A VIETNAMESE-ENGLISH CROSS-CULTURAL STUDY OF PROMISING

Language plays an important role in our life. Language is not only for communication but also for cultural exchange among nations. It is difficult to imagine what our lives would be like without language. Language is a sign that makes human different fromall other species in the animal Kingdom. People use it to communicate their ideas and thoughts to express their feelings, (anger, love, hate, or friendship) and to convey their hopes and dreams. Cross-cultural communication is interesting and attractive field for us to find out the similar and different language when studying speech acts such as: greeting, advising, promising, among countries in the world. There are many ways to make promises in Vietnamese and English. But to “promise” in an effective way is by no means easy. People often have difficulties in making appropriate promises in another language. It is exactly the case to many studentsof English in Vietnam, especially students from the thesis author’s training institution. This leads the author to the decision to conduct a research into “Vietnamese-English cross-cultural study of Promising” to find out the similarities and differences in making promises in Vietnamese and English.

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    i  CERTIFICATE OF ORIGINALITY OF STUDY PROJECT REPORT I hereby certify that the thesis entitled A VIETNAMESE-ENGLISH CROSS-CULTURAL STUDY OF PROMISING Is my study in the fulfillment of the requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts at College of Foreign Languages, Vietnam National University- Hanoi. Ha noi, 2008 Dinh Thi Be     ii  ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I would like to express my deepest gratitude to my supervior, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Nguyen Quang, for his useful guidance, insightful comments, and encouragement without which my thesis would not have been completed My special thanks go to all my lecturers in Vietnam National University, Hanoi, Post Graduate studies Department for their precious assistance, scholarly knowledge and enthusiasm. I am grateful to Miss Collen and Mr John, English teachers at Aseam centrer, Nghe An colleage for their assistances in my data collection. Especially, I am indebted to my friend, Bui Thanh Mai, for her great support Last but not least, I would like to express my indebtedness to my family, especially my husband, my grand parents who have given me constant support and love during the completion of the thesis. Dinh Thi Be     iii  ABBREVIATIONS CUP: Cambridge University Press D: Social Distance E: English FTA: Face Threatening Act FSA: Face Saving Act H: The Hearer M: The married NP: Negative Politeness NPO: Negative Politeness Oriented PP: Positive Politeness PPO: Positive Politeness Oriented P: Relative Power R: Ranking of Imposition S: The Single S: The Speaker V: Vietnamese     iv  LIST OF TABLES AND FIGURES  Table 1: The five general functions of speech acts. ( Yule: 1996)……………………... 7 Table 2: The informants’ status parameters ……………………………………………. 25 Table 3: Strategies realized in promising ……………………………………………… 26 Table 4: Politeness strategies according to the parameter of age ……………………… 42 Table 5: Politeness strategies according to the parameter of gender …………………... 43 Table 6: Politeness strategies according to the parameter of marital status …………… 44 Table 7: Politeness strategies according to the parameter of living area ………………. 45 Figure 1: Possible strategies for doing the FTAs ( Brown and Levinson, 1987)………... 15 Figure 2: Politeness strategies in promising to close friend …………………………… 32 Figure 3: Politeness strategies in promising to brother/ sister………………………….. 33 Figure 4: Politeness strategies in promising to colleague ( same age, same sex)……….. 34 Figure 5: Politeness strategies in promising to colleague( same age, opposite sex)……. 34 Figure 6: Politeness strategies in promising to accquaintance …………………………. 35 Figure 7: Politeness strategies in promising to boss (5 years younger)………………… 36 Figure 8: Politenes strategies in promising to boss (5 years older)……………………. 37 Figure 9: Politeness strategies in promising to subordinate…………………………….. 38     v  ABSTRACT This thesis focuses on cross-cultural similarities and differences in promising in Vietnamese and English. Politeness strategies realized for promising are analysed with data taken from two questionnaires for the Vietnamese and the English informants. The thesis falls into two major chapters: Chapter I : “Theoretical preliminaries” deals with the notion of culture, cross-culture, speech acts, classifications of speech acts, politeness, politeness principles and politeness strategies. Chapter II : “Data analysis and findings”: Questionnaires are used to collect data for the study. Making promises which resorts to various strategies of politeness is a flexibly and effectively communicative act in both Vietnamese and English cultures.     