Vietnamese language

Vietnamese language

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Encyclopedia
Vietnamese is the national
National language
A national language is a language which has some connection—de facto or de jure—with a people and perhaps by extension the territory they occupy. The term is used variously. A national language may for instance represent the national identity of a nation or country...

 and official language
Official language
An official language is a language that is given a special legal status in a particular country, state, or other jurisdiction. Typically a nation's official language will be the one used in that nation's courts, parliament and administration. However, official status can also be used to give a...

 of Vietnam
Vietnam
Vietnam – sometimes spelled Viet Nam , officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam – is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by China to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, and the South China Sea –...

. It is the mother tongue of 86% of Vietnam's population
Demographics of Vietnam
This article is about the demographic features of the population of Vietnam, including population density, ethnicity, education level, health of the populace, economic status, religious affiliations and other aspects of the population....

, and of about three million overseas Vietnamese. It is also spoken as a second language
Second language
A second language or L2 is any language learned after the first language or mother tongue. Some languages, often called auxiliary languages, are used primarily as second languages or lingua francas ....

 by many ethnic minorities of Vietnam. It is part of the Austro-Asiatic
Austro-Asiatic languages
The Austro-Asiatic languages, in recent classifications synonymous with Mon–Khmer, are a large language family of Southeast Asia, also scattered throughout India and Bangladesh. The name Austro-Asiatic comes from the Latin words for "south" and "Asia", hence "South Asia"...

 language family
Language family
A language family is a group of languages related through descent from a common ancestor, called the proto-language of that family. The term 'family' comes from the tree model of language origination in historical linguistics, which makes use of a metaphor comparing languages to people in a...

, of which it has the most speakers by a significant margin (several times larger than the other Austro-Asiatic languages put together).
Much of Vietnamese vocabulary has been borrowed from Chinese
Chinese language
The Chinese language is a language or language family consisting of varieties which are mutually intelligible to varying degrees. Originally the indigenous languages spoken by the Han Chinese in China, it forms one of the branches of Sino-Tibetan family of languages...

, and it was formerly written using the Chinese writing system
Chinese character
Chinese characters are logograms used in the writing of Chinese and Japanese , less frequently Korean , formerly Vietnamese , or other languages...

, albeit in a modified format and was given vernacular pronunciation. As a byproduct of French colonial rule
French Indochina
French Indochina was part of the French colonial empire in southeast Asia. A federation of the three Vietnamese regions, Tonkin , Annam , and Cochinchina , as well as Cambodia, was formed in 1887....

, the language displays some influence from French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

, and the Vietnamese writing system
Vietnamese alphabet
The Vietnamese alphabet, called Chữ Quốc Ngữ , usually shortened to Quốc Ngữ , is the modern writing system for the Vietnamese language...

 (quốc ngữ) in use today is an adapted version of the Latin alphabet
Latin alphabet
The Latin alphabet, also called the Roman alphabet, is the most recognized alphabet used in the world today. It evolved from a western variety of the Greek alphabet called the Cumaean alphabet, which was adopted and modified by the Etruscans who ruled early Rome...

, with additional diacritics
Diacritics
diacritics is a quarterly academic journal established in 1971 at Cornell University and published by the Johns Hopkins University Press. Articles serve to review recent literature in the field of literary criticism, and have covered topics in gender studies, political theory, psychoanalysis, queer...

 for tones
Tone (linguistics)
Tone is the use of pitch in language to distinguish lexical or grammatical meaning—that is, to distinguish or inflect words. All verbal languages use pitch to express emotional and other paralinguistic information, and to convey emphasis, contrast, and other such features in what is called...

 and certain letters.

Geographic distribution


As the national language of the majority ethnic group, Vietnamese is spoken throughout Vietnam by the Vietnamese people, as well as by ethnic minorities. It is also spoken in overseas Vietnamese communities, most notably in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, where it has more than one million speakers and is the seventh most-spoken language (it is 3rd in Texas, 4th in Arkansas and Louisiana, and 5th in California). In Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

, it is the sixth most-spoken language.

According to the Ethnologue
Ethnologue
Ethnologue: Languages of the World is a web and print publication of SIL International , a Christian linguistic service organization, which studies lesser-known languages, to provide the speakers with Bibles in their native language and support their efforts in language development.The Ethnologue...

, Vietnamese is also spoken by substantial numbers of people in Cambodia
Cambodia
Cambodia , officially known as the Kingdom of Cambodia, is a country located in the southern portion of the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia...

, Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

, China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

, Côte d'Ivoire
Côte d'Ivoire
The Republic of Côte d'Ivoire or Ivory Coast is a country in West Africa. It has an area of , and borders the countries Liberia, Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso and Ghana; its southern boundary is along the Gulf of Guinea. The country's population was 15,366,672 in 1998 and was estimated to be...

, Czech Republic
Czech Republic
The Czech Republic is a landlocked country in Central Europe. The country is bordered by Poland to the northeast, Slovakia to the east, Austria to the south, and Germany to the west and northwest....

, Finland
Finland
Finland , officially the Republic of Finland, is a Nordic country situated in the Fennoscandian region of Northern Europe. It is bordered by Sweden in the west, Norway in the north and Russia in the east, while Estonia lies to its south across the Gulf of Finland.Around 5.4 million people reside...

, France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

, Laos
Laos
Laos Lao: ສາທາລະນະລັດ ປະຊາທິປະໄຕ ປະຊາຊົນລາວ Sathalanalat Paxathipatai Paxaxon Lao, officially the Lao People's Democratic Republic, is a landlocked country in Southeast Asia, bordered by Burma and China to the northwest, Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the south and Thailand to the west...

, Martinique
Martinique
Martinique is an island in the eastern Caribbean Sea, with a land area of . Like Guadeloupe, it is an overseas region of France, consisting of a single overseas department. To the northwest lies Dominica, to the south St Lucia, and to the southeast Barbados...

, the Netherlands
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

, New Caledonia
New Caledonia
New Caledonia is a special collectivity of France located in the southwest Pacific Ocean, east of Australia and about from Metropolitan France. The archipelago, part of the Melanesia subregion, includes the main island of Grande Terre, the Loyalty Islands, the Belep archipelago, the Isle of...

, Norway
Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

, the Philippines
Philippines
The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...

, the Russian Federation, Senegal
Senegal
Senegal , officially the Republic of Senegal , is a country in western Africa. It owes its name to the Sénégal River that borders it to the east and north...

, Taiwan
Taiwan
Taiwan , also known, especially in the past, as Formosa , is the largest island of the same-named island group of East Asia in the western Pacific Ocean and located off the southeastern coast of mainland China. The island forms over 99% of the current territory of the Republic of China following...

, Thailand
Thailand
Thailand , officially the Kingdom of Thailand , formerly known as Siam , is a country located at the centre of the Indochina peninsula and Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Burma and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the...

, the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

, and Vanuatu
Vanuatu
Vanuatu , officially the Republic of Vanuatu , is an island nation located in the South Pacific Ocean. The archipelago, which is of volcanic origin, is some east of northern Australia, northeast of New Caledonia, west of Fiji, and southeast of the Solomon Islands, near New Guinea.Vanuatu was...

.

Genealogical classification


" At first, as Vietnamese
has tones and shares a large vocabulary with Chinese, it was grouped into Sino-Tibetan. Later, it
was found that the tones of Vietnamese appeared very recently (André-Georges Haudricourt
André-Georges Haudricourt
André-Georges Haudricourt was a French botanist, anthropologist and linguist.A.-G. Haudricourt spent his childhood in Picardie. He obtained his baccalauréat in 1928 and a diploma from the Institut national agronomique in 1931. He studied Genetics in Paris and Leningrad...

-1954) and the Chinese-like
vocabulary is also borrowed from Han Chinese during their shared history (1992); these two
aspects had nothing to do with the origin of Vietnamese. Vietnamese was then classified into
the Kam-Tai subfamily of Daic together with Zhuang (including Nung and Tày in North
Vietnam) and Thai, after removing the surface influences of Chinese. Nevertheless, the Daic
aspects were also borrowed from Zhuang in their long history of being neighbors (André-Georges Haudricourt
André-Georges Haudricourt
André-Georges Haudricourt was a French botanist, anthropologist and linguist.A.-G. Haudricourt spent his childhood in Picardie. He obtained his baccalauréat in 1928 and a diploma from the Institut national agronomique in 1931. He studied Genetics in Paris and Leningrad...

) , not original
aspects of Vietnamese. Finally, Vietnamese was classified into the Austro-Asiatic linguistic
family, the Mon-Khmer subfamily, Viet-Moung branch (1992) after more studies were done.
Kinh is the largest population in Vietnam. According to Fudan University
Fudan University
Fudan University , located in Shanghai, is one of the oldest and most selective universities in China, and is a member of the C9 League. Its institutional predecessor was founded in 1905, shortly before the end of China's imperial Qing dynasty...

's 2006 study, it belongs to Mon-Khmer linguistically, but there is no last word for its origin.

Henri Maspero
Henri Maspero
Henri Maspero was a French sinologist, today particularly remembered for his pioneering works on Taoism.-Biography:...

 maintained the Vietnamese Language of Thai-Origin, and the Reverend Father Souvignet traced it to
the Indo-Malay group. A.G. Haudricourt had refuted the thesis of Maspero and concluded that Vietnamese is
properly placed in the Austro-Asiatic family. None of these theories quite explain the origin of the Vietnamese
language. One thing, however, remains certain: Vietnamese is not a pure language. It seems to be a blend of several languages,
ancient and modern, encountered throughout history following successive contacts between foreign peoples
and the people of Vietnam
Vietnam
Vietnam – sometimes spelled Viet Nam , officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam – is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by China to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, and the South China Sea –...

.

Language policy


While spoken by the Vietnamese people for millennia, written Vietnamese did not become the official administrative language of Vietnam until the 20th century. For most of its history, the entity now known as Vietnam used written classical Chinese. In the 13th century, however, the country invented Chữ nôm, a writing system making use of Chinese characters with phonetic elements in order to better suit the tones associated with the Vietnamese language. Chữ nôm was proven to be much more efficient than classical Chinese characters that it was extensively used in the 17th and 18th centuries for poetry and literature. Chữ nôm was used for administrative purposes during the brief Hồ and Tây Sơn
Tây Son Dynasty
The name of Tây Sơn is used in many ways to refer to the period of peasant rebellions and decentralized dynasties established between the eras of the Later Lê and Nguyễn dynasties in the history of Vietnam between 1770 and 1802...

 Dynasties. During French colonialism, French superseded Chinese in administration. It was not until independence from France that Vietnamese was used officially. It is the language of instruction in schools and universities and is the language for official business.

Lexicon


Like many other Asian countries, as a result of close ties with China for thousands of years, much of the Vietnamese lexicon
Lexicon
In linguistics, the lexicon of a language is its vocabulary, including its words and expressions. A lexicon is also a synonym of the word thesaurus. More formally, it is a language's inventory of lexemes. Coined in English 1603, the word "lexicon" derives from the Greek "λεξικόν" , neut...

 relating to science and politics is derived from Chinese. At least 60% of the lexical stock has Chinese roots, not including naturalized word borrowings from China, although many compound words are Sino-Vietnamese, composed of native Vietnamese words combined with Chinese borrowings. One can usually distinguish between a native Vietnamese word and a Chinese borrowing if it can be reduplicated or its meaning does not change when the tone is shifted. As a result of French occupation, Vietnamese has since had many words borrowed from the French language
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

, for example cà phê (from French café). Nowadays, many new words are being added to the language's lexicon due to heavy Western cultural influence; these are usually borrowed from English, for example TV (though usually seen in the written form as tivi). Sometimes these borrowings are calque
Calque
In linguistics, a calque or loan translation is a word or phrase borrowed from another language by literal, word-for-word or root-for-root translation.-Calque:...

s literally translated into Vietnamese (for example, software is calqued into phần mềm, which literally means "soft part").

Vowels


Like other southeast Asian languages, Vietnamese has a comparatively large number of vowel
Vowel
In phonetics, a vowel is a sound in spoken language, such as English ah! or oh! , pronounced with an open vocal tract so that there is no build-up of air pressure at any point above the glottis. This contrasts with consonants, such as English sh! , where there is a constriction or closure at some...

s. Below is a vowel diagram
Vowel diagram
A vowel diagram or vowel chart is a schematic arrangement of the vowels. Depending on the particular language being discussed, it can take the form of a triangle or a quadrilateral...

 of Hanoi Vietnamese.
  Front
Front vowel
A front vowel is a type of vowel sound used in some spoken languages. The defining characteristic of a front vowel is that the tongue is positioned as far in front as possible in the mouth without creating a constriction that would be classified as a consonant. Front vowels are sometimes also...

Central
Central vowel
A central vowel is a type of vowel sound used in some spoken languages. The defining characteristic of a central vowel is that the tongue is positioned halfway between a front vowel and a back vowel...

Back
Back vowel
A back vowel is a type of vowel sound used in spoken languages. The defining characteristic of a back vowel is that the tongue is positioned as far back as possible in the mouth without creating a constriction that would be classified as a consonant. Back vowels are sometimes also called dark...

High
Close vowel
A close vowel is a type of vowel sound used in many spoken languages. The defining characteristic of a close vowel is that the tongue is positioned as close as possible to the roof of the mouth without creating a constriction that would be classified as a consonant.This term is prescribed by the...

i [i] ư [ɨ] u [u]
Upper Mid
Close-mid vowel
A close-mid vowel is a type of vowel sound used in some spoken languages. The defining characteristic of a close-mid vowel is that the tongue is positioned two-thirds of the way from a close vowel to a mid vowel...

ê [e] â [ə] / ơ [əː] ô [o]
Lower Mid
Open-mid vowel
An open-mid vowel is a type of vowel sound used in some spoken languages. The defining characteristic of an open-mid vowel is that the tongue is positioned two-thirds of the way from an open vowel to a mid vowel...

e [ɛ] o [ɔ]
Low
Open vowel
An open vowel is defined as a vowel sound in which the tongue is positioned as far as possible from the roof of the mouth. Open vowels are sometimes also called low vowels in reference to the low position of the tongue...

ă [a] / a [aː]


Front, central, and low vowels (i, ê, e, ư, â, ơ, ă, a) are unrounded
Roundedness
In phonetics, vowel roundedness refers to the amount of rounding in the lips during the articulation of a vowel. That is, it is vocalic labialization. When pronouncing a rounded vowel, the lips form a circular opening, while unrounded vowels are pronounced with the lips relaxed...

, whereas the back vowels (u, ô, o) are rounded. The vowels â [ə] and ă [a] are pronounced very short, much shorter than the other vowels. Thus, ơ and â are basically pronounced the same except that ơ [əː] is long while â [ə] is short – the same applies to the low vowels long a [aː] and short ă [a].

In addition to single vowels (or monophthong
Monophthong
A monophthong is a pure vowel sound, one whose articulation at both beginning and end is relatively fixed, and which does not glide up or down towards a new position of articulation....

s), Vietnamese has diphthong
Diphthong
A diphthong , also known as a gliding vowel, refers to two adjacent vowel sounds occurring within the same syllable. Technically, a diphthong is a vowel with two different targets: That is, the tongue moves during the pronunciation of the vowel...

s and triphthong
Triphthong
In phonetics, a triphthong is a monosyllabic vowel combination involving a quick but smooth movement of the articulator from one vowel quality to another that passes over a third...

s. The diphthongs consist of a main vowel component followed by a shorter semivowel offglide to a high front position [ɪ], a high back position [ʊ], or a central position [ə].
Vowel nucleus Diphthong with front offglide Diphthong with back offglide Diphthong with centering offglide Triphthong with front offglide Triphthong with back offglide
i iu [iʊ̯] ia~iê~yê [iə̯] iêu [iə̯ʊ̯]
ê êu [eʊ̯]
e eo [ɛʊ̯]
ư ưi [ɨɪ̯] ưu [ɨʊ̯] ưa~ươ [ɨə̯] ươi [ɨə̯ɪ̯] ươu [ɨə̯ʊ̯]
â ây [əɪ̯] âu [əʊ̯]
ơ ơi [əːɪ̯]
ă ay [aɪ̯] au [aʊ̯]
a ai [aːɪ̯] ao [aːʊ̯]
u ui [uɪ̯] ua~uô [uə̯] uôi [uə̯ɪ̯]
ô ôi [oɪ̯]
o oi [ɔɪ̯]


The centering diphthongs are formed with only the three high vowels (i, ư, u) as the main vowel. They are generally spelled as ia, ưa, ua when they end a word and are spelled iê, ươ, uô, respectively, when they are followed by a consonant. There are also restrictions on the high offglides: the high front offglide cannot occur after a front vowel (i, ê, e) nucleus and the high back offglide cannot occur after a back vowel (u, ô, o) nucleus.

The correspondence between the orthography and pronunciation is complicated. For example, the offglide [ɪ̯] is usually written as i however, it may also be represented with y. In addition, in the diphthongs [aɪ̯] and [aːɪ̯] the letters y and i also indicate the pronunciation of the main vowel: ay = ă + [ɪ̯], ai = a + [ɪ̯]. Thus, tay "hand" is [taɪ̯] while tai "ear" is [taːɪ̯]. Similarly, u and o indicate different pronunciations of the main vowel: au = ă + [ʊ̯], ao = a + [ʊ̯]. Thus, thau "brass" is [tʰaʊ̯] while thao "raw silk" is [tʰaːʊ̯].

The four triphthongs are formed by adding front and back offglides to the centering diphthongs. Similarly to the restrictions involving diphthongs, a triphthong with front nucleus cannot have a front offglide (after the centering glide) and a triphthong with a back nucleus cannot have a back offglide.

With regards to the front and back offglides [ɪ̯, ʊ̯], many phonological descriptions analyze these as consonant glides /j, w/. Thus, a word such as đâu "where", phonetically [ɗəʊ̯], would be phonemicized as /ɗəw/.

Tones


Vietnamese vowels are all pronounced with an inherent tone
Tone (linguistics)
Tone is the use of pitch in language to distinguish lexical or grammatical meaning—that is, to distinguish or inflect words. All verbal languages use pitch to express emotional and other paralinguistic information, and to convey emphasis, contrast, and other such features in what is called...

. Tones differ in:
  • length (duration)
  • pitch contour
    Pitch contour
    In linguistics, speech synthesis, and music, the pitch contour of a sound is a function or curve that tracks the perceived pitch of the sound over time....

     (i.e. pitch melody)
  • pitch height
  • phonation
    Phonation
    Phonation has slightly different meanings depending on the subfield of phonetics. Among some phoneticians, phonation is the process by which the vocal folds produce certain sounds through quasi-periodic vibration. This is the definition used among those who study laryngeal anatomy and physiology...



Tone is indicated by diacritics written above or below the vowel (most of the tone diacritics appear above the vowel; however, the nặng tone dot diacritic goes below the vowel). The six tones in the northern varieties (including Hanoi), with their self-referential Vietnamese names, are:
Name Description Diacritic Example Sample vowel
ngang   'level' mid level (no mark) ma  'ghost'
huyền   'hanging' low falling (often breathy) ` (grave accent
Grave accent
The grave accent is a diacritical mark used in written Breton, Catalan, Corsican, Dutch, French, Greek , Italian, Mohawk, Norwegian, Occitan, Portuguese, Scottish Gaelic, Vietnamese, Welsh, Romansh, and other languages.-Greek:The grave accent was first used in the polytonic orthography of Ancient...

)
mà  'but'
sắc   'sharp' high rising ´ (acute accent
Acute accent
The acute accent is a diacritic used in many modern written languages with alphabets based on the Latin, Cyrillic, and Greek scripts.-Apex:An early precursor of the acute accent was the apex, used in Latin inscriptions to mark long vowels.-Greek:...

)
má  'cheek, mother (southern)'
hỏi   'asking' mid dipping-rising  ̉ (hook
Hook (diacritic)
In typesetting, the hook is a diacritic mark placed on top of vowels in the Vietnamese alphabet. In shape it looks like a tiny question mark without the dot underneath. For example, a capital A with a hook is "Ả", and a lower case "u" with a hook is "ủ". It functions as a tone marker...

)
mả  'tomb, grave'
ngã   'tumbling' high breaking-rising ˜ (tilde
Tilde
The tilde is a grapheme with several uses. The name of the character comes from Portuguese and Spanish, from the Latin titulus meaning "title" or "superscription", though the term "tilde" has evolved and now has a different meaning in linguistics....

)
mã  'horse (Sino-Vietnamese), code'
nặng   'heavy' low falling constricted (short length)  ̣ (dot below
Dot (diacritic)
When used as a diacritic mark, the term dot is usually reserved for the Interpunct , or to the glyphs 'combining dot above' and 'combining dot below'...

)
mạ  'rice seedling'


Other dialects of Vietnamese have fewer tones (typically only five). See the language variation section for a brief survey of tonal differences among dialects.

In Vietnamese poetry, tones are classed into two groups:
Tone group Tones within tone group
bằng "level, flat" ngang and huyền
trắc "oblique, sharp" sắc, hỏi, ngã, and nặng


Words with tones belonging to particular tone group must occur in certain positions with the poetic verse.

Consonants


The consonants that occur in Vietnamese are listed below in the Vietnamese orthography with the phonetic pronunciation to the right.
Labial
Labial consonant
Labial consonants are consonants in which one or both lips are the active articulator. This precludes linguolabials, in which the tip of the tongue reaches for the posterior side of the upper lip and which are considered coronals...

Alveolar
Alveolar consonant
Alveolar consonants are articulated with the tongue against or close to the superior alveolar ridge, which is called that because it contains the alveoli of the superior teeth...

Retroflex Palatal Velar
Velar consonant
Velars are consonants articulated with the back part of the tongue against the soft palate, the back part of the roof of the mouth, known also as the velum)....

Glottal
Glottal consonant
Glottal consonants, also called laryngeal consonants, are consonants articulated with the glottis. Many phoneticians consider them, or at least the so-called fricative, to be transitional states of the glottis without a point of articulation as other consonants have; in fact, some do not consider...

Stop
Stop consonant
In phonetics, a plosive, also known as an occlusive or an oral stop, is a stop consonant in which the vocal tract is blocked so that all airflow ceases. The occlusion may be done with the tongue , lips , and &...

voiceless p
Voiceless bilabial plosive
The voiceless bilabial plosive is a type of consonantal sound used in many spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is , and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is p...

 [p]
t [t] tr [tʂ~ʈ] ch [c~tɕ] c/k/q [k]
aspirated   th [tʰ]
voiced b [ɓ] đ [ɗ]
Fricative voiceless ph
Voiceless labiodental fricative
The voiceless labiodental fricative is a type of consonantal sound, used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is .-Features:Features of the voiceless labiodental fricative:...

 [f]
x [s] s [ʂ] kh [x] h [h]
voiced v [v] gi [z] r [ʐ~ɹ] d [z~j] g/gh [ɣ]
Nasal
Nasal consonant
A nasal consonant is a type of consonant produced with a lowered velum in the mouth, allowing air to escape freely through the nose. Examples of nasal consonants in English are and , in words such as nose and mouth.- Definition :...

m
Bilabial nasal
The bilabial nasal is a type of consonantal sound used in almost all spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is , and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is m...

 [m]
n
Alveolar nasal
The alveolar nasal is a type of consonantal sound used in numerous spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents dental, alveolar, and postalveolar nasals is , and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is n....

 [n]
nh
Palatal nasal
The palatal nasal is a type of consonant, used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is , a lowercase letter n with a leftward-pointing tail protruding from the bottom of the left stem of the letter. The equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is J...

 [ɲ]
ng/ngh
Velar nasal
The velar nasal is the sound of ng in English sing. It is a type of consonantal sound, used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is , and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is N....

 [ŋ]
Approximant u/o [w] l [l] y/i [j]


Some consonant sounds are written with only one letter (like "p"), other consonant sounds are written with a two-letter digraph
Digraph (orthography)
A digraph or digram is a pair of characters used to write one phoneme or a sequence of phonemes that does not correspond to the normal values of the two characters combined...

 (like "ph"), and others are written with more than one letter or digraph (the velar stop is written variously as "c", "k", or "q").

Not all dialects of Vietnamese have the same consonant in a given word (although all dialects use the same spelling in the written language). See the language variation section for further elaboration.

The analysis of syllable-final orthographic ch and nh in Hanoi Vietnamese has had different analyses. One analysis has final ch, nh as being phonemes /c, ɲ/ contrasting with syllable-final t, c /t, k/ and n, ng /n, ŋ/ and identifies final ch with the syllable-initial ch /c/. The other analysis has final ch and nh as predictable allophonic variants of the velar phonemes /k/ and /ŋ/ that occur before upper front vowels i /i/ and ê /e/. (See Vietnamese phonology: Analysis of final ch, nh for further details.)

Language variation


There are various mutually intelligible regional varieties (or dialect
Dialect
The term dialect is used in two distinct ways, even by linguists. One usage refers to a variety of a language that is a characteristic of a particular group of the language's speakers. The term is applied most often to regional speech patterns, but a dialect may also be defined by other factors,...

s), the main four being:
Dialect region Localities Names under French colonization
Northern Vietnamese Hanoi
Hanoi
Hanoi , is the capital of Vietnam and the country's second largest city. Its population in 2009 was estimated at 2.6 million for urban districts, 6.5 million for the metropolitan jurisdiction. From 1010 until 1802, it was the most important political centre of Vietnam...

, Haiphong
Haiphong
, also Haiphong, is the third most populous city in Vietnam. The name means, "coastal defence".-History:Hai Phong was originally founded by Lê Chân, the female general of a Vietnamese revolution against the Chinese led by the Trưng Sisters in the year 43 C.E.The area which is now known as Duong...

, and various provincial forms
Tonkin
Tonkin
Tonkin , also spelled Tongkin, Tonquin or Tongking, is the northernmost part of Vietnam, south of China's Yunnan and Guangxi Provinces, east of northern Laos, and west of the Gulf of Tonkin. Locally, it is known as Bắc Kỳ, meaning "Northern Region"...

ese
North-central (or Area IV) Vietnamese Nghệ An (Vinh
Vinh
Vinh is a city in Vietnam. It is located in the northern half of the country, and is the capital of Nghệ An Province. Politically, Vinh is a municipality within Nghệ An Province. On September 5th, 2008, it was upgraded from Grade-II city to Grade-I city, the fourth Grade-I city of Vietnam after...

, Thanh Chương
Thanh Chuong
Thanh Chuong is a district of Nghe An Province in the North Central Coastal region of Vietnam.As of 2003 the district had a population of 230,811. The district covers an area of 1,128 km². The district capital lies at Thanh Chuong....

), Thanh Hoá, Quảng Bình
Quang Binh Province
Quảng Bình , formerly Tiên Bình under the reign of Le Trung Hung of the Lê Dynasty, this province was renamed Quảng Bình in 1604) is a province in the North Central Coast of Vietnam....

, Hà Tĩnh
High Annam
Annam (French Colony)
Annam was a French protectorate encompassing the central region of Vietnam. Vietnamese were subsequently referred to as "Annamites." Nationalist writers adopted the word "Vietnam" in the late 1920s. The general public embraced the word "Vietnam" during the revolution of August 1945...

ese
Central Vietnamese Huế
Hue
Hue is one of the main properties of a color, defined technically , as "the degree to which a stimulus can be describedas similar to or different from stimuli that are described as red, green, blue, and yellow,"...

, Quảng Nam
Low Annamese
Southern Vietnamese Saigon, Mekong
Mekong
The Mekong is a river that runs through China, Burma, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. It is the world's 10th-longest river and the 7th-longest in Asia. Its estimated length is , and it drains an area of , discharging of water annually....

 (Far West)
Cochinchinese
Cochinchina
Cochinchina is a region encompassing the southern third of Vietnam whose principal city is Saigon. It was a French colony from 1862 to 1954. The later state of South Vietnam was created in 1954 by combining Cochinchina with southern Annam. In Vietnamese, the region is called Nam Bộ...



Vietnamese has traditionally been divided into three dialect regions: North, Central, and South. However, Michel Fergus and Nguyễn Tài Cẩn offer evidence for considering a North-Central region separate from Central. The term Haut-Annam refers to dialects spoken from northern Nghệ An Province to southern (former) Thừa Thiên Province that preserve archaic features (like consonant clusters and undiphthongized vowels) that have been lost in other modern dialects.

These dialect regions differ mostly in their sound systems (see below), but also in vocabulary (including basic vocabulary, non-basic vocabulary, and grammatical words) and grammar. The North-central and Central regional varieties, which have a significant amount of vocabulary differences, are generally less mutually intelligible to Northern and Southern speakers. There is less internal variation within the Southern region than the other regions due to its relatively late settlement by Vietnamese speakers (in around the end of the 15th century). The North-central region is particularly conservative. Along the coastal areas, regional variation has been neutralized to a certain extent, while more mountainous regions preserve more variation. As for sociolinguistic attitudes, the North-central varieties are often felt to be "peculiar" or "difficult to understand" by speakers of other dialects.

It should be noted that the large movements of people between North and South beginning in the mid-20th century and continuing to this day have resulted in a significant number of Southern residents speaking in the Northern accent/dialect and, to a lesser extent, Northern residents speaking in the Southern accent/dialect. Following the Geneva Accords of 1954
Geneva Conference (1954)
The Geneva Conference was a conference which took place in Geneva, Switzerland, whose purpose was to attempt to find a way to unify Korea and discuss the possibility of restoring peace in Indochina...

 that called for the temporary division of the country
Partition of Vietnam
The Partition of Vietnam was the establishment of the 17th parallel as the Vietnamese Demilitarized Zone in 1954, splitting Vietnam into halves after the First Indochina War.The Geneva Conference was held at the conclusion of the First Indochina War...

, almost a million northerners (mainly from Hanoi and the surrounding Red River Delta areas) moved south (mainly to Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City, and the surrounding areas) as part of Operation Passage to Freedom
Operation Passage to Freedom
Operation Passage to Freedom was the term used by the United States Navy to describe its transportation in 1954–55 of 310,000 Vietnamese civilians, soldiers and non-Vietnamese members of the French Army from communist North Vietnam to South Vietnam...

. About a third of that number of people made the move in the reverse direction.

Following the reunification of Vietnam in 1975–76, Northern and North-Central speakers from the densely populated Red River Delta and the traditionally poorer provinces of Nghe An, Ha Tinh and Quang Binh have continued to move South to look for better economic opportunities. Additionally, government and military personnel are posted to various locations throughout the country, often away from their home regions. More recently, the growth of the free market system has resulted in business people and tourists traveling to distant parts of Vietnam. These movements have resulted in some small blending of the dialects but, more significantly, have made the Northern dialect more easily understood in the South and vice versa. It is also interesting to note that most Southerners, when singing modern/popular Vietnamese songs, would do so in the Northern accent. This is true in Vietnam as well as in the overseas Vietnamese communities.
Regional variation in grammatical words
Northern Central Southern English gloss
này ni or nì nầy "this"
thế này ri vầy "thus, this way"
ấy nớ, tê đó "that"
thế, thế ấy rứa, rứa tê vậy đó "thus, so, that way"
kia đó "that yonder"
kìa tề đó "that yonder (far away)"
đâu đâu "where"
nào nào "which"
sao, thế nào răng sao "how, why"
tôi tui tui "I, me (polite)"
tao tau tao, qua "I, me (arrogant, familiar)"
chúng tôi bầy tui tụi tui "we, us (but not you, polite)"
chúng tao bầy choa tụi tao "we, us (but not you, arrogant, familiar)"
mày mi mầy "you (thou
Thou
The word thou is a second person singular pronoun in English. It is now largely archaic, having been replaced in almost all contexts by you. It is used in parts of Northern England and by Scots. Thou is the nominative form; the oblique/objective form is thee , and the possessive is thy or thine...

