The complication of VIETNAMESE SYSTEM OF PERSON REFERENCE compare to English system of person reference
Vietnam is a small “S” shaped country in Southeast Asia. Vietnamese language is the mother tongue of over seventy million people who call themselves nguoi Viet or ngu*o*`i kinh. The other ethnic groups such as Montagnard, Cambodia, Chinese, and Indians, also use Vietnamese as the mainstream language in their daily communication with the Vietnamese.
As a Vietnamese, one of the most difficult thing that challenge me when I was little besides trying to be the master of my own language was how to use the person reference appropriately. Unlike English the I and the you or the je and tu/vous of French have as their counterparts in the Vietnamese system dozens of linguistic forms of various grammatical subclasses. English, as many people would agree, is a very hard language in way of pronunciation, but the system of person reference makes the language less complicated compare to Vietnamese.
Living in United States for over four years, trying to absorb English and French as much as possible, I on the other hand strive to preserve my native language. Many American students curious and want to speak some sentences of different languages, when it comes to Vietnamese, the complication arrives to me. They want to know how to say, “hi, how are you?” I ask, “well, who do you want to say it to?” They look at me puzzling, “does it matter?” they ask. Yes, that “you” can mean a great deal when communicate with Vietnamese. It indicates how formal you talk, how respectful, friendly or serious you are etc.. In this essay, I try to give an in-dept view of how the person reference in Vietnamese would look like compare to English.
Before getting into the meaning, proper nouns, etc. it is essential to provide a brief history of Vietnamese language, and how many phases it had taken us to have what we call chu Quoc Ngu (the national language) today.
There are three distinct writing systems. The Chinese character, which is Chu Nho, Chu Han, “scholars” script, Han characters. The democratic characters derived from Chinese, Chu Nom, “southern script”, and finally Roman script, Chu Quoc Ngu, “national language” or “national script” which has served since 1945 as the conventional orthography throughout the country at all levels of education.
Han characters, chu Han, is a dialect of Chinese, pronounce of Chinese graphs (which is called Sino-Vietnamese) and write in Han characters. The democratic characters, Chu Nom is a transcription system of Vietnamese words with the help of Chinese characters simples or combined between themselves to note the sound of a Vietnamese word. The National Language, chu Quoc Ngu was only from the seventeen century that the transcription in Latin characters, known under the name Quoc Ngu was utilized, and in a greater part by missionaries near the end of 19th century, when French colonized Vietnam and established the regulations, laws. French government began to spread the use of National language instead of Han character or Nom, with the purpose of spreading Christianity and their laws. It is composed of monosyllable words. Each syllable consists of one or two rhymes, most fully equipped with meaning. Vietnamese words are short and easy to learn and memorize for Vietnamese people unlike English. The structure of each word is unchangeable; the meaning of some words can be changed or enriched by adding other words.
When grandmother and grandchild (a girl) talk to each other.
In addressing a young grand-daughter, a Vietnamese-speaking grandmother can choose among chau (common noun, “grandchild”/”nephew”/”niece”), may (personal prounoun, “thou”,) Vien (proper noun) among other linguistic forms. For example:
1. Chau di cho ve roi a? Ba tuong do muoi mot gio moi ve. Chau co dem cai non ve cho me khong?
Grandchild go market return already INTERROGATIVE?
Grandmother imagine about ten one hour new return. Granchild bring hat for mother no?
“Grandchild [i.e., the addressee] has already returned from the market? Grandmother [i.e., the addressor] thought that [grandchild] would not return until about 11 o’clock. Did grandchild buy flowers for [grandchild’s] mother?”
2. May di cho ve roi a? Ba tuong do muoi mot gio moi ve. May co dem cai non ve cho me may khong?
Thou/thee go market return already INTERROGATIVE? I/me imagine about ten one hour new return. Thou/thee bring hat for mother no?
“You have already returned from the market? I thought that [you] would not return until about 11 o’clock. Did you buy flowers for your mother?”
