1. Rationale of the study
1.1. Social relationships are a
great concern of a number of researchers due to their human and scientific
values. Friendship, love and relationships are considered the most fundamental,
massive and influencial relationships in social life of the human beings [134,
p.5]. The study on social relationships
manifested in language would be a contribution to the awareness and knowledge
of basic human relations of the human beings.
1.2. Idioms belong to lexical
aspects of each language. As a means to enable people to show their awareness,
behaviours as well as social, psychological and physical development process
vividly and profoundly, idioms are “a treasure of typical and diverse cultural
features and sediments of a nation” [12, p.142]. Idioms are believed to realize national
cultural views of the native people in the conceptual process of social
relationships. The diversity of semantics of the idioms denoting social
relationship encourages me to do this research.
1.3. As a discipline of
Cognitive Science, Cognitive Linguistics focus on the study of natural language
of the human beings as a means of organizing, processing and tranferring
information. Even though a number of
researches have been conducted on idioms from the cognitive approach, the investigation into semantic and cultural
features of idioms denoting social relationships has not been sufficiently
concerned. Especially, there have not been any studies on Vietnamese and
English idioms denoting social relationships from the cognitive perspectives,
which motivates me to conduct this dissertation.
1.4. One of the cognitive linguistic
applications of metaphors is the study on idioms. Idioms are the products of
human conceptual systems and they are not merely linguistic phemomena. [111, p.
231]. Idioms are under investigation because they are challenging issues for
the foreign language teaching and learning. The way to use idioms appropriately
in each context is an obstacle for learners due to the fact that the meaning of
an idiom is different from the sum of literal meanings of its components and
idioms date back the long tradition of each nation. This dissertation is
expected to illustrate the practicality and application of metaphor theory. As
a result, there would
additional supplementary materials for teachers, students as well as
researchers who are interested in educational and training activities in Vietnam.
1.5. With critical selections and thorough
investigation into cognitive linguistics, idioms and metaphors, especially the
views of cognitive semantics about human-related conceptual aspects, this
dissertation would be a great contribution to the theoretical background,
partially enhancing the studies from the perspectives of cognitive
From all the above theoretical and practical
implications, we have conducted the dissertation entiled A study on
idioms denoting social relationships in Vietnamese and English from the
perspectives of cognitive linguistics.
2. Research aims and
The dissertation aims at clarifying semantic
features, cognitive basis and cultural characteristics of conceptual metaphors
denoting social relationships. At the same time, the dissertation focuses on
the similarities and differences of conceptual metaphors denoting social
relationships in Vietnamese and English idioms from the perspectives of
(i). To investigate and
systematize, analyze and synthesize theoretical background of the thesis.
(ii). To investigate and
analyze semantic features, cognitive basis, cultural characteristics of
conceptual metaphors denoting social relationships in Vietnamese and English
(iii). To analyze, synthesize
and explain the similarities and differences in conceptualization of the three
3. Research methods
The research methods applied in the research
are principally descriptive and constrastive analysis. Especially, the
dissertation is conducted on the linguistic statistics, component semantic
analysis, discourse analysis, descriptive and analytic, contrastive analysis.
In addition, additional interdisciplinary methods and instruments are also
4. Research subjects and material
4.1. Research subject
The dissertation focuses on semantic features,
cognition basis and cultural characteristics of conceptual metaphors denoting
social relationships in Vietnamese and English idioms.
4.2. Material scope
(i) Scientific works (books,
textbooks, journals, dissertations, thesis) related to the dissertation
(ii). Two linguistic corpuses: BNC and
(iii) Vietnamese and English dictionaries
(iv) Internet websites
5. New contributions of the
Firstly, the analysis of semantic features,
cognitive basis and cultural characteristics of conceptual metaphors denoting
social relationships in Vietnamese and English idioms has provided a profound
and convincing explanation to manifest the viewpoints of the native speakers
more logically, vividly and clearly.
Secondly, the systematic
contrastive analysis of the language and cultures of the two communities has
demonstrated the similarities and differences in the conceptualization of the
social relationships in Vietnamese and English idioms.
Thirdly, the dissertation would be a
contribution to the study of idioms from the perspectives of cognitive
6. Design of the
The dissertation is developed
into three chapters, excluding the Introduction, Conclusion, Bibliography, and
Chapter 1: Literature review and theoretical
Chapter 2: Semantic features of conceptual metaphors
denoting social relationships in Vietnamese and English idioms
Chapter 3: Cognitive basis and cultural characteristics
of conceptual metaphors of social relationships in Vietnamese and English
Chapter 1 LITERATURE REVIEW
AND THEORETICAL BACKGROUND
1.2. An overview of previous
1.2.1. Previous studies
of idioms in English
Idioms have been investigated
from various perspectives depending on the prevailing views in linguistics at a
specific time. The approaches taken by linguists can be roughly divided into
five categories that reflect different lines of thinking in linguistics at
(i) Structure and variations of
idioms (from 1960 to early 1970s)
Even though the meaning and
collocation of idioms were taken into consideration, a great majority of the studies conducted
during this period by Uriel Weinreich , Makkai  Newmeyer ,
Fernando  focused on the structure and construction of idioms.
(ii) Processing and storing of
idioms (late 1970s-1980s)
Nippold and Martin ,
Nippold and Rudzinski , Bobrow and Bell , Ortony , Swinney and
Cutler , Gibbs  stated that idioms are processed more quickly than a
separate string of words. This fact partially confirms that idioms are treated
as a fixed expression, processed as an independent word and figurative meaning
is considered the most important .
(iii) Metaphoricity of idioms
(1985 up to present)
Gibbs [83, p.471] was the
pioneer to study idioms and their metaphoricity from various perspectives. Up
to present, metaphoricity of idioms has been widely accepted and considered as
one of the most typical features of idioms.
(iv) Teaching and learning
idioms (late 1980s up to present)
A majority of research on
idioms have been put in the EFL teaching and learning relationships. There have
been controversaries on the necessity of teaching idioms and what idioms should
be selected to teach. Idioms were considered unteachable by several researchers
because they lack common principles. .
(v) Idioms within the wider perspective of
idiomatic language and the functions of idioms (1990s)
conducted by Strässler , Fernando  show that idioms are popular in
daily language and commonly used for a variety of purposes. In corpus-based study on English fixed
expressions by Rosamund Moon , a wider definition of idioms were
Approaches to idioms in English
have changed considerably and different definitions of idioms have been
proposed at specific times.
1.2.2. Previous studies
of idioms in Vietnamese
As an essential component of the lexicology of
each language, Vietnamese idioms have been studied systematically.
Hoàng Văn Hành  confirms the role of this
linguistic-cultural unit in Vietnamese lexicology. Idioms are considered as “a
combination of fixed expressions with steady morphology and complete and
figurative in meaning” and “ idioms are one of the first criteria to recognize
its nation” . Dictionaries of idioms , ,  carefully compiled
from reliable and plentiful resources have provided useful references for
researchers, teachers and students.
Studies by Nguyễn Công Đức ,
Trần Thị Hồng Hạnh ,  investigated the morphology and semantics of
idioms and the profound relationships between idioms and metaphors.
However, these studies only focused on
morphology of idioms.
In Vietnam, contrastive
analysis of idioms has been given considerable attention. Doctoral
dissertations by Phan Văn Quế  Ngô Minh Thủy , Đặng Nguyên Giang 
mentioned the similarities and differences of idioms in Vietnamese and other
languages such as English, French and Japanese.
Recent studies have been
conducted on idioms from the perspectives of Cognitive linguistics, especially
the relationship between metaphor and idioms. The research subject in Hữu Đạt
 was cognition of space and time in Vietnamese idioms and proverbs. The
concern in Phan Thế Hưng , Trần Thị Phương Lý  was conceptual metaphor,
a fundamental in cognitive semantics.
Several scientific works have
done contrastive analysis of idioms in different languages from the
perspectives of cognitive linguistics, in which the most remarkable are Nguyễn
Ngọc Vũ , Trịnh Thị Thanh Huệ , Huỳnh Ngọc Mai Kha , Ly Lan ,
Trần Bá Tiến , Vi Trường Phúc .
These studies have investigated
and manifested the semantic features, cultural characteristics as well as
cognition background of idioms.
to present, there have not been any profound researches into the idioms
denoting social relationships in Vietnamese and English from the perspectives
of cognitive linguistics.
1.3. Theoretical background
of the study
introduction of cognitive linguistics
by Lakoff & Johnson , Lakoff [114, 116], Kövecses [109, 110,
111] are considered to lay the foundation and motivate the approach of
cognitive linguistics. Lý Toàn Thắng  và Trần Văn Cơ [5, 6] are among the
pioneers to introduce cognitive linguistics in Vietnam.
184.108.40.206. Experience and embodiment
According to Lakoff & Johnson ,
knowledge of the world is obtained from the interaction between the human body
and the reality and then evaluated through practical experiences.
220.127.116.11. Concept and
The most fundamental issue of cognitive
linguistics is concept. According to Trần Văn Cơ, a concept comprises three
elements: a notion, emotion/ figure and culture [6, p.93].
Lý Toàn Thắng  states that the
conceptualization of the world results in different world pictures. A language
reflects the way its nation conceptualizes the world. As a consequence, the
world picture is characterized by its nation.
18.104.22.168. Category and
According to Trần Văn Cơ , categorization
combines similar units or units of similar features to make greater
In Rosch , things are categorized through
prototype. Prototype is considered an abstract mental representation, with a
combination of characteristics or typical features of a category.
Cognitive model is a non linguistic model of
concepts. Each cognitive model is the generalization of established
experiences. Once idealized, cognitive model does not resemble the reality but
depends on the explanation of the human being. Cognitive model is knowledge
basis associated with the understanding of a specific concept, including
concepts and interrelationships of the concepts. [77, p.13].
1.3.2. Principles and theories of cognitive semantics
22.214.171.124. Principles of cognitive
Evans, V et al  summarized four principles
of cognitive semantics: (a) Conceptual structure is embodied ; (b). Semantic
structure is conceptual structure; (c). Meaning representation is
encyclopaedic; (d). Meaning construction is conceptualization.
126.96.36.199. Theories of cognitive semantics
(a). Image schema theory
Johnson  states that one way to manifest
embodied experiences at cognitive level is on the image schemas theory.
(b). Idealized cognitive models
Lakoff  assumes that categorization
involves idealized cognitive models (ICMs). These are relatively stable mental
representations which illustrate theories about the world.
(c). Conceptual metaphor theory
Lakoff & Johnson  affirms that
thought itself is naturally metaphoric. Cognitive structure is organized
through cross-domain mappings and corresponding linguistic
(d). Conceptual metonym
According to Lakoff & Turner ,
mechanism of metonymy enables one entity represent another because both of the
concepts exist in the same domain.