) (arrogant, familiar)"
chúng mày bây, bọn bây tụi mầy "you guys, y'all (arrogant, familiar)"
hắn, nghỉ "he/him, she/her, it (arrogant, familiar)"
chúng nó bọn hắn tụi nó "they/them (arrogant, familiar)"
ông ấy ông nớ ổng "he/him, that gentleman, sir"
bà ấy mệ nớ, mụ nớ, bà nớ bả "she/her, that lady, madam"
cô ấy o nớ cổ "she/her, that unmarried young lady"
chị ấy ả nớ chỉ "she/her, that young lady"
anh ấy eng nớ ảnh "he/him, that young man (of equal status)"


The syllable
Syllable
A syllable is a unit of organization for a sequence of speech sounds. For example, the word water is composed of two syllables: wa and ter. A syllable is typically made up of a syllable nucleus with optional initial and final margins .Syllables are often considered the phonological "building...

-initial ch and tr digraphs are pronounced distinctly in North-central, Central, and Southern varieties, but are merged in Northern varieties (i.e. they are both pronounced the same way). The North-central varieties preserve three distinct pronunciations for d, gi, and r whereas the North has a three-way merger and the Central and South have a merger of d and gi while keeping r distinct. At the end of syllables, palatals ch and nh have merged with alveolars t and n, which, in turn, have also partially merged with velars c and ng in Central and Southern varieties.
Regional consonant correspondences
Syllable position Orthography Northern North-central Central Southern
syllable-initial x [s] [s] [s] [s]
s [ʂ] [ʂ] [ʂ]
ch [tɕ] [tɕ] [tɕ] [tɕ]
tr [tʂ] [tʂ] [tʂ]
r [z] [ɹ] [ɹ] [ɹ]
d [ɟ] [j] [j]
gi [z]
v [v] [v]
syllable-final c [k] [k] [k] [k]
t [t] [t]
t
after e
[k, t]
t
after ê
[t] [k, t]
t
after i
[t]
ch [c] [c]
ng [ŋ] [ŋ] [ŋ] [ŋ]
n [n] [n]
n
after i, ê
[n] [n]
nh [ɲ] [ɲ]


In addition to the regional variation described above, there is also a merger of l and n in certain rural varieties:
l, n variation
Orthography "Mainstream" varieties Rural varieties
n [n] [n]
l [l]


Variation between l and n can be found even in mainstream Vietnamese in certain words. For example, the numeral "five" appears as năm by itself and in compound numerals like năm mươi "fifty" but appears as lăm in mười lăm "fifteen". (See Vietnamese syntax: Cardinal numerals.) In some northern varieties, this numeral appears with an initial nh instead of l: hai mươi nhăm "twenty-five" vs. mainstream hai mươi lăm.

The consonant clusters that were originally present in Middle Vietnamese (of the 17th century) have been lost in almost all modern Vietnamese varieties (but retained in other closely related Vietic languages). However, some speech communities have preserved some of these archaic clusters: "sky" is blời with a cluster in Hảo Nho (Yên Mô prefecture, Ninh Binh Province
Ninh Bình Province
-Festivals:* Thai Vi festival * Truong Yen Festival* Yen Cu Festival* Non Khe Festival-Transportation:...

) but trời in Southern Vietnamese and giời in Hanoi Vietnamese (initial single consonants /ʈᶳ, z/, respectively).

Tones


Generally, the Northern varieties have six tones while those in other regions have five tones. The hỏi and ngã tones are distinct in North and some North-central varieties (although often with different pitch contour
Pitch contour
In linguistics, speech synthesis, and music, the pitch contour of a sound is a function or curve that tracks the perceived pitch of the sound over time....

s) but have merged in Central, Southern, and some North-central varieties (also with different pitch contours). Some North-central varieties (such as Hà Tĩnh Vietnamese) have a merger of the ngã and nặng tones while keeping the hỏi tone distinct. Still other North-central varieties have a three-way merger of hỏi, ngã, and nặng resulting in a four-tone system. In addition, there are several phonetic differences (mostly in pitch contour and phonation
Phonation
Phonation has slightly different meanings depending on the subfield of phonetics. Among some phoneticians, phonation is the process by which the vocal folds produce certain sounds through quasi-periodic vibration. This is the definition used among those who study laryngeal anatomy and physiology...

 type) in the tones among dialects.
Regional tone correspondences
Tone Northern North-central Central Southern
 Vinh  Thanh
Chương
Hà Tĩnh
ngang ˧ 33 ˧˥ 35 ˧˥ 35
|˧˥ 35, ˧˥˧ 353
|˧˥ 35
|˧ 33
huyền
|˨˩̤ 21̤
|˧ 33
|˧ 33
|˧ 33
|˧ 33
|˨˩ 21
sắc
|˧˥ 35
|˩ 11
|˩ 11, ˩˧̰ 13̰
˩˧̰ 13̰ ˩˧̰ 13̰ ˧˥ 35
hỏi ˧˩˧̰ 31̰3
|˧˩ 31
˧˩ 31 ˧˩̰ʔ 31̰ʔ rowspan="2" |˧˩˨ 312 rowspan="2" |˨˩˦ 214
ngã
|˧ʔ˥ 3ʔ5
|˩˧̰ 13̰
rowspan="2" |˨̰ 22̰
nặng ˨˩̰ʔ 21̰ʔ
|˨ 22
|˨̰ 22̰
˨̰ 22̰
|˨˩˨ 212


The table above shows the pitch contour of each tone using Chao tone number notation (where 1 = lowest pitch, 5 = highest pitch); glottalization
Glottalization
Glottalization is the complete or partial closure of the glottis during the articulation of another sound. Glottalization of vowels and other sonorants is most often realized as creaky voice...

 (creaky
Creaky voice
In linguistics, creaky voice , is a special kind of phonation in which the arytenoid cartilages in the larynx are drawn together; as a result, the vocal folds are compressed rather tightly, becoming relatively slack and compact...

, stiff
Stiff voice
The term stiff voice describes the pronunciation of consonants or vowels with a glottal opening narrower, and the vocal cords stiffer, than what occurs in modal voice. Although there is no specific IPA diacritic for stiff voice, the voicing diacritic may be used in conjunction with the symbol for...

, harsh
Harsh voice
Harsh voice, also called ventricular voice or pressed voice, is the production of speech sounds with a constricted laryngeal cavity, which generally involves epiglottal co-articulation...

) is indicated with the ⟨◌̰⟩ symbol; breathy voice
Breathy voice
Breathy voice is a phonation in which the vocal cords vibrate, as they do in normal voicing, but are held further apart, so that a larger volume of air escapes between them. This produces an audible noise...

 with ⟨◌̤⟩; glottal stop
Glottal stop
The glottal stop, or more fully, the voiceless glottal plosive, is a type of consonantal sound used in many spoken languages. In English, the feature is represented, for example, by the hyphen in uh-oh! and by the apostrophe or [[ʻokina]] in Hawaii among those using a preservative pronunciation of...

 with ⟨ʔ⟩; sub-dialectal variants are separated with commas. (See also the tone section below.)

Grammar


Vietnamese, like many languages in Southeast Asia, is an analytic (or isolating) language. Vietnamese does not use morphological
Morphology (linguistics)
In linguistics, morphology is the identification, analysis and description, in a language, of the structure of morphemes and other linguistic units, such as words, affixes, parts of speech, intonation/stress, or implied context...

 marking of case
Grammatical case
In grammar, the case of a noun or pronoun is an inflectional form that indicates its grammatical function in a phrase, clause, or sentence. For example, a pronoun may play the role of subject , of direct object , or of possessor...

, gender
Grammatical gender
Grammatical gender is defined linguistically as a system of classes of nouns which trigger specific types of inflections in associated words, such as adjectives, verbs and others. For a system of noun classes to be a gender system, every noun must belong to one of the classes and there should be...

, number
Grammatical number
In linguistics, grammatical number is a grammatical category of nouns, pronouns, and adjective and verb agreement that expresses count distinctions ....

 or tense
Grammatical tense
A tense is a grammatical category that locates a situation in time, to indicate when the situation takes place.Bernard Comrie, Aspect, 1976:6:...

 (and, as a result, has no finite
Finite verb
A finite verb is a verb that is inflected for person and for tense according to the rules and categories of the languages in which it occurs. Finite verbs can form independent clauses, which can stand on their own as complete sentences....

/nonfinite
Non-finite verb
In linguistics, a non-finite verb is a verb form that is not limited by a subject and, more generally, is not fully inflected by categories that are marked inflectionally in language, such as tense, aspect, mood, number, gender, and person...

 distinction). Also like other languages in the region, Vietnamese syntax conforms to subject–verb–object word order
Word order
In linguistics, word order typology refers to the study of the order of the syntactic constituents of a language, and how different languages can employ different orders. Correlations between orders found in different syntactic subdomains are also of interest...

, is head-initial (displaying modified-modifier
Grammatical modifier
In grammar, a modifier is an optional element in phrase structure or clause structure; the removal of the modifier typically doesn't affect the grammaticality of the sentence....

 ordering), and has a noun classifier
Classifier (linguistics)
A classifier, in linguistics, sometimes called a measure word, is a word or morpheme used in some languages to classify the referent of a countable noun according to its meaning. In languages that have classifiers, they are often used when the noun is being counted or specified...

 system. Additionally, it is pro-drop, wh-in-situ, and allows verb serialization.

Some Vietnamese sentences with English word gloss
Gloss
A gloss is a brief notation of the meaning of a word or wording in a text. It may be in the language of the text, or in the reader's language if that is different....

es and translations are provided below.
Mai sinh viên.
Mai be student
"Mai is a student." (College student)

Giáp rất cao.
Giap very tall
"Giap is very tall."

Người đó anh nó.
person that be brother he
"That person is his brother."

Con chó này chẳng bao giờ sủa cả.
classifier dog this not ever bark at.all
"This dog never barks at all."

chỉ ăn cơm Việt Nam thôi.
he only eat rice.colloquial Vietnam only
"He only eats Vietnamese food."

Cái thằng chồng em chẳng ra gì.
focus classifier husband I (as wife) he not turn.out what
"That husband of mine, he is good for nothing."

Tôi thích con ngựa đen.
I (generic) like classifier horse black
"I like the black horse."

Tôi thích cái con ngựa đen.
I (generic) like focus classifier horse black
"I like that black horse."

