Conceptual Metaphor People are Animals in the Fight for Survival in Nam Cao’s Works

Author: Nguyen Thi Lan Anh (Faculty of Foreign Language, Academy of Finance),
Pham Thi Huong Quynh (Institute of Linguistics)
Speaker: Nguyen Thi Lan Anh, Pham Thi Huong Quynh
Topic: Cognitive Anthropology and Language
The GLOCAL CALA 2022 Colloquium

G. Lakoff and M. Johnson, the founder of cognitive linguistics, emphasized that metaphor is not simply a matter of words but of thought and action. Accordingly, they defined metaphors as conceptual system that structure the way we perceive, the way we think, and the way we do (Metaphor We live by, 1980). Moreover, they claimed that metaphors are based on culture and the embodiment. Their theory has created a turning-point in the study of metaphor in language.

Nam Cao is regarded as one of the most famous writer in Vienamese realistic literature in 20th century. His works are filled with humanity because of his great concerns for the poor who were oppressed and exploited. Characters in his writings are typical for different types of people in Vietnam countryside in 1930-1945 such as landowner, the peasant, the intellectual and the scoundrel.

In this paper, focus is made on analyzing the writer’s distinctive cognition of PEOPLE based on conceptual metaphor theory of cognitive linguistics. Simultaneously, the paper also aims to identify the cultural factors and the embodiment that underlie his perception. Metaphorical linguistic expressions of PEOPLE from forty-three short stories written by Nam Cao in 1930-1945, which have source domain ANIMALS, have been collected to do research. The main methods applied to carry out this study are descriptive, qualitative, quantitative and analytic.

The research has resulted in conceptual metaphor “PEOPLE ARE ANIMALS IN THE FIGHT FOR SURVIVAL” which affirms the author’s unique cognition of PEOPLE. In addition, it has also found out that animal husbandry practices in the agricultural culture and writer’s experience of living close to nature are the bases of this metaphor.

The result is suggested to be applied to reading and teaching Nam Cao’s short stories in Vietnam.

Keywords: Nam Cao’s short stories, conceptual metaphor, literary metaphor, Nam Cao’s unique cognition