188.8.131.52. Metaphor in
Metaphor is considered as tranferring the name
on the implicit comparison of the two similar items. Kövecses  summarize
the characteristics of metaphors in traditional linguistics: Firstly, metaphors
are figurative words. Secondly, metaphors belong to language, not a cognitive
phenomenon. Thirdly, the conceptual basis is on the similarities.
184.108.40.206. Metaphor in
The focus of metaphor is not in language at
all, but in the way we conceptualize one mental domain in terms of another.
Metaphor is defined as “understanding one domain in terms of another” .
Two domains involved in the conceptual metaphors are named source domain and
target domain. Source domains
more material and concrete (a journey, war, home) whereas target domains
are more general and abstract (friendship, love, marriage).
According to Lakoff & Johnson , it is
essential to differentiate metaphors and metaphoric expressions. Metaphors mean
cross-domain mappings in conceptual system. Metaphoric expressions refer to
surface linguistic expressions like words, phrases, sentences of those
1.3.4. Idioms denoting
Although there still exist controversaries on
the definitions, we have assumed three widely accepted characteristics of
idioms for the the study: (1) in terms of morphology, an idiom is a combination
of words, (2) in term of structure, an idiom is fixed, (3) in terms of
semantics, an idiom bears the non-literal/ figurative meaning, not the sum of
A variety of complex social relationships can
be classified into two major types: power relation and interpersonal relation
[21, p.199]. A social relationship is coded in language as a relationship of
power and solidarity , voluntary and intimacy [151, p.95]. Apart from blood
relationship, friendship, love and marriage are the most fundamental and
influential relationship in people’s life.
We assume that all three social relationships
within the scope of this dissertation (friendship, love, marriage) are all
interpersonal, voluntary and intimate relationship. In addition, these
interpersonal relationships are closedly interrelated to each other: friendship
functions as the basis of love, love is considered to be the foundation of
220.127.116.11. Idioms denoting social
Among 872 Vietnamese and English idioms
denoting conceptual metaphors of three social relationships, the number of
friendship idioms accounts for a small percentage of 15.6% with 136
occurrences. However, Vietnamese and English idioms denoting conceptual
metaphors of love rank the highest (419 idioms, accounting for 48.05%). Out of
317 idioms relating to conceptual metaphors of marriage, the number of
Vietnamese idioms (223 occurrences) is more dominant than that of English (94 occurrences).
1.4. Summary of chapter 1
The literature review of Vietnamese and
English idioms has shown a long and varied development history with the focus
on different aspects of idioms. In the developmental flow of cognitive
linguistics, a great number of researches have investigated the relationship
between idioms and conceptual metaphors as idioms are the most significant and
outstanding realizations of cognitive basis, mental, cultural and social life
of the native speakers. However, up to present, there have been no studies on
idioms denoting conceptual metaphors of social relationships in Vietnamese and
Although there still exist different
approaches and controversaries about the idioms, the idea assumed in this
dissertation is that idioms are a fixed expression; the meaning of idioms is
not the sum of meaning of components, and non-literal (figurative) meanings are
typical of idioms.
Studies on social relationship demonstrates
the typical features of each nation in its viewpoint and thought as well as the
role of culture. Theoretical background of this dissertation is cognitive
semantics, on which, analysis and explanation of similarities and differences
of Vietnamese and English idioms denoting social relationships are proposed.
Chapter 2 SEMANTIC FEATURES OF CONCEPTUAL METAPHORS DENOTING SOCIAL RELATIONSHIPS IN VIETNAMESE AND
The classification and analysis
of conceptual metaphors denoting social relationships (friendship, love,
marriage) in Vietnamese and English idioms are conducted on the six metaphor
systems proposed by Kövecses .
2.2. Conceptual metaphors of friendship
2.2.1. Metaphors of
Among 136 idioms denoting
conceptual metaphors of communication, metaphor FRIENDSHIP IS SHARING accounts
for the highest percentage with 35 occurrences of idioms. A number of
Vietnamese idioms contain the image of concrete, specific objects and popular in
human life such as a divided flea, sharing of rice and clothes (con
chấy cắn đôi, nhường cơm sẻ áo).
Minh Hằng và cô bạn con chấy cắn đôi Hoàng Thùy Linh .(Minh Hằng and her
friend 'divided flea” Hoàng Thùy Linh)
Concepts of friendship utilize metaphor of
communication, human being and experiences. What makes friendship different
from other relationship is the essence of the experience to be shared, the way
to share and the intimacy of these sharings.
2.2.2. Metaphor of
Metaphors of this system are
related to the intimacy. Such elements as temperature (fire), a magic or a
force are not manifested in this system.
Experiences of real space
result in the metaphor FRIENDSHIP IS INTIMACY. The closeness between two
friends are illustrated in vivid, specific language expressions which are
associated with a human body part.
[V-24]. Tôi muốn tự mình
lái xe đưa người bạn chí cốt tìm một nơi thanh vắng để tâm tình. ( I
want to drive my best friend to a quiet place for a talk)
2.2.3. Metaphors of states
The number of idioms denoting
friendship in term of conceptual metaphors of bonds ranks the highest
with 10 occurrences. The second highest are economic exchange, possession and
as the voluntary relationship, friendship is also conceptualized in terms of
material bonds between two friends.
Họ chẳng phải là anh em ruột, là bạn nối khố của Tám Sang đó sao? (They
are siblings and close friends of Tam Sang, aren’t they?)
