A contrastive analysis of metaphorical lexis and collocation in English and Vietnamese economics discourse

Rationale As is in many other fields, English is increasingly the universal language of economics discourse, which means that professional and academic economist are obliged to publish in English in order to further their careers. There is evidence to show that the dominance of English in scientific journal writing seems to be increasing ( St. John, 1987), even compared with languages such as Vietnamese. English has clearly become the world’s predominant language of research and scholarship (Swales, 1990). A different angle on this is taken up by Wayt Gibbs (1995), who argues that there seems to be a presumption that work written in coutries where English is not the first language is likely to be linguistically deficient: even journal written in English but from non-English speaking countries appear to be discriminated against publication. Referring to the extreme competition to get published, Swales (1990: p.103) reports manuscript rejection rates as high as 80 -95% in arts and humanities, “ which in turn means increasing pressure on manuscripts that betray evidence of non-standard English.” The fact that professional journals do not make linguistic concession to authors who are not native speakers of English, nor provide a speacialist editing service to bring their L2 writing up to standard, means that non-L1 English academics have to invest heavily in improving their English language skills on top of their main academic and research duties; in practice this means that specialist translation services as well as ESP teaching are in great demand. It might be thought that technical texts are relatively straightforward for the specialist non-native speaker to both understand and write, due to an apparent relative absence of metaphor and figurative language, and the frequency of cognate technical terms. If this were the case, the L2 reader-writer might be able to rely considerably on positive L1 transfer when reading or writing directly in English; in the case of translation, a largely literal approach would produce an appropriate equivalence. However, Halliday ( 1985:329) argues that metaphor is in fact an essential feature of technical writing, and plays an important role in making technical discourse easier to understand. Meanings may be realised by word choice that differs from what is in some sense typical or unmarked, and “ anything approaching technical language for example tends to become noticeably more complex if one simplifies it by removing the metaphors.” Several authors have pointed out that economics texts are also “ heavily metaphorical” (McCloskey,1983; Mason,1990). When one considers the frequency of widely used terms such as human capital, falling unemployment, demand expansion and contraction, credit flows, accelerating growth rates, liquidity squeeze , the metaphorical nature of the subjects as it is usually expressed becomes clear, and this leads Hewings ( 1990) to argue that it is misleading to represent economics as rhetoric free. Aims of the study This research investigates the extent to which metaphor use in economics differs between English and Vietnamese. It aims specially to investigate: 1. To what extent are the metaphors used in English economics texts mirrored by those used in their Vietnamese equivalents; are different metaphors used, and are there differences in frequency of use? 2. To what extent do the two languages use a different range of lexis to express these metaphors? Casual observation reveal that certainly some of the underlying or conceptual metaphors used in Economics are cross-lingual, in the sense that the same metaphors are used as vehicles for the same concepts in other languages. Thus markets ( ie. People interacting) are universally modelled by supply and demand “ curves”, and the economy “grows” or “contracts” in many languages. To the extent that this is true, the task facing the L2 writer or the specialist translator is facilitated. However, on the basis the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis positing a determining influence of language on thought, it has been widely argued that different languages to some degree reflect different ways of conceiving of the world and interpreting phenomena. A possible consequence, according to Fasold (1990:52), is that speakers of two different languages may interpret the same discourse profoundly differently. Thus, it would not be surprising if there were some differences in metaphor use between languages, which, if not taken into account, would result in marked and non-native like discourse, possibly leading to rejection by publishers and a consequent brake on career advancement in the case of academic economist, and greater difficulty in understanding texts for the L2 learner. One of the problems faced by a writer of economics texts, either as original author or translator, is to find different ways to make statements about changes in economic variables, such as “ GDP increased by x percent” or “ inflation decreased by so much last month”. Repetitious use of the same expressions can produce a dull and monotonous text, yet the overuse of less widely used lexis for the sake of variety can produce a text that seems unusual in terms of register mismatch. Moreover, differences between languages in terms of what conceptual metaphors are used, how they are realised lexically and their frequency of use, can cause translators and L2 writers to produce texts that seem marked. In other words, writers working across languages need to have detailed knowledge of metaphor use in the relevant languages. Unsystematic observation of original Vietnamese texts suggests the hypothesis that Vietnamese uses a more limited range of expressions to express increase and decrease, which when translated more or less literally produce a somewhat monotonous sounding text in English. Original English language texts in economics seem to use a wider range of lexis, and also appear to have the facility to express more subtle shades of meaning, by means of expressions such as “ GDP edged up in the 4th Quarter”; “monetary conditions eased a shade after last month’s liquidity squeeze”; “ inflation soared in 2005” and “ employment plummeted”. This paper tests the veracity of this hypothesis. It has been argued that Vietnamese tends to be more long-winded and elaborate than English thereby making it less concise as a means of expression. Evidence for this is the fact that Vietnamese translations systematically 10% or more longer in words than their English originals. Furthermore, it has been argued that Vietnamese is also less precise as a scientific language. The study hopes to help writers, readers working across the two languages have a detailed knowledge of metaphor use. The result of the study is considered to be useful to Vietnamese speaking economists reading and writing in English, as well as translators and ESP students.



  • Từ ngày 01/05/2022

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