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Universality and Variation in Using Sensory Perception Terms to Express Love
Love becomes more diversified and tangible in terms of sensory perceptions. The images of love emerge in English and Vietnamese poetry with many universalities and variations due to the features of this kind of language.
By Quynh Thu Ho Trinh
Mar. 11, 2016

In a recent paper by the authors Ho Trinh Quynh Thu and Phan Van Hoa, the terms of five senses used to express love were analysed and clarified under the light of the conceptual metaphor theory, whereby many similarities and dissimilarities were detected. "Because of universal bodily experiences, the universality of shaping the world by senses and the universality of conceptual metaphors, several resemblances between the two languages are uncovered in both conceptual and linguistic metaphors. However, language and culture exist and develop in mutual affecting. As a result, the translation of love in each different culture is certainly different, which is completely in accordance with the dissimilarities in using sensory perception terms for love between English and Vietnamese", said Ho Trinh Quynh Thu and Phan Van Hoa.

Talking about the universality, the authors affirmed that there was an identity of the conceptual metaphors of love between English and Vietnamese. Moreover, the images of love described in English and Vietnamese poetry were also the same with many equivalent sensory perception terms such as beautiful - đẹp, light - sáng, dark - u ám, glorious - rực rỡ, fair - đẹp, pale - bạc phếch, see - thấy, seek - tìm, look - nhìn, heavy - nặng, light - nhẹ, cold - lạnh, freezing - giá, hot - nóng, warm - ấm, soft - mềm, touch - chạm, agony - nhức buốt, sweet - ngọt, bitter - đắng, sour - chua, fragrant - thơm, in brilliant colours - sắc màu rực rỡ and so on.

However, Ho Trinh Quynh Thu and Phan Van Hoa said "a potential universal conceptual metaphor does not lead to the same linguistic metaphors in different languages by virtue of the distinct of embodied experiences which is supposed to play a role in conceptualizing the world." That is, despite a lot of resemblances between two languages, the distinction in using sensory perception terms to draw love between English and Vietnamese certainly exists under influences of the different cultures.

The differences were explained rather specifically and clearly in the paper. It is the distinction of the use of word classes between English and Vietnamese (namely, verbs are employed more in English while the Vietnamese prefer to use adjectives). It is also the differences in the frequency of approaching different senses in relating love between English and Vietnamese. Besides, there are some other interesting variations between these two languages that helps readers learn more about the love expression in terms of sensory perception in different cultures.


1. Ho Trinh Quynh Thu, Doctoral candidate, English Language Study, the University of Danang, Da Nang, Viet Nam.
2. Phan Van Hoa, Associate Professor – Doctor, School of International Education, the University of Danang, Da Nang, Viet Nam.

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