In this system, friendship is conceptualized
on the container of the deepest
experience, stable state, long-life relationship and benefit
2.2.4. Metaphor s of
this system, the number of English idioms four-fold that of Vietnamese with 19
and 5 idioms corresponsively, especially conceptual metaphors of a journey.
[A-58]. So, ten years
from now, when we're on the same boat, and she can't get
Friendship is also
conceptualized as a war or a game. The number of idiom occurrences
is limited, we thus exlude them and do not assume them to be prototype of
2.2.5. Metaphors of
common thing shared by conceptual metaphors of this system is that all source
domains are complex objects. Metaphors of a building are involved in the
structure and stability, metaphors of a machine are related to the working
operation and metaphors of living organisms are concerned with the
developmental aspect of friendship. Among 19 idioms of this group, conceptual
metaphors of living organisms account for the highest number with 10
So why do celebrities find best friends in other celebrities? Birds of a
feather flock together.
2.2.6. Metaphors of positive/ negative
Friendship is regarded as a
positive relationship, a valuable commodity, a desire which is mapped from the
conceptual metaphors of valuable commodity. Of all the idioms investigated,
there are 12 idioms relating to this conceptual metaphor.
[A-177]. So he had
cold feet about his friends, but they wouldn't get the better of
2.2.7. Semantic features
of conceptual metaphors of friendship
All the friendship metaphors
originate from 6 major metaphor systems. Communication, which is understood as
the sharing of objects between friends is the most typical feature of
friendship metaphors. The nature of the friendship is the
on the voluntary and selective basis. Elements relating to such lack of control
as force, magic are not typical in this relationship. Friendship is
conceptualized as a special case of state metaphor: stability (a possession), a
steady relationship (a bond) and benefit interaction (economic exchange). In
addition, friendship is also partially conceptualized in terms of event
metaphor. In complex metaphor, friendship is typical of a variety of mappings
at general level. Metaphors of this system are based on the structure and
typicality of complex objects.
2.3. Conceptual metaphors of
Love seems to be a universal and popular
phenomenon in all cultures . In the
research, there are 419 English and Vietnamese idioms denoting love metaphors,
accounting for 48.05%.
2.3.1. Metaphor s of
Among 65 idioms of this system (accounting for
15.5% of love metaphors), English idioms far outnumber the Vietnamese ones.
Idioms denoting conceptual metaphor LOVE IS A CONTAINER account for the highest percentage (51
idioms, accounting for 78.46%).
The nature of love includes belief, attitudes,
desires, possession feelings, (possession of lover), behaviours (sexual
relation), physical reactions (an increase of heart beat), etc. Containers with
their shapes, sizes and volumes, etc lay the foundations for mapping from the
source domain of container to the target domain of love. All of these elements
happen in a specific container like in
"love will find a way" whirling about in her poor love-starved
2.3.2. Metaphors of emotions
Among 94 idioms of this system, metaphors
relating to the force account for the highest percentage (52/94 idioms,
accounting for 55.31%). All metaphors involve the intensity of love: love is a
fire which can burn everything ( LOVE IS A FIRE), love is a force which can
sweep everything away (LOVE IS A FORCE), love is a magic which can make people
attracted (LOVE IS A MAGIC)
[V-336]. Bao nhiêu ý nghĩ ngổn ngang bay đi
hết nhường chỗ cho một sự thật về người đàn bà bằng xương bằng thịt cháy như
thiêu như đốt.
2.3.3. Metaphors of states
There are 29 Vietnamese idioms
and 33 English ones among 62 idioms in this system. In metaphors of unity,
lovers are considered a complementary unity of two parts to make a perfect
combination (như hình với bóng, heart and soul, etc).
Trở về rồi thì thằng Junkim bám Hường như hình với bóng.
2.3.4. Metaphors of event structure
In this system, source domains
of a journey, war or game are utilized in mappings onto the
target domain of love. The most typical is the metaphor LOVE IS A JOURNEY (58
idioms, accounting for 65.9%). In love, two people have a special relationship
with an aim for living together.
We have come a long way and you know, like I
say, I have a lot of successful women in my life.
2.3.5. Metaphors of complex objects
Idioms ranking the highest percentage are the
realizations of the conceptual metaphors LOVE IS FOOD (41 idioms, accounting
for 52.56%). The second highest is LOVE IS A LIVING ORGANISM (33 idioms, accounting
[V-447]. Của đáng tội cũng có mấy cô
săn lùng chàng, sùng sục cả lên, nhưng cô nào cũng xôi hỏng bỏng không.
2.3.6. Metaphors of positive/ negative
The number of idioms in this
system is limited (32/ 419 idioms, accounting for 7.64%). This partially
illustrates the conceptualization of love on the source domain of valuable
commodity and lovers are considered the people who exchange commodity.
I want you all to know that my relationship with you is one that I hold
2.3.7. Semantic features of conceptual
metaphors of love
Cognitive models of love
investigated in the dissertation are ideal with a variety of elements such as
beliefs, attitudes (in the system of communication), affection and intimacy (in
the system of emotions), wishes and desires (in the system of complex
In the system of communication,
love is considered a personal experience inside the human body. Love is
conceptualized as a container of deep emotions and feelings, associated with
the need to be physically close to the lover. Intensity
the central element in the system of emotions and feelings: Love is
conceptualized in terms of fire, force or magic. Love is mapped
on the source domains of a journey, war or a game. In terms of
state system, the target domain of love is likely to have chosen
correspondences in the source domain (a possessed object, a unity, a physical
bond) on the physcial characterisitcs such as sexual relations (a unity) or
maternal relations (a physical bond). Semantic features of the stability and
steadiness of the source domains are mapped onto the target domains, which
results in corresponding language expressions.
