Vietnamese ( vi|Tiếng Việt|links=no) is an Austroasiatic language
that originated in Vietnam
, where it is the national
and official language
. It is by far the most spoken Austroasiatic language with over 70 million native speakers, at least seven times more than Khmer
, the next most spoken Austroasiatic language. Its vocabulary has had significant influence
. It is the native language
of the Vietnamese (Kinh) people
, as well as a second
language or first
language for other ethnic groups in Vietnam
. As a result of emigration
, Vietnamese speakers are also found in other parts of Southeast Asia, East Asia, North America, Europe, and Australia. Vietnamese has also been officially recognized as a minority language in the Czech Republic
[Citizens belonging to minorities, which traditionally and on long-term basis live within the territory of the Czech Republic, enjoy the right to use their language in communication with authorities and in front of the courts of law (for the list of recognized minorities se]
National Minorities Policy of the Government of the Czech Republic
Belorussian and Vietnamese since 4 July 2013, se
Česko má nové oficiální národnostní menšiny. Vietnamce a Bělorusy
. The article 25 of the Czech Charter of Fundamental Rights and Basic Freedoms ensures right of the national and ethnic minorities for education and communication with authorities in their own language. Act No. 500/2004 Coll. (''The Administrative Rule'') in its paragraph 16 (4) (''Procedural Language'') ensures, that a citizen of the Czech Republic, who belongs to a national or an ethnic minority, which traditionally and on long-term basis lives within the territory of the Czech Republic, have right to address an administrative agency and proceed before it in the language of the minority. In the case that the administrative agency doesn't have an employee with knowledge of the language, the agency is bound to obtain a translator at the agency's own expense. According to Act No. 273/2001 (''About The Rights of Members of Minorities'') paragraph 9 (''The right to use language of a national minority in dealing with authorities and in front of the courts of law'') the same applies for the members of national minorities also in front of the courts of law.
Like many other languages in Southeast Asia
and East Asia
, Vietnamese is an analytic language
with phonemic tone
. It has head-initial
directionality, with subject–verb–object
order and modifiers following the words they modify. It also uses noun classifier
Vietnamese was historically written in a mixture of ''Chữ Hán''
) for writing Sino-Vietnamese words
and ''Chữ Nôm
'', a locally invented Chinese-based script for writing vernacular Vietnamese. French colonial rule of Vietnam
led to the official adoption of the Vietnamese alphabet
(''chữ Quốc ngữ'') which is based on Latin script
. It uses digraphs
to mark tone
s and pronunciation. Whilst ''Chữ Hán'' and ''Chữ Nôm'' fell out of use in Vietnam by the early 20th century, they are still occasionally used by the Gin people
in southeast China.
As the national language, Vietnamese is the ''lingua franca
'' in Vietnam. It is also spoken by the Gin
traditionally residing on three islands (now joined to the mainland) off Dongxing
in southern Guangxi Province
. A large number of Vietnamese speakers also reside in neighboring countries of Cambodia
In the United States, Vietnamese is the fifth most spoken language, with over 1.5 million speakers, who are concentrated in a handful of states. It is the third most spoken language in Texas and Washington; fourth in Georgia, Louisiana, and Virginia; and fifth in Arkansas and California.
Vietnamese is the seventh most spoken language in Australia. In France, it is the most spoken Asian language and the eighth most spoken immigrant language at home.
Vietnamese is the sole official and national language of Vietnam. It is the first language of the majority of the Vietnamese population, as well as a first or second language for the country's ethnic minority groups
In the Czech Republic
, Vietnamese has been recognized as one of 14 minority languages, on the basis of communities that have resided in the country either traditionally or on a long-term basis. This status grants the Vietnamese community in the country
a representative on the Government Council for Nationalities, an advisory body of the Czech Government for matters of policy towards national minorities and their members. It also grants the community the right to use Vietnamese with public authorities and in courts anywhere in the country.
As a foreign language
Vietnamese is increasingly being taught in schools and institutions outside of Vietnam, a large part which is contributed by its large diaspora
. In countries with strongly established Vietnamese-speaking communities such as the United States, France, Australia, Canada, Germany, and the Czech Republic, Vietnamese language education largely serves as a cultural role to link descendants of Vietnamese immigrants to their ancestral culture. Meanwhile, in countries near Vietnam such as Cambodia, Laos, China, Taiwan, and Thailand, the increased role of Vietnamese in foreign language education is largely due to the recent recovery of the Vietnamese economy.
Since the 1980s, Vietnamese language schools () have been established for youth in many Vietnamese-speaking communities around the world, notably in the United States
Similarly, since the late 1980s, the Vietnamese-German
community has enlisted the support of city governments to bring Vietnamese into high school curriculum for the purpose of teaching and reminding Vietnamese German students of their mother-tongue. Furthermore, there has also been a number of Germans studying Vietnamese due to increased economic investments and business.