3. Vien di cho ve roi a? Ba tuong do muoi mot gio moi ve. Vien co dem cai non ve cho me khong?
Vien go market return already INTERROGATIVE?
Grandmother imagine about ten one hour new return. Vien bring hat for mother no?
“Vien [i.e., you] have already returned from the market? Grandmother [i.e., the addressor] thought that [Thuy] would not return until about 11 o’clock. Did Thuy buy flowers for [Thuy’s] mother?”
The grandmother instead of using the kinship term ba, she could have chosen tao for self-reference. However the personal pronoun tao would sound very informal, less caring etc. In the example (1) the grandmother adopted the grandchild’s referential perspective in referring to the mother as me [i.e., mother to the grandchild.] The grandmother used the linguistic form, which the grandchild supposes to use in address and third-party references to the mother. Neither the grandmother nor the grandchild could use the third personal pronoun no [he/she/it], which would imply the grandchild’s lack of respect for the mother. In Vietnamese, common and proper nouns are used with considerably greater frequency than personal pronouns. They serve to render salient the kinship and non-kinship roles of the referents to their pragmatic behavioral presuppositions and implications. They embedded by in different gender and class-based.
The grand-father can also use the very same above example when speaking to his grandchild, however he would replace the word ba to ong (grand-father.)
When parent and a child talks to each other.
The sentence below beside plays the role of a mother or father speaks to a child and vice versa. There are many possibilities in which the sentences could play in term of participant roles which the referents of me (mother) and bo (father).
Me da mua cho bo cai mu hom qua roi
“Mother PAST buy for father CLASSIFIER hat day past already.”
“Mother already bought the hat for father yesterday.”
a. Mother [i.e., addressee] already bought the hat for father [i.e., addressor] yesterday.
b. Mother [i.e., addressee] already bought the hat for father [i.e., third party] yesterday, (son/daughter—young or grown up—speaking),
c. Mother [i.e., addressor/speaker] already bought the hat for father [i.e., addressee] yesterday,
d. Mother [i.e., addressor/speaker] already bought the hat for father [i.e., third party] yesterday, (son, daughter as addressee),
e. Mother [i.e, third party] already bought the hat for father [i.e., addresser/speaker] yesterday, (child as addressee),
f. Mother [i.e, third party] already bought the hat for father [i.e., addressee] yesterday, (child as addresser/speaker)
g. Mother [i.e, third party] already bought the hat for father i.e., another third party] yesterday, (children speaking to one another).
No matter whether the father, the mother, or one of their children uttered the speech utterance, the referents of me (“mother”) and bo (“father”) remain the same persons (respectively the mother and father in the family). It cannot be specified from the speech utterance alone which exact speech event roles (i.e., speaker, addressee, or third party) the referents of me and bo played. A mother could assume a child’s perspective in referring to her and the father simply as me and bo (“mother” and “father” to the child). Or in his/her speech interaction with a sibling, a child can simply make third-party references to their parents with the common nouns me and bo. If me…bo has to be substituted with personal pronouns by native speakers who do not witness the speech utterance, the task cannot be accomplished.
When older sister talks to younger brother and sister
The common noun chi (elder sister), and em (younger) are widely used when elder sister talks to younger brother or younger sister. Vice versa, when the younger sister or younger brother answer back to the elder sister, they would use em in addressing for themselves and use chi when referring to the older sister. These common pronouns indicate the stratum in the family. Younger brothers and younger sisters pay respects to their elder sister by using those common nouns when speak. However, using their name as a speaker and as the addressee would indicate not less formal. Yet, the personal pronoun may [thou/thee] and tao [I] are appropriated though not used when writing when the elder talks to the younger. It forbids the younger ones to use such personal pronoun when talking to the elder because of the lack of respect the sentence would mean. Here are some examples to illustrate the situation above:
1. Chi muon em di nau an.
Elder sister want younger brother/sister go cook.
a. “Elder sister [i.e., the addressor] wants younger brother/younger sister [i.e., the addressee] to cook”
b. “Elder sister [i.e., the addressee] wants younger brother/younger sister [i.e., the addressor] to cook” (when the younger brother/younger sister tells another person i.e., another older sister, or an older brother about his/her elder sister]
2. Chi Vien muon em Nguyen nau an. (Nguen is a male name)
Elder sister Vien want younger brother Nguyen to cook
a. “Elder sister [ named Vien] [i.e., the addressor] wants younger brother Nguyen [i.e., the addressee] to cook.”
b. “Elder sister Vien [i.e., the addressee] wants younger brother Nguyen [i.e., the addressor] to cook.” (When Nguyen talks to another older brother/older sister]
3. Tao muon may di nau an.
I want you to cook.
