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English and Vietnamese Language Comparison


A Contrastive Evaluation of Metaphors Associated with Some Upper Parts of Human Body between British and Vietnamese


This paper presents the results of a study on metaphors associated with some upper elements of body between British and Vietnamese. You will discover four upper parts of human body involves eye, nose, ear canal and mouth area are chosen for data analysis. Nguyen Hoa (2004) classification of metaphors derive from their degree of unexpectedness. The results show that living metaphors, faded metaphors and useless metaphors are three main types of metaphors. Also, metaphors are varied from one terms to another scheduled to people's life experience, world views or people's cognition of the exterior world and the dialect users' culture.

  1. Introduction

One of the very most essential functions of vocabulary is to name the planet or express individuals thoughts through a system of concepts. Regardless, the concepts portrayed through words do not are present in seclusion from one another. Or maybe, they can be found cooperatively in the vocabulary and make up a giant network with numerous interconnections and relationship among the different subparts. Among these interconnections includes metaphor, the understanding of one principle regarding another.

Metaphor is not only found in literary or poetic terms but also utilized in everyday conversational dialect. It could be seen that metaphor is employed to express ideas sensibly and vividly as it offers great expressive electric power. Furthermore, it also have an overabundance of of the real human feeling, feelings and attitude towards what's said as opposed to the non-metaphorical.

One interesting idea in the terms is that individuals surely got to know their own body and provided labels to its parts. And then the human beings began comparing the encompassing things using their own body and finding common features in the process of cognition of the world. Therefore the labels of some upper parts of human body are used in refer many other things in the real world. These are personified to own the same brands with the some higher parts of human body. For example, in English the term "foot" denotes to the cheapest area of the human being and then on it is metaphorically used to denote to the lowest part of several things, for example, "the foot of the hill".

Not only in British but also in Vietnamese also use of metaphors, so, many words referring elements of human body are also used metaphorically. For example, the term "chn" in Vietnamese equivalent to the word "foot" in English is employed as a metaphor to denote to the lowest area of the hill: "Chn Ä'a»"i".

The way specific words, however, are used is not always the same in both dialects. For instance, the word "eye" in British is metaphorically used to denote to the opening of the needle, as the expression "maº¯t" in Vietnamese is not found in such a way. It is metaphorically, however, used to denote to holes of an woven container in another circumstance.

E. g. Vision of the needle vs Maº¯t ra».

It can be inferred that what denoting some top parts of body of a human are used metaphorically in British and Vietnamese and just how each word can be used is assorted in both languages. The way metaphors are being used is because of people's life experience, world views and the words users' culture. So metaphors are assorted from one terms to some other.

There are some questions arise: "How are the words denoting upper parts of human body used metaphorically in both British and Vietnamese?", "How much are they similar?" and "How much do they change from one another?". For this reasons, the analysis titled "A contrastive evaluation of metaphors associated with some upper parts of human body between British and Vietnamese" will be answer the questions mentioned.

  1. Literature review

2. 1. What is metaphor?

Metaphor that originates from the Greek for "transference". According to Vo Dai Quang (2003, p. 33), metaphor is "word meaning transference based on similarity between a couple of things in regards to function, character, size, shape, years, coloring, etc. " As the next example:

E. g. She actually is a snake.

That is, the term "snake" has negative connotation since it is regarded as very dangerous and poisonous to people. Basing upon this meaning, it is transferred to mention to the type of any person to imply she is an unhealthy person. The similarity in this example between an creature and a person is about the character. Hence, this explanation is clear and parabolic.

However, there's a question to be posed "why do folks have to use such an implicit way to convey the idea?". Regarding to Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary (1995, p. 734), metaphor is thought as "the imaginative use of your phrase or a term to describe someone/something as another thing in order to indicate that they have the same characteristics and as to make the information more forceful". This classification is not as cleared as the above mentioned -mentioned explanation about the relationship of similarity, however, it takes the use and the effect of metaphor into consideration. If we say "She is a dangerous person", it is not as forceful to the hearer once we say "She is a snake". Furthermore, metaphor can convey the creativity of the terminology users so it is clearly better and effective in communication.

