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Contrastive language

ABSTRACT Since each country possesses their own exclusive language, culture and tradition, it is of paramount important for language learners, generally and linguists, specifically, to identify, analyze and evaluate various aspects of conversations in different circumstances so as to acquire more intensive comprehension of daily communication, interaction, as well as the etiquette of residents in different nations with distinguished cultures. Compliment is, obviously, one of the key components which should be meticulously studied and analyzed as it is the “getting our foot on the door” stage, subsequently leading to further linguistic understanding. This report will clarify the confusion that might occur when dealing with compliments by discussing the notion of compliment made in both English and Vietnamese, giving specific examples regarding topics, formulas, and responses. In fact, this paper will generally prioritize ubiquitous expressions as they are more likely to illustrate the inconsistency in the researched aspects of these two languages. INTRODUCTION Compliments have, irrefutably, drawn the attention of linguistics since they profoundly delineate the rules of language use in a speech community and also the value system of individuals along with the community (Manes, 1983). When it comes to compliment, the foreign language learners, particularly English and Vietnamese, might inevitably run into certain obstacles. This situation is caused mostly due to the discrepancies in traditional, cultural, social and even historical features in both languages. Therefore, in order to differentiate and profoundly understand compliments in distinctive cultures, learners need to acquire intensive comprehension about speech interaction. This will subsequently promote their communicating skills, both academically and casually. It is rather strenuous yet undeniably essential to take this speech act into consideration for further comprehension. LITERATURE REVIEW Definition In sociolinguistics, compliment is explained as a speech act that is either directly or indirectly stated by the speaker in order to give credit to other people, usually to the one who is addressed, for some particular possessions, characteristic, performance, achievement, etc, which is obviously valued by both the speaker and the hearer (Holmes, 1988a: 485). To put it in a more simple way, Merriam-webster dictionary defines compliment as an expression of esteem, respect, affection, admiration or even recognition. In Abraham Lincoln’s letter to Thurlow Weed in 1865, he clearly stated that every individual was in flavor of a compliment. The initial purpose of compliment is to build up solidarity between people in the conversation since these expressions will normally give others a sense of contentment and gladdening, leading to the improvement of relationships between human. They all contribute to the interaction strategy. Some research even say that compliments surprisingly create more opportunities in life, evaluations of performance and even establishment in occupation (Bolino, Varela, Bande, & Turnley, 2006). The speech act itself is also reckoned as the key component of face-to-face communication as they somewhat delineate the traditional and cultural values of a society (Nelson, Al-Batal, & Echols, 1996). Therefore by studying compliments, we are actually penetrating the language characteristics of different cultures themselves. Nevertheless, everything has it two sides. By using compliments excessively, either intentionally or unintentionally, the speech act itself could be considered as flattering, which inevitably holds the opposite effect comparing to the original purpose. What is more, once a compliment is somehow understood as an originator of humiliation or unease, it can consequently play the role of a face-threatening act (Holmes, 1986: 487). Functions Compliments possess a multitude of functions which are meticulously explained and examined in researches conducted earlier. However, in this paper I will narrow down to a few key functions which I find predominantly common among English and Vietnamese. The first and foremost role of compliment is to shorten social distance and build intimateness. Paying other people compliments is reckoned as an extremely effective way to start a conversation as it is the “breaking the ice” step, especially for strangers or someone who is not really intimate with the speaker. The speech act itself, in most cases, has positive impacts because they constantly build up a sense of contentment. This efficiently makes people feel a lot more comfortable during social interaction. Hence it is understandable that a few simple sentences on someone’s appearance or characteristic can surprisingly promote the social relationship among individuals. What is more, compliments can also serve as others aside from its original function (an apology, appreciation, motivation, etc). Wolfson (1983) elaborated that in traditional American families, it was rather improper and somewhat awkward for the descendants to thank their parents for making food. Paying compliments on dishes, therefore, would be more suitable regarding the American culture and tradition during this period. In this case, the speech act is reckoned as a token of gratitude. CONTRASTIVE ANALYSIS Topics of compliment As far as I concern, in both English and Vietnamese, the 3 most common topics to pay a compliment are: appearance, capability and possession. Appearance In Vietnamese, when it comes to giving credit to someone for their look, people tend to use positive adjectives, for instance: xinh đẹp, xinh xắn, đáng yêu, dễ thương, thon thả, quyến rũ, gợi cảm, đầy đặn, etc, for female; đẹp trai, cao ráo, bảnh bao, khôi ngô, tuấn tú, lực lưỡng, etc, for the opposite gender. The same is also applied in English, a