[Vietnamese teaching and learning overwhelming Germany]
Historic and stronger trade and diplomatic relations with Vietnam and a growing interest among the French Vietnamese
population (one of France's most established non-European ethnic groups) of their ancestral culture have also led to an increasing number of institutions in France, including universities, to offer formal courses in the language.
Early linguistic work
some 150 years ago classified Vietnamese as belonging to the Mon–Khmer
branch of the Austroasiatic language family
(which also includes the Khmer
language spoken in Cambodia
, as well as various smaller and/or regional language
s, such as the Munda
languages spoken in eastern India, and others in Laos
, southern China and parts of Thailand). Later, Muong
was found to be more closely related to Vietnamese than other Mon–Khmer languages, and a Viet–Muong subgrouping was established, also including Thavung
, etc. The term "Vietic" was proposed by Hayes (1992),
who proposed to redefine Viet–Muong as referring to a subbranch of Vietic containing only Vietnamese and Muong
. The term "Vietic
" is used, among others, by Gérard Diffloth
, with a slightly different proposal on subclassification, within which the term "Viet–Muong" refers to a lower subgrouping (within an eastern Vietic branch) consisting of Vietnamese dialects, Muong dialects, and Nguồn
(of Quảng Bình Province
The result of language contact
with Chinese heavily influenced the Vietnamese language overall, causing it to diverge from Viet-Muong
into Vietnamese. For example, the Vietnamese word quản lý'','' meaning management (noun) or manage (verb) is likely descended from the same word as ''guǎnlǐ'' () in Chinese, ''kanri'' ( ()) in Japanese, and ''gwalli'' ( ()) in Korean.
Modern linguists describe modern Vietnamese having lost many Proto-Austroasiatic
phonological and morphological features that original Vietnamese had. The Chinese influence on Vietnamese corresponds to various periods when Vietnam was under Chinese rule
, and subsequent influence after Vietnam became independent. Early linguists thought that this meant Vietnamese lexicon then received only two layers of Chinese words, one stemming from the period under actual Chinese rule and a second layer from afterwards. These words are grouped together as Sino-Vietnamese vocabulary
However, according to linguist John Phan, “Annamese Middle Chinese” was already used and spoken in the Red River
Valley by the 1st century CE, and its vocabulary significantly fused with the co-existing Proto-Viet-Muong language, the immediate ancestor of Vietnamese. He lists three major classes of Sino-Vietnamese borrowings: Early Sino-Vietnamese
(ca. 1st century CE) and Jin Dynasty
(ca. 4th century CE), Late Sino-Vietnamese
), Recent Sino-Vietnamese
Additionally, the French presence in Vietnam
from 1777 to the Geneva Accords
of 1954 resulted in influence from French
into eastern Indochina
. For Vietnamese, 'cà phê', derived from the French word ''café'' (coffee). Yogurt in vernacular Vietnamese is "sữa chua", but also calqued from French (''yaourt'') into Vietnamese (''da ua -'' /j/a ua). Nowadays, many new words are being added to the language's lexicon especially from English
. Some are incorporated into Vietnamese as loan words
— e.g., "TV" has been borrowed as "tivi"; the Cambodian name for Cambodia, "Kampuchea" becomes "Campuchia". Some other borrowings are calque
s, translated into Viet, for example, 'software' is translated into phần mềm''
' (literally meaning "soft part"). Some scientific terms such as "biological cell" may be borrowed from Chinese or Hán-Nôm, ( 细胞 - tế bào), whilst other scientific names such as "acetylcholine" are kept as they are. Some other scientific terms like "peptide", may be Vietnamized to make it easier to pronounce amongst Vietnamese words e.g. ''peptide'' may also be seen as ''peptit'' in Vietnamese texts.
Vietnamese has a large number of vowel
s. Below is a vowel diagram
of Vietnamese from Hanoi (including centering diphthong
Front and central vowels (i, ê, e, ư, â, ơ, ă, a) are unrounded
, whereas the back vowels (u, ô, o) are rounded. The vowels â and ă are pronounced very short, much shorter than the other vowels. Thus, ơ and â are basically pronounced the same except that ơ is of normal length while â is short – the same applies to the vowels long a and short ă .
The centering diphthongs are formed with only the three high vowels (i, ư, u). 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.
In addition to single vowels (or monophthong
s) and centering diphthongs, Vietnamese has closing diphthong
s and triphthong
s. The closing diphthongs and triphthongs consist of a main vowel component followed by a shorter semivowel offglide
or . There are restrictions on the high offglides: cannot occur after a front vowel (i, ê, e) nucleus and cannot occur after a back vowel (u, ô, o) nucleus.
The correspondence between the orthography and pronunciation is complicated. For example, the offglide is usually written as ''i''; however, it may also be represented with ''y''. In addition, in the diphthongs and the letters ''y'' and ''i'' also indicate the pronunciation of the main vowel: ay = ă + , ai = a + . Thus, "tay" "hand" is while "tai" "ear" is . Similarly, u and o indicate different pronunciations of the main vowel: au = ă + , ao = a + