Literature review

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HCMC University of pedagogy

Instructor: Bui Nguyen Khanh
Student: Huynh Thi Thanh Chau
Class: 4B08


There is widespread evidence that greetings are an important part of the communicative competence necessary for being a member of any speech community. They are often one of the first verbal routines learned by children and certainly one of the first topics introduced in foreign language classes. They are also of great interest to analysts of social interaction, who see them as establishing the conditions for social encounters. It is not surprising, then, to find out that there is a considerable number of ethological, linguistic, sociological, and ethnographic studies of greetings. But despite the attention greetings have received in the social sciences, there is to date no generalized definition of greetings and therefore no systematic way for deciding what qualifies as greetings in a particular speech community. Nonetheless, researchers have felt at ease identifying “greetings” in different languages and providing hypotheses about what greetings “do” for or to people.
By comparing humans with other species and adult-adult interaction with mother – child interaction ( Eibl–Eibesfeldt’s1977, greetings are defined as rituals of appeasing and bonding that counteract potentially aggressive behavior during face-to-face encounters.
The focus on nonverbal communication has been important in counterbalancing the tendency of other studies of greetings and has revealed commonalities across cultures that would have been missed were researchers concentrating exclusively on verbal behavior. It might be easy to accept that all species share a concern for survival and safety, but it is less easy to believe that the meaning of such a concern could be the same across species. For instance, Firth(1972), Goff-man (1971), and others suggested that greetings in all societies are about continuity of relationships, but the representation, conceptualization, and perception of continuity by humans are likely to be much more complex than those found in other species, partly due to the use of human language (Leach 1972).
The problem with the characterization of greetings as “phatic” and hence merely aimed at establishing or maintaining “contact” (Jakobson 1960), is that it makes it difficult to account for differences across and within communities in what people say during greetings. Finally, the view of greeting as an act that displays pleasure might make sense in some contexts and especially in those situations where verbal greetings are accompanied by smiles and other nonverbal as well as verbal displays of positive affect (for example, the English “Nice to see you”), but it might not be generalized beyond such case.
The interest in the biological basis of greetings, their social functions, their sequential organization, and their illocutionary act have revealed a number of recurrent properties of greetings and have presented interesting hypotheses about the form and function of greetings.

Although we are in any society of any era, greetings always exist and play an important part in our life. Greetings get along with us from children to adults . Maybe we sometimes don’t care about them. Therefore, greeting is one of the appropriate ways in communication. However the differences in culture are one of the main problems that people usually face when they communicate each other. Our life has many things that people need to learn day by day, beside listening, speaking, reading or even observing something humans being got. From then on, we learn from them and improve our knowledge about life around us. In daily life, people have tendency to use the illocutionary act than locution act. Because illocutionary act refer to the speaker’s intention in uttering their words. However, this may depend very much on the social context in which it occurs. So in this case, a greeting is also not the exception. It is considered as communicative way appropriately in each nation. As we know, there are many different ways of greetings. Greetings in family, in school or in society and greeting of people around the world are used widely. For instance, in France people usually use “salutation” or they can hug and kiss to greet together in informal way also do you know that French kiss almost everyone on the cheek, even strangers? Or sometimes they can say “bonjour” to greet. For English, people usually say “ hello” or “nice to meet you” for the first meeting. Like French, English also hug, kiss or even shake hands to greet their friends. What about Vietnamese? Unlike French and English, the tradition of Vietnamese has considered as discreet, classical and respectful in greetings. In Vietnam, greeting is one of the cultural features in family and society. Like Asian countries, people have been ancient or modern time, greetings have been respectful and considered as cultural standard in each individual. When people meet each other, they usually greet sayings like
Dạ con chào Bác,
Dạo này anh thế nào?
Anh có khỏe không?
or Dạ mời dì uống nước.
That tradition is expressed into the phrase by Vietnamese ancestor: “ Lời chào cao hơn mâm cỗ”. This statement indicated that greetings play an important role not only in old days but nowadays as well or greeting even becomes endless language in our life. It is also the way people communicate each other.
According to Firth(1972), Goff-man (1971), and others suggested that greetings in all societies are about continuity of relationships and aimed at establishing or maintaining “contact” (Jakobson 1960) is that it makes it difficult to account for differences across and within communities in what people say during greetings.
In this aspect, I focus on greetings in English and Vietnamese, give some common sayings and greetings in different situations and gestures in English and Vietnamese as well. After that, draw out some differences in term of meanings, content, lexis and syntax. Finally, some implications for language teaching are mentioned so that learners can avoid mechanical use from the first language into the second one. I hope that through this topic, you will know the ways how to express greetings meaningful and beautifully to everybody.

The definition of greeting is concerned in term of linguistics, sociology. According to Eibl-Eibesfeldt’s1977 greetings are defined as rituals of appeasing and bonding that counteract potentially aggressive behavior during face-to-face encounters.
According to Sacks1992, Schegloff(1968) ‘s work on conversational openings and closings, for instance adjacency pairs
A: Hello (greeting)
B: Hi (greeting)
Or question and answer
A: Is that what you mean?
B: Yes
Firth(1972), Goff-man (1971) focus on nonverbal communication and verbal behavior
In Vietnamese, greetings make people feel more friendly, easy to create a good relationship. Beside the ways people great also express their respect and sociability when they meet someone.
In summary, it is quite hard to give complete definition of greeting that makes people clear. Generally, each country will have different ways in order to greet. So that is the reason why there are different concepts.

In English, there are some common greetings used in informal context like “Hello + first name or Hi + first name”. For example
A: Hello Lan
B: Hi Nga
Moreover, people also have tendency to greet each other based on the time of day. I will show you the table that indicates greetings according to time.

Time of day





Good morning + (general name/ first name)

From midnight to

Good morning class/ Mary


Good afternoon + (general name/ first name)

After midday until 5 a.m

Good afternoon everyone/ Susan


Good evening + (general name/ first name)

After 5 p.m until midnight

Good evening everybody/ Peter

According to Sacks’s (1975) study of “ How are you? “ as a “greeting substitute” in greeting- response

A: Hello
B: Hi
A: How are you?
B: I’m fine. Thank you. And you?
A: I’m fine. Thanks
Greetings is kind of adjacency pairs show that the second one should follow the first one.
A: Good afternoon, class
B: Good afternoon, Miss
A: How are you today?
B: I’m fine. Thank you, and you?
A: I’m fine. Thanks
On the research of Eisenstein (1996), there are some common sayings in particular situations
1. Greetings on the run
This greeting is a common way, people have tendency to greet on the run. This situation usually happens when people don’t have much time, just exchange each other shortly. But this greeting just happens to people have a close relationship.
For example:
Situation: people meet by accident on the way to their office
A: Hi! How was thing
B: Hi! I’m fine. I’m late for working. Bye!
2. Speedy greetings
Greetings are begun and ended suddenly. This way are come up by colleagues
A: Hi! How have you been?
B: So-so, and you
3. The chat
This kind of greeting is like speedy greeting but they often discuss one brief topic before saying goodbye
A: Have a nice weekend
B: You too
A: See you later
B: Bye
4. The long greeting
Benefit is to warm up the relationship between people after long time
A: Hi! Lan
B: Hi! Nga
A: Long time no see. How have you been?
B: Yes, too long .Maybe near one year. I’m fine. How about you? Where have you been?
A: Very well. I have been in Tran Khai Nguyen high school, and you?
B: I was in Nguyen Thuong Hien high school.
A: Why don’t we go to the coffee shop near here to talk more?
B: Yah, Let’s go

5. The intimate greeting
People in this situation have very close relationship. They understand clearly each other. Sometimes we no need to express by saying.
Mum and little daughter
A: Hi! Mum
B: My little puppy!
Mum and daughter kiss together
A: Mum! I have just got the good mark
B: oh, my good girl. Good job
6. The business greeting
Greeting is often quite short. It often expresses the respect the time of the other. That greeting happened because of starting their business right away.
Employee and his/ her boss
A: Mr. Brown
B: Yes
A: I want to talk to you about Peter
B: What happened to him?
A: He was sick. So he has day off today.
B: It’s ok
7. The introductory greeting
It happened to people that meet for the first time
In the party
A: Have we met before, haven’t we?
B: Oh, sorry something is wrong with you. I’m Julian. What’s your name?
A: My name is John. I’m sorry about that. Nice to meet you!
B: Nice to meet you, too
8. The re-greeting
A: Peter
B: Mary
A: How are thing?
B: Not bad. And you
A: Very well. Thanks
Beside you know the ways above. People often use gestures to greet each other. Some sort of touching, such as a handshake, a hug or a kiss if they know each other very well.

