A contrastive analysis of the meanings expressed via the modal verbs can, may, must in english and the equivalent expressions in vietnamese

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Certificate of originality I, Nguyen Minh Hue, hereby claim the originality of my study. Unlessotherwise indicated, this is my own piece of academic accomplishment.SignatureiAcknowledgementsI am sincerely grateful to Assoc. Prof. Dr. Vo Dai Quang, my supervisor, for his wisdom,critical comments and precious advice spared for me. Without his guidance,encouragement and critical comments the work would have never been completed.I owe a debt of gratitude to all my lecturers at the University of Languages andInternational Studies - Vietnam National University, Hanoi, for their enthusiastic teachingand tremendous knowledge that have directly or indirectly enlightened my research paper.I would like to express my gratitude to all of my colleagues at the ESP Department, ULIS-VNU, Hanoi for their constant encouragement and the favourable conditions spared formy study.Finally, my warmest thanks go to my parents, my husband for their love, support and shareof housework and childcare. Without their help this thesis could not have gained thecurrent status.Hanoi, December - 2006Nguyen Minh HueiiTABLE OF CONTENTSCertificate of originality iAcknowledgements iiTABLE OF CONTENTS iiiPart A. Introduction 11. Rationale of the study 12. Aims of the study 33. Scope of the study 34. Methodology 35. Design of the study 4Part B: Development 5Chapter 1: Theoretical background 5Chapter 2: Investigation 13Chapter 3: Implications 29Part C: Conclusion 33References 35Sources of example 361. Charlotte Bronte. Jane Eyre. Vol 1. (Translated by NguyÔn Anh Kim). 1996.Vietnam: Literature Publishing House 362. Charlotte Bronte. Jane Eyre. Vol 2. (Translated by NguyÔn Anh Kim). 1996.Vietnam: Literature Publishing House 363. website: http://www.online_literature.com/brontec/janeeyre/ 36iiiPart A. Introduction1. Rationale of the studyIn everyday communication, both the speaker and writer do not simply describe events,processes or states of affairs. By means of language, they also wish to express theiremotions and attitudes; or to influence in some way the addressee’s beliefs, behaviours.Usually, the speaker not only says something true, something that will definitely happen orhappened, but also says something he/ she does not know for sure. 1. Tom is happy.2. Tom seems (to be) happy.3. I think Tom is happy.4. Perhaps Tom is happy.While statement (1) expresses the speaker’s assertion of a fact, statements (2), (3) and (4)show his indefinite commitment to the proposition “Tom is happy”. The area of semanticsthat concerns this expressive and social information of statements is modality.In comparison with absolute commitments where the speaker definitely asserts, relativecommitments play a very important role in communication. In fact, using too manyabsolute commitments probably lessens communicative effects because the speaker will beseen as a rude or imposing person, disobeying politeness strategies. That’s why thespeakers often hedge, using modalized phrases such as I think (that), I suppose (that) firstto express their subjective attitudes and second to show their politeness to listeners.Hence, it becomes very interesting and essential to study modality in general and toinvestigate how much a speaker commits to what he says in particular. Modality has gainedmuch popularity among linguists. The different ways in which different langauges allowspeakers to insert themselves into their discourse, expressing their desires or opinions havebecome a common subject of study. From syntax to prosody, the study of modality hasspawned innumerable academic papers, namely Bybee (1985), Lyons (1977) and others.Vietnamese modal system has also been studied by Hoµng Phª (1984) and §ç H÷u Ch©u(1989).According to Lyons, a speaker’s qualification of his commitment to the truth of his/ herproposition becomes an important issue. In Vietnam, there are several English-written M.Atheses on this issue, for example, Modality and Modal Auxiliaries: A systemic comparisonof English and Vietnamese by §ç H÷u HuyÕn (1996), English Epistemic Markers inContrastive Analysis with Vietnamese by Ngò ThiÖn Hïng (1996), A Contrastive Study ofthe Modal Devices Expressing Possibility in Modern English and Vietnamese by §inh GiaHng (2001). Hoµng Thu Giang (2001) also makes a comparison between different types ofmodal expressions in English and their Vietnamese equivalents. NguyÔn D¬ng NguyªnCh©u (1999) sets for the discussion on pragmatic interpretation of obligation meaningsexpressed particularly by English modals must, should, have to.1The researches in English focus on analyzing