Writing system


Currently, the written language uses the Vietnamese alphabet
Vietnamese alphabet
The Vietnamese alphabet, called Chữ Quốc Ngữ , usually shortened to Quốc Ngữ , is the modern writing system for the Vietnamese language...

 (quốc ngữ or "national script", literally "national language"), based on the Latin alphabet
Latin alphabet
The Latin alphabet, also called the Roman alphabet, is the most recognized alphabet used in the world today. It evolved from a western variety of the Greek alphabet called the Cumaean alphabet, which was adopted and modified by the Etruscans who ruled early Rome...

. Originally a Romanization
Romanization
In linguistics, romanization or latinization is the representation of a written word or spoken speech with the Roman script, or a system for doing so, where the original word or language uses a different writing system . Methods of romanization include transliteration, for representing written...

 of Vietnamese, it was codified in the 17th century by a French Jesuit
Society of Jesus
The Society of Jesus is a Catholic male religious order that follows the teachings of the Catholic Church. The members are called Jesuits, and are also known colloquially as "God's Army" and as "The Company," these being references to founder Ignatius of Loyola's military background and a...

 missionary named Alexandre de Rhodes (1591–1660), based on works of earlier Portuguese missionaries (Gaspar do Amaral and António Barbosa). The use of the script was gradually extended from its initial domain in Christian writing to become more popular among the general public.

Under French colonial rule, the script became official and required for all public documents in 1910 by issue of a decree by the French Résident Supérieur of the protectorate of Tonkin. By the end of first half 20th century virtually all writings were done in quốc ngữ.

Changes in the script were made by French scholars and administrators and by conferences held after independence during 1954–1974. The script now reflects a so-called Middle Vietnamese dialect that has vowels and final consonants most similar to northern dialects and initial consonants most similar to southern dialects (Nguyễn 1996). This Middle Vietnamese is presumably close to the Hanoi variety as spoken sometime after 1600 but before the present. (This is not unlike how English orthography
English orthography
English orthography is the alphabetic spelling system used by the English language. English orthography, like other alphabetic orthographies, uses a set of habits to represent speech sounds in writing. In most other languages, these habits are regular enough so that they may be called rules...

 is based on the Chancery Standard of late Middle English
Middle English
Middle English is the stage in the history of the English language during the High and Late Middle Ages, or roughly during the four centuries between the late 11th and the late 15th century....

, with many spellings retained even after significant phonetic change
Great Vowel Shift
The Great Vowel Shift was a major change in the pronunciation of the English language that took place in England between 1350 and 1500.The Great Vowel Shift was first studied by Otto Jespersen , a Danish linguist and Anglicist, who coined the term....

.)

Before adopting Roman script under French rule, Vietnamese used two ideographic writing systems:
  • Literary Chinese chữ nho characters (scholar's characters, 𡨸儒): were used by the educated elite and in official documents until Vietnam gained independence from China in 939 CE.
  • Vernacular chữ nôm characters 𡨸喃) look like Chinese characters to the untrained eye. In fact, many characters were borrowed and many more modified and invented to represent native Vietnamese words. For the next 1000 years—from the 10th century and into the 20th—much of Vietnamese literature, philosophy, history, law, medicine, religion, and government policy was written in Nôm script.


Both scripts have fallen out of common usage in modern Vietnam
Vietnam
Vietnam – sometimes spelled Viet Nam , officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam – is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by China to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, and the South China Sea –...

, and only a few scholars and some extremely elderly people are able to read chữ nôm today. In China, members of the Jing Minority still write in Chữ Nôm.

Chữ nho was still in use on early North Vietnam
North Vietnam
The Democratic Republic of Vietnam , was a communist state that ruled the northern half of Vietnam from 1954 until 1976 following the Geneva Conference and laid claim to all of Vietnam from 1945 to 1954 during the First Indochina War, during which they controlled pockets of territory throughout...

ese and late French Indochinese
French Indochina
French Indochina was part of the French colonial empire in southeast Asia. A federation of the three Vietnamese regions, Tonkin , Annam , and Cochinchina , as well as Cambodia, was formed in 1887....

 banknotes issued after World War II but fell out of official use shortly thereafter.

Computer support


The Unicode
Unicode
Unicode is a computing industry standard for the consistent encoding, representation and handling of text expressed in most of the world's writing systems...

 character set contains all Vietnamese characters and the Vietnamese currency symbol. On systems that do not support Unicode, many 8-bit Vietnamese code page
Code page
Code page is another term for character encoding. It consists of a table of values that describes the character set for a particular language. The term code page originated from IBM's EBCDIC-based mainframe systems, but many vendors use this term including Microsoft, SAP, and Oracle Corporation...

s are available such as VISCII
VISCII
The Vietnamese Standard Code for Information Interchange is a character set comprising the Vietnamese alphabet, punctuation, and other graphemes. Vietnamese requires slightly too many letter/diacritic combinations to make a traditional extended ASCII character set for it...

 or CP1258. Where ASCII
ASCII
The American Standard Code for Information Interchange is a character-encoding scheme based on the ordering of the English alphabet. ASCII codes represent text in computers, communications equipment, and other devices that use text...

 must be used, Vietnamese letters are often typed using the VIQR
Vietnamese Quoted-Readable
Vietnamese Quoted-Readable , also known as Vietnet, is a convention for writing Vietnamese using ASCII characters...

 convention, though this is largely unnecessary with the increasing ubiquity of Unicode. There are many software tools that help type true Vietnamese text on US keyboards, such as WinVNKey and Unikey on Windows, or MacVNKey on Macintosh.

Introduction


It seems likely that in the distant past, Vietnamese shared more characteristics common to other languages in the Austro-Asiatic family, such as an inflectional morphology
Morphology (linguistics)
In linguistics, morphology is the identification, analysis and description, in a language, of the structure of morphemes and other linguistic units, such as words, affixes, parts of speech, intonation/stress, or implied context...

 and a richer set of consonant clusters, which have subsequently disappeared from the language. However, Vietnamese appears to have been heavily influenced by its location in the Southeast Asian sprachbund, with the result that it has acquired or converged toward characteristics such as isolating morphology and tonogenesis. These characteristics, which may or may not have been part of Proto-Austro-Asiatic, nonetheless have become part of many of the phylogenetically unrelated languages of Southeast Asia; for example, Thai
Thai language
Thai , also known as Central Thai and Siamese, is the national and official language of Thailand and the native language of the Thai people, Thailand's dominant ethnic group. Thai is a member of the Tai group of the Tai–Kadai language family. Historical linguists have been unable to definitively...

 (one of the Tai–Kadai languages), Tsat
Tsat language
Tsat is a language spoken near Sanya, Hainan, China by the Utsuls. Tsat is a member of the Malayo-Polynesian group within the Austronesian language family, and is related to the Cham languages, originally from the coast of present-day Vietnam...

 (a member of the Malayo-Polynesian
Malayo-Polynesian languages
The Malayo-Polynesian languages are a subgroup of the Austronesian languages, with approximately 385.5 million speakers. These are widely dispersed throughout the island nations of Southeast Asia and the Pacific Ocean, with a smaller number in continental Asia...

 group within Austronesian), and Vietnamese each developed tones as a phonemic feature.

The ancestor of the Vietnamese language was originally based in the area of the Red River
Red River (Vietnam)
The Red River , also known as the Sông Cái - Mother River , or Yuan River , is a river that flows from southwest China through northern Vietnam to the Gulf of Tonkin...

 in what is now northern Vietnam, and during the subsequent expansion of the Vietnamese language and people into what is now central and southern Vietnam (through conquest of the ancient nation of Champa
Champa
The kingdom of Champa was an Indianized kingdom that controlled what is now southern and central Vietnam from approximately the 7th century through to 1832.The Cham people are remnants...

 and the Khmer people
Khmer people
Khmer people are the predominant ethnic group in Cambodia, accounting for approximately 90% of the 14.8 million people in the country. They speak the Khmer language, which is part of the larger Mon–Khmer language family found throughout Southeast Asia...

 of the Mekong Delta
Mekong Delta
The Mekong Delta is the region in southwestern Vietnam where the Mekong River approaches and empties into the sea through a network of distributaries. The Mekong delta region encompasses a large portion of southwestern Vietnam of . The size of the area covered by water depends on the season.The...

 in the vicinity of present-day Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City , formerly named Saigon is the largest city in Vietnam...

 (Saigon), characteristic tonal variations have emerged.

Vietnamese was linguistically influenced primarily by Chinese, which came to predominate politically in the 2nd century B.C.
With the rise of Chinese political dominance came radical importation of Chinese vocabulary and grammatical influence. As Chinese
Chinese language
The Chinese language is a language or language family consisting of varieties which are mutually intelligible to varying degrees. Originally the indigenous languages spoken by the Han Chinese in China, it forms one of the branches of Sino-Tibetan family of languages...

 was, for a prolonged period, the only medium of literature and government, as well as the primary written language of the ruling class in Vietnam, much of the Vietnamese lexicon in all realms consists of Hán Việt (Sino-Vietnamese) words. In fact, as the vernacular language of Vietnam gradually grew in prestige toward the beginning of the second millennium, the Vietnamese language was written using Chinese character
Chinese character
Chinese characters are logograms used in the writing of Chinese and Japanese , less frequently Korean , formerly Vietnamese , or other languages...

s (using both the original Chinese characters, called Hán tự, as well as a system of newly created and modified characters called Chữ nôm) adapted to write Vietnamese, in a similar pattern as used in Japan (kanji
Kanji
Kanji are the adopted logographic Chinese characters hanzi that are used in the modern Japanese writing system along with hiragana , katakana , Indo Arabic numerals, and the occasional use of the Latin alphabet...

), Korea (hanja
Hanja
Hanja is the Korean name for the Chinese characters hanzi. More specifically, it refers to those Chinese characters borrowed from Chinese and incorporated into the Korean language with Korean pronunciation...

), and other countries in the Sinosphere
Sinosphere
In areal linguistics, Sinosphere refers to a grouping of countries and regions that are currently inhabited with a majority of Chinese population or were historically under Chinese cultural influence...

. The Nôm writing reached its zenith in the 18th century when many Vietnamese writers and poets composed their works in Chữ Nôm, most notably Nguyễn Du and Hồ Xuân Hương (dubbed "the Queen of Nôm poetry").

As contact with the West grew, the Quốc Ngữ
Vietnamese alphabet
The Vietnamese alphabet, called Chữ Quốc Ngữ , usually shortened to Quốc Ngữ , is the modern writing system for the Vietnamese language...

 system of Romanized writing was developed in the 17th century by Portuguese and other Europeans involved in proselytizing and trade in Vietnam. When France invaded Vietnam in the late 19th century, French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

 gradually replaced Chinese as the official language in education and government. Vietnamese adopted many French terms, such as đầm (dame, from madame), ga (train station, from gare), sơ mi (shirt, from chemise), and búp bê (doll, from poupée). In addition, many Sino-Vietnamese terms were devised for Western ideas imported through the French. However, the Romanized script did not come to predominate until the beginning of the 20th century, when education became widespread and a simpler writing system was found more expedient for teaching and communication with the general population.