2.4. Conceptual metaphors of
2.4.1. Metaphors of communication
The groups with the highest occurrences of
idioms are associated with conceptual metaphors of containers (20/39 idioms,
accounting for 51. 28%) and the sharings (11/39 idioms, accounting for
Sharing in marriage can be seen as a
commitment, in which, husbands and wives share four types of needs: internal
needs (emtions), external needs (finance and material), physical needs (sexual
relation), formal needs (legal states).
Chị quyết định ly hôn sau tháng ngày dài dày vò trăn trở, buông tay người chồng
từng đồng cam cộng khổ.
In addition, conceptual metaphor MARRIAGE IS A
CONTAINER is illustrated with the space boundaries such as front/ rear, up/ down, in/out (có thủy có
chung, trong ấm ngoài êm),..
Tôi thì không thích kiểu “ông chằng bà chuộc”. Nên gia đình tôi vẫn được sự thuận
hòa trong ấm ngoài êm.
2.4.2. Metaphors of
Among 20/317 idioms of this
system, the number of idioms denoting conceptual metaphors of intimacy ranks the
highest with 15 occurrences, accounting for 75%. Other elements such as fire/
temperature, force or magic are not common. The intimacy is
illustrated with the space (ăn cận nằm kề), or physical contact (đầu ấp
tay gối, ra đụng vào chạm).
[V-152]. Vợ chồng người ta đang là đồng
tịch đồng sàng, đồng sinh đồng tử, cưu mang đồng lần.
2.4.3. Metaphors of states
In this system, idioms related to the unity
account for the highest percentage of 37% with 47 occurrences, followed by a
physical bond (38/127 idioms) and destiny/ fate (18/127 idioms). Non physical
unity results from the structure of the source domain associated with physical
unity. [111, p.222]. This is the core feature of conceptual metaphors of
Bởi vì chàng không được kết tóc trăm năm với Cẩm Vân thì chẳng còn trông
mong gì nữa mà học.
Conceptual metaphors of destiny/ fate are
common in Vietnamese with some expressions like căn duyên thiên định, cái
duyên cái kiếp, ông tơ bà nguyệt. Especially, there are no English idioms
denoting such conceptual metaphors of marriage.
45]. Tại cái duyên cái số cả đấy. Ông ta đã ngoài năm mươi. Còn cái
Huyền mới bước sang tuổi hai mươi ba.
2.4.4. Metaphors of event structures
In this system, conceptual metaphors
associated with journey are the most common with the highest occurrences of 45
idioms, accounting for 84.9%. The features of a journey are mapped onto the
target domain of marriage.
She shared in a battle that had begun when she was at one of many crossroads
in her marriage.
In addition, the source domain of a war is
also mapped onto the target domain of marriage.
2.4.5. Metaphors of
Idioms denoting conceptual
metaphors of marriage are associated with the source domains of food (25/58
idioms), living organism (17/58 idioms), home (15/58 idioms).
Conceptual metaphors of home involve the structure of the object and the
stability of the relationship.
Now they are back under the same roof.
Conceptual metaphors related to the source
domain of food are realized in the idiom in the example [V-435].
Tuần trăng mật trôi đi nhanh, cô và Tùng lại hối hả bước vào cuộc sống mưu
2.4.6. Metaphors of positive/ negative
In this system of metaphor, marriage is conceptualized
as a valuable commodity: giữ giá làm cao, như bắt được vàng,
317]. Lấy được Liên, Quân như bắt được vàng.
2.4.7. Semantic features
of conceptual metaphors of marriage
Conceptual metaphors of love
are not only related to source domains of journey, but also associated with
other elements such as intimacy, unity or bond, etc.
The nature of a marriage is the
unity of the two complementary parts. As a result, the closeness or intimacy in
marriage is considered to be typical and realized in the physical space and
contact between a husband and a wife. Marriage is also defined as the legal and
emotional bond. Conceptual metaphors associated with a physical bond reflect
the interdependence of marriage.
In the system of conceptual
metaphors of events, marriage is conceptualized as a long journey. In addition,
the cognitive basis of marriage relationship originates from the complex
objects, in which, the most outstanding are conceptual metaphors relating to
source domains of home, living organism or food.
2.5. Summary of chapter 2
Firstly, all conceptual
metaphors of social relationships share the same experientialism: features of
specific, popular objects are the foundation for the conceptualization of
abstract, complex social relationships.
Secondly, idioms denoting
conceptual metaphors of social relationships share a variety of semantic
features such as the closeness, intimacy, sharing, bond, etc. Although the
language expressions to denote conceptual metaphors of social relationships are
different in the two languages, social relationships of friendship, love and
marriage are universal interpersonal relationship in the human life.
Thirdly, there are some
differences in the quantity and semantic features of Vietnamese and English
idioms denoting social relationships. This reflects the fact that there is a
close relationship between the language, conceptualization process and
experientialism. Studying the language helps provide a more profound and
thorough understanding of the conceptualization and experientialism of the
Chapter 3 COGNITIVE BASIS AND CULTURAL CHARACTERISTICS
OF CONCEPTUAL METAPHORS OF
IN VIETNAMESE AND ENGLISH
In this chapter, we aim to
investigate the influential factors of conceptual metaphors such as
experiences, cultures, society, etc. At the same time, we expect to identify
the similarities as well as differences of conceptual metaphors of social
relationships in Vietnamese and English idioms.