multitude of adjectives is utilized to pay people compliment on their appearance: cute, handsome, beautiful, sexy, attractive, good-looking, well-dressed, chubby, slim, lovely, gorgeous, etc. These are known to be the most common words in both languages in term of regularity. Nevertheless, some distinctions can be noticed between the 2 particular languages. On one hand, profoundly influenced by the feudatory period in the past, the traditional Vietnamese have the tendency to prioritize facial features when it comes to evaluating an individual’s appearance. Subsequently, “nụ cười triều mến” (beautiful smile), “đôi mắt hiền dịu” (gentle eyes) or “khuôn mặt thanh tao” (delicate face), etc are highly valuated in Vietnam. On the other hand, with more opened mind, Western nations generally and English speaking countries particularly tend to focus on body characteristics, for instance a well-shaped body, six packs, slim waistline, ideal height, etc. Example: “Dạo này con bé trông xinh xắn quá.” “Khuôn trăng đầy đặn, nét ngài nở nang” (Truyện Kiều – Nguyễn Du) As we easily see from those examples above, unlike English speakers, Vietnamese do not use the pronoun “I” in the compliment. It seems like unnatural an unsuitable when a Vietnamese person use pronoun “I” in the compliment although the grammar is actually correct. “Wendy, one girl is more use than twenty boys.” – J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan Peter Pan knows how to offer a persuasive compliment! “It would be a privilege to have my heart broken by you.” — John Green, The Fault in our Stars Giving compliments through idioms Similarities Through there are discrepancies between Vietnamese and English culture, correlation is still noticed in the way people from 2 distinguished cultures use figurative images to pay compliment to others. These compliments are usually in the form of a comparison. English Vietnamese Fresh as roses Tươi như hoa Good as new Tốt như mới Hard as stone Cứng như đá Pretty as a picture Đẹp như tranh Quick as lightning Nhanh như chớp White as snow Trắng như tuyết Differences Different image – Parallel expression The same components but the dissimilar content Historical, culture and traditional distinctions between individuals from distinctive nations have inevitably leaded to differences in the way that observing the world make differences in the images of idiomatic comparisons. Take some following examples to illustrate that: Above board, Dressed to kill, Take my breathe away, God’s own creation, Out of this world, She is a perfect 10, Pretty as a picture, etc. In Vietnamese Chất men say, Chim sa cá lặn, Như tiên giáng trần, Quốc sắc thiên hương, Sắc nước hương trời, etc. In English literature, it is more common to see author and Many famous writers and poets having certain impact upon the international literature have successfully utilized idioms to create magnificent pieces. In Truyện Kiều for instance, Nguyen Du depicted Thuy Kieu as the one possessing the beauty that was “nghiên nước nghiên thành”, while her younger sister – Thuy Van – was “khuôn trăng đầy đặn”. Seeing how efficient it is to produce figurative implications by using idioms, the Vietnamese adopted a habit of using idioms as means of compliment, usually for personally appearance. In addition, a notion which needs to be taken into consideration is the “back-handed compliments”. By stimulating the skepticism of presentational motives, a back-handed compliment can be considered as either an offence or an actual credit, depending on the situation (Nguyen, Seers, & Hartman, 2008). Normally, they are considered as the former function. In Vietnamese, it is usually known as “khen đểu”. Hence, in order to avoid such unreasonable misunderstanding, it is crucial of people to meticulously consider the produced utterances and also the used language to see whether it is in the right circumstance (Brown, Levinson, 1987). REFERENCE English Bolino, M.C., Varela, J.A., Bande, B., & Turnley, W. H. (2006). The impact of impression management tactics on supervisor ratings of organizational citizenship behavior. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 27, 281-297. Brown, P., & Levinson, S. C. (1987). Politeness: Some universals in language usage. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Donald T. Phillips, (1993) Lincoln on Leadership. Recorded Books, Inc. John Green (2012). The Fault in Our Stars. Dutton Books, Inc. J.M. Barrie (1902) The Little White Bird. Holmes, J. (1986). Compliments and Compliment Responses, Anthropological Linguistics, 28, 485-508 Holmes, Janet (1988a) Compliments and compliment responses in New Zealand English. Anthropological Linguistics 28 : 485-508. Holmes, Janet (1990) Apologies in New Zealand English. Language in Society l9(2): 155-199. Manes, Joan (1983) Compliments: A mirror of cultural values. In N. Wolfson and E. Judd (eds.), Sociolinguistics and language acquisition. Rowley, Mass.: Newbury House, 96-102. Nelson, G., Al-Batal, M., & Echols, E. (1996). Arabic and English compliment responses: Potential for pragmatic failure. Applied Linguistics, 17(4), 411-432. Nguyen, N. T., Seers, A., & Hartman, N. S. (2008). Putting a good face on impression management: Team citizenship and team satisfaction. Journal of Behavioral and Applied Management, 9(2), 148-168. Wolfson, N. (1983) An empirically based analysis of complimenting in American English. In Nessa Wolfson and Elliot Judd (Eds.), Sociolinguistics and Language Acquisition (pp. 82-95). Rowley, Mass: Newbury House. Vietnamese Du Nguyễn (1814 – 1820) Truyện Kiều Lan Ngô Hương (2016), Đề tài cấp Viện “Đặc trưng văn hóa ứng xử của người Việt Nam và người Nhật Bản qua một số hành vi”. Hà Phạm Thị (2013), Đặc điểm ngôn ngữ giới trong giao tiếp tiếng Việt (qua hành vi khen và tiếp nhận lời khen), Luận án tiến sĩ ngữ văn, Học viện Khoa học xã hội.

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