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A Study on Semantic Features of Purposive Adjuncts in English and Vietnamese

In: English and Literature

Submitted By bichhanh
Words 3017
Pages 13
Le Thi Bich Hanh
University of Foreign Languages, The University of Danang
Having a good guide to translate appropriately English purposive adjuncts (PAs) into Vietnamese and vice versa has become monumentally necessary. So, in this study, we would like to compare and contrast English and Vietnamese PAs in terms of their semantic features in meaningful interactional situations in the strong belief that using appropriate PAs, writers and speakers can reduce the negative meanings of their sentences and increase the acceptability of the readers and hearers in communication. In terms of theory, the study focuses on identifying the similarities and differences in the uses of adjuncts to express purposes and hence finding the cultural factors affecting those choices. In practice, the study hopes to provide some implications in language teaching and learning as well as translating. The practical information in the research can raise language users’ awareness of the subtle differences between the uses of PAs in both languages so that they can fulfill their communicative purpose in real life.
Key words: purposive adjuncts; purposive subordinators; semantic features; compare; implication *

Most languages in the world have particular linguistic devices for expressing purposes implicitly and explicitly. Purposive adjuncts (PAs) are some of those devices. Like nouns, verbs, adjectives and complements, adjuncts - purposive adjuncts particularly - often cause problems for language learners.
Mai Ngoc Chu (2000) has raised the problem of misusing PAs through his research on the use of “cho” and “để” in Vietnamese. He states that using “cho, để” appropriately is not difficult for Vietnamese people, but they are really a great problem for English learners of Vietnamese. A foreign student may say: “Em mua bánh mì cho ăn sáng”, instead of “Em mua bánh mì để ăn sáng”.
It is a fact that using adjuncts, especially PAs is really a problem for Vietnamese and English learners. The difficulties lie not only in syntactical performance but also in semantic meanings of these words. What causes the difficulties? In our point of view, they arise from the differences in the ways the two peoples perceive the world or in their culture and tradition. For these reasons, the study on English and Vietnamese PAs in respect of semantics will be of great help for learners of English and Vietnamese.
Research Questions and Methodology
Research Questions
- What are the similarities and differences between English and Vietnamese PAs in terms of semantic features?
- How are PAs distributed in various types of spoken and written texts in English and Vietnamese?
- What are some possible interferences and solutions?
Data Collection
In order to classify PAs into suitable categories, 500 sentences in English and 500 sentences in Vietnamese containing PAs are examined meticulously. Furthermore, their frequencies of PAs in three different language types: stories, newspapers and business documents are also investigated.
Table 1. English corpus analyzed in the study Corpus | Sentences analyzed | Total | The Courier mailThe South-West News | 32703589 | 6859 | David Copperfield by Charles DickensJane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte | 30862350 | 5436 | 90 English business documents | 1520 | 1520 | Total | | 13815 |
Table 2. Vietnamese corpus analyzed in the study Corpus | Sentences analyzed | Total | Báo Nhân dânBáo Lao động | 35603930 | 7490 | Tiền ơi by Vũ ĐảmTắt đèn by Ngô Tất Tố | 27202240 | 4960 | 90 Vietnamese business documents | 1546 | 1546 | Total | | 13996 |
Literature Review
Ever since its discovery, the category of purposive adjuncts has been dealt with by several scholars, for instance Rodney Huddleston [2002] in “the Cambridge Grammar”, Thorold May (1994) in “Purposive Construction in English”, Micheal J.R. Johnston [7] in “A Syntactic and Semantic of Purposive Adjuncts” and “The Role of Predication in the Syntactic Licensing of Purposive Adjuncts” made by Manuel Espanol (2004).
In Vietnamese language, many linguists have contributed to the study of purposive constructions such as Mai Ngoc Chu (2000) with “Cách dùng các từ cho-để”, Nguyễn Thị Thanh Nga (2003) with “ Thử khảo sát nhóm hư từ cho- để-mà”, Nguyễn Lân Trung (2003) with “Mệnh đề phụ trong tiếng Pháp và tiếng Việt”. However, all these studies only give a general and cursory view on the syntactic features of PAs. Linguistic Realization of PAs in English and Vietnamese
Types of Purposive Subordinators
Purposive subordinators at word level
Purpose can be marked via one-word subordinators such as “for, to, lest, so” in English and “để, cho, mà, nhằm, hòng, toan, định, muốn, kẻo, cốt, miễn” in Vietnamese.