3.2. The relations of
culture and language
3.2.1. Definition of
Culture is considered the
shared understandings typical of a group of people. In that sense, the relation
between metaphors and cultures is more clearly identified. .
3.2.2. Characteristics of
Trần Ngọc Thêm  summarizes four typical
characteristics of culture: human, valuable, systematic and historical. These
are the required criteria that enable the discrimination of culture and other
3.2.3. Relations of culture and language
Language and culture are
closely interrelated to each other . Language is the most important factor
which bears the most typical cultural characteristics of a nation. The
selection of language expressions manifests the relation of culture and
3.3. Cognitive models of
conceptual metaphors of social relationships
There are different viewpoints
of cognitive models of conceptual metaphors of social relationships. We are in
favour of the opinion that experiences determine the corresponding conceptual
metaphors and different conceptual metaphors gather to make cognitive models.
The analysis and assumption in the dissertation are based on this model together
with three- level model of metaphors proposed by Kövecses [111.
3.4. Similarities of
conceptual metaphors of social relationships in Vietnamese and English idioms
3.4.1. Similarities of
A great number of source
domains are associated with basic human needs. This is not a complete and
perfect investigation of all domains associated with conceptual
However, we confirm that these source domains is a simplified world, but they
are actually the nature of the world that enables people to create more
abstract concepts like social relationships.
3.4.2. Similarities of
semantic features of conceptual metaphors
Firstly, cognitive basis of
three social relationships of the native speakers are reasonably similar:
conceptual metaphors of communication is the most typical of friendship,
conceptual metaphors of emotions and feelings are the most outstanding ones of
love; conceptual metaphors of bond or commitment are the fundamental of
Secondly, a great quantity of
conceptual metaphors are based on the embodiment. The correspondences between
targeting the aim and reaching the destination, desire of love and the increase
of temperature, etc are common in Vietnamese and English idioms.
However, the embodiment on which the native
people conceptualize different abstract concepts must be natural and widely
accepted in the language community of the native speakers.
3.5. Differences of cultural
characteristics and cognitive basis of conceptual metaphors of social relationships
in Vietnamese and English idioms
3.5.1. Crosscultural differences
18.104.22.168. Differences of
Marriage is considered to be the most profound
and popular concept in Vietnamese with 223 occurrences. In contrast, the number
of English idioms denoting conceptual metaphors of love occupies half of the
data with 226 occurrences out of 419 idioms. Differences are manifested in the
conceptual metaphors that each language and culture use to conceptualize the
target domain of social relationships.
(a). The number of idioms denoting conceptual
metaphors of friendship ranks the lowest in the two languages, in which the
number of English idioms in the system of communication metaphors five fold
that of Vietnamese.
(b). Love is a highly conceptualized
category both in Vietnamese and English. Firstly, the number of English idioms
denoting conceptual metaphors of possession, economic exchange is much
higher than that of Vietnamese. Secondly, there are some differences in the
quantity of idioms denoting conceptual metaphors of such source domains as journey,
war or game (57 English idioms versus 31 Vietnamese idioms).
Thirdly, Vietnamese idioms account for two thirds of the total number of 27
occurrences relating to conceptual metaphors of magic.
(c). Marriage is a very important category in
Vietnamese people’s thought and
life, which is realized in the conceptual metaphors of states. The number of
Vietnamese idioms denoting all conceptual metaphors are much higher than that
of English, especially physical bonds with 26 occurrences in Vietnamese
and 12 in English, unity with 45 Vietnamese idioms and 2 English ones,
and destiny/ fate (18 and 0 corresponsively). Physical bonds are the basic
concepts in Vietnamese people’s daily life: kết tóc trăm năm, chồng chắp vợ
nối, rổ rá cạp lại, etc. In a culture which highly appreciates the harmony
like Vietnam, the harmony is considered to be a significant element. In all
social relationships, the harmony is the prerequisite and everything can be
done on the basis of love: chồng hòa vợ thuận, chồng khôn vợ ngoan,.. Besides,
the concept of fate is very complicated and overlapped, in which the nature is
related to destiny: căn duyên thiên định, cái duyên cái kiếp, phải duyên phải
kiếp,etc. This concept originates from the beliefs on karma and theory of
samsara of Reincarnation in Buddhism.
Secondly, in the system of complex metaphors,
the number of Vietnamese idioms five folds that of English (49 and 9
corresponsively), in which the most popular source domains are homes (13
and 2), living organism (15 and 2) or food (21 and 4). Marriage
is conceptualized in terms of the stability and steadiness of the relationship.
To Vietnamese people, the nature of agricultural culture highly appreciates the
settlement, thus, the fact that home is significant in people’s life is quite
consistent and obvious. . In addition, hot and humid climate with a lot of
rain in the East is a favourable condition for plants to grow. Vocabularies of
plants and typical plants (cây lúa, cây tre, cây trúc, cây đào, etc )
occupy an imporant role in Vietnamese idioms. Also, idioms related to
source domain of food are common in Vietnamese like cơm lành canh ngọt, ăn cơm
trước kẻng, etc. We assume that in Vietnamese people’s thoughts, marriage
is conceptualized in terms of basic physical and material needs in daily life.
22.214.171.124. Differences of
semantic features of conceptual metaphors
In other cases, two languages may share the
similar conceptual metaphors but their semantic features may not be the same.