Metaphor also be defined as follows "an extension in the utilization of the term beyond its main meaning to spell it out referents that endure similarities to the word's primary referent"(Language-its framework and use, 1994). The term "extension" mentions to the meaning of the term that can be prolonged beyond its literal meaning. So metaphor here's dealt with as a means of creating and expanding so this means to depict other referents which act like the word's primary referent. Look at the above once more. The primary referent of the word "snake" is one type of dog and in this metaphor, it mentions to another referent that is clearly a risky person. This will be possible on the basis of the resemblance between the two referents.

The definition given by Barcelone (2000, p. 3) where metaphor is thought as "Metaphor is the cognitive device whereby one experiential domain name is partially mapped or projected onto another experiential domain so that the second domain name is partially understood in conditions of the first one". With this classification, metaphor is known as a conceptual projection whereby one experiential area is known regarding another. The type of your person, in the aforementioned example, is grasped regarding a figure of any snake.

Generally, metaphor mentioned previously is viewed from different perspectives. Basically, it is the way we call one subject by the name of another because we compare these items and pick up some typically common features between them.

It is essential to distinguish "metaphor", "simile" and "metonymy" because they are strongly related. To commence with, "metaphor and simile" are forms of comparison. We compare two unlike things collectively in two ways. Metaphor, however, is concealed assessment and simile is the open up comparison. Take the following examples:

E. g. Tom is the top of the division.

Tom is similar to the head of the section.

The word "head" implies one part of body that comprise the mind and can control the activity of the rest of the body. With this above example, the term "head" means to people taking the controlling function as the leader in the division. It can be grasped implicitly in the first example and in the second one, it could be understood explicitly. Putting it on the level, metaphor is an formula and simile is an approximation. Obviously, they take different worth and effects to the hearer.

Metaphor and metonymy are two types of transference of interpretation. One object is known as and comprehended regarding another. Metaphor, however, is based on the connection of similarity while metonymy is based on the association of contiguity. Go through the two following illustrations:

E. g. She actually is the head of the department

Two heads are much better than one

In the first example, the term "head" refers to the leader which is can be realized about the similarity of function; the head of body and the leader of the division carry the mission to control the others parts of the full. In contrast, the term "heads" in the second example identifies "people" because they are related to each other- mind is one part of body. It can be done based on part-whole relation where the name of the part can be used to make reference to the whole.

Obviously, metaphor relates to simile and metonymy but it is quite recognized from them. Furthermore, how metaphors function in words and they are labeled will be confirmed as follow.

2. 2. Functions of metaphors

Metaphors are diverse in terms of ideals and functions in dialect, however, in this research only three basic functions distributed by a Vietnamese vocabulary specialist, Dinh Trong Lac(1994, p. 53), are pointed out. According to him, there are three basic functions of metaphors specifically naming, cognitive and symbolic functions and basing upon this they can group metaphors together.

2. 2. 1. Naming function

Firstly, the function of metaphors discussed is to mention things. This is merely the technical methods to utilize the ready- made vocabulary to offer names to various things basing on the similarity between them. For example, the lowest part of the mountain is recognized as the foot of the mountain as the ft. on the human body is the cheapest part. These metaphors are of minimal or very little rhetoric value nonetheless they can reflect how things on the planet are seen mutually. These are just planned to provide brands to things basing on the experience with the existing vocabulary.

2. 2. 2. Cognitive function

Secondly, the function of metaphors is to cognize or conceptualize things. These metaphors do not offer new titles to things however conceptualize them so far as another. These metaphors performs between two domains, one domain name is conceptualized regarding another. For example, in the domain of weather, when it is sunny, the sun is dazzling and brings captivating weather that can make people cheerful and agreeable. So the phrase "sunny" has positive value which is exchanged to go over the mood of individuals as in the next illustration.

E. g. By enough time he seen the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, John was in a sunny feeling.

That is, John experienced extremely cheerful and optimistic. Hereby, the real human mood is conceptualized and comprehended under what about weather. These metaphors are similarly normal and of little rhetoric impact.

2. 2. 3. Symbolic function

Lastly, the function of metaphors is to symbolize things. This function is usually regarded as the traditional function of metaphors. For example, the blossom regularly symbolizes for the wonder. So it is frequently set alongside the woman's beauty.

E. g. Beauty is a rose which wrinkles will devour.

In these illustration, the flower is set alongside the beauty of female that will devour like the blossom. This kind of metaphors echo the imaginative and creative way individuals determine and clarify things, which can make their words more expressive and persuasive. They are really popular in poetic words. All in all, metaphors present three major functions in dialect which are naming, cognitive and symbolic functions. Basing on that, metaphors associated with upper elements of human body are in the first group which are used to give brands to things on the planet.

