A contrastive analysis of passive voice in english and vietnamese

During the acquisition of any foreign language, the language learners have to encounter a great number of difficulties due to the differences between the learners mother tongue and the foreign language. The Vietnamese learners, who are interested in English, can be taken as examples for these two languages belong to two different groups. Among numerous difficulties hindering the Vietnamese acquisition of English, the concepts of voices in general, passive voice in particular seems to be one of the core issues. In this paper, the concepts of voice and passive voice are seen from a broader view with two following reasons. Firstly, according to Asher R.E. (1994:4938), “linguists use the term voice in a number of senses” and “the broadest definition of voice encompassing a wide range of grammatical constructions that are commonly thought to be quite distinct from those related by the active - passive alternation”. This means that the term voice in broader sense does exist in all languages. Secondly, the term voice in a narrow sense refers to morphological categories only. In such languages as English and Vietnamese, however, verbs do not have distinct morphological categories for different voices. In English passive voice is expressed with the syntactic constructions, involving a combination of the auxiliary verb be and the past participle form of verbs. In Vietnamese, there is no verbal marking for different voices and thus there is no active – passive opposition reflected in the verb. Therefore, in these languages, suggested by Asher R.E, the term voice can be defined in terms of “syntactic constructions with reference to specific grammatical characteristics”. These are two reasons why this paper has the title of “A contrastive analysis of passive voice between English and Vietnamese”. There are several studies of the passive voice in English and the passive contrast between English and Vietnamese. These studies range from the negative effects of Vietnamese words “bị” and “được” on the formation of English passive expressions (Đen, 2003) to structural differences between the English and Vietnamese passive expressions (Hiền, 2000). The authors of these researches have succeeded in comparing the English passive expressions with the Vietnamese equivalents. These researches, however, neither confirm the existence of the passive voice in Vietnamese nor point out the differences in factors decisive to passive usage in two languages. While the concepts of voices in general and passive voice in particular are familiar to the English, these concepts are abstract to Vietnamese learners. The problems come from the fact that passive voice is related to different areas from syntax, semantics and pragmatics as well. Such questions really encourage me to do a comprehensive research on the differences related to passive voice in English and the “so - called” passive expressions in Vietnamese. The comprehensive research here means the approach from all three related aspects: syntax, semantics, and pragmatics. In addition, as the title of thesis has implied, “contrastive analysis” will focus on the differences between the English and Vietnamese passive expressions on the ground of the similarity. 2. Aims of the study The thesis is to contrast the passive constructions in English and in Vietnamese based on the syntactic, semantic and pragmatic features. Firstly, in the syntactic features, the thesis will dealt with the compulsory and optional parts between the typical passive constructions in two languages. Then in semantic features, the difference is drawn from the meaning of different components in a passive expression namely passive markers, passive subjects. Finally, the pragmatic features will be analyzed in two sub-groups: Information structure, sentence focus and the pragmatic effects of the passive constructions. The final part helps to see the relation between the passive constructions and other constructions in two languages based on the pragmatic effects of agent demotion and non- agent promotion.

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