Contrastive ananlysis of question in english and vietnamese

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Running head: QUESTIONS
Nguyễn Thị Thu Thủy
University of Pedagogy
English Department
Mr Nguyễn Ngọc Vũ
December 30, 2010

In language teaching and learning questions play a very important role because it’s highly used to ask for information or to begin a conversation. It’s not simple as we thought, however, it’s more complicated and makes learners a lot of troubles when using. That’s because of the differences between the two languages, and the influences of learners’ mother tongue. Thus, I do this research in order to find out the similarities and differences between the two languages so that learners can understand more and use it successfully.

Question is a sentence, phrase or word that asks for information (Oxford Dictionary). There are many ways to classify question according to its aspects, and each linguist has their own method. However, based on the purpose of using question, there are two kinds: Question to ask and Question for other communicative purposes.
Question to ask is the one that needs particular answers, or finds information. While another is used for other communicative purposes, and it’s very diverse; for example, asking as greeting.
In this paper, I only focus on Question to ask in terms of semantics. Various opinions on classification of question in English have been raised in different English Grammar books. According to some recently contrastive analysis of question in English and Vietnamese in terms of semantics, there are two general kinds: Alternative question and Wh-question. (Thiêm, 2004, page 228)
Alternative question, which people have chance to choose between two or more available options, includes:

  • Yes/No question

Do you like coffee?  Yes, I do./ No, I don’t.

  • Alternative question

Does he come from America or France?
 He comes from America./ He comes from France.

  • Tag-question

You will go on holiday next weekend, won’t you?  Yes, I will./ No, I won’t.
They didn’t pass the exam, did they?  No, they didn’t./ Yes, they did.

  • Declarative question

You buy it?  Yes/ No
He wants to marry you?  Yes/No

Wh-question, which requires more specific information, begins with Wh-word such as who, whom, which, what…
Who do you love?
Why didn’t she come?

Based on the result of analyzing meaning and structure of question, Vietnamese linguists classify Vietnamese question into two kinds: Câu hỏi lựa chọn (Alternative question), Câu hỏi không lựa chọn or Câu hỏi có từ nghi vấn (Question with interrogative words like Ai, ở đâu, khi nào…)
Similar to English question that alternative question in Vietnamese provides options, includes three smaller parts:

  • Hay/hay là, là…hay là

Ngày mai, cậu hay tớ trực nhật?
Máy tính của cậu hàng Trung Quốc hay là hàng Nhật?

  • Có…không, phải không, đã…chưa

Hôm qua, Mai đi học không?
Anh ăn hết bánh của em rồi phải không?
Con đã làm bài tập về nhà chưa?

  • À, ư, nhỉ, nhé

Mai cậu không đi làm à?
Mẹ cho con đi chơi nhé?

Question with interrogative words uses word or phrase to ask for information which are varied; for example, ai (who), gì/ cái gì (what), cái nào (which), đâu/ ở đâu (where), khi nào/ lúc nào/ bao giờ/ chừng nào…(when), sao/ tại sao/vì lý do gì (why/ for what reason)…

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