2. 3. Forms of metaphors

Metaphors can be labeled basing on their degree of unexpectedness. Matching to Nguyen Hoa (2004, p. 109), there are three main varieties of metaphors namely living metaphors, faded metaphors and deceased metaphors.

2. 3. 1. Living metaphors

When a expression is sudden and quite unstable is called living metaphor. It is utilized in unusual meaning and metaphor is easily acknowledged by the hearer. It is created and utilized by individuals.

E. g. She actually is my sun

It is seen that the sun lights our globe by day, which can makes people's life brighter and much more joyful. Hence, when a people who's thought to make the other's life brighter and more joyful is viewed as "the sun". These metaphors are called creative or poetic metaphors as it demonstrates the creative use of words and they are appended to the symbolic functions as stated above are especially utilized in books and poetry. They are not common in day-to-day language utilization. They are occasionally called genuine metaphors becauseit is the common sense when people discuss metaphors plus they have great rhetoric influence on the hearer.

2. 3. 2. Faded metaphors

Metaphor which lost its freshness because of long use and traditional use and became habitual in daily words usage. For example, silver is one type of very valuable material so when people mention the adjective "golden", it implies that something manufactured from yellow metal. Besides, it is say that "golden youth", it means that the adolescent in a man's life is also as valuable as gold. Metaphors are so normal in each day language that they are sometimes not experienced as metaphors. These metaphors can result in polysemy of so many words in words. One of the functions examined, they are mounted on the naming and cognitive functions.

2. 3. 3. Dead metaphors

Dead metaphor- where metaphoric sense is not sensed by any means because they have lost their indirect interpretation and are used only figuratively. For instance, the term "capital" in English used to mean the top which is recognized as the most significant part on the human body. So that it was metaphorically used to refer to the main city or town of the country which is usually the center of administration. Hence, it was metaphorically used to make reference to the most important city or town of a nation which is normally the guts of government. But now the term "capital" is not used literally as the head of the human body, however, it just means the capital of the united states as in the sentence: "Paris is the capital of France". These metaphors do not make up many in dialect. Indeed, these metaphors are difficult or almost impossible to be named metaphors.

In basic, there are three principle types of metaphors which you live, faded and deceased metaphors. In short, metaphors relating to parts of human body are called faded metaphors given that they become the means of everyday language to provide titles to things on earth.

  1. Aim and aims of the study

This research is conducted with the goals of theoretical and functional. Theoretically is suggested to give a profound and methodical review on the metaphorical uses of words indicating upper elements of human body in both English and Vietnamese and attempt to clarify the reasons why the words are utilized as a part of such ways. Meantime, it is gone for finding the features that English and Vietnamese impart to and vary from one another in the utilization of metaphors associated with upper elements of body.

Practically is suggested to empower learners of British with an understanding into metaphors associated with upper elements of body in English and additionally in their mom tongue so they can improve their vocabulary of the dialect they are really learning and decipher them effectively in communication or translate them well into their own mom tongue and vice versa.

  1. Research methodology

4. 1. Strategy designed for the study

Here both dialects to be specific British and Vietnamese are compared and contrasted. With this contrastive analysis, British is dealt with as the instrumental terms and Vietnamese is the target language. In this manner, any cases of metaphors relating to upper elements of human body in British will be registered and examined first and from then on they will be compared and contrasted with Vietnamese to discover the similarities and distinctions between the two dialects.

4. 2. Methods of the study

This analysis is conducted with a mixture of the comparative and contrastive. First of all, the theoretical track record of metaphors will be given discussed through the basic readings of related materials. Besides, once general theories receive, the info about specific circumstances of metaphors associated with upper parts of human body in two languages used for illustration will be accumulated from different resources of data, for example, dictionaries, books, daily papers, newspapers furthermore sensible observation. Thirdly, it is to find the typical examples and assess them. In the meantime, comparative and contrastive techniques will be used to discover the common and the distinguished features in the use of metaphors relating to upper elements of human body between English and Vietnamese. Finally, some conclusions will be made in what has been examined and compared.

4. 3. Metaphors associated with some upper elements of human body in British and Vietnamese

4. 3. 1. Metaphors relating to "eyesight" in British and "maº¯t" in Vietnamese

We can certainly find some typically common features in the metaphorical use of what denoting eyes between your two languages. First of all, our sight are rounded and small in shape, in two dialects, the two words "eye" and "maº¯t" imply to the shape of an potato. It includes many circled and many small spot on it.

For example: In English: Eyeball of the potato

In Vietnamese: Maº¯t khoai ty

(English-Vietnamese Dictionary, 1993, p. 581)

Moreover, the word "maº¯t" in Vietnamese is make reference to many small and rounded-shaped things on the peel off of many sorts of fruit and things. On the other hand, the term "eye" in British is not make reference to these cases. Go through the table below.

Table 1:

In English

In Vietnamese

None in English

Maº¯t tre, maº¯t mia, maº¯t lÆa»i, maº¯t da»a, maº¯t xich, maº¯t ra», etc. .

However, the word "eye" in English denote the eye-shaped spots on the tail of the peacock and little bit of metal used together with a hook to be able to fasten clothes. For instance, "Eye of the peacock's tail" (Vocabulary, p. 26), "Hook and eyesight of the gown" (Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary, 1995, p. 410)

In British and Vietnamese, when we see into someone's eyes and the central position of the eyes when we see around, the words "eye" and "maº¯t" make reference to the centre of the cyclone and wind blows. For instance, in British: "Eye of the storm", "Eye of the wind flow" while in Vietnamese: "Maº¯t bão" (English-Vietnamese Dictionary, 1993, p. 581)

Another interesting point is usually that the world becomes bright and clear when we open our eyes and see and when the sun rises and opens on the day, the world is also sheeny. Hence, the British calls the sun "the attention of your day". In the same way, the English also message or calls "the private attention" when our sight has function of observing others secretly to get information. However, Vietnamese hasn't these interesting features such as English.

4. 3. 2. Metaphors relating to "nasal area" in English and "mÅi" in Vietnamese

First of all, the nose which is the front part directing in shape so it used to make reference to the front pointed part of any airplane. For instance, in British: "He brought the aircraft's nostril up and made a perfect landing", whereas in Vietnamese "Anh ta lai mÅi may bay lên và tha»±c hia»‡n via»‡c haº¡ canh hoàn haºЈo" (English-Vietnamese Dictionary, 1993, p. 1140)

Another interesting is that Vietnamese used the word "mÅi" to be able to denote to part of some tools or objects. In contrast, the term "nose" in British is not found in such a means. To understand plainly about the lexemes "nose" and "mÅi", the below stand will be illustrate.

Table 2:

In English

In Vietnamese

nose of airplane

none in English

nose of any car

none in English

mÅi may bay

mÅi Cà Mau

none in Vietnamese

mÅi kim

Especially, the word "mÅi" in Vietnamese is figuratively used to make reference to the forward path of the harm of the soldiers. But English will not show this interesting feature such as Vietnamese.

4. 3. 3. Metaphors relating to "hearing" in English and "tai" in Vietnamese

The ears are of organ of hearing, they will be the small and curved parts that locate at the sides of the top. The two lexemes "ear" and "tai" in both languages are used in metaphors to denote to the parts of things which have the similar features. However, they are used to denote to do not the same in some instances. The table below will be illustrate.

Table 3:

In English

In Vietnamese

none in English

none in English

none in English

ear of the corn

ear of any newspaper

ear of the jug

tai naº¥m

tai bèo

tai ca»'i xay

none in Vietnamese

none in Vietnamese

tai bình Ä'a»±ng nÆa»c

In the above table, there are some similar in both languages in the manner that what referring the ear are being used to denote to the small and curved part privately of a container such as jug and cup. But the expression "tai" in some instances Vietnamese is used to denote to the two parts on both attributes of the mortar in the appearance "tai ca»'i xay". In contrast, the word "ear" in British is not used to share this. Similarly, the term "tai" in Vietnamese is employed to denote to the bud of any mushroom while the phrase "ear" in English is not used to talk about it. However, just as, it is employed to denote to the small part of any corn in the manifestation "ear of a corn". Another interesting is the fact the term "ear" is used to denote to the trivial and short piece of a publication in the expression "ear of a newspaper" but the comparative do not are present in Vietnamese. Generally, there are a few common and distinguished features in the metaphorical use of what denoting the oral cavity between the English and Vietnamese.

