who speak it as their native language, the language they acquired at their mother’s knee, but English is still the world’s most widely used language It is indispensible that an English word often has various meanings depending on the context, and adjectives in English are no exceptions They can be appropriately applied to fully transmit the speaker’s thoughts and ideas Nevertheless, it is not easy for those who learn English as a second language to use them correctly and effectively In fact, most learners often feel confused with adjectives of the same denotation especially when they are used in various contexts since they fail to grasp the contextual meanings that are central to the interpretation of meaning There can be no denying that a general sense of one adjective can be adjusted by virtue of contextual factors and each context can make certain aspects of meaning vary interestingly Big is one of the most commonly used adjectives, and is used to modify or describe nouns both in colloquial and in scientific or academic discourses In some different contexts, the meaning of “Big” can be represented by virtue of different lexical devices Indeed, there are many English adjectives denoting the meaning of “Big” when used in varying contexts We use adjective Big in every day conversations with its common and general Table 4.4 “Big” in Value, Significance or Importance in English and Vietnamese The adjective The meaning in Vietnamese Humongous Dồi Husky Tráng kiện Jumbo Khổng lồ Mammoth Khổng lồ Monster Khổng lồ Oversize Quá cỡ Packed Chật cứng Ponderous Nặng Prodigious To lớn phi thường Thundering Vang rộng Voluminous Cồng kềnh Walloping To lớn Whopper To lớn Whopping To lớn For using in value, significance or importance, most adjective have same meaning and level So, using in this, the meaning of both languages is limited and general But English adjective is more abundant than Vietnamese’s 48 4.3 Relative frequency of occurrence of adjectives denoting “Big” in English 4.3.1 Frequency of Occurrence of Adjectives Denoting “Big” in English Descriptive adjectives, which account for 74.2 %, are more common adjectives expressing the big size or number of objects in English Valuable adjectives occupy 25.8 % Therefore, descriptive adjectives are nearly one and a half as popular as valuable adjectives when used to express the meaning of bigness It is easily understood because the number of descriptive adjectives investigated is one and a half as many as valuable adjectives denoting “Big” Big is used most often with the largest percentage (33.8 %) The second preferred adjectives are Great, Huge and Large, which account for 15.1%, 12.2% and 18.3%, respectively Those like Enormous and Vast take from 7.4% to 8.0% Other adjectives are allocated from 1.9% to 2.9% Among these adjectives, Bulky is the least popular Important is used the most frequently of all covering 32.4%, followed by big with 28.7% Other adjectives occupy from 4.6% to 16.6% The frequency of occurrence of valuable adjectives denoting “Big” is illustrated by this chart 49 Table 4.5 The frequency of occurrence of value adjectives denoting “Big” Adjectives denoting “Big” Percentage of frequency Big 33.8 % Great 15.1% Huge 12.2% Large 18.3% Enormous 7.4% ~ 8.0% Vast 7.4% ~ 8.0% Other adjective 1.9% ~ 2.9% 4.3.2 Trend The first thing that can be noticed is the significantly different number of occurrences of big compared with the other adjectives like large, great, huge or enormous Big is a predominating adjective which accounts for 33.8% of all occurrences while the others score modest percentages between 1.9 and 18.3% The reason is that big is the most common adjective in English, being used in different contexts, formal or informal and it denotes not only descriptive meaning but also valuable meaning towards objects, happenings, or events Great, huge, large are three adjectives having similar but lower ranges of usage compared with “Big” Their level of the bigness seems different 50 Secondly, it is not striking to notice that important is in the lead in the second group of semantic feature, followed by big and great Big is markedly more often used than any other adjectives, less popular than important but more common than considerable, mature or adult 4.4 Discussion of findings 4.4.1 English Adjectives Denoting “Big” and Their Vietnamese Equivalents In English, except Big, Large and Great, Huge is also a popular adjective denoting “Big” On analyzing the semantic characteristics of Huge, it is found that the meaning of very large in size is prominent or official The bigness in size of this word is more considerable than Big or Large Similarly, in Vietnamese, we have some common renditions such as khổng lồ or đồ sộ Compared with the aforesaid adjectives such as Big, Great or Large, it can be seen that Huge has a higher degree concealed in the meaning Therefore, the degree of bigness in meanings has a great influence on the rendition of meaning into the target language Clearly, instead of using the common renditions such as ‘to’, ‘to lớn’ in order to emphasize the shape of objects, the translator makes use of some Vietnamese equivalents to transfer these adjectives such as ‘khổng lồ, ‘đồ sộ’ Being used to describe the big shape of animal or people, Huge makes the readers feel the bigness of objects in several dimensions Normally, to express the quantity of something or people, the adjectives discussed above (e.g Huge, Vast, Grand, Powerful) are rarely used Instead, we tend to use exact numbers or apply typical adjectives denoting this sense in such circumstances Therefore, it is essential that this kind of adjectives be brought under discussion in this section 51 In terms of semantic analysis, the study divides English adjectives denoting “Big” into two groups The first group consists of adjectives expressing the descriptive meaning - Big in size or quantity of objects The second group belong to those that express the evaluative meaning - Big in degree and Big in value In comparison with the two above meaning categories, in this level, Big is considered based on subjective viewpoint of the writers Big in value, importance or significance is an interesting shade of meaning The investigation into this nuance meaning of English adjectives denoting “Big” has greatly contributed to the success of this thesis In this part, we have recognized such adjectives as important, adult, considerable, ample, immense or big with their interesting representation and corresponding equivalents So summary, the following table summarizes the Vietnamese adjectives denoting “Big”: Table 4.6 The summarizing table of adjectives denoting “Big” both in English and Vietnamese Meaning of “Big” Vietnamese adjectives Size, Dimension, or Space To lớn, khổng lồ, Bao la, … Number or Amount Đầy đặn, vượt mức… Degree Quan trọng, cốt yếu, … Value, Significance or Importance Đầy đặn, lớn lao… 52 4.4.2 Conclusion In conclusion, the following remarks can be drawn from the findings: In both English and Vietnamese, the level of bigness of objects is expressed by using adjectives denoting “Big” or generally speaking, by using synonyms of Big They are such descriptive adjectives as Big, large, great, huge, enormous, bulky, vast, and so on and such evaluable adjectives as big, important, great, considerable, mature, adult, etc in English These adjectives have their Vietnamese equivalents like to, to lớn, khổng lồ, đáng kể, quan trọng, rộng, cao lớn and so on In general, Vietnamese equivalents almost keep their original meaning of English adjectives with the exception of some slight differences in shifts of meaning The number of Vietnamese equivalents to adjectives denoting “Big” in English is not too large, which enables learners or translators to find out suitable equivalents without great difficulties Generally, the differences between adjectives denoting “Big” in English and their Vietnamese equivalents create certain difficulties for learners and helping them to overcome these obstacles to reach a thorough understanding is necessary For this reason, these conclusions will be used as a background for implications for teaching and learning English in the next chapter 53 Chapter CONCLUSION 5.1 Recapitulation This study has been aimed to investigate the semantic meanings embedded in “Big” and its synonyms, and simultaneously to put forward their translational equivalents in Vietnamese The study is developed on the base of some linguist’s concepts of semantic and their viewpoints on adjectives denoting “Big” in English such as Harford and Hensley (2001), Lyon (1996), Crystal (1992) and is especially under the influence of Quirk and Green Baum (1972) The study considers their viewpoints on adjectives and adjectives denoting “Big” in English as the criteria to investigate such adjectives as great, huge, large, vast, enormous, bulky, important, or mature, considerable The followings are what the study has reached in the course of investigating: There are many ways of expressing the shade of meaning ‘Bigness’ in English by means of vocabulary or lexical devices, metaphor, metonymy, comparison Among means of vocabulary, adjectives are more preferable Many adjectives with different degree of popularity can be used to express the bigness but this study only investigates the above-mentioned adjectives due to time constraints and shortage of reference sources Semantically, there are many similar semantic features in both languages, that is, no marked difference in representation of meaning between these adjectives denoting “Big” in English and their Vietnamese equivalents can be found In general, English adjectives and Vietnamese adjectives express the same meaning with the exception of some differences in shades of 54 meaning of certain adjectives 5.2 Concluding remarks As mentioned in the previous chapters, the thesis has so far studied the semantic features of adjectives denoting “Big” in terms to show inevitable close link between the superficial grammatical structure of using adjectives denoting “Big” and their underlying semantic features, 40 adjectives of this kind are collected, classified, analyzed A contrastive analysis is carried out to find out both similarities and differences in semantic features of English and Vietnamese adjectives denoting “Big” This aims at helping learners of English and Vietnamese as a foreign language understand and use these adjective phrases properly and effectively in reality In terms of semantic features, the meanings of all the collected adjectives denoting “Big” in English and Vietnamese could be expressed through many aspects In the light of this approach, adjectives containing “Big” are analyzed in forms of basing on cultural and geographic features in relation to their semantic features Both English and Vietnamese adjectives denoting “Big” have symbols relating to geographic features, cultural specifics and region Nevertheless, Vietnamese adjectives denoting “Big” use figurative meaning to complaint or sarcasm incisively while English ones have more gentle shade Moreover, when English adjectives denoting “Big” are close to daily life, Vietnamese ones have more historical features in their adjectives denoting “Big” The differences in semantic features of these adjectives denoting “Big” in English and Vietnamese cause some problems to the learners’ English learning Vietnamese as a foreign language and vice versa Therefore, from the result of the study, we would like to put forward some implications for the 55 possible better language teaching and learning 5.3 Limitations of the current research Despite my considerable efforts, certain limitations could be detected in this study due to time constraint and other unexpected factors The number of adjectives denoting “Big” in English and Vietnamese are found and discussed in this