On culture differences and implications between Chinese and English surnames

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On culture differences and implications between Chinese and English surnamesOn,on,and,And

    Term Paper

     报告名称(Comparisons and Cultural Implications

     Between Chinese and English Surnames

     : 张梦婷

     : 1015010106

    年级班级( 10级英语1

    联系电话( 15950550668


     2012 12 5


    Comparisons and Cultural Implications between Chinese and

    English Surnames


    Surname is a personal symbol as well as an information carrier; through it people can perceive a society and its culture in various aspects. Thus Chinese and English surnames should be treated not only as a sign system for identification but also as a social and cultural phenomenon which reflects the similarities and differences between the eastern and western nations. This paper attempt to probe into comparisons and culture implication reflected through Chinese and English surnames so as to enhance cross-cultural awareness and improve communication and mutual understanding

Key words

    Surnames similarities differences cultures implications communication

1 Introduction

    As one of the most stable personal identity of human beings, a personal surname is the symbol of the distinction of blood relationship, which is closely related to the religion, history and tradition of a nationality and a component of the language and culture of a country. In the course of human history, different nationalities have their own characteristics, but they may have something in common. By comparisons and contrasts, we will have a general understanding of national cultural psychology which will help us in cross-culture communication

2 Literature review

    Name is an old topic which has been discussed several times. There are many research concern about names, for example, name and culture, female discrimination in name, the changing of English name. However, comparing with the booming of name study, the study of surname was much less, mostly were just mentioned a little when talking about names. And the discussion was limited in a few perspectives, such as the origin of surname, or the relationship between surname and name, which was neither professional nor comprehensive. In fact, compared with name, the inheritance of surname is more stable, and can reflect the characteristics of a group better. The development of surname can indicate the changes of a country and nation, of a society and culture. Thus, the surname research should be deeper more specific, more comprehensive and more systematic. Out of that purpose, this paper will make a comparison of between Chinese and English surnames, and then try to figure out the culture reflected in those similarities and differences. Hope it can help readers have a preliminary and comprehensive understanding of surname cultures

3 The similarities between Chinese and English surnames

    As we know, Surname is an important part of national culture, and culture is the


    results of certain economic and political environment. In the early stages of human beings, there were several common problems need people to deal with, for example, dangerous environment, low production and the need to breed the next generation . They had to struggle to live. Thereby some common characteristics are shared in different cultures. We can find that in the following aspect.

    3.1From the Perspective of the origins of surnames thEnglish surnames appeared much later than Chinese surnames. It was until 11

    century when Norman conquered Britain did English people own surnames, while Chinese people began to use surnames during Matriarchal period. Although the Origin time is different, there are some similarities about the original way of people choosing surnames.

    3.1.1 Residence as surname

    Without superior transports, the early people were restricted in a very limited place where they settled down. Thus, their residences had become one of the most common ways to take surname in both China and England.

    Here are some examples:

    Chinese surnames:

    (Zhou, means the country of Zhou)

    (Qi, means the country of Qi)

    (Lu, the country of Lu )

    东方(Dong Fang, the eastern )

    南宫(Nan Gong, the south part of a palace )

    (Guan, means pass or gate )

    (Gu, means valley )

    English surnames:

    Hill Wood Bush Langford

    3.1.2 Career as surname

    In the old days, people‟s occupations were inherited within the family. For example, if a father is a blacksmith, then his son is very likely to earn a living by forging iron. In order to distinguish different blacksmith in one place, people named them with their career and name, for example, Stefan Blacksmith. Thus, people‟s career is another main resource of surname.

    Here are some examples:

    Chinese surnames:

    司马(Si Ma, means horse keeper )

    (Yin, means a local officer )

    (Shi, means stonemason)

    (Bu, means visionary)

    (Tao, means potter)

    (Tu, means butcher)

    English surnames:

    Smith Cook Fisher Taylor Butcher Baker

    3.1.3 Plants, animals and some other natural totem as surname

    Unlike modern human being, most of our ancestor didn‟t have advanced technology


    and science. To them, world was filled with mysteries which they couldn‟t explain, and nature was full of strengths which they couldn‟t conquer. In order to show their

    worship to this nature and pray for peace and happiness, they took natural totem as surname.

    Here are some examples:

    Chinese surnames:

    (Long, means dragon )

    (Ma, means horse )

    (Liu, means cattle )

    (Yang, means poplar )

    (Liu, means willow )

    (Shan means mount )

    (Jiang, means river )

    English surnames:

    Rose Bird Fox Lamb Bull

    3.1.4 Colors as surname

    Our world is a colorful world; different colors beautify our nature as well as our mind. To show their affection to these colors, our ancestors took them as surnames. Here are some examples:

    Chinese surnames:

    (Bai, means white )

    (Lan, means blue )

    (Qing , means a mixture of green and blue )

    (Huang, means yellow )

    English surnames:

    White Brown Silver

3.2 From the Perspective of the inheritance of surnames

    As we know, both Chinese surnames and English surnames are family internal inheritance. Children inherit their fathers‟ surname. Although there are a few changes

    in the process of inheriting surnames in history, most of the surnames almost remain the same forms and meanings. However, with the losing of time, the meanings of some surnames involved are forgotten by people.

3.3 From the Perspective of national amalgamation

    China and England are both multinational countries, there a several big national amalgamation in their history. In China, during the northern Wei dynasty, many minorities changed their surnames as Han nation‟s surnames in the response of their

    emperor‟s encouragement; even the emperor changed his surname, too. While in Britain, Ireland, Scotland and England had many conflicts and fusions in history, their cultures and habits also combined into each others‟ blood and tradition and showed in

    their surnames. For example, if there is a Mac- or Mc prefix in the surnames, then this English man must be the offspring of Scottish, while if there is O- prefix in one‟s

    surname, then his or her ancestors must come from Ireland. The main character of


Gone with the Wind, Scarlett, who had a surname O‟Hara and an Irish father is a

    terrific example.

    Here are some examples:

    Chinese surnames:

    拓跋(TuoBa)change into (Yuan)

    (Zhou) (Pu)change into