both the most common form and content ofmodality. As a result, a full and specific description of syntactic and semantic features ofEnglish modal verbs can, may, must and the equivalent expressions in Vietnamese has notbeen given yet. Thus, a research on the meanings expressed by the modal verbs can, may,must in English in contrastive analysis with Vietnamese seems to be necessary.Though many pages, chapters, books have been written about the English modal system, itstill remains a complicated and troublesome area of language for linguists and learners ofEnglish. The problem can be traced to the polysemy/ ambiguity of modal meanings.Semantically, a modal can convey either deontic or epistemic modality. In the sociophysical(deontic) world, the must in “John must go to all the department parties” is taken asindicating an obligation imposed upon the person realized by the subject of the sentence bythe speaker (or by some other agents). In the epistemic world, the must in the samesentence could be read as a logical necessity according to the reasoning I must conclude“that it is John s habit to go to all department parties (because I see his name on the sign-’up sheet every time, and he s always out on those nights)’ ”. In addition, there isconsiderable overlap between modals. It is hard to discern any semantic difference amongthem since modals are almost sustitutable in most contexts, e.g. can and may in “You can/may leave”. Pragmatically, we can talk about modal meanings in terms of such logicalnotions as “permission” and “necessity”, but this done, we still have to consider ways inwhich these notions become remoulded by the psychological pressures of everydaycommunication between human beings: factors such as condescension, politeness, tact andirony.The learning of meanings expressed by modals and how to use them correctly has not been,then, an easy task for learners of English. Learners are often confused in choosing theappropriate modal to make themselves understood. This problem is especially moreembarrassing when they encounter different modals conveying similar meanings. Also,they can produce grammatically correct utterances, but do not understand properly thesocial and cultural information each modal meaning conveys. Furthermore, due to thestructuralist approach to grammar teaching, learners can memorize modals with theirmeanings given, but do not know how to use them to improve their communicativecompetence, say, to mitigate directness, to express politeness, to make assertions in socialinteraction.Despite the fact that earlier researches on modality contribute greatly to helping acquireEnglish modality usage, it is still considered one of the most difficult aspects of learningEnglish. The topic of this study was prompted at first by my guide to my students inimproving reading skill and in doing some English-Vietnamese translation. I found thatstudents still have many problems in understanding the texts, and especially in interpretingthe writer’s opinion and attitude expressed by such typical modals as can, may, must. Withall these reasons, I made up my mind to choose and to go further into the topic: A2contrastive analysis of the meanings expressed via the modal verbs can, may, must inEnglish and the equivalent expressions in Vietnamese.2. Aims of the studyThis study - A contrastive analysis of the meanings expressed via the modals can, may,must in English and the equivalent expressions in Vietnamese – is focused oninvestigating the semantic analysis of modal meanings expressed by can, may, must inEnglish and their equivalents in Vietnamese. It is aimed at:- studying some preliminaries and features of modal auxiliaries in English and inVietnamese. - making a comparison between modal meanings expressed by can, may, must in Englishand their Vietnamese equivalent expressions.- offering some suggestions for the application of the study to the teaching of Englishmodals.3. Scope of the studyThis study is confined to the meanings expressed via the three modal verbs can, may, mustin English, their semantic features and the equivalent expressions in Vietnamese.English modals are widely utilized in both spoken and written discourse and cover variousfunctional styles. It would be interesting to investigate their uses in them all. However, inorder to make our tasks manageable in keeping the aims of the study, within the timeallowance, it is intended that the most attention is paid to written discourse.4. MethodologyA combination of different methods of analysis will be used in this study. The first is thedescriptive method. English modals can, may, must will be described in turns in order tofind out their semantic features.However, the major method utilized in this study is the contrastive