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I am deeply grateful to Dr. TrÇn Xu©n §iÖp, my supervisor, for his invaluable support throughout the process of writing the thesis.

My sincere gratitude goes to Dr. Lª Hïng TiÕn, Head of the Post-graduate Department, and Assoc. Prof., Dr. TrÇn H÷u M¹nh for their open recommendations on the perspective on the theme.
I would like to take this chance to thank my relative, my husband and my children Minh –Quang who are always besides me, encourage me to finish the thesis.
I also wish at this time to thank all linguists and grammarians whose researches have been quoted in this thesis.
Hanoi, October 2005
NguyÔn ThÞ Thuý


A: adverbial

Adj: adjective

C: complement

D-structure: deep structure

Noun: noun

NP: noun phrase

O: object

Oi: indirect object

OD: direct object

PII: past participle

PP: preposition phrase

P&P: Principle and parameter

S: subject

S-structure: Surface structure

V: verb

table of contents


Acknowledgements i

Abbreviations ii

General Introduction 1

1. Rationale 1

2. Aims of the study 2

3. Scopes of the study 3

4. Methods of the study 3

5. Design of the study 4

Chapter One: Theoretical Background 5

1.1 Introduction 5

1.2 Concept of voice 5

1.3 Active voice and passive voice syntactically, semantically and pragmatically viewed 6

1.4 Voice and related concepts 6

1.5 English verbs 6

1.5.1 Classification of English verbs 7

1.5.2 Tense, aspect and mood of English verbs 10

1.5.3 Phrases and clauses 12

Chapter Two: Passive Voice in English 14

2.1 Passive Voice in English Traditional Grammar 14

2.2.1. English passive constructions in traditional grammar 14

2.2.2 The phrase of By and With 21

2.2.3 Usage of English passive voice 21

2.3 Passive Voice in Functional grammar 23

2.3.1 Passive Types 23

2.3.2. The phrase of by and with 24

2.4. Passive voice in Transformational-Generative grammar 25

2.4.1 Introduction 25

2.4.2 Noun phrase passivization 25

Chapter Three: Passive Constructions in Vietnamese 28

3.1 Verbs in Vietnamese 28

3.1.1 Dependent and Independent verbs 28

3.1.2 Transitive – Intransitive verbs 29

3.2 Vietnamese passive expressions in different views 29

3.2.1 Rejection of Passive voice in Vietnamese 30

3.2.2 Support for Passive Expressions in Vietnamese 30

3.2.3 Vietnamese Passive Usage 42

Chapter Four: Contrastive Analysis 58

4.1. Contrast of English and Vietnamese passive constructions syntactically 58

4.1.1 Syntactic similarities 58

4.1.2 Syntactic differences 59

4.2. Contrast of English and Vietnamese passive constructions semantically 62

4.2.1 Similarities 62

4.2.2 Differences. 62

4.3. Contrast of English and Vietnamese passive structures pragmatically 66

4.3.1 Similarities 66

4.3.2. English passive constructions and the Vietnamese equivalents 67

Part Three: Conclusion 76

Bibliography 80

Bibliography 82


General Introduction

1. Rationale

During the acquisition of any foreign language, the language learners have to encounter a great number of difficulties due to the differences between the learners’ mother tongue and the foreign language. The Vietnamese learners, who are interested in English, can be taken as examples for these two languages belong to two different groups. Among numerous difficulties hindering the Vietnamese acquisition of English, the concepts of voices in general, passive voice in particular seems to be one of the core issues.

In this paper, the concepts of voice and passive voice are seen from a broader view with two following reasons. Firstly, according to Asher R.E. (1994:4938), “linguists use the term voice in a number of senses” and “the broadest definition of voice encompassing a wide range of grammatical constructions that are commonly thought to be quite distinct from those related by the active - passive alternation”. This means that the term voice in broader sense does exist in all languages. Secondly, the term voice in a narrow sense refers to morphological categories only. In such languages as English and Vietnamese, however, verbs do not have distinct morphological categories for different voices. In English passive voice is expressed with the syntactic constructions, involving a combination of the auxiliary verb be and the past participle form of verbs. In Vietnamese, there is no verbal marking for different voices and thus there is no active – passive opposition reflected in the verb. Therefore, in these languages, suggested by Asher R.E, the term voice can be defined in terms of “syntactic constructions with reference to specific grammatical characteristics”. These are two reasons why this paper has the title of “A contrastive analysis of passive voice between English and Vietnamese”.

There are several studies of the passive voice in English and the passive contrast between English and Vietnamese. These studies range from the negative effects of Vietnamese words “bÞ” and “®­îc” on the formation of English passive expressions (§en, 2003) to structural differences between the English and Vietnamese passive expressions (HiÒn, 2000). The authors of these researches have succeeded in comparing the English passive expressions with the Vietnamese equivalents. These researches, however, neither confirm the existence of the passive voice in Vietnamese nor point out the differences in factors decisive to passive usage in two languages.

While the concepts of voices in general and passive voice in particular are familiar to the English, these concepts are abstract to Vietnamese learners. The problems come from the fact that passive voice is related to different areas from syntax, semantics and pragmatics as well.

Such questions really encourage me to do a comprehensive research on the differences related to passive voice in English and the “so - called” passive expressions in Vietnamese.

The comprehensive research here means the approach from all three related aspects: syntax, semantics, and pragmatics. In addition, as the title of thesis has implied, “contrastive analysis” will focus on the differences between the English and Vietnamese passive expressions on the ground of the similarity.

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