A Contrastive Analysis of Compliments in American English and Vietnamese

1533 Words Jan 22nd, 2011 7 Pages
When a student gets a high score, his teacher usually says: “Good job!”. When a child automatically cleans up the room after playing, her parents are likely to say: “You are very good”. When you go to school wearing a new shirt, you probably hear from your friends: “That shirt looks nice on you”. Those utterances are called compliments which are used to show that someone likes someone else’s appearance, belongings, or work etc. Due to different cultural background and social values, English and Vietnamese native speakers have different norms of complimenting as well as responding to compliments. In this essay, I will discuss the notion of compliment made in American English and Vietnamese in terms of topics, formulas, and responses.
First
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For example, when a host prepares a good meal, an English speaking guest will say “The meal was delicious”. In the same situation, a Vietnamese guest will say “Chị nấu ăn ngon quá!” (You cook so well!)
Formulas of compliment
Formulas of compliment drew much concern from linguists. According to Maines and Wofson (1981), nine popular ways to give compliment are:
NP is/looks really ADJ. (Your blouse is beautiful)
I really like/love NP. (I like your car)
PRO is (really) (a) ADJ NP. (That’s a really nice wall hanging.)
You V (a) really ADJ NP. (You did a really good job)
You V (NP) (really) ADV. (You really handled that situation well.)
You have (a) ADJ NP. (You have such beautiful hair)
What a ADJ NP! (What a lovely baby you have!)
ADJ NP! (Nice game!)
Isn’t NP ADJ (Isn’t your ring beautiful?)
The first three are also the most commonly used structures in many countries worldwide. From the examples in part 2, we can easily see that Vietnamese also follow these formulaic structures when we want to show our appreciation to hearers.
One difference, however, is that unlike American, Vietnamese rarely use the first person pronoun but the second person pronoun in their compliments. That is to say they will not say “I really like your new haircut”. A more appropriate way to express the same idea in Vietnamese is “Your
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