analysis between themeanings expressed via the modal verbs can, may, must in English and the equivalentexpressions in Vietnamese. English modal verbs are chosen as the references and we baseon these instruments to find out all the equivalents in Vietnamese.To apply these methods and to achieve the study goals, translation is the main technique forcomparison between English modal verbs and the equivalent expressions in Vietnamese.With written discourse, data employed for analysis will be extracted from the novel JaneEyre by Charlotte Bronte – a famous writer in the nineteenth century realistic literature ofEngland. This novel is taken from the website3http://www.online_literature.com/brontec/janeeyre/. The reason for choosing Jane Eyre isthat it is a well-known literary work in which can, may and must are widely used so that thecontrastive analysis can be easily done. Based on thirty - eight chapters of this novel and itstranslation by TrÇn Anh Kim (1996), the data are chosen at random. Then the data areanalyzed and systematized to work out a fresh insight into the meanings expressed by can,may, must and their equivalents in Vietnamese.5. Design of the studyThe study is composed of three parts.Part A is the introduction which presents rationales, literature review, aims, scope of thestudy as well as the methodology for the research.Part B is the main part which consists of three chapters.Chapter one is about the theoretical background for the research. This chapter is aimed atestablishing the framework of investigation. It chiefly deals with modality and modal verbsin English and in Vietnamese.Chapter two is focused on investigating the meanings expressed by can, may, must and oncontrastive analysis of the meanings expressed by can, may, must and the Vietnameseequivalents cã thÓ, ph¶i.Chapter three deals with the applicability of the study results to the teaching of can, may,must to Vietnamese learners of English. It discusses some challenges in teaching andlearning English modals. It also puts forward some suggestions for the teaching of Englishmodals. The final part is the conclusion which presents a recapitulation of the study and providespossible concluding remarks and suggestions for further research.4Part B: DevelopmentChapter 1: Theoretical background1.1. Concept of modality in English1.1.1. Definition of modalityFrom the Latin word modalitas, the quality of modality relates to manners (a way of actingor speaking), forms (shape, structure), and limits (something that restrains). The term isused to cover linguistic expression of these concepts other than through the modalauxiliaries: ‘It will possibly rain later this evening’, ‘I am sure that the plane has landed bynow’, ‘You have my permission to smoke now.’Modality is central to research done in many disciplines, but rarely receives unifiedtreatment in logic, in (western) philosophy, or in linguistics. In modern logic, for example,one generally analyses a single semantic value for a modal verb such as can, may, or mustin English or cã thÓ, cã lÏ or nªn in Vietnamese. As these verbs occur in different contextsand are sensitive to interaction with time and aspect markers, they can receive differentvalues.The modal value of a statement is the way, or ‘mode’, in which it is true or false: e.g.certainly so, currently so, necessarily so. In logic, modality usually means ‘logicalmodality’, that is the logical necessity or possibility of a statement’s truth or falsity.Nevertheless, logic begins but does not end with the study of truth values. Within truth,there are modes of truth, ways of being true: necessary truth and contigent truth. When aproposition is true, we may say whether it could have been false. If so, then it is contigenttrue. If not, then it is necessarily true; it must be true; it could not have been false. Falsityhas modes as well: a false proposition that could not have been true is impossible ornecessarily false; one that could have been true is merely contigently false. The proposition‘New York is a rich city’ is contigently true; the proposition that ‘Two and two is four’ isnecessarily true; the proposition ‘Her husband is female’ is impossible, and the propositionthat ‘Women don’t give births’ is contigently false.In logic, modality is concerned with how what is said is related to the fact that rather thanwith what purpose, attitude or judgement a speaker has in uttering. It is because of thisreason that modality in logic is considered objective modality.While traditional logic has been more concerned with objective modality, which excludesspeakers, modality in language seems to be essentially subjective, i.e. it refers to thespeaker’s opinion or attitude. This is reasonable because in everyday conversation and indifferent contexts, all utterances show the purpose, attitude or assessment of the speaker.5Modality in language is, then, concerned with subjectiveness of an utterance. In subjectivemodality, speakers express the fact with their own intention or judgement. The subjectivityis seen in different aspects: speakers’ commitment toward the factuality of what is said,speakers’ judgement toward a proposition, whether it is positive or negative, advantageousor disadvantageous etc. It is modality that gives more meanings to utterances. Together withfast development of semantics and pragmatics, modality has received more linguists’concerns.Lyons (1977) says that modality is the speaker’s opinion or attitude towards ‘theproposition that the sentence expresses or the situation that the proposition describes.’Palmer (1986) defines modality as semantic information associated with the speaker’sattitude or opinion about what is said.According to Frawley (1992), modality semantically reflects a speaker’s attitude or degreesof awareness of the content of a proposition.In Vietnam, for the past few years, modality has been the focus of many linguists andresearchers such as Hoµng Phª, §ç H÷u Ch©u and others. Hoµng Träng PhiÕn broadlyexplains modality as a grammatical category which appears in all kinds of sentence.From the definition of modality mentioned above, we can see that to some extent linguistshave one thing in common seeing that modality describes the speaker’s attitude orjudgement toward the proposition and not the proposition itself.The notional content of modality highlights its association with entire statements. Modalityconcerns the factual status of information; it signals the relative actuality, validity, orbelievability of the content of an expression. Modality reflects the overall assertability ofan expression and thus takes the entire proposition within its scope. In the utterance ‘It maybe raining’, for example, the speaker is not committing himself wholeheartedly to the truthof the proposition. He is not making a categorical assertion, but rather modifying hiscommiment to some degree by expressing a judgement of the truth of the situation.1.1.2. Types of modalityTypes of modality are classified differently according to different linguists. Von Wright(1951: 1-2) in “Studying modal logic” distinguishes 4 types: Alethic, Epistemic, Deonticand Existential. Rescher (1968), apart from these types, refers to one more type it istemporal modality. Leech and Startvik (1985: 219-221) suggest 2 types: Intrinsic andExtrinsic modality.Types of modality in Halliday’s view.Halliday’s view on types of modality could be summed up as follow.“Polarity is the choice between positive and negative, as in is/ isn t, do/ don t’ ’ .6However, the possibilities are not limited to a choice between yes and no. There areintermediate degress: various kinds of indeterminacy that fall in between, like “sometimes”or “maybe”. The intermediate degrees between the positive and negative poles, are knowncollectively as modality”. (Halliday, 1985: 85-86)He further expresses the commodity exchanged & the speech function and the types ofintermediacy in this chartCommodityexchangedSpeech function Types of intermediacyInformation Proposition StatementquestionModality Probability (possible/ probable/certain)Frequency (sometimes/usually/ always)Goods & services Proposal Command Modulation Obligation (allowed/ supposed/required)Offer Inclination (willing/ anxious/determined)As can be seen from the chart, in a proposition, the meaning of positive and negative polesis asserting “It is so” and denying “It isn’t so”. He observes two kinds of intermediatepossibilities: (1) degree of probability (possible -> probable -> certain) which is equivalentto may be “yes”, may be “no” with different degrees of likelihood attached and (2) degreeof usuality (i.e sometimes “yes” sometimes “no”).In a proposal, there are two kinds of intermediate possibilities: (1) in a command, theintermediate points represent degrees of obligation and (2) in an offer, they representdegrees of described duty.However, the classification made by Sweetser and Palmer, in my opinion, seems the mostacceptable for its clarity and generalization which can be applied to the linguistic studyfrom different angles: semantic, logic and pragmatic. They are Epistemic & Deonticmodality. Analyzing such a sentence as “He must be in his office”, we can see this mayhave two interpretations, depending on the modality assigned to the modal verb “must”.In one sense, it means “I am certain that he is in his office” (By my reasoning andjudgement). In another sense, it has the interpretation of “He is obliged to be in his office”(He has no choice but to be in his office). In the formal sense, the modal auxiliary “must”is epistemic and in the latter it is deontic.Lyons (1977: 793) (in conjunction with other scholars) states: “Epistemic modality isconcerned with matters of knowledge, belief” or “opinion rather than fact”. Palmer(1990:7) considers that epistemic modality in language is often, may be always, subjective7[...]