4. 3. 4. Metaphors relating to "oral cavity" in English and "mia»‡ng" in Vietnamese

In both in British and Vietnamese, you'll find so many common features in the metaphorical use of the words denoting the mouth area. It can be seen that whenever we start the mouth, it could work as the passage for the nourishment or drink to visit in. So, the term "mouth" and "mia»‡ng", in both languages, are being used to make reference to the available part of something especially storage containers by which we can place things in. For instance, in English: "A decorative pattern round the mouth area of the bag. " (Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary, 1995, p. 760)

That is, the carrier is one kind of storage containers and we place something in it through the available and front side part from it called "the mouth". Similarly, the term "mia»‡ng túi" in Vietnamese is equivalent to this case in English. However, the equivalents of the two words "mouth" and "mia»‡ng do not exist in both British and Vietnamese. For example, the word "mouth" in British is used to denote to the wide open part of your cave or river, whereas the word "mia»‡ng" in Vietnamese is employed to denote to the open part of an injury. And below are a few examples:

Table 4:

In English

In Vietnamese

none in English

mouth of the river

none in English

mouth of the architect

mouth of the box

mia»‡ng ăn

none in Vietnamese

mia»‡ng vaº¿t thÆÆ¡ng

none in Vietnamese

mia»‡ng ha»p

In short, there are a few similarities and variations in the use of what denoting the mouth area between the two languages.

  1. Results and discussion

All in every, the discoveries about the similarities and dissimilarities in the metaphors associated with upper elements of human body has clearly demonstrated the common and distinguished features in the manner in which English and Vietnamese think and view the world encompassing them. In both countries, people all understand parts of their body well in form, position, function, etcand relate these features to top features of things on the globe to mention them by utilizing the labels of upper parts of the body. In the precise instances, however, they utilize a certain word about a part of body to send things are not always exactly like they think and view the world in another way. Furthermore, people in each country have their own way and habitat of using the language creatively which means this prompts to the distinctions in the metaphors in the both languages. For these reason, the lifetime of similarities and variations in the metaphors associated with upper parts of body in two languages are sensible and understandable. In addition, metaphors associated with upper parts of human body can help to create new meanings that enrich the vocabulary in two dialects. Another interesting is the fact "metaphor is one kind of personification" (Nguya». . . n Văn Chiaº¿n, 1992) because everything on earth is not observed in but in the relationship with humans. This means that things on earth are always within the associative eyes of individuals.

I hoped that the studies about the basic metaphors associated with upper elements of human body in this analysis will help students not only to acquire these interesting and popular use of the words but also to motivate them in their further language study.

  1. Summary

This study has provided a systematic and clear view on metaphors associated with upper elements of body in British and Vietnamese. First of all, words denoting upper parts of body are popularly found in metaphor in both dialects. Second of all, the metaphors, generally, relating to them rely upon the similar organizations of the semantic features. The referents, however, they are used to refer in specific situations aren't always similar. Lastly, the more frequently the words are being used in metaphors, the greater similar features metaphors associated with them in English and Vietnamese show.

If I've an opportunity in the foreseeable future, my future research could be conducted to review the metaphorical use of what denoting lower, medial and inside parts of human body and the different metaphorical use of the words referring body parts when they function in other parts of speech such as verbs, adjectives, etc. I am hoping that this scope will become more various and significant and the reader will have a broader view concerning this interesting subject between your two languages.

  1. Implications

The results of this study can help suggest the next implications:

  • In teaching English, understanding metaphors associated with some upper parts of body can help learner discover the interconnection between your metaphorical so this means and the literal meaning of the word to find the new meaning for themselves.
  • As reviewed above, there are many similarities and variations in the metaphorical use of words denoting some top parts of human body between English and Vietnamese, hence the translators need to be aware of this in the process translation. That's, translators must stay away the word-for-word translation while translating these lexemes because they are differently utilized in each terminology, by people in each land.



Barcelona, Antonio(2000). Metaphor and metonymy at the crossroads. Berlin and NY: Mouton de Gruyter.

Crowther J. (1995). Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary. Oxford College or university Press

E. Finegan. Vocabulary: Its Structure and Use, 2nd ed. Harcourt Brace, 1994.

Quang, Vo Dai(2003). Semantics. Vietnam National University, College of Foreign Languages.

Hoa, Nguyen(2004). Understanding British Semantics. Vietnam Country wide University, College of Foreign Language.

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