In Vietnam, according to professor Nguyễn Thị Diệu Thúy Greeting plays an important part in our life. Greetings are not only ritual of communication but expressive psychology of community.
Greeting express culture of country
Nowadays, children or adult when greeting, they often say:
Cháu chào ông, cháu chào bà
The structure of greeting in Vietnamese is very diversified. Vietnamese use not only locutionary greeting (direct greeting) but also illocutionary greetings (indirect greeting)
Locutionary greeting or direct greeting
(Chủ thể) Subject + (chào) hello + (đối tượng chào) object + (yếu tố tình thái) polite particle
Example: Con chào dì ạ
This structure is often used in communicative situation that is ritual or social relation. It is popular with children to adults, people have lower position to people that have higher position. This manner expresses the respect of people in communication.
( Động từ chào) Hello + (đối tượng chào) object + (yếu tố hình thái ) polite particle
This structure expresses respect and politeness each other
Chào Cô ạ!
Xin chào Bác ạ!
Sometimes people can say goodbye get along with “ nhé”
Chào em nhé
(Động từ chào ) hello + (đối tượng chào) object
Chào Hoa!
Chào Duy !
This structure is used for people that are same level, same age, especially between friends and colleagues
Đại từ nhân xưng + yếu tố tình thái
Bác ạ
Dì ạ
(Dạ) please + (chủ thể chào) subject + (chào) hello + (đối tượng được chào) object + ( yếu tố tình thái) polite particle
This structure is used to show respect for people in higher position.
Dạ em chào cô ạ!
Dạ con chào bác ạ!
Illocutionary greeting
Question instead of greeting
For Vietnamese, when people knew and had good relationship, question in greetings expresses care and make them increase friendliness between them. This greetings are elaborate and particular, especially about family, heath and job
This greetings are used for people who don’t meet each other for a long time.
Dạo này em khỏe không? Gẩn thi chưa?
They have already met in class. Then they meet again in the campus of school. They can greeting each other
Sao em chưa về?
Sometimes when you ask someone . It imply a greeting
Anh đi đâu vậy?
So this question like that often doesn’t need answer
Từ để hô gọi + câu hỏi
This greeting usually expresses care to the other. In this case, time; space and outside also are referred by people in progress of communication.
Ủa Nga! Sao hôm nay bà đi học về sớm vậy? được nghỉ tiết hả?
Lan! Sao đi học sớm vậy? hôm nay thi hả?
Sao con về quê sớm vậy? mới có mùng 7 tây mà?
Từ hô gọi + cử chỉ, điệu bộ
It relates to informal way, friendliness or in hurry when meeting. This greeting is really simple to help people feel comfortable in communication.
Ah! Mẹ đi chợ về
In Vietnam, intonation is an effective way in greeting. Expressing attitude respect of people through greeting.
Dạ cháu chào Bác ạ!
However, we can see in some aspects. Intonation also express irony or look down on the other
Dạ cô về chưa ạ!
Beside intonation used in greeting, gesture is also an necessary signal in communication. In t he communicative ritual, greetings along with intonation and gesture make harmony in friendliness, respect and help people get along well. Generally, there are some kinds of common gestures that become traditional ways in culture of Vietnamese.
In social relation that people are the same position: Greeting + shake hands + bow
Good relationship: Greeting +question + (shake hands) + smile
Informal relationship: question + smile
So the intonations and gestures are as lively as greetings in lives.
The ways Vietnamese use the greetings
Greetings are also influenced by other communications. There are some factors
objects, context and benefit in communication.
Greeting of Vietnamese reflect relationship between individuals that depend on background (time, space) communicative form ( ritual, formality) and objects (old, young, same level, higher level or lower level) and relationship ( close, relative, ordinary). These factors influence the expression of attitude and greetings in suitable ways.
Đi đâu vậy? ăn cơm chưa?
This greetings are not suitable in the situation for communicative object is old people.
Greetings by using compliments
Form: please + congratulation + title
Example: Chúc mừng chị nha!
It happened when people have some good news such as: promotion or be going to become mother or father
Greeting by using offers
Dạ mời cô dùng nước ! Chắc Mẹ con gần về rồi đó.
Dạ mời Cậu và Mợ dùng cơm!
You can see that all greetings by using offer appear “mời” to show the hospitality. Moreover, some people don’t accept the invitation . Instead, they often refuse or thanks to the host like: ah, thôi khỏi đi con, cô mới uống rồi. Cậu mợ chưa đói, or sometimes they can you gesture such as: shrive their head, smile.
And finally, greetings by using comments or complements
It relates to party, meeting where there are many people. Comment or complement strategy gained effectively.
A:Cái váy chị mặc đẹp đấy!
B: Thiệt hả! chị thấy cũng bình thường mà


The next point, I would like to discuss the contrast between English and Vietnamese greetings in some aspects:
In English, people have tendency to use some common sayings such as:
Hello or hi
Good morning/ afternoon/ evening
they greet people in different age. But Vietnamese are very polite and discreet. They express greetings that depend on age, position in life.
Dạ con chào Bác!
Beside common greetings, gesture is necessary factors in communication. English express friendliness in communication by greetings along with gestures and intonations. However, the common gestures are hug and kiss or sometimes shake hands. While Vietnamese only use smile, bow or shake hands in business to greet each other. These gestures become good tradition of Vietnamese because people are respectful and discreet.
the last point is question instead of greeting. These question are quite popular in Vietnam. Because of having of “greeting of Vietnamese accompanies with question”. In contrast, English also use question like:
How have you been?
How is it going?
How are you?
How was thing?
Nice day, isn’t it?
But the content of greetings just focuses on health, weather. Whille Vietnamese ask about many things all life
Lâu rồi không gặp chị, dạo này công việc sao rồi, chị vẫn khỏe chứ! Em thấy chị vẫn như xưa
Chị đang làm gì đó?
Đang nấu ăn hả?
Finally, Vietnamese often bow their head to greet the old or people that are older than them to express their respect. While English have rarely bow, they just smile instead of that.


Through the contrast review about greetings in English and Vietnamese, I would like to discuss some implications for language teaching in English and Vietnamese at high schools in our country.
First of all, failure in using language is possible to happen. However, people can make very well in daily conversation because it is formed from bringing up of parents. Beside students at high school have tendency to transfer the native language into the second language. As you know, the exchange like this will cause misunderstanding in some cases. Both native speaker s and Vietnamese face. For example, when we ask
Where are you going?
What are you doing?
In English, people just think that they are questions. But for Vietnamese, they are greetings. So you can see that this is a serious mistake in linguistics. How can we solve this problem? Maybe this is a big question how to help Vietnamese and English recognize whether question or greetings in two languages. This is the reason why people often fail in communication.
In brief, pragmatic failure helped people have intention into using language since there are some misunderstandings between people from different culture. So in order to minimize these mistakes there should have been cooperation between teachers and students.
The responsibility of teachers is to exploit useful sources in daily lives, providing language input or experiences for developing student’ s skills in sociopragmatic competence . For students, they should aware that learning many thing in school or in English they just focus on grammar does not mean success in communication. Instead we have communicate with other people about aspects in life to develop skills.


In summary, greetings play an important part in life in the world. Greeting reflects education and civilization of a country. I hope that this topic will provide you with useful knowledge in greetings and improve your language teaching in classroom. From then on, you will know how to practice effective greetings between English and Vietnamese in real life.

Paltridge,B.2000. Making sense of Discourse Analysis. University of South Australia.
Searle, J.R. 1969. Speech Acts. London: Cambridge University Press.
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