The elder brother when speaking to the younger sister/younger brother can use the above situation but instead of using chi , he would replace it by anh (elder brother). Anh (elder brother), em (younger sister/younger brother) and chi (younger sister) are the common pronoun that used when the sisters and brothers still live in the same house with the parents. When they have not yet married or not yet have their own children. The common pronoun co em ( aunt i.e., the younger sister of the father, paternal junior aunt], chu em ( uncle i.e the younger brother of the father, paternal junior uncle], di ( aunt. i.e the younger sister of the mother, maternal junior aunt] and cau em [ younger brother of the mother, or maternal junior uncle] The brothers and sisters would use those pronouns when speak just as the way their children speak to their aunts and uncles. However, they would add “em” after those words to indicate the difference when they talk and when their children talk, the Northern Vietnamese use them more widely than the Southern and the Middle Region. These words extremely show the respect when their younger sisters or younger brothers have family which often mean that they are more adult and grown-up.
The word anh (elder brother) sometimes is used to refer to the person when people talk to someone they do not know; but the choice of anh emphasized the age criterion ( a relatively small age difference of ten years); this interaction situation can be used the same way when 2 women do not know each other and the age are apparently seemed different.
Why do the same Vietnamese speakers use different kin terms, despite the referent’s identical genealogical positions and the similarity in the interaction situation?
Tren kinh, duoi nhuong (“respect the senior, yield to the junior”) The essentially hierarchical nature of interactions among each other are described above. Knowing where they are in the family, the members ideally yield to the needs of those below them. The latter in turn reciprocate with the recognition of the formers authority or higher status in the system; and show the obedient of the younger. In Vietnam, the senior’s right to start joint activities such as family meal. Any junior who starts a meal without the permission of his elders is considered disrespectful.
The use of common nouns in an utterance is not unique to Vietnamese. It is common in talk to, by, and for babies/young children in English and many other languages.
It is on the basis of the behavioral features in the situational contexts of their addressor, addressee, and third party referring use that the meanings of the kinship terms ba/bo/thay/cha/tia (“father”) and ma/me/me/de/u (“mother “) are pragmatically differentiated. (the picture is below on page 12.)
In Northern speech to express finer distinctions of power and solidarity. While in northern speech, the pair bo…me (“father”… “mother”) , they or their equivalents (e.g., tia…ma) are not utilized at all among southerners.
The function of personal pronouns does constitute a major formal cirterion for their distinction from common and proper nouns.
Among the lexical elements within the pronominal subset of the Vietnamese system of person reference, tao/tau/moi/me is addressor-inclusive and addresse-excleuseive (first person), and minimal in membership; may/mi/toi/you addressor-exclusive and addressee-inclusive (second person), and minimal in membership; no/han/y/lui, both addressor and addressee-exclusive (third person), and minimal in membership; ta, both addressor and addressee- inclusive (fourth person), bay, addressor-exclusive and addressee-inclusive (second person), and non minimal in membership; and chung, addressor and addressee-exclusive, and non-minimal in membership. In contrast to personal pronouns, common and proper nouns can be used in reference not only to third parties, but potentially also to addressor and addressees.
Genealogical referents and referential perrspectives in Vietnamese kin term usages.