- He disguised himself lest he be recognized.[6]
- Thôi để cho chúng tôi đi kẻo trưa.[10] Purposive subordinators at phrase level
Purposive phrases have the functions as modifiers to clarify the intention of the proposition. When PAs do occur, they tend to be a combination of prepositions such as “with, in, for” in English and “với, trong” in Vietnamese. Here are some examples of phrase purposive subordinators in English “with the aim of, in an effort of, in a bid to”.
- She arrives early in order to get a good seat.[13]
In addition, Vietnamese phrases expressing purpose are: “để cho, để mà, với hy vọng, chính vì muốn, cốt sao, cốt để, miễn là, miễn sao, có ý định, với hiển ý.”
- Tôi viết quyển Ngữ pháp này với mục đích là tìm tòi xây dựng NP Tiếng Việt. [11]
Position of PAs
PAs following the main theme of a sentence
PAs take this opportunity to raise the reader’s attention to the main purpose or intention of a sentence.
- Anh đưa tôi xuống chăn bò nhằm mục đích loại trừ tôi ra khỏi phòng kế toán để cho anh và thằng Mạnh dễ bề làm ăn.[15]
- China began its crackdown … in a bid to win legal status for their sect.[14]
PAs taking first position
In order to raise reader’s attention to the purpose of sentence, purposive markers can be moved to the initial position of sentence without affecting its proposition meanings. Commonly, the two clauses are divided by a comma.
- Sợ rằng anh ấy đợi, tôi gọi cho ông ấy để anh ấy khỏi đợi.[11]
- In an attempt to get himself back, he lashes out at the person he sees as his threat.[13]
Elements following purposive subordinators
Purposive subordinators preceding a word
Accordingly to my data analysis, just some kinds of intentional markers can precede a word (a noun, a verb or an adjective) as illustrated in the following examples:
- I did it for fun/ for your sake/ for her benefit. [6]
- Đem ngay ra chợ mà bán! Không nói lôi thôi mất thì giờ. [10]
Purposive subordinators preceding a phrase
A limited variety of subordinators are followed by a phrase such as “cho, nhằm, kẻo, mà” and “with a view to, with the intention of”.
- Anh nên suy nghĩ cẩn thận kẻo hối tiếc về sau.[11]
- He called in Kim with a view to obtain some professional advice.[6]
Purposive subordinators preceding a clause
It is a fact that not all purposive link words can precede finite clauses. Only some typical connectors are possible, for instance “cho, để, để mà” in Vietnamese and “in order that, so that, for hope that, provided that” in English.
- Nó làm việc cật lực để mà có tiền phụ cha mẹ.[12]
- May I request a postponement in order that I might make adequate preparation?[6]
Discussion of Findings - Semantic Features of PAs
Object-oriented PAs
We are inspired by Micheal J.R Johnston’s point of view [7] about four different senses of PAs:
Benefactive Interpretation
The intuition behind the term “benefactive” is that it introduces participant who benefits in some way from the performance described in the sentence, for instance “John baked a cake for Mary”. There are some more subordinators denoting benefactive items like “for, in order for” in English and “vì, cho, để cho” in Vietnamese. Recipient Interpretation
In the view of grammatical analysis, the animate being which is passively implicated by the happening or state expressed by the verb is called recipient.
- John prepared the poison for the king. [7] (recipient) (John probably does intend the king to consume the poison.)
Deputive interpretation
There is a further interpretation of a purposive adjunct in which the complement of “for” denotes a person on whose behalf the agent of the main clause performs the action described in the main clause.
- John visited Australia for his mother. [7]
Micheal J.R Johnston [7] refers to this interpretation as the deputive interpretation.
The Acquire Interpretation
There is further purposive interpretation of a “for” purposive phrase under which the agent or the main clause proposition intends to acquire. This is considered as the acquire interpretation.
- John killed for food. [7] (acquire)
- Người chiến sĩ luôn nêu cao phẩm chất vì nhân dân quên mình, vì nhân dân hy sinh.[1]
Event-Oriented Purposive Adjuncts
PAs of Simple Purpose
Denoting the destination of action
Generally, the number of subordinators expressing the destination of action is bigger than any other kinds of purposive connectors. In this shape of meaning, we have “để, cho, để cho, nhằm, nhằm để, đặng, muốn” in Vietnamese and “to, in order to, in order that, for, so that, in keeping with” in English.
- Kìa bu rót nước đặng ông bà xơi.[15]
- I climbed on to the window-seat and drew the curtains, so that I was completely hidden. [2]
Expressing purpose of avoidance or precaution
These kinds of adjuncts evoke the participant’s awareness of the coming danger, uncertainty or difficulty in order that they might not be hurt or suffered.
In English, such connectors as the following can be used “for fear that, lest, to get rid of, for the avoidance of”.
- He delayed his departure for fear of missing something.[6]
In Vietnamese, common connectors of such a type are “sợ rằng, e rằng, để khỏi, để tránh, kẻo, kẻo lại, kẻo mà, kẻo nữa”.
- Quan lớn bỏ áo em ra
Để em đi chợ, kẻo là chợ trưa.[11]
Purposive adjuncts with modality meanings
PAs expressing desire, intention and hope
As compared with the foresaid meaning of denoting destination of action, the connectors described in this part are the strongest and most effective items in signifying purposive propositions. Particularly, connectors of such type include “with the aim of, aimed at, with the goal of, with the purpose of, for the purpose of, with the intention of, in hopes of, for the hope that, to this end, in the interest of”.
- The Agent is not authorized to exploit the materials for any purpose outside the scope of this Agreement.[13]
In Vietnamese, we have “với hy vọng, hy vọng rằng, với ý định, với hiển ý, với mục đích, với mục đích nhằm, vì mục đích, vì mục tiêu”.
PAs containing emphasis
Subordinators of this type show the speaker’s extremely strong intention. When they speak out a clause with “cốt, cốt để, cốt cho, sao cho, cốt buộc, toan, hòng buộc”, the proposition marked by “cốt” and its variants is the only purpose at that moment, nothing is more important than their present wish. In other words, this kind of PAs expresses great emphasis or obligation. They have the great power of persuading listeners to listen and respond. In English, it is not easy to find equivalent for this shape of meaning. So we should accept “to, so as to, in order that”.
- Tôi tiêu không tiếc tiền cốt sao em nó được vào đại học. [11]
- Ông cai lệ đương cơn thịnh nộ, lại thẳng tay giơ cây roi song toan trừng phạt nốt thằng bé.[15]
Purposive adjuncts expressing cause of action
There are some common types of subordinators denoting the main motivation of action such as “vì muốn, chính vì muốn, vì để, do muốn, do vì muốn … mà/nên” in Vietnamese and “for, in the interest of, for the reason of”.
- Vì để không ai lưu tâm đến mình nên anh ấy đã chọn chiếc ghế ở hàng cuối cùng.[10]
- Two sides have decided to take steps to fundamentally improve their bilateral relations in the interests of enhancing peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region.[13]
Adjuncts signifying purpose with great effort
Different from other shapes of meanings, PAs in this part reveal the great effort of speakers or hearers on the way achieving the main purpose. Possibly, we can easily realize that implication at the first look at these expressions “in an effort to, in the move of, with the effort of, in an attempt of, in a bid to” in English and “trong nỗ lực nhằm, với nỗ lực nhằm, với sự nỗ lực” in Vietnamese.
- The PLO’s top policy-making body on Sunday authorized Yasser Arafat to delay declaring statehood until at least Nov15 in a bid to give faltering peace talks a chance.[13]
PAs denoting intention of minimal requirement
These PAs are commonly used in spoken language to indicate speakers’ great consideration and devotion towards the hearers. When they say a sentence with “miễn”, they only have one wish at that moment and no more desire. And they may accept any hurt, loss or damage provided that their relatives are successful, happy or their main intention is achieved.
- Họ (cha, mẹ, anh, em) gieo neo khổ sở vì ta chừng nào nữa cũng cam tâm, miễn là chúng ta được sung sướng.[10]
- I will agree to go provided that/ providing that my expenses are paid.[3]
Future Orientation
Obviously, the majority of purposive adjuncts implicate the future of the action. The purpose of each action is to reach a destination or to want someone to do something for them right away or in the future. It implies the hope of the speakers or writers in the future time.
- I bought it in order to use up my money.[7]
- Vấn đề nước sạch VSMTNT đã được đưa vào nghị quyết lần thứ 16 của Đảng, với mục tiêu đến năm 2005 có 80% số dân nông thôn sử dụng nước sạch.[1]
Implicit Purpose
We noted above that reason adjuncts may implicate purpose; for instance, the sentence “He got up at 4.30 because his plane left at” implicates that he got up then in order to catch the six o’clock plane.
