Analysis on the Function of Cultural Connotation in Vocabulary Teaching and Learning of English Majors

Xianmei Sun
2011 Theory and Practice in Language Studies  
Vo cabulary is one of most important essentials of language, and it is also the basic of language communication. There are great differences between Chinese and English culture. Therefore, this difference will certainly reflect on the words, especially words with special cultural connotation. In English, there are a lot of words with cultural connotation. University English students who do not understand English culture will certainly misunderstand its cultural connotation because of the
more » ... cause of the negative transfer of culture. This paper will discuss the relations between culture and vocabulary and the problems caused by different cultural connotations, and thus puts forward some suggestions on how to improve vocabulary understanding in intercultural communication of English majors. Index Terms-cultural connotation, cultural differences, vocabulary teaching I. INTRODUCTION If language structures make up the skeleton of a language, it is vocabulary that provides the vital organs and the flesh. Vocabulary is one of the most important essentials of language, and it is also the basis of language communication. In vocabulary researches, vocabulary refers not only to single words, but also phrases and idioms. And in the Oxford Advanced Learner"s English-Chinese Dictionary, the definition of the "vocabulary" is the total number of the words that make up a language. It is the basic meaningful unite in language communication. As language has a close relation with culture, culture learning plays an important role in learning language. For a long time, teachers in university English teaching and learning only pay much attention to the pronunciation, the basic meaning of words, but without paying attention to the cultural learning. The lack of cultural background causes carrier in students' understanding words well. Therefore, cultural learning should be put on a more important place in the future vocabulary teaching and learning. II. RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN CULTURE AND VOCABULARY Culture, totality of mental and material wealth through human"s history, is the product of people"s practice and creation. Any race in the world has its own culture and language. Language serves as the window to manifest the content of its own culture. Likewise, culture, attached to language, is regarded as the cradle of its own race speeches. In linguistic aspect, language is the reflection of its own culture. As is widely known, vocabulary, the building material, is essential to a language. It is one of the three basic components (pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar), and is of utmost importance to people"s communication and language learning. Language emerges first as words, and the coining of new words never stops. Pronunciation and grammar are presented by vocabulary. The linguist David Wilkins (1972) once summered up the importance of vocabulary in his book Linguistics and Language Teaching: "Without grammar very little can be conveyed, without vocabulary nothing can be conveyed." To achieve the purpose of communication, people need to learn vocabulary first. Just as the famous linguist Chen Yuan (1983)says vocabulary is the most active and dynamic element that sensitively reflect the social changes in life and thinking. Different cultures give words specific and particular signs, symbols and culture connotation. Only in the certain culture environment can the word be correctly understood and furthermore the communication be successful. The hierarchy of lexicon is the mirror of the nation's culture, and through the hierarchy of lexicon some of the nation's culture is transmitted and recognized by the language users. Since there are great differences between the English culture and Chinese culture in the aspects of values, morality, religion, customs and so on. These different national cultures give the words different culture connotations. Take the common color words "red", "white", "black" for example. "Red", "white" and "black" is three kinds of colors and each of them refers to the same color in English and in Chinese. But the differences of people's attitudes, beliefs, values give the three colors different associative meaning and cultural connotation. Both in English and in Chinese, red is connected with congratulation and ceremony. For example, there is "red-lettered days" in English which refers to holidays. Especially in China, red is also referred to revolution or THEORY AND PRACTICE IN LANGUAGE STUDIES
doi:10.4304/tpls.1.9.1207-1212 fatcat:ffhes4bumjfwjd327gno2nn22u