A Vietnamese Catholic Nguyen Truong To sent petitions to the Court which suggested a Chinese character based syllabary which would be used for Vietnamese sounds, however, his petition failed. The French colonial administration sought to eliminate the Chinese writing system, confucianism, and other Chinese influences from Vietnam by getting rid of Chữ Nôm.

Periods of Vietnamese


Henri Maspero
Henri Maspero
Henri Maspero was a French sinologist, today particularly remembered for his pioneering works on Taoism.-Biography:...

 described six periods of the Vietnamese language:
  1. Pre-Vietnamese, also known as Proto-Viet–Muong or Proto-Vietnamuong, the ancestor of Vietnamese and the related Muong language
    Muong language
    The Mường language is spoken by the Mường people of Vietnam. It is in the Austroasiatic language family and closely related to Vietnamese. It is a tonal language with five tones....

    .
  2. Proto-Vietnamese, the oldest reconstructable version of Vietnamese, dated to just before the entry of massive amounts of Sino-Vietnamese vocabulary into the language, c. 7th to 9th century AD? At this state, the language had three tones.
  3. Archaic Vietnamese, the state of the language upon adoption of the Sino-Vietnamese vocabulary, c. 10th century AD.
  4. Ancient Vietnamese, the language represented by chu nom characters (c. 15th century) and the Chinese–Vietnamese glossary Hua-yi Yi-yu (c. 16th century). By this point a tone split had happened in the language, leading to six tones but a loss of contrastive voicing among consonants.
  5. Middle Vietnamese, the language of the Vietnamese–Portuguese–Latin dictionary
    Dictionarium Annamiticum Lusitanum et Latinum
    The Dictionarium Annamiticum Lusitanum et Latinum is a trilingual Vietnamese-Portuguese-Latin dictionary written by the French Jesuit lexicographer Alexandre de Rhodes after 12 years in Vietnam, and published by the Propaganda Fide in Rome in 1651 upon Rhodes' visit to Europe.Before Rhodes's work,...

     of the Jesuit missionary Alexandre de Rhodes (c. 17th century).
  6. Modern Vietnamese, from the 19th century.

Middle Vietnamese


The writing system used for Vietnamese is based closely on the system developed by Alexandre de Rhodes for his Vietnamese–Portuguese–Latin dictionary
Dictionarium Annamiticum Lusitanum et Latinum
The Dictionarium Annamiticum Lusitanum et Latinum is a trilingual Vietnamese-Portuguese-Latin dictionary written by the French Jesuit lexicographer Alexandre de Rhodes after 12 years in Vietnam, and published by the Propaganda Fide in Rome in 1651 upon Rhodes' visit to Europe.Before Rhodes's work,...

, published in 1651. It reflects the pronunciation of the Vietnamese of Hanoi at that time, a stage commonly termed Middle Vietnamese. The pronunciation of the "rime" of the syllable, i.e. all parts other than the initial consonant (optional /w/ glide, vowel nucleus, tone and final consonant), appears nearly identical between Middle Vietnamese and modern Hanoi pronunciation. On the other hand, the Middle Vietnamese pronunciation of the initial consonant differs greatly from all modern dialects, and in fact is significantly closer to the modern Saigon dialect than the modern Hanoi dialect.

The following diagram shows the orthography and pronunciation of Middle Vietnamese:
Labial
Labial consonant
Labial consonants are consonants in which one or both lips are the active articulator. This precludes linguolabials, in which the tip of the tongue reaches for the posterior side of the upper lip and which are considered coronals...

Dental/Alveolar
Alveolar consonant
Alveolar consonants are articulated with the tongue against or close to the superior alveolar ridge, which is called that because it contains the alveoli of the superior teeth...

Retroflex Palatal Velar
Velar consonant
Velars are consonants articulated with the back part of the tongue against the soft palate, the back part of the roof of the mouth, known also as the velum)....

Glottal
Glottal consonant
Glottal consonants, also called laryngeal consonants, are consonants articulated with the glottis. Many phoneticians consider them, or at least the so-called fricative, to be transitional states of the glottis without a point of articulation as other consonants have; in fact, some do not consider...

Stop
Stop consonant
In phonetics, a plosive, also known as an occlusive or an oral stop, is a stop consonant in which the vocal tract is blocked so that all airflow ceases. The occlusion may be done with the tongue , lips , and &...

voiceless p [p] t [t] tr [ʈ] ch [c] c/k [k]
aspirated ph [pʰ] th [tʰ] kh [kʰ]
voiced glottalized b [ɓ] đ [ɗ]
Fricative voiceless s [ʂ] x [ɕ] h [h]
voiced ȸ [β] d [ð] gi [ʝ] g/gh [ɣ]
Nasal
Nasal consonant
A nasal consonant is a type of consonant produced with a lowered velum in the mouth, allowing air to escape freely through the nose. Examples of nasal consonants in English are and , in words such as nose and mouth.- Definition :...

m [m] n [n] nh [ɲ] ng/ngh [ŋ]
Approximant v/u/o [w] l [l] r [ɹ] y/i/ĕ [j]


[p] occurs only at the end of a syllable.

Not the actual symbol used. The actual symbol, which is not present in Unicode, has a rounded hook that starts halfway up the left side (where the top of the curved part of the b meets the vertical, straight part) and curves about 180 degrees counterclockwise, ending below the bottom-left corner.

[j] does not occur at the beginning of a syllable, but can occur at the end of a syllable, where it is notated i or y (with the difference between the two often indicating differences in the quality or length of the preceding vowel), and after /ð/ and /β/, where it is notated ĕ. This ĕ, and the /j/ it notated, have disappeared from the modern language.

Note that b [ɓ] and p [p] never contrast in any position, suggesting that they are allophones; likewise for gi [ʝ] and y/i/ĕ [j].

The language also has three clusters at the beginning of syllables, which have since disappeared:
  • tl /tl/ > modern tr
  • bl /ɓl/ > modern gi (Northern), tr (Southern)
  • ml /ml/ > mnh /mɲ/ > modern nh


Most of the unusual correspondences between spelling and modern pronunciation are explained by Middle Vietnamese. Note in particular:
  • de Rhodes' system has two different b letters, a regular b and a "hooked" b in which the upper section of the curved part of the b extends leftward past the vertical bar and curls down again in a semicircle. This apparently represented a voiced bilabial fricative
    Voiced bilabial fricative
    -See also:* List of phonetics topics...

     /β/. Within a century or so, both /β/ and /w/ had merged as /v/, spelled as v.
  • de Rhodes' system has a second medial glide /j/ that is written ĕ and appears in some words with initial d and hooked b. These later disappear.
  • đ /ɗ/ was (and still is) alveolar
    Alveolar consonant
    Alveolar consonants are articulated with the tongue against or close to the superior alveolar ridge, which is called that because it contains the alveoli of the superior teeth...

    , whereas d /ð/ was dental. The choice of symbols was based on the dental rather than alveolar nature of /d/ and its allophone
    Allophone
    In phonology, an allophone is one of a set of multiple possible spoken sounds used to pronounce a single phoneme. For example, and are allophones for the phoneme in the English language...

     [ð] in Spanish
    Spanish language
    Spanish , also known as Castilian , is a Romance language in the Ibero-Romance group that evolved from several languages and dialects in central-northern Iberia around the 9th century and gradually spread with the expansion of the Kingdom of Castile into central and southern Iberia during the...

     and other Romance languages. The inconsistency with the symbols assigned to /ɓ/ vs. /β/ was based on the lack of any such place distinction between the two, with the result that the stop consonant
    Stop consonant
    In phonetics, a plosive, also known as an occlusive or an oral stop, is a stop consonant in which the vocal tract is blocked so that all airflow ceases. The occlusion may be done with the tongue , lips , and &...

     /ɓ/ appeared more "normal" than the fricative /β/. In both cases, the implosive
    Implosive consonant
    Implosive consonants are stops with a mixed glottalic ingressive and pulmonic egressive airstream mechanism. That is, the airstream is controlled by moving the glottis downward in addition to expelling air from the lungs. Therefore, unlike the purely glottalic ejective consonants, implosives can...

     nature of the stops does not appear to have had any role in the choice of symbol.
  • x was alveolopalatal /ɕ/ rather than dental /s/, as in the modern language. In 17th-century Portuguese
    Portuguese language
    Portuguese is a Romance language that arose in the medieval Kingdom of Galicia, nowadays Galicia and Northern Portugal. The southern part of the Kingdom of Galicia became independent as the County of Portugal in 1095...

    , the common language of the Jesuits, s was an apicoalveolar sibilant /s̺/ (as still in much of Spain and some parts of Portugal), while x was a palatoalveolar /ʃ/. The similarity of apicoalveolar /s̺/ to the Vietnamese retroflex
    Retroflex consonant
    A retroflex consonant is a coronal consonant where the tongue has a flat, concave, or even curled shape, and is articulated between the alveolar ridge and the hard palate. They are sometimes referred to as cerebral consonants, especially in Indology...

     /ʂ/ led to the assignment of s and x as above.

Proto-Viet–Muong


The following diagram shows the phonology of Proto-Viet–Muong (the nearest ancestor of Vietnamese and the closely related Muong language
Muong language
The Mường language is spoken by the Mường people of Vietnam. It is in the Austroasiatic language family and closely related to Vietnamese. It is a tonal language with five tones....

), along with the outcomes in the modern language:
Labial
Labial consonant
Labial consonants are consonants in which one or both lips are the active articulator. This precludes linguolabials, in which the tip of the tongue reaches for the posterior side of the upper lip and which are considered coronals...

Interdental
Interdental consonant
Interdental consonants are produced by placing the blade of the tongue against the upper incisors...

Dental/Alveolar
Alveolar consonant
Alveolar consonants are articulated with the tongue against or close to the superior alveolar ridge, which is called that because it contains the alveoli of the superior teeth...

Palatoalveolar Retroflex Palatal Velar
Velar consonant
Velars are consonants articulated with the back part of the tongue against the soft palate, the back part of the roof of the mouth, known also as the velum)....

Glottal
Glottal consonant
Glottal consonants, also called laryngeal consonants, are consonants articulated with the glottis. Many phoneticians consider them, or at least the so-called fricative, to be transitional states of the glottis without a point of articulation as other consonants have; in fact, some do not consider...

