Ly Toan Thang

Vietnam Institute of Lexicography and Encyclopedia




A Crosslinguistic and a Crosscultural Study


The BODY and SOUL are the key concepts of any culture and they are expressed in natural languages by lexical items.

These concepts reflect “naïve”, folk in nature believes of native speakers community and at the same time probably “encyclopedic”, philosophical influences of religious doctrines; and sometimes it is difficult to know what is “naïve” and what is “encyclopedic” embodied in them.

A case study of the lexical items expressing the concepts BODY and SOUL in a Mon-Khmer language – Vietnamese – can examine and highlight the universal and specific characteristics of these concepts.

In Vietnamese there are, at least, seven basic, monosyllabic terms denoting human body and soul:


+ For body:





+ For soul:






From these basic terms are formed some compounds like:


+ For body:

               thân th

               thân xác


+ For soul:

linh hn

vong hn


Showing up the meanings and uses of Vietnamese lexical items mentioned above (especially, being done in comparison with a language of Indo-European type as English or Russian, and with other language of Tai-Kadai or Sino-Tibetan families in SEA), it is hoped that this paper could be useful for researches in terms of semantic, cultural and cognitive orientation.