English and Vietnamese Greeting

Topics: Greeting, Greetings, English people Pages: 14 (4090 words) Published: July 26, 2012


Contrastive Analysis: English and Vietnamese Greetings Nguyen Thi Bich Hang University of Education



As we all know, differences in culture are one of the main problems leading to a failure of communication. Thus, if learners want to develop their communicative competence in the target language, besides listening and speaking, they should improve a wide knowledge about sociolinguistics. Usually in daily life, people tend to use the illocutionary act rather than the locutionary act. Therefore, learners have difficulties in using the target language appropriately in different contexts. A greeting is not an exception. It is considered as the important aspect in cultural life of each nation. There are many different ways of greeting. In Western countries such as France, Spain or Italy, people greet friends by kissing on both cheeks while in the Middle East, Muslims always hug persons of the same sex when greeting each other. What an interesting thing! How about Asians like us? The peoples in Asian countries are quite reticent. So, the way they greet is also discreet and respectful. In Vietnam, greetings are part and parcel of everyday life. Vietnamese ancestors said: “Lời chào cao hơn mâm cỗ”. The statement reveals that greetings played an important role in the old days of our country. According to Goffman, greetings provide the means of the opening conversations appropriately, establish and maintain social relationship (as cited in Li, 2009, p.1), for example “Hello” or “Hi”. In addition, the basic functions of greetings are also to identify the presence of communicators and to show their concern. However, modes of communication in all languages are not the same. That is the reason why imposing the rules of one language on another’s can cause negative transfer which leads awkwardness and misunderstanding.



In this paper, I focus on English and Vietnamese greetings and draw out some differences in terms of content, semantics, syntax and lexis. Then, some implications for language teaching are discussed so that learners can avoid pragmatic transfers from their native language to the second one. I hope that through the paper, you will have a deep look into two languages in greetings, an indispensable culture in the world.

ENGLISH AND VIETNAMESE GREETINGS Greetings in English and Vietnamese Definition


The definition of greeting is illustrated in terms of linguistics, sociology, and anthropology. According to two linguists, Schegloff and Sacks (1973), greetings are considered as a speech event constituted by two parts side by side such as Greeting-Greeting: A: Hi B: Hi

Or Greeting- Request for information A: Hi B: Do you have a class today?

Unlike the linguists’ outlook, Goffman (1971), the sociolinguist stated that greetings consist of several interlinking behaviors: (1)Verbal (2) Term of address (3) Non verbal (4) Social context

Meanwhile, in anthropological linguistics perspective, Fieg and Mortlock (1989) defined greetings as “ritualistic expressions” which are affected by social factors, particularly cross-cultural differences (as cited in Williams, 2001). In Vietnamese, greetings, as stated by professor Ngan (2005), mean that people speak or use gesture in order to show their respect and sociability when they meet someone. Or in Vietnamese proverbs, we can see that how important greetings are in comparison with “mâm cỗ”. “Lời chào cao hơn mâm cỗ”



In brief, no one can give the accurate definition which satisfies other people. It is obvious that each nation has different ways to greet, so there are variances in greeting concept. Greetings in English In English, there are some main formulaic expressions frequently used in informal contexts such as “Hi”+ (first name) and “Hello”+ (first name). In addition, people tend to...
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