- Về nhà đi, mình có hũ rượu rắn “ác” lắm! [15] (The main intention of the utterance is to invite a friend to come home to drink snake alcohol.)
Despite of the absence of purposive subordinators, hearers can easily understand the implication of speakers. It is clear that, purpose of the utterance is denoted implicitly.
Quantitative Results of the Analysis
The frequency of occurrence of PAs in three different language styles: newspapers, stories/novels and business documents are quantitatively examined in order to discover the similarities and differences of PAs in English and Vietnamese.
Table 3: Relative frequency (%) of English –Vietnamese PAs Category | Raw numbers | Items per 1,000 sentences | Percentage (%) | | EE | VV | EE | VV | EE | VV | Newspapers | 785 | 870 | 114.4 | 116.2 | 49.1 | 49.9 | Stories | 616 | 649 | 113.3 | 130.8 | 38.5 | 37.3 | Business documents | 198 | 223 | 130.3 | 144.2 | 12.4 | 12.8 | Total | 1599 | 1742 | 115.7 | 124.5 | 100 | 100 |
As regard the frequency of PAs per 1000 sentences, the found data reveal the occurrences of PAs in three different language styles: newspapers, stories/novels and business documents. Among them, business documents make use of the highest number of link words denoting purpose (appearing 130.3 times in English and 144.2 times per 1000 sentences in Vietnamese). On the other hand, the occurrences of PAs in newspapers are the lowest (114.4 in English and 116.2 in Vietnamese).
Implication for Language Teaching and Learning
To encourage language users utilizing PAs effectively, learners can be asked to perform the following tasks:
- Identifying the styles of language and forms of their performance (newspapers, stories/novels or business documents.
- Choosing the suitable subordinators denoting purpose regarding the syntactic and semantic features on each case.
- Inserting and removing purposive subordinators and discussing the effect on the meaning of the text.
- Replacing variants PAs qualified for an utterance and discussing the change of meaning.
An investigation into PAs in English and Vietnamese is a helpful device for learners in language usage. Although the study is small, it helps to enrich the existing knowledge of the field under study and undoubtedly makes a remarkable contribution to a deep and systematic understanding and usage of purposive adjuncts in both languages.

Báo Nhân dân, Báo Lao động.
Dickens, C. (1992), David Cooperfield, Wordsworth Classics, Wordsworth Edition Limited.
Dowty, D. (2000), The Dual Analysis of Adjuncts/ Complements in Grammar, Ohio University.
Espanol, M. (2004), The Role of Predicate in the Syntactic Licensing of Purposive Adjuncts, Echavaria University of California, Los Angeles.
Frawley, W. (1992), Linguistic Semantics, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers.
Huddleston, R. & Pullium, G. K. (2002), The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, Cambridge University Press.
Johnston, M., A syntactic and Semantic for Purposive Adjuncts, Retrieved Feb 5, 2004 from http://www.cs.brandeis. edu/~johnston/home.html.
Mai Ngọc Chừ, (2000), Cách dùng các từ cho và để, Tạp chí Ngôn ngữ, pp68-69.
May, R. (1994), Purposive constructions in English, Australian Journal of Linguistics, Retrieved Feb 5, 2004 from
Ngô Tất Tố (1997), Tắt đèn, NXB Văn học, Hà Nội.
Nguyễn Lân Trung (2003), Mệnh đề phụ trong Tiếng Pháp và Tiếng Việt, NXB Thế giới, Hà Nội.
Nguyễn Thị Thanh Nga (2003), Thử khảo sát nhóm hư từ chỉ mục đích cho-để-mà, Ngữ học trẻ 2003, pp 89-93.
The Courier mail, The South-West News.
Võ Nguyễn Xuân Tùng (2002), Tìm hiểu Ngôn từ Báo chí Anh-Mỹ, NXB Văn nghệ TPHCM.
Vũ Đảm (2002), Tiền ơi, NXB Thanh niên.

* * Thông tin cụ thể:
1. Họ và tên : Lê Thị Bích Hạnh
2. Học hàm, học vị: Thạc sỹ
3. Tên cơ quan : Trường Đại học Ngoại ngữ - Đại học Đà Nẵng
4. Liên hệ: số mobile, email: - 0913037556 *

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