In English, heart is regarded as the
container of love emotions and feelings such as from the bottom of my heart,
break one’s heart. However, in English, there are different expressions
associated with concepts of lòng, dạ, bụng, ruột such as đau lòng xót
ruột, một lòng một dạ, etc.
126.96.36.199. Causes of the crosscultural
There are two main causes of the crosscultural
differences: (i) natural physical environment (ii) broad cultural context
(social context), that is the rules, basic
of a culture.
(i). Natural physical environment
Natural physical environment (geographical
conditions, sceneries, living environment, etc) influences the language,
especially the vocabulary stock. On that basis, natural physical environment
partially creates the metaphors.
Hot and humid climate with a lot of rain in
Vietnam results in big rivers with complex and sophisticated topography. Living
conditions of Vietnamese people are associated with water and rivers,
therefore, in conceptual metaphors of social relationships on the source domain
of a journey, lexical elements related to water and river are plentiful
and diversed such as đứng mũi chịu sào, lỡ bước sang ngang, ngăn sông
cấm chợ.... or elements reflecting the topographical features such as trèo đèo lội suối, vượt suối băng rừng,
contrast, its vast and flat topography enables Western citizens to travel on
roads by horse, car, train, etc. As a result, the native speakers of English
conceptualize social relationships manifested in idioms with vocabulary stock
associated with this way of traveling such as off the road, burn the boat,
at the crossroads, etc.
In addition, Vietnamese agriculture is
separate and dependent so it is
difficult to mechanize it. Therefore, word groups indicating way of delivering
goods by human force is (mang, vác, gánh, khiêng…) are quite common in
Vietnamese idioms like giữa đường đứt gánh, đa mang đèo bòng, gánh tương tư,
etc. In the meantime, there are several language expressions related to source
domains of machine in English like oil the wheels
Natural features put the life of the
inhabitants under the influence of nature. Images of natural forces such as gió,
bão, mây, mưa, etc are popular in Vietnamese idioms such as mây mưa chăn
gối, nổi tình mây mưa, nhớ mây thương gió,etc.
(ii) Broad cultural context (social
cultural context is the social, national, cultural contexts of the native
speakers . A developed commodity economy associated with economic exchange
has become an essential part of Western people. This makes a great effect on
the conceptualization of social relationships in English with 39 idioms related
to this concept such as on good terms of, big deals, etc. On the other
hand, the conceptualization of social relationships in Vietnamese in terms of
this domain is not as clear and popular as in English.
3.5.2. Intracultural differences
188.8.131.52. Differences of conceptual metaphors
There are conceptual metaphors of different
semantic features in each language. The two conceptual metaphors upon the
mappings from source domain of unity and economic exchange to target domain of
love take an important role in the construction of two cultural models: ideal
love and typical love. Whereas in traditional love, ideal unity is highly
appreciated, beneficial aspect of this relationship is much favoured in modern
Differences of semantic features of conceptual metaphors
The meaning of friend in English has
changed time after time, which reflect a hidden change in human relationships.
In a variety of discourses, the phrase close friend is a relatively
common expression. It can be seen that the meaning of friend has been
weakened. As a result, to make the friendship more influential and related,
speakers have to select the language expression close friend.
3.6. Summary of chapter 3
The consideration of relations
of language, culture and thought reflects the involvement of culture in
The analysis in this chapter
has showed a fact that Vietnamese and English share the same cognitive basis
when conceptualizing social relationships. A number of source domains are
widely used in both Vietnamese and English such as a journey, container,
food, sharings, etc. Among them, the common cognitive basis of the two
cultures are the experiential basis obtained from people’s daily life.
Moreover, there still exist
several differences of cognitive basis and cultural characteristics of
conceptual metaphors denoting social relationships.
Firstly, marriage is the most
universal and profound in Vietnamese idioms with 223 out of 453 occurrences
whereas love is more popular in English idioms with 226 out of 419
Secondly, Vietnamese idioms
associated with basic human needs such as food, sleep, accommodation, travel
far outnumber that of English due to the fact that Vietnamese people tend to
conceptualize social relationship in terms of concrete and familiar source
domains in their life.
Thirdly, the differences of
geography result in the differences of culture. Agricultural nations of rice
paddy depend hugely on nature so they appreciate stability and harmony. Source
domains of physical bond, unity of two complementary parts, home, food,
are more popular in Vietnamese idioms. In contrast, nomadic people favour the
movement and activeness as well as individualism. As a result, the number of
idioms denoting conceptual metaphors of social relationships associated with
source domains as journey, war, communication, force, possession, etc
account for higher percentage compared with that of Vietnamese idioms.
Fourthly, social and economic
conditions result in differences of conceptual metaphors. Underdeveloped and
unmechanized economy influences the occurrences of Vietnamese idioms associated
with plants, domestic animals, movement. In contrast, the Western
developed industries encourage the appearances of English idioms denoting
conceptual metaphors in terms of machines, travel on the sea, etc
In short, cognitive pictures of
social relationships of native speakers are realized vividly, specifically and
clearly in the system of Vietnamese and English idioms. The cultural and
cognitive differences of conceptual metaphors of social relationship in
Vietnamese and English idioms contribute to the better understandings of
cognitive mechanism that people use to conceptualize the world.
Within three different
chapters, the dissertation investigates the idioms denoting social
relationships in Vietnamese and English from the perspectives of cognitive
linguistics. The followings are some conclusions drawn from the analysis and
explanations of semantic features, cognitive basis as well as cultural
characteristics of conceptual metaphors of social relationships in English and
1. Social relationship is a popular
category in people’s daily life. It is a broad term and overlap of different
interpersonal relationships. However, friendship, love and marriage are
considered the basic relationships in human life. The foundations of these
relations are the voluntary and intimacy. At the same time, these relationships
are interconnected with each other: friendship is the basis of love and love is
the foundation of marriage.