study is smaller than that in real-life use However, I hope that the serious work had well served the research questions as a contribution to the rich collection of other previous studies on the same area Owing to the limitation of my knowledge as well as time, my research stops here but I expect that it will be profoundly analyzed more by following people who are interested in idioms of comparisons 5.4 Some implications for teaching and translating English adjectives denoting “Big” 5.4.1 Implication on the language teaching With the scope of this study, we have dealt with some basic knowledge of importance of adjective in vocabulary system, recognition of the adjective Big and adjectives denoting “Big” The findings of the study may be beneficial to the language learners since they provide a good background to how to use the various meanings of these adjectives appropriately For language teaching, this study may prompt the need of encouraging students to exploit the diverse meaning of adjectives for the purpose of using adjectives flexibly and fully As discussed above, the meaning of the word is not determined by itself but by its relations with other linguistic elements Thus, we can only identify the meaning of the word when it is put in a specific context This may become a challenge for those who learn English as a second language Thus, this study 56 hopes to provoke learners’ awareness of considering the contexts in which the words are employed, especially the contexts where the shape of physical objects or the expression of mental feeling are embedded It can be inferred that when teaching the meaning of the word, the teacher should give specific situations or contexts reflecting exactly different meanings of a word, or direct students to necessary collocations in recognition of word meaning If the teacher only gives students Vietnamese equivalents of the meaning taught without context, this can create great difficulties for the students to understand them because one English lexeme could have one or more than one Vietnamese equivalents and vice versa, especially the case when adjectives denoting “Big” are followed by the noun Moreover, people are always affected by their mother tongue when they learn a foreign language Then, they often impose Vietnamese thinking on translating English words into Vietnamese Learners often apply rules of their mother tongue in the production of foreign language sentences whenever they are short of knowledge or they are careless As a result, that the translational equivalent becomes rigid is avoidable Hence, pointing out all the similarities and differences between two languages with the teachers’ help is necessary Lastly, the teachers should give as many chances for the learners to encounter the concerned word form as possible Furthermore, doing various exercises also help the learners use adjectives denoting “Big” effectively and vividly 5.4.2 Implication on translation work Firstly, when translating, the learners should have a thorough grasp of the contexts in which it is used to have suitable interpretations We should consider the texts in term of both its denotations and its connotations Grasping the right contexts, the translators may choose the most appropriate and relevant among the pool of meanings that it can convey the message 57 being implied They should examine if the Vietnamese equivalent can render all the implications of the author Then, the intention of the author should be taken into account Secondly, the learners should translate the text based on the meaning rather than form This will help the translated version convey the intended meaning of the original one Furthermore, besides the general meaning of being ‘big in size/dimension’ with ‘to, to lớn’ as their Vietnamese equivalents, adjectives denoting “Big” have a variety of equivalents Hence, translators may have to make the best choices when rendering the meaning of these adjectives into Vietnamese as presented in Chapter 5.5 Suggestions for further study The thesis can continue to be studied in the following ways: Semantic features of lexical devices denoting “Big” in English and their Vietnamese translational equivalents Cultural features of descriptive group of adjectives denoting “Big” Syntactic features and collocations of adjectives denoting “Big” Linguistic and cultural characteristics of adjectives denoting “Big” in idioms and proverbs 58 REFERENCES In English Alexander, L.G (1988) Longman English Grammar Hong Kong: Longman Amvela & Jackson.(2000) Words, Meaning and Vocabulary: An Introduction to Modern English Lexicology Arnold, L.(1986) The English Word Baker, M C (2003) Lexical Categories: Verbs, Nouns, and Adjectives Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press Bale, A (2009) A universal scale of comparison Linguistics and Philosophy 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into Semantic Features of Adjectives Denoting “Big” and Their Vietnamese Translational Equivalents 10 Nguyễn Thị Nga (2008) Semantic and Syntactic functions of English adjectivesA Contrastive Analysis with Their Vietnamese Equivalents 11 Trần Quang Long (2015) A Study of Linguistic Features of Adjectival Phrases Denoting Personality in English and Their Vietnamese Equivalents 62 ... compositional semantic analyses of various kinds of comparative constructions in terms of an initial analysis of gradable adjectives as vague property terms This approach has the advantage of explaining... seen it also has syntactic implications Gradable and non-gradable adjectives According to Longman English grammar (1998) adjectives can be also divided into gradable and non-gradable Most adjectives. .. paper on the topic: A study on semantic features of English adjectives denoting “Big” with reference to their Vietnamese equivalents On that foundation, I would like to study and compare the
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