Stop
Stop consonant
In phonetics, a plosive, also known as an occlusive or an oral stop, is a stop consonant in which the vocal tract is blocked so that all airflow ceases. The occlusion may be done with the tongue , lips , and &...

/
Affricate
Affricate consonant
Affricates are consonants that begin as stops but release as a fricative rather than directly into the following vowel.- Samples :...

voiceless p > b t > đ tʃ > x c > ch k > k/c/q ʔ > #
voiced b > b d > đ ɟ > ch g > k/c/q
aspirated pʰ > ph tʰ > th kʰ > kh
voiced glottalized ɓ > m ɗ > n ʄ > nh
Nasal
Nasal consonant
A nasal consonant is a type of consonant produced with a lowered velum in the mouth, allowing air to escape freely through the nose. Examples of nasal consonants in English are and , in words such as nose and mouth.- Definition :...

m > m n > n ɲ > nh ŋ > ng/ngh
Fricative voiceless s > t ɕ > th h > h
voiced (β) > v (ð) > d (ς) > r (ʝ) > gi (ɣ) > g/gh
Approximant w > v l > l r > r j > d


According to Ferlus, /tʃ/ and /ʄ/ are not accepted by all researchers. Ferlus 1992 had an additional sound /dʒ/, and had the preglottalized consonant /ʔj/ in place of the implosive consonant
Implosive consonant
Implosive consonants are stops with a mixed glottalic ingressive and pulmonic egressive airstream mechanism. That is, the airstream is controlled by moving the glottis downward in addition to expelling air from the lungs. Therefore, unlike the purely glottalic ejective consonants, implosives can...

 /ʄ/. Note that the latter two sounds are not all that different, as both are voiced palatal
Palatal consonant
Palatal consonants are consonants articulated with the body of the tongue raised against the hard palate...

 sounds, and both are types of glottalic consonant
Glottalic consonant
A glottalic consonant is a consonant produced with some important contribution of the glottis ....

s.

The fricatives indicated above in parentheses developed as allophones of stop consonants occurring between vowels (i.e. when a minor syllable
Minor syllable
Minor syllable is a term used primarily in the description of Mon-Khmer languages, where a word typically consists of a reduced syllable followed by a full tonic or stressed syllable...

 occurred). These fricatives were not present in Proto-Viet–Muong, as indicated by their absence in Muong, but were evidently present in the later Proto-Vietnamese stage. Subsequent loss of the minor-syllable prefixes phonemicized the fricatives. Ferlus 1992 proposes that originally there were both voiced and voiceless fricatives, corresponding to original voiced or voiceless stops, but Ferlus 2009 appears to have abandoned that hypothesis, suggesting that stops were softened and voiced at approximately the same time, according to the following pattern: > /β/ > /ð/ > /ɣ/ > /ς/ and /tʃ/ > /ʝ/

In Middle Vietnamese, the outcome of these sounds was written with a hooked b, representing a /β/ that was still distinct from v (then pronounced /w/). See above.

It is unclear what this sound was. According to Ferlus 1992, in the Archaic Vietnamese period (c. 10th century AD, when Sino-Vietnamese vocabulary was borrowed) it was /ɽ/, distinct at that time from /r/.

The following initial clusters occurred, with outcomes indicated:
  • pr, br, tr, dr, kr, gr > /kʰr/ > /ks/ > s
  • pl, bl > MV bl > Northern gi, Southern tr
  • kl, gl > MV tl > tr
  • ml > MV ml > mnh > nh
  • kj > gi


Note also that a large number of words were borrowed from Middle Chinese
Middle Chinese
Middle Chinese , also called Ancient Chinese by the linguist Bernhard Karlgren, refers to the Chinese language spoken during Southern and Northern Dynasties and the Sui, Tang, and Song dynasties...

, forming part of the Sino-Vietnamese vocabulary. These caused the original introduction of the retroflex sounds /ʂ/ and /ʈ/ (modern s, tr) into the language.

Origin of the tones


Proto-Viet–Muong had no tones to speak of. The tones later developed in some of the daughter languages from distinctions in the initial and final consonants. Vietnamese tones developed as follows:
Register
Register (phonology)
In linguistics, a register language, also known as a pitch-register language, is a language which combines tone and vowel phonation into a single phonological system. Burmese and the Chinese dialect Shanghainese are examples...

Initial consonant Smooth ending Glottal ending Fricative ending
High (first) register Voiceless A1 ngang "level" B1 sắc "sharp" C1 hỏi "asking"
Low (second) register Voiced A2 huyền "hanging" B2 nặng "heavy" C2 ngã "tumbling"


Glottal-ending syllables ended with a glottal stop /ʔ/, while fricative-ending syllables ended with /s/ or /h/. Both types of syllables could co-occur with a resonant (e.g. /m/ or /n/).

At some point, a tone split occurred, as in many other East Asian languages
East Asian languages
East Asian languages describe two notional groupings of languages in East and Southeast Asia:* Languages which have been greatly influenced by Classical Chinese and the Chinese writing system, in particular Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese .* The larger grouping of languages includes the...

. Essentially, an allophonic distinction developed in the tones, whereby the tones in syllables with voiced initials were pronounced differently from those with voiceless initials. (Approximately speaking, the voiced allotones were pronounced with additional breathy voice
Breathy voice
Breathy voice is a phonation in which the vocal cords vibrate, as they do in normal voicing, but are held further apart, so that a larger volume of air escapes between them. This produces an audible noise...

 or creaky voice
Creaky voice
In linguistics, creaky voice , is a special kind of phonation in which the arytenoid cartilages in the larynx are drawn together; as a result, the vocal folds are compressed rather tightly, becoming relatively slack and compact...

 and with lowered pitch. The quality difference predominates in today's northern varieties, e.g. in Hanoi
Hanoi
Hanoi , is the capital of Vietnam and the country's second largest city. Its population in 2009 was estimated at 2.6 million for urban districts, 6.5 million for the metropolitan jurisdiction. From 1010 until 1802, it was the most important political centre of Vietnam...

, while in the southern varieties the pitch difference predominates, as in Saigon.) Subsequent to this, the plain-voiced stops became voiceless and the allotones became new phonemic tones. Note that the implosive stops were unaffected, and in fact developed tonally as if they were unvoiced. (This behavior is common to all East Asian languages with implosive stops.)

As noted above, Proto-Viet–Muong had sesquisyllabic words with an initial minor syllable
Minor syllable
Minor syllable is a term used primarily in the description of Mon-Khmer languages, where a word typically consists of a reduced syllable followed by a full tonic or stressed syllable...

 (in addition to, and independent of, initial clusters in the main syllable). When a minor syllable occurred, the main syllable's initial consonant was intervocalic and as a result suffered lenition
Lenition
In linguistics, lenition is a kind of sound change that alters consonants, making them "weaker" in some way. The word lenition itself means "softening" or "weakening" . Lenition can happen both synchronically and diachronically...

, becoming a voiced fricative. The minor syllables were eventually lost, but not until the tone split had occurred. As a result, words in modern Vietnamese with voiced fricatives occur in all six tones, and the tonal register reflects the voicing of the minor-syllable prefix and not the voicing of the main-syllable stop in Proto-Viet–Muong that produced the fricative. For similar reasons, words beginning with /l/ and /ŋ/ occur in both registers. (Thompson 1976 reconstructed voiceless resonants to account for outcomes where resonants occur with a first-register tone, but this is no longer considered necessary, at least by Ferlus.)

Word play


A language game
Language game
A language game is a system of manipulating spoken words to render them incomprehensible to the untrained ear. Language games are used primarily by groups attempting to conceal their conversations from others...

 known as nói lái is used by Vietnamese speakers. Nói lái involves switching the tones in a pair of words and also the order of the two words or the first consonant and rime
Syllable rime
In the study of phonology in linguistics, the rime or rhyme of a syllable consists of a nucleus and an optional coda. It is the part of the syllable used in poetic rhyme, and the part that is lengthened or stressed when a person elongates or stresses a word in speech.The rime is usually the...

 of each word; the resulting nói lái pair preserves the original sequence of tones. Some examples:
Original phrase Phrase after nói lái transformation Structural change
đái dầm "(child) wet their pants" dấm đài (nonsense words) word order and tone switch
chửa hoang "pregnancy out of wedlock" hoảng chưa "scared yet?" word order and tone switch
bầy tôi "all the king's subjects" bồi tây "French waiter" initial consonant, rime, and tone switch
bí mật "secrets" bật mí "revealing secrets" initial consonant and rime switch


The resulting transformed phrase often has a different meaning but sometimes may just be a nonsensical word pair. Nói lái can be used to obscure the original meaning and thus soften the discussion of a socially sensitive issue, as with dấm đài and hoảng chưa (above) or, when implied (and not overtly spoken), to deliver a hidden subtextual message, as with bồi tây. Naturally, nói lái can be used for a humorous effect.

Another word game somewhat reminiscent of pig latin
Pig Latin
Pig Latin is a language game of alterations played in English. To form the Pig Latin form of an English word the first consonant is moved to the end of the word and an ay is affixed . The object is to conceal the meaning of the words from others not familiar with the rules...

 is played by children. Here a nonsense syllable (chosen by the child) is prefixed onto a target word's syllables, then their initial consonants and rimes are switched with the tone of the original word remaining on the new switched rime.
Nonsense syllable Target word Intermediate form with prefixed syllable Resulting "secret" word
la phở "beef or chicken noodle soup" la phở lơ phả
la ăn "to eat" la ăn lăn a
la hoàn cảnh "situation" la hoàn la cảnh loan hà lanh cả
chim hoàn cảnh "situation" chim hoàn chim cảnh choan hìm chanh kỉm


This language game is often used as a "secret" or "coded" language useful for obscuring messages from adult comprehension.

Examples


See "The Tale of Kieu" for an extract of the first six lines of Truyện Kiều, an epic narrative poem by the celebrated poet Nguyễn Du, 阮攸), which is often considered the most significant work of Vietnamese literature
Vietnamese literature
Vietnamese literature is literature, both oral and written, created largely by Vietnamese-speaking people, although Francophone Vietnamese and English-speaking Vietnamese authors in Australia and the United States are counted by many critics as part of the national tradition...

. It was originally written in Nôm (titled Đoạn Trường Tân Thanh 斷腸新聲) and is widely taught in Vietnam
Vietnam
Vietnam – sometimes spelled Viet Nam , officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam – is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by China to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, and the South China Sea –...

 today.

See also


  • Austroasiatic languages
  • Chữ nho
  • Chữ nôm
  • Sino-Tibetan languages
    Sino-Tibetan languages
    The Sino-Tibetan languages are a language family comprising, at least, the Chinese and the Tibeto-Burman languages, including some 250 languages of East Asia, Southeast Asia and parts of South Asia. They are second only to the Indo-European languages in terms of the number of native speakers...