2. Idioms have been chosen for
investigation as they are considered to manifest the relationships of language,
conceptualization and experiences. The study of linguistic expressions,
specifically Vietnamese and English idioms denoting social relationship aims to
demonstrate the process of conceptualization and experience of the two
3. Idioms have been
investigated from the perspectives of cognitive linguistics. In term of
semantics, language does not reflect the reality directly but via the concepts
expressed in the language. Interactive relationships of such elements as source
domain, target domain, mapping, experiences, language expressions, cognitive
models have been considered. A conceptual metaphor involves a certain basic
source domain and a target domain. Experiences partially influence the
selection of specific source and target domains. Through the conceptual
mappings from the source to the target domains, these conceptual metaphors
determine the correspondent language expressions. A variety of conceptual
metaphors gather to create a cognitive model. These models illustrate the
typical specific features of cultures and cognition of each nation and
4. The dessertation has
conducted a profound and thorough survey and investigation into such social
relationships as friendship, love and marriage in terms of semantic features,
cognitive basis and cultural characteristics of these conceptual
in Vietnamese and English idioms. It can be seen from the investigation results
that the majority of the knowledge of social realtionship is realized in
idioms. Apart from the similarities between Vietnamese and English idioms,
there still exist some differences which reflect the typical cognitive basis
and cultural characteristics.
5. It can be concluded that the
similarities and differences of conceptual metaphors denoting social
relationship result from the experientialism (embodiment), sociocultural
experiences (contexts) and cognitive process (style and selection). These
elements exit in almost all metaphors investigated in the study.
6. The analysis of the
dissertation has showed the close relationship between the use of Vietnamese
and English idioms and the experiences of the human beings. A great number of
conceptual metaphors base on the relationship resulting from the experiences.
In which, the conceptualization process of metaphors involving physical
experiences are common in Vietnamese idioms with such elements related to basic
human needs as food, sleep, accomodation, travel. In addition, culture
is also an influential element of conceptualization of social relationships. It
is assumed that the corresponding similarities of conceptual metaphors denoting
social relationships in Vietnamese and English idioms originate from the
experiences of the human beings.
7. The dissertation has
analyzed and contrasted the cultural characteristics and cognition of
conceptual metaphors denoting social relationships via conceptual mappings in
Vietnamese and English. Apart from the similarities of conceptual metaphors
denoting social relationships in Vietnamese and English, there exist some
Firstly, marriage is the most
popular and deeply rooted concept in Vietnamese people’s life, whereas love is
much more influential in English.
Secondly, language expessions
are used to reflect different ways of thinking of native people. Elements
associated with source domains of physical bond, unity, home, food, etc
are common in Vietnamese idioms. In the mean time, the cognitive basis of
English idioms associated with the concepts of a journey, war, communication
or possession is more popular. This reflects the fact that
Vietnamese people favour the stability and steadiness of the social
relationships whereas English native speakers prefer the active and
developmental aspects of these relationships.
8. Mechanism of semantic
construction of idioms denoting social relationship is considered in the
interaction with the culture and living environment. This results
the similarities as well as differences of different languages. The foreign
language teaching should be flexible, in which, universal features in each
language should be considered. At the same time, typical cultural
characteristics of each languages should be given attention with an aim to
facilitate the teaching, learning as well as scientific research.
With the above mentioned
conclusions, it is hoped that the dissertation would contribute to the
resources as well as clarify the typical semantic features in the
conceptualization of three basic social relationships among the native people.
The research results would be a valuable reference for teachers, students,
researchers in linguistics in general and English in particular.
The potential studies in the
approach of cognitive linguistics would be of the following topics:
- A study on the conceptual metaphors of love in
Vietnamese and English from the perspectives of cognitive linguistics.
- A study on the conceptual metaphors of human values in
Vietnamese and English idioms from the perspectives of cognitive
study on the conceptual metaphors of time in Vietnamese and English idioms from
the perspectives of cognitive linguistics.
PUBLISHED SCIENTIFIC JOURNALS
RELATED TO THE
1. Nguyễn Thị Kim Anh (2013), “Conceptual metaphor
MARRIAGE IS A JOURNEY in idioms and proverbs (in Vietnamese and English
languages), National Scientific Conference, Hanoi National University of
2. Nguyễn Thị Kim Anh (2014), “A preliminary study on
conceptual metaphor FRIENDSHIP IS A PLANT in English and Vietnamese”, The 4th
International Conference on Sciences and Social Sciences 2014. (ICSS2014), Thailand.
3. Nguyễn Thị Kim Anh (2015), “Cultural variation in
Conceptual metaphors of love in English and Vietnamese”, The 1st
International Conference on Humanities and Social sciences (ICHS 2015), Thailand.
4. Nguyễn Thị Kim Anh (2016), “A study on conceptual
metaphors of love in system of event metaphors (in English and Vietnamese
idiom)”, Vinh University, No. 1B.
5. Ngô Đình Phương, Nguyễn Thị Kim Anh (2016), “Cultural
variations in conceptual metaphors of love in English and Vietnamese idioms”, Scientific
journal, Foreign studies, No. 2, Volume 32, Hanoi National University.
NGUYỄN THỊ KIM ANH