Idiomatic Generatives of a new generation; Vietnam’s idiomatic newness

Author: Van Nguyen (Institute of Cultural Studies, Hanoi)
Speaker: Van Nguyen
Topic: General sociolinguistics
The (SCOPUS / ISI) SOAS GLOCAL CALA 2019 General Session


Language, in its continuous state of change, experiences birth, death, and transfiguration, while fragments of the language emerge and survive in adjacent languages, through language contact. This phenomenon of linguistic transfer can occur through both denotative or connotative transfiguration. The idiom presents one vehicle for this inter-language transfer. Discussions of the life span and significance of idioms, as well as proverbs, that effect this inter-lingual transfiguration, offer a point of departure for linguistic investigation, and one which has expanded for the better part of the twentieth century.

This paper presents recently developed idioms and proverbs used by youth throughout Vietnam, surfacing prevalently, yet which have been adopted from either older linguistic genres, or which have crossed over from adjacent languages, through inter-lingual transfiguration. Contributing to the languages employed by youth, this emerging idiomatic forms well constitute youth culture, and have become an integral part of youth communication as a representational construct of language and identity, while assisting youth communities to become independent adults. This idiomatic language, during and after inter-lingual transfer, shapes the uniqueness of youth culture, which can otherwise become or remain marginal, is considered liminal, a phenomenon salient in minority cultures, vis-a-vis a dominant Vietnamese society. Furthermore, the maturation process often becomes accompanied by a form of sociocultural or familial mutiny, indexed through this metaphorical language.

Associations among idioms, proverbs and media (cartoons, music videos, YouTube posts, etc) offer sources of data for anthropologists and social scientists, thus providing descriptions of social or political models and praxis, and becoming determinants for conceptualizing these models and praxis. This study employs online data collection methods, recordings of natural speech, and focus group interviews, to document the use of this idiomatic language. To determine the genre and historicity of the idioms, the paper employs a genre analysis.

The study thus contributes to the field of Language and society by indicating that language transfer can proceed effectively, and directly, through connotative pathways, as well as through the extensively studied denotative effects of language contact.

Keywords: Linguistics, Vietnam, Language contact, Youth culture, Idioms