JoLIE 7/2014

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Minh Ha Lo-Cicero

University of Madeira, Portugal






The aim of my study is to provide a semantic-syntactic-lexical approach of part/whole relations in Vietnamese; these relations create structures in which the lexical and semantic parameters play an essential role. In order to accomplish the operation of “individuation”, the Vietnamese language uses nouns susceptible to express the quantitative element of each unit. (Phu Phong Nguyen 1995).

As Phu Phong stated (1995:39), “la relation de la partie au tout est ainsi pleinement exploitée dans l’opération d’individuation”. All the nouns are nearly always accompanied by classifiers:

(1)       con người: man, cái bàn: table

The use of cái (inanimates) or con (animates) is chosen according to the particular group of nouns, in general. In reality, the choice is even more complex than it seems as there exist other categories of classifiers which are used according to the form of objects:

(2)       Viên thuôc = viên (cl. small roundish object) + thuôc (medicine): tablet

             Hòn bi: hòn (cl. roundish object) bi: billiard ball 

or to subclasses of classified nouns (categoricals):

(3)       bụi tre = bui (tuft) + tre (bambou): a tuft of bambou

             bộ áo quân = bô (set) + áo (skirt) + quân (trousers): a suit

            bộ ba = bô (set) + ba ( 3): the triumvirat

The expression of the part/whole relations in Vietnamese modifies the head of nominal phrase like in French. However, the order of different categories of classifiers is complex:

(4)     Bộ ba = a triumvirat, Ba bộ = three sets

I observe, with the system of classifiers, it is not always easy to establish their position, a fix/stable one, and even worse, to specify their grammatical category caused by the polysemy of Vietnamese according to the words order (4).

All the above mentioned, elements will allow me precisely to study the expression part/whole relation in Vietnamese.


Key words: Semantics vs lexis; Morpho-syntax; Contrastive analysis; Vietnamese-French; Part-whole relation.





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How to cite this article: Lo-Cicero, M. H. (2014). L’expression de la relation partie - tout en vietnamien : ses structures sémantico-lexicales. Journal of Linguistic and Intercultural Education – JoLIE, 7, 105-118. DOI:



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