Comparison of English and Chinese Taboos 英汉禁忌语的比较
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
I am greatly indebted to Professor Li. Thanks for her patient and constant encouragement and guidance. She has walked me through all the stages of the writing of this thesis. She read every word of every draft, pointed out the mistakes and helped me to clarify my ideas. Her broad and profound knowledge gave me great impression as well as great help. Without her consistent and illuminating instruction, this thesis could not have reached its present form. Secondly, I would like to express my deepest gratitude to all those professors and teachers at the Department of English whose kindness and advice have made this work possible. Thirdly, I also owe my sincere gratitude to my friends and my fellow classmates who gave me their help and time in listening to me and helping me work out my problems during the difficult course of the thesis, for their friendship and constructive suggestions. They constantly encouraged me when I felt frustrated with this dissertation. Last, I would like to give my thanks to my beloved family, for their support and considerations as well as the great trust in me all through these four years.
Thank you very much!
i


禁忌语既是人类社会普遍存在的一种复杂的文化现象, 又是不同社会的人们 的一种约定俗成。在禁忌的对象、禁忌习俗、禁忌心理等方面,不同民族既有独 特性又有共同性。在跨文化交际中,禁忌无处不在,并对人们有着强有力的现实 约束力。 本论文在前人研究的基础上, 比较英语和汉语中的禁忌语。 运用举例的方法, 分析总结语音、词汇方面英汉禁忌语的共性,中西方在隐私、数字、称呼方面禁 忌语的差异。 从民族文化和交际者自身情况两方面因素分析由英汉禁忌语引起的 跨文化交际问题的原因,针对由禁忌语引起的跨文化交际冲突提出防范对策,从 而帮助人们在中英跨文化交际中达到更好的交际效果。
关键词:禁忌语
比较
防范对策
ii
ABSTRACT
Taboo is not only a complex cultural phenomenon of human society, but also established by usage. In the long-term practice, the human built and developed constantly with their own language and culture, while established different language patterns and cultural circles. In cross-cultural communication, taboo exists everywhere and has a strong practical binding to people. On the basis of previous studies, this thesis compares taboo words in English and Chinese. With the method of ensample, people can analyze and summarize the commonness between English and Chinese taboo words over voice, vocabulary, and the conceptual differences in privacy, number and name between China and English-speaking countries. This thesis analyzes the factors leading the differences among taboo words based on the impact of national culture on taboos words and the participants’ personal circumstances, and propose preventive measures to solve the conflicts caused by taboo words in intercultural communication. Thus the communication in cross-culture communication can achieve higher level.
KEY WORDS:
taboo words
comparison
preventive strategy
iii
CONTENTS
Acknowledgementsi Abstract (Chinese) ii Abstract (English) iii
  1. Introduction1
  2. Aspects of Taboos3
  2.1 Origin and History3
  2.2 Performance4
  2.
  2.1 Appellation4
  2.
  2.2 Question Words4
  2.
  2.3 Sensitive Topics5
  2.
  2.4 Obscene, Profane and Abusive Words5
  2.3 Pragmatic Features of Taboos in Intercultural Communication6
  2.
  3.1 Universality6
  2.
  3.2 Transmutability6
  2.
  3.3 Nationality7
  2.
  3.4 Succession7
  2.
  3.5 Class Character7
  2.
  3.6 Circumbendibus8
  3. The Similarities between Chinese and English Taboo Words8
  3.1 In Pronunciation8
  3.2 In Vocabulary 9
  3.
  2.1 Death9
  3.
  2.2 Toilet9
  3.
  2.3 Curse9
  3.
  2.4 Disease and Disability9
  3.
  2.5 Sexism10
  4. The Differences between Chinese and English Taboo Words10
  4.1 In Privacy 10
  4.2 In Numbers 11
  4.3 In Names11
  5. Reasons to Cause Conflict11
  5.1 The Impact of National Culture on Taboo Words 12
iv

  5.2 The Impact of Participants’ Personal Circumstances 14
  5.
  2.1 Age14
  5.
  2.2 Sex14
  5.
  2.3 Cultural Training14
  5.
  2.4 Relationship between Communicators15
  5.
  2.5 Occasions15
  5.
  2.6 Social Factors15
  6. The Solutions to Avoid Conflicts15
  6.1 Avoidance 17
  6.2 Euphemism 17
  6.3 Hiding Truth18
  6.4 Neutral18
  7. Conclusion19
  7.1 Summary 19
  7.2 Suggestions for Further Research 20 Bibliography21
v