  • Sino-Vietnamese vocabulary
  • Vietic languages
    Vietic languages
    The Vietic languages are a branch of the Austro-Asiatic language family. The branch was once referred to by the terms Việt–Mường, Annam–Muong, and Vietnamuong, but today these are understood as referring to a sub-branch of Vietic containing only the Vietnamese and Mường languages.-Origins:Based on...

  • Vietnamese alphabet
    Vietnamese alphabet
    The Vietnamese alphabet, called Chữ Quốc Ngữ , usually shortened to Quốc Ngữ , is the modern writing system for the Vietnamese language...

  • Vietnamese literature
    Vietnamese literature
    Vietnamese literature is literature, both oral and written, created largely by Vietnamese-speaking people, although Francophone Vietnamese and English-speaking Vietnamese authors in Australia and the United States are counted by many critics as part of the national tradition...

  • Vietnamese morphology
    Vietnamese morphology
    Vietnamese, like many languages in Southeast Asia, is an analytic language. Vietnamese lacks morphological marking of case, gender, number, and tense .-Overview:...

  • Vietnamese phonology
    Vietnamese phonology
    This article is a technical description of the sound system of the Vietnamese language, including phonetics and phonology.-Consonants:Two main varieties of Vietnamese, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, are described below.-Hanoi:...

  • Vietnamese studies
    Vietnamese studies
    Vietnamese studies in general is the study of Vietnam and things related to Vietnam. It refers, especially, to the study of modern Vietnamese and literature, history, ethnology, and the philological approach, respectively....

  • Vietnamese syntax
    Vietnamese syntax
    Vietnamese, like many languages in Southeast Asia, is an analytic language. Also like other languages in the region, Vietnamese syntax conforms to subject–verb–object word order, is head-initial , and has a noun classifier system...



General

  • Dương, Quảng-Hàm. (1941). Việt-nam văn-học sử-yếu [Outline history of Vietnamese literature]. Saigon: Bộ Quốc gia Giáo dục.
  • Emeneau, M. B. (1947). Homonyms and puns in Annamese. Language, 23 (3), 239-244.
  • Emeneau, M. B. (1951). Studies in Vietnamese (Annamese) grammar. University of California publications in linguistics (Vol. 8). Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Hashimoto, Mantaro. (1978). The current state of Sino-Vietnamese studies. Journal of Chinese Linguistics, 6, 1-26.
  • Nguyễn, Đình-Hoà. (1995). NTC's Vietnamese–English dictionary (updated ed.). NTC language dictionaries. Lincolnwood, Illinois: NTC Pub. Press. ISBN; ISBN
  • Nguyễn, Đình-Hoà. (1997). Vietnamese: Tiếng Việt không son phấn. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
  • Rhodes, Alexandre de. (1991). Từ điển Annam-Lusitan-Latinh [original: Dictionarium Annamiticum Lusitanum et Latinum]. (L. Thanh, X. V. Hoàng, & Q. C. Đỗ, Trans.). Hanoi: Khoa học Xã hội. (Original work published 1651).
  • Thompson, Laurence C. (1991). A Vietnamese reference grammar. Seattle: University of Washington Press. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. (Original work published 1965). (Online version: www.sealang.net/archives/mks/THOMPSONLaurenceC.htm.)
  • Uỷ ban Khoa học Xã hội Việt Nam. (1983). Ngữ-pháp tiếng Việt [Vietnamese grammar]. Hanoi: Khoa học Xã hội.

Sound system

  • Brunelle, Marc. (2009) Tone perception in Northern and Southern Vietnamese. Journal of Phonetics, 37(1), 79-96.
  • Brunelle, Marc. (2009) Northern and Southern Vietnamese Tone Coarticulation: A Comparative Case Study. Journal of Southeast Asian Linguistics, 1, 49-62.
  • Michaud, Alexis. (2004). Final consonants and glottalization: New perspectives from Hanoi Vietnamese. Phonetica 61) pp. 119–146. Preprint version
  • Nguyễn, Văn Lợi; & Edmondson, Jerold A. (1998). Tones and voice quality in modern northern Vietnamese: Instrumental case studies. Mon–Khmer Studies, 28, 1-18. (Online version: www.sealang.net/archives/mks/NGUYNVnLoi.htm).
  • Thompson, Laurence E. (1959). Saigon phonemics. Language, 35 (3), 454-476.

Pragmatics/Language variation

  • Alves, Mark J. (forthcoming). A look at North-Central Vietnamese. In Papers from the Thirteenth Annual Meeting of the Southeast Asian Linguistics Society. Arizona State University Press. Pre-publication electronic version: http://www.geocities.com/malves98/Alves_Vietnamese_Northcentral.pdf.
  • Alves, Mark J.; & Nguyễn, Duy Hương. (2007). Notes on Thanh-Chương Vietnamese in Nghệ-An province. In M. Alves, M. Sidwell, & D. Gil (Eds.), SEALS VIII: Papers from the 8th annual meeting of the Southeast Asian Linguistics Society 1998 (pp. 1–9). Canberra: Pacific Linguistics, The Australian National University, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies. Electronic version: http://pacling.anu.edu.au/catalogue/SEALSVIII_final.pdf.
  • Hoàng, Thị Châu. (1989). Tiếng Việt trên các miền đất nước: Phương ngữ học [Vietnamese in different areas of the country: Dialectology]. Hà Nội: Khoa học xã hội.
  • Honda, Koichi. (2006). F0 and phonation types in Nghe Tinh Vietnamese tones. In P. Warren & C. I. Watson (Eds.), Proceedings of the 11th Australasian International Conference on Speech Science and Technology (pp. 454–459). Auckland, New Zealand: University of Auckland. Electronic version: http://www.assta.org/sst/2006/sst2006-119.pdf.
  • Luong, Hy Van. (1987). Plural markers and personal pronouns in Vietnamese person reference: An analysis of pragmatic ambiguity and negative models. Anthropological Linguistics, 29 (1), 49-70.
  • Pham, Andrea Hoa. (2005). Vietnamese tonal system in Nghi Loc: A preliminary report. In C. Frigeni, M. Hirayama, & S. Mackenzie (Eds.), Toronto working papers in linguistics: Special issue on similarity in phonology (Vol. 24, pp. 183–459). Auckland, New Zealand: University of Auckland. Electronic version: http://r1.chass.utoronto.ca/twpl/pdfs/twpl24/Pham_TWPL24.pdf.
  • Sophana, Srichampa. (2004). Politeness strategies in Hanoi Vietnamese speech. Mon–Khmer Studies, 34, 137-157. (Online version: www.sealang.net/archives/mks/SOPHANASrichampa.htm).
  • Sophana, Srichampa. (2005). Comparison of greetings in the Vietnamese dialects of Ha Noi and Ho Chi Minh City. Mon–Khmer Studies, 35, 83-99. (Online version: www.sealang.net/archives/mks/SOPHANASrichampa.htm).
  • Vũ, Thang Phương. (1982). Phonetic properties of Vietnamese tones across dialects. In D. Bradley (Ed.), Papers in Southeast Asian linguistics: Tonation (Vol. 8, pp. 55–75). Sydney: Pacific Linguistics, The Australian National University.
  • Vương, Hữu Lễ. (1981). Vài nhận xét về đặc diểm của vần trong thổ âm Quảng Nam ở Hội An [Some notes on special qualities of the rhyme in local Quang Nam speech in Hoi An]. In Một Số Vấn Ðề Ngôn Ngữ Học Việt Nam [Some linguistics issues in Vietnam] (pp. 311–320). Hà Nội: Nhà Xuất Bản Ðại Học và Trung Học Chuyên Nghiệp.

Historical/Comparative

  • Alves, Mark. (1999). "What's so Chinese about Vietnamese?", in Papers from the Ninth Annual Meeting of the Southeast Asian Linguistics Society. University of California, Berkeley. PDF
  • Cooke, Joseph R. (1968). Pronominal reference in Thai, Burmese, and Vietnamese. University of California publications in linguistics (No. 52). Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Gregerson, Kenneth J. (1969). A study of Middle Vietnamese phonology. Bulletin de la Société des Etudes Indochinoises, 44, 135-193. (Reprinted in 1981).
  • Nguyễn, Đình-Hoà. (1986). Alexandre de Rhodes' dictionary. Papers in Linguistics, 19, 1-18.
  • Shorto, Harry L. edited by Sidwell, Paul, Cooper, Doug and Bauer, Christian (2006). A Mon–Khmer comparative dictionary. Canberra: Australian National University. Pacific Linguistics. ISBN
  • Thompson, Laurence E. (1967). The history of Vietnamese finals. Language, 43 (1), 362-371.

Orthography

  • Haudricourt, André-Georges. (1949). Origine des particularités de l'alphabet vietnamien. Dân Việt-Nam, 3, 61-68.
  • Nguyễn, Đình-Hoà. (1955). Quốc-ngữ: The modern writing system in Vietnam. Washington, D. C.: Author.
  • Nguyễn, Đình-Hoà. (1990). Graphemic borrowing from Chinese: The case of chữ nôm, Vietnam's demotic script. Bulletin of the Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica, 61, 383-432.
  • Nguyễn, Đình-Hoà. (1996). Vietnamese. In P. T. Daniels, & W. Bright (Eds.), The world's writing systems, (pp. 691–699). New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN.

Pedagogical

  • Nguyen, Bich Thuan. (1997). Contemporary Vietnamese: An intermediate text. Southeast Asian language series. Northern Illinois University, Center for Southeast Asian Studies.
  • Healy, Dana. (2004). Teach yourself Vietnamese. Teach yourself. Chicago: McGraw-Hill. ISBN
  • Hoang, Thinh; Nguyen, Xuan Thu; Trinh, Quynh-Tram; (2000). Vietnamese phrasebook, (3rd ed.). Hawthorn, Vic.: Lonely Planet. ISBN
  • Moore, John. (1994). Colloquial Vietnamese: A complete language course. London: Routledge. ISBN; ISBN (w/ CD); ISBN (w/ cassettes);
  • Nguyễn, Đình-Hoà. (1967). Read Vietnamese: A graded course in written Vietnamese. Rutland, Vermont: C.E. Tuttle.
  • Lâm, Lý-duc; Emeneau, M. B.; & Steinen, Diether von den. (1944). An Annamese reader. Berkeley: University of California, Berkeley.
  • Nguyễn, Đang Liêm. (1970). Vietnamese pronunciation. PALI language texts: Southeast Asia. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. ISBN -X

External links


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Vocabulary

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