Death Euphemisms Between Chinese and English a Contrastive Analysis

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Death Euphemisms Between Chinese and English: A Contrastive Analysis


Euphemism is a typical and common cultural phenomenon in both Chinese and English communities, which has a long standing history. Death euphemism, which plays a vital role in linguistics, is an important component of euphemism. The thesis tends to make a contrastive analysis of death euphemism between Chinese and English under the two absolutely different culture characteristics and to explore the deep culture connotations under this language phenomenon. This thesis is composed of five parts:

Part one, the introduction, presents a brief view of euphemism and death euphemism. Many previous researches of euphemism are stated and provide the definition of euphemism. Part two, three and four are the main bodies of the whole thesis: Part two provides the theoretical backgrounds and bases of death euphemism, mainly about “the theory of the context of culture” and American anthropologist Florence Kluckhohn’s “Five Orientation”. Part three classifies Chinese death euphemism and English death euphemism respectively. Part four makes a contrastive analysis of death euphemism in Chinese and English, mainly from three aspects, namely, religions, social customs and cultural patterns. The last part is the conclusion of the whole thesis which aims at improving our understanding of other cultures as well as our own cultures, especially death cultures.

Key Words

Death; euphemism; culture; difference

摘 要

在中国和西方许多地区,委婉语作为一种既典型又普遍的文化现象拥有悠久的历史。死亡委婉语是委婉语的重要组成部分,它在语言学中起着至关重要的作用。这篇论文将要在中西两种截然不同的文化特征下对死亡委婉语做对比分析,并且探讨在这种语言现象下深刻的文化内涵。 这篇论文由五个部分组成:
第一部分,导论,简单介绍委婉于和死亡委婉语,阐述先前多位学者对委婉语的研究并且给委婉语下定义。 第二,三,四部分是整篇论文的主体部分: 第二部分为死亡委婉语提供理论背景和基础,主要运用了“语境说”以及美国人类学家Florence Kluckhohn’s 的“五个价值取向”。第三部分分别对中英死亡委婉语进行分类。第四部分主要从三个方面即宗教,社会风俗和文化模式对中英死亡委婉语进行对比分析。 最后一部分是整篇论文的结论, 希望通过对死亡委婉语的对比分析,在理解自己国家文化的同时对其他国家的文化有所了解,特别是对死亡文化有所了解。


死亡;委婉语; 文化; 差异


Both Chinese and English Communities have certain notions that people try to mention indirectly, even then there is such a term in this language. Since words related to unpleasant things would make people feel uncomfortable. Therefore, when people mentioned such notions, the user will substitute a different or an indirect term that sounds better than the direct one. The English word “euphemism” comes from the Greek eu, meaning “well” or “sounding good”, and pheme, meaning “speech” or “saying” that is, speaking with good words or better manners. Death is the most terrible event to human being. As a consequence, it is a forbidden area in every culture. To avoid mentioning directly, the word “euphemisms” are created to substitute for it. Death euphemism is not only linguistic phenomenon, but also a cultural phenomenon, which can reflect the traditional value, religion, and social customs of the nations. In both Chinese and English death euphemisms has been applied more than before. Paying attention to the various death euphemisms that are commonly used may improve our understanding about society’s attitudes toward death.

Ⅰ. Euphemism and Death Euphemism

More and more educated and non-educated people use euphemisms today. Among the euphemisms, death euphemisms are playing an important role when people communicate with others.

A. Previous Studies of Euphemism
Euphemism has long been discussed by scholars for a long time. Hugh Rawson (1981), Leech (1985), 张拱贵(1996)etc. researched it in their respective fields . The major concern of scholars like Hugh Rawson, Neaman & Sliver (1983) and Ayto (1993), 刘纯豹 (1990)和 张拱贵(1996)is to collect and categorize euphemism for dictionaries. These scholars’ studies are mainly focus on or restricted in three areas: dictionary compiling, rhetoric, and semantics. However, those linguists concerned with the details of language structure pay little attention to the context in which speech is embedded or to the conditions which the socio-cultural factors use. There...
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