... 2.2 A Contrastive analysis of the meanings expressed via the modal verbs can, may, must in English and the equivalent expressions in Vietnamese 2.2.1 Can, may, must and their equivalents in Vietnamese Vietnamese expressions equivalent to the modal meanings expressed by can - The modal meanings expressed by can is realized by many Vietnamese equivalents a) The first, in expressing ability, can... only must in English The contrastive analysis of the modal meanings expressed via can, may, must in English and the equivalent expressions in Vietnamese can be summarized in the table below Modal verbs Similarities Can and Vietnamese Can in English andthể in equivalents Vietnamese are both used to express ability, possibility and permission May and Vietnamese May in English andthể in equivalents... syntactic and semantic features of modal verbs in English This theory has been a solid framework for the contrastive analysis of the meanings expressed via the modal verbs can, may, must and the equivalent expressions in Vietnamese Semantically, the English modals can, may, must express the notion of ability, possibility, permission and obligation Can and may refer to different types of possibility: can... had a human being's wants: I must not linger where there was nothing to supply them (3: Chapter XXVIII)) 2.2.2 A contrastive analysis of the modal meanings expressed via can, may, must in English and the equivalent expressions in Vietnamese As mentioned in the part 2.1 (Conventional meanings of English modals can, may, must) , can and may are both used to express the notion of possibility However, there... clear which meaning is intended An effort has also been made to have a contrastive analysis of the meanings expressed via the modal verbs can, may, must and the equivalent expressions in Vietnamese The analysis has shown that there occurs a few modal verb forms in expressing possibility and in expressing obligation This is seen as a difference between English modal verbs and Vietnamese ones Importantly,... meanings expressed via the modals can, may, must in English and the equivalent expressions in Vietnamese Hence, the theoretical account on Contrastive Analysis is necessary Regarding the definition of CA, Jame (1980: 3) states: CA is a linguistic enterprise aimed at producing inverted two-valued typologies (a CA is always concerned with a pair of languages), and founded on the assumption that languages can... nhau mà cời (32: 89) In short, as in other languages, modal verbs in Vietnamese are also widely used as a basic means to express modal meanings But they do not act as head element in the verb phrase They have to be combined with other verbs to create verb phrases in the sentence 1.4 Contrastive analysis (CA) As one of the main aims of this paper is to carry out a contrastive analysis on the meanings. .. Some features of the Vietnamese language 10 In order to examine the modal auxiliaries and modality in Vietnamese, it is necessary to present here some features that are peculiar to the Vietnamese language as these features are reflected via the modal auxiliaries in Vietnamese Firstly, we are all aware that Vietnamese is a non-inflectional language A word keeps its own form in various places in a sentence... Chapter 2: Investigation 2.1 Conventional meanings of English modals can, may, must This section involves the presentation on conventional meanings of can, may, must in English All the examples for illustration would be accompanied by their translation into Vietnamese in order to facilitate the contrastive analysis thereafter 2.1.1 Conventional meanings of Can Ability E.g (1) Be seated somewhere; and until... learners in mastering English modal verbs 2 Concluding remarks The thesis has gained the aims set forth with the remarks listed belows: Can, may, must do not express only a certain meaning but they usually convey a wide range of meanings To have a correct interpretation of a modal, it is suggested to accord a central place to the role of both speaker and hearer in the construction of meaning and take . further into the topic: A 2 contrastive analysis of the meanings expressed via the modal verbs can, may, must in English and the equivalent expressions in. (CA)As one of the main aims of this paper is to carry out a contrastive analysis on the meanings expressed via the modals can, may, must in English and the
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