  1. Introduction
Language is a social phenomenon, which determines that language system is not a closed system, but linked inextricably with others. Chomsky once said “People's language is always affected by various forms of social and cultural factors. When we study the language, it is of some people that might be called human nature of things, that the psychological characteristics with humans, as far as we know, these features are unique to humans.” Obviously, language is the embodiment of human nature. It reflects a culture and the mode of thinking. As we all know, culture is the sum of beliefs, habits, living patterns and behaviors for different nationalities. Different nations have different cultural backgrounds, which influence the development of their language. As the carrier of culture, a language also shows the specific character to its nation. Meanwhile, language is a tool for human’s thought and communication. Though arbitrary is the nature of language, when certain words have been mentioned, certain scene will present in people's eyes and cause psychological reactions. As a result, people expect to avoid or indirect reference the unhappy words. This is the phenomenon of taboo language. For foreign language learners, learning a foreign language is not only to learn the language, but also to understand its culture. It is the combination of going through complex psychological processes and exploring ways of thinking and psychological characteristics under different cultural background. In the past two decades, with the process of human globalization and information, people in different regions with different cultural backgrounds communicated with each other more and more frequently. Cross-cultural communication has become an important feature to the world. In human’s lifetime, they receive or send information all the time. Verbal language becomes the most important form of communication. However, in cross-cultural communication, lacking the knowledge of foreign language and the understanding of alien culture often lead the failure and errors. For example, making a circle with the thumb and forefinger and straightening the other three fingers represent “Victory” in the United States, “Insulting” in Brazil and “Money” in Japan. If people only know its meaning as “Victory”, it will bring puzzle and misunderstanding to Japanese people and Brazilians. Clearly, cultural discrepancy of communicators has seriously affected
communication, and is an important feature which causes the failure of cross-cultural communication. Taboo is one of the most important factors leading culture conflict.
1
Therefore, the study of taboos is an important theoretical and practical issue in the study of cross-cultural pragmatic. Though, the study of taboos on intercultural communication has important theoretical significance and value in the studies of contemporary linguistics. The academia does not pay enough attention to this subject. Some western scholars began to focus on relevant topics from the 50th in the 19th century. Then, the study gradually expanded all around the world. From the contents view of cross-cultural communication study, mainly related to: the Cultural Differences of Speech Communication and the Differences of Non-verbal Communication. The emphasis of researches biased toward experience and practice. The substance is extensive, but the system is bulky. In brief, the study went according to linguistics-strict system with narrow content. Studies of cross-cultural pragmatics started relatively late in our country. He Daokuan and Hu Wenshi are the earliest scholars of this field at home. Together with other scholars promoting, the development of this field and plays an active role in this area. However, there are still problems on this subject in domestic research. Some researches talked in generalities. Lacking of profound and comprehensive on a particular topic is still restricted the development of the subject. This thesis discusses a particular topic on taboos in Sino-British cross-cultural issues. To let the readers understand clearly, it is necessary to inform the organization of this thesis at the beginning of discussion. First of all, talk about taboos from different aspects, including origin, performance, classification and pragmatic features. Secondly, compare taboos in Sino-British cross-cultural communication in terms of cultural traditions, personal training, social customs, communication needs and so on. Find out the differences and similarities of Chinese and English taboos under different cultural background. Finally, summarize the problems and causes led by taboos in Sino-British inter-culture conflicts, and put forward some constructive preventive strategies. Ultimately, the author hopes the study will help Chinese and English learners and users deepen the understanding of language and culture and achieve the desired effect in cross-culture communication.
2

  2. Aspects of Taboos
Taboo is regarded as one of the greatest obstacles in cross-cultural communication. Neglecting taboo will result in cultural conflict or even serious consequences. In order to avoid cross-cultural communication conflicts, it is necessary for us to understand taboo completely.

  2.1 Origin and History
“Taboo”, literally translated as “塔布” in Chinese, means “need extreme attention to do”. It belongs to Tonga in Polynesia. Researchers can also find the original form of the word in Micronesia and Melanesia. In the 18th century, an English navigator, named as James Cook (1728-17
  79), sailed to the South Pacific island of Tonga in 17
  77. He discovered and documented th
 

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