vi  TABLE OF CONTENTS * Certificate of originality of study project report ……………………………………. i * Acknowledgements …………………………………………………………………… ii * Abbreviations ………………………………………………………………………… iii * List of tables and figures …………………………………………………………… iv * Abstract ……………………………………………………………………………… v * Table of contents ……………………………………………………………………... vi PART A: INTRODUCTION……………………………………….. 1 I. Rationale …………………………………………………… 1 II. Aims of the study …………………………………………… 1 III. Scope of the study …………………………………………… 1 IV. Methodology ………………………………………………… 2 V. Design of the study ………………………………………… 2 PART B: DEVELOPMENT…………………………………………….. 3 CHAPTER I: THEORETICAL PRELIMINARIES………………….. 3 I.1. I.1.1 Culture ……………………………………………………….. What culture ………………………………………………….. 3  I.1.2 What cross-culture? ………………………………………….. 4 I.1.3. Culture-shock …………………………………………………. 4 I.1.4 Relation of language and culture ……………………………… 5 I.2. Speech acts …………………………………………………… 5 I.2.1. What a speech act? …………………………………………… 5 I.2.2. I.2.3 Classifications of speech acts………………………………… Promising as a speech act …………………………………… 7 8 I.3 Politeness ……………………………………………………. 10 I.3.1. What politeness ?……………………………………………… 10 I.3.2. Politeness principles…………………………………………… 11 I.3.3. Social factors affecting politeness strategies ………………….. 15     vii  I.3.4. Politeness strategies …………………………………………… 16 I.3.4.1. Positive politeness strategies ………………………………….. 16 I.3.4.2. Negative politeness strategies ………………………………… 20 CHAPTER II: DATA ANALYSIS AND FINDINGS………………….. 24 II.1. Comments on the survey questionnaires …………………… 24 II.2. Comments on the informants ………………………………… 24 II.3. Strategies realized in promising …………………………… 25 II.4. Promising as seen from communicating partners’ parameters………………………………………………… 32 II.4.1. Data analysis ………………………………………………… 32 II.4.2. Cross-cultural similarities and differences ………………….. 39 II.4.2.1. Similarities ………………………………………………….... 39 II.4.2.2. Differences ………………………………………………….... 40 II.5. Promising as seen from informants’ parameters ………… 42 II.5.1. Data analysis …………………………………………………. 42 II.5.2. Cross-cultural similarities and differences …………………… 45 II.5.2.1. Similarities …………………………………………………… 45 II.5.2.2. Differences …………………………………………………... 46 PART C: CONCLUSION………………………………………………… 47 1. Summary of major findings …………………………………. 47 2. Suggestions for further research …………………………….. 47 REFERENCES APPENDICES     1  PART A: INTRODUCTION I. RATIONALE Language plays an important role in our life. Language is not only for communication but also for cultural exchange among nations. It is difficult to imagine what our lives would be like without language. Language is a sign that makes human different from all other species in the animal Kingdom. People use it to communicate their ideas and thoughts to express their feelings, (anger, love, hate, or friendship) and to convey their hopes and dreams. Cross-cultural communication is interesting and attractive field for us to find out the similar and different language when studying speech acts such as: greeting, advising, promising, among countries in the world. There are many ways to make promises in Vietnamese and English. But to “promise” in an effective way is by no means easy. People often have difficulties in making appropriate promises in another language. It is exactly the case to many students of English in Vietnam, especially students from the thesis author’s training institution. This leads the author to the decision to conduct a research into “Vietnamese-English cross-cultural study of Promising” to find out the similarities and differences in making promises in Vietnamese and English. II. AIMS OF THE STUDY The aims of the study are: - To investigate ways of promising in Vietnamese and English - To compare and contrast the use of politeness strategies in the two languages and cultures to point out similarities and differences in the ways the Vietnamese and the English promise in given situations. - To contribute to raising language teachers’ and students’ awareness of cross-cultural differences in the speech act of promising. III. SCOPE OF THE STUDY The study is limited within the verbal aspects of the act of promising, in the light of the politeness theory by Brown and Levinson. Although others factors such as paralinguistic and extralinguistic ones are important, they are beyond the scope of the thesis.     2  IV. METHODOLOGY The following methods are resorted to: - Conducting survey (with questionnaires as a data collection instrument) - Consulting the supervisor - Reading relevant publications - Conducting personal observations V. DESIGN OF THE STUDY The thesis consists of three parts Part A: INTRODUCTION This part includes the rationale, aims, scope of the study, methodology and design of the study. Part B: DEVELOPMENT This part is divided into two chapters Chapter I: THEORETICAL PRELIMINARIES In this chapter, theories of culture, cross-culture, culture-shock, language-culture interrelationship, speech acts, classifications of speech acts, politeness, politeness principles and politeness strategies are critically discussed. Chapter II: DATA ANALYSIS AND FINDINGS In this chapter, data analysis and findings of the study are presented with the illustration of tables and charts. The similarities and differences in promising between Vietnamese and English languages and cultures are drawn from detailed and critical analysis of data. Part C: CONCLUSION Summary of the major findings and suggestions for further research are presented in this part.     3  PART B. DEVELOPMENT CHAPTER I. THEORETICAL PRELIMINARIES I.1. CULTURE I.1.1. What is culture? Culture is often thought of as shared behavior and beliefs, but in any society, even the simplest one, all individuals never think and act exactly the same. Different authors have different definitions of culture. According to Block (1970:1), “Culture, in its broadest sense, is what makes you a stranger when you are away from home. It includes all beliefs and expectations about how people should speak and act which have become a kind of second nature to you as a result of social learning. When you are with members of a group who share your culture, we or you do not have to think about it, for you are all viewing the world in pretty much the same way and you all know, in general terms, what to expect of one another”. Hoopes (1979:3) defines that: “Culture is the sum of ways of living, including valuablness, beliefs, esthetic standards, linguistic expression, patterns of thinking, behave norms, and styles of communication which a group of people develop to assume its survival in a particular physical and human environment. Culture and the people who are part of it interact. So culture is not static. Culture is the response of a group of human beings to valid and particular needs of its members. It, therefore, has an inherent logic and an essential balance between positive and negative dimensions”. Levine and Alelman (1993) consider culture as “a shared background (for example national, ethnic, religious) resulting from a common language and communication style, customs, beliefs, art, music and all the other products of human thought made by a particular group of people at a particular time. It also refers to the informal and often hidden patterns of human interactions, expressions and view points that people in one culture share”. Culture is always the result of human intervention in the biological processes of nature. It is the product of socially and historically situated discourse communities, created and shaped by language. So culture is always changing because culture consists of learned patterns of behavior and belief, cultural traints can be unlearned and learned a new as human need change. Obviously, language cannot occur alone and is never separated from social activities and its culture.     4  I.1.2. What is cross-culture? Cross-culture can be understood as “the meeting of two cultures or languages across the political boundaries of nation-states” (Kram, 1998: 81). The term “cross-culture” or “interculture” usually refers to the meeting of two cultures”. They are predicated on the equivalence of one nation-one culture-one language and on the expectation that a “culture-shock” may take place upon crossing national boundaries. cross-culture seeks ways to understand the other on the other side of the border. According to Richards (1985: 92), “cross-cultural communication is an exchange of ideas, information, etc…between persons from different backgrounds. There are more problems in cross- cultural communication than in communication between people of the same cultural background. Each participant may interpret the other’s speech according to his or her own cultural conventions and expectations. If the cultural conventions and misunderstandings can easily arise, even resulting in a total break down of communication. This has been shown by research into real life situations, such as job interviews, doctor-patient encounters and legal communication”. Thus, cross-cultural communication is the exchange and negotiation of information ideas, feelings and attitudes between individuals who come from different cultural backgrounds. I.1.3. Culture-shock According to Wikipedia, culture-shock is a term used to describe the anxiety and feelings (of surprise, disorientation, confuse, etc.) felt when people have to operate within an entirely different cultural or social environment, such as a foreign country. It grows out of the difficulties in assimilating the new culture, causing difficulty in knowing what is appropriated and what is not. This is often combined with strong disgust about certain aspects of the near or different culture. Harries and Moran (14: 226) state “culture shock is neither good or bad, and necessary or unnecessary”. It is a reality that many people face when in strange and unexpected situations. Foster (1962: 87) assumes that “culture-shock is mental illness, and is true of much mental illness, the victim usually does not know he is affected. He finds that he is irritable, depressed, and probably annoyed by the lack of attention shown him”. Valies states that “culture-shock is a common experience for a person learning a second language in a second culture. Culture-shock refers to phenomena recognizing from mild irritability to     5  deep psychological