Using the familiar kinship notations, F (father), M (mother), S (son),
D (daughter), B (brother), Z (sister), H (husband), W (wife), + (senior),
(junior), we can list the genealogical referents of Vietnamese kin terms as follows:
-anh: +B, F+ZS, F+BS, M+ZS, M+BS, FM+ZSS, FM+BDS,
FM+BSS, FF+ZDS, FF+ZSS, FF+BDS, FF+BSS, MM+ZDS,
MM+ZSS, MM+BDS, MM+BSS, MF+ZDS, MF+ZSS, MF+BDS,
MF+ZSS, etc.; and chi. ‘s H.
-chi.: +Z, F+ZD, F+BD, M+ZD, M+BD, FM+ZDD, FM+ZSD, FM+BDD, M+BSD, FF+ZDD, FF+ZSD, FF+BDD, MM+ZDD,
MM+ZSD, MM+BDD, MM+BSD, MF+ZDD, MF+ZSD, MF+BDD,
MF+ZSD, etc.; anh’s W; and [FW].
Em: -B, -X, F-ZS, F-ZD, F-BS, F-BD, M-ZS, M-ZD, M-BS, M-BD,
FM-ZDS, FM-ZDD, FM-ZSS, FM-ZSD, FM-BDS, FM-BDD,
FM-BSS, FM-BSD, FF-ZDS, FF-ZDD, FF-ZSS, FF-ZSD, FF-BDS,
FF-BDD, FF-BSS, FF-BSD, MM-ZDS, MM-ZDD, MM-ZSS,
MM-ZSD, MM-BDS, MM-BDD, MM-BSS, MM-BSD, MF-ZDS,
MF-ZDD, MF-ZSS, MF-ZSD, MF-BDS, MF-BDD, MF-ZSS
MF-ZSD, etc.; and their H/W.
F and [MH]
M and [FW]
Con: D, S DH, SW
Cha’u: DD, DS, SD, DD; anh’s, chi.’s em’s D, DD, DS S, SD, SS; and their H/W
Ba’c: F+B [F+Z, M+Z, M+B,} FF+BS, FF+ZS, [FF+BD, FF+ZD, FM+ZS, FM+BS, FM+BD, MM+BS, MM+ZS, MM+BD, MM+ZD, MF+ZS, MF+ZD, MF+BS,] etc.: and their W/[H]
Co^, F-Z, [F+Z], FF-BD, [FF+BD, FF-ZD, FF+ZD, FM+ZD, FM+ZD, FM+BD, FM+BD,] etc., anh chu’’s and ca^.u’s W.
Thim: F-BS, FF-BSW, [FF-ZSW, FM-BSW, FM-ZSW,] ETC.
Chu': F-B, FF-BS, [FF-ZS, FM-BS, FM-ZS, MM-BS, MM-ZS, MF-BS, MF=BS, MF-ZS, MF=ZS, FM-ZS, FF-ZS,] ETC.
Cau: M-B, [M+B, MM-BS, MM+BS, MM-ZS, MM+ZS, MF-BS, MF+BD, MF-ZD, MF+BD, FF+ZD, FM-ZD, FM+ZD, FM-BD, FM+BD,] etc.; and [FW].
Di` [M-Z, M+Z, MM-BD, MM+BD, MM-ZD, MM+ZD, MF-BD, MF+BD, MF-ZD, MF+BD, FF-ZD, FF+ZD, FM+ZD, FM-BD, FM+BD,] and [FW]
Ba: [MZ, F+X, MM+ZD, MM+BD, MF+ZD, MF+BD, FM+ZD, FM+BD, FF+ZD, FF+BD, etc.]
Gia`: [M+Z, MM+BD, MM+ZD, MF+ZD, MF+BD, FF+ZD, FM+ZD, FM+BZ, FF+BD,] etc.; and [F+W].
Mo: cau W.
Duong: Di’s H, co’s H [MH]
Ong: FF, MM, their chi. And female em; FF’s ch Iand female em; MM’s chi. And female em; FFW, MFW.
Cha('t: DDD, DDS, DSD, DSS, SDD, SDS, SSD, SSS, and their anh, chi and em
Cu.: FMM, FMF, FFM, FFF, MMM, MMF, MFM, MFF, and their anh, chi. and em