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Coupling as a Text-building, Myth-evoking Strategy in Vietnamese

In this article I describe “coupling” in Vietnamese—the juxtaposing of two items that are antithetical, or nearly antithetical, in meaning. I give examples of coupling in myths, poetry, speeches, essays, and four-syllable expressions. In Vietnam’s myth of origin, a dragon king of the water, Lạc Long, meets a fairy queen of the mountains, Âu cơ, and the Vietnamese race is the result of this union. Vietnamese use the four-syllable expression con rồng cháu tiên (literally, child dragon child fairy), which refers to this story, to refer to themselves. Coupling, I suggest, becomes for Vietnamese a means of constructing texts. It is also involved in myth-evoking because compound words like “trung hiếu” and “chung thủy” and four-syllable expressions like con rồng cháu tiên and trai tài gái sắc(men talented women beautiful) are efficient ways to activate cultural knowledge stored in the minds of hearers or readers.

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