panic and crisis. Culture-shock is associated with felling in the learners of estrangement, anger, hostility, homesickness and even physical illness”. I.1.4. Language-culture interrelationship In the “Oxford advanced learner’s Dictionary” (Encyclopedic edition, 1992: 506), language is defined as “system of sounds, words, patterns etc. used by human to communicate thoughts and feelings”. Thus, it is clear that whether we talk about food, colors, love, science, religion, all the meanings are conveyed in not only one language but different languages of the world. Language is the principal means whereby we conduct our social lives. It is used in contexts of communication, it is bound up with culture in multiple and complex ways. Thus, language is a system of signs that is seen as having itself a cultural value. According to Sapir (1970: 207), “Language does not exist apart from culture, that is, from the socially inherited assemblage of practices and beliefs that determines the texture of our lives. He defines culture as “what society does and thinks” and language is “a particular how of thought”. In all in, culture influences the way language is used. And in its turn, language plays an essential role in expressing cultural values and perceptions, as well as preserving and breeding culture from generation to generation. Language and culture are, thus, interrelated and inclusive of one another I.2. SPEECH ACTS I.2.1. What is a speech act? Speech act is a term taken from the word of philosophers of language, John Searle and John Austin in particular who assumes that in saying something, a speaker also does something. Making a statement may be the paradigmatic use of language, but there are sort of other things we can do with words. We can make requests, ask questions, give orders, make promises, give thanks, offer, apology and so on. Morever, almost any speech act is really the perform of several acts at once, distinguished by different aspects of the speakers’ intention: there is the act of saying something, what one does in saying it, such as exclaiming, requesting, promising and how one is trying to affect one’s audience.     6  Factually, speech act theory was first formulated by the phylosopher John Austin (1962). According to him, all utterances should be viewed as actions of the speakers, stating or describing is only one function of language. He points out that the declarative sentences are not only used to say things or describe states of affairs but also used to do things. John Austin (1962) defines speech acts as the actions performed in saying something. When people produce utterances, they often perform actions via those utterances. These actions are called speech acts: such as apology, complaint, compliment, invitation, promise, or request. A speech act is part of a speech event. The speech act performed by producing an utterance, consists of three related acts, namely locutionary act, illocutionary act and perlocutionary act. • Locutionary act is the basic act of producing a meaningful linguistic expression.The locutionary act is performed with some purposes or functions in mind. • Illocutionary act: is an act performed via the communicative force of an utterance. In engaging in locutionary acts we generally also perform illocutionary acts such as informing, advising, offer, promise, etc. In uttering a sentence by virtue of conversational force associated with it. • Perlocutionary act is what we bring about or achieve by saying something, such as convincing, persuading, deterring perlocutionary acts are performed only on the assumption that the hearer will recognize the effect you intended. Speech act is generally interpreted quite narrowly to mean only the illocutionary force of an utterance. The illocutionary act can account as a prediction a promise or a warning. The two other famous linguistic researchers are Schmidt and Richards who reaffirm that: Speech act theory has to do with the functions of languages, so in the broader sense we might say that speech acts are all the acts we perform through speaking, all things we do when we speak. The theory of speech acts is partly taxonomic and partly explanatory. It must systematically classify types of speech acts and the ways in which they can succeed or fail. It must reckon with the fact that the relationship between the words being used and the force of their utterance is often oblique.     7  Generally speaking, speech acts are acts of communication. To communicate is to express a certain attitude, and the type of speech act being performed corresponds to type of attitude being expressed. For example, a statement expresses a belief, an exclamation expresses a feeling, a request expresses a desire, and an apology expresses a regret. As an act of communication, a speech act succeeds if the audience identifies in accordance with the speaker’s intention, the attitude being expressed. I.2.2. Classification of speech acts Searle (1976) classifies speech acts into 5 types • Declaration: these are words and expressions that change the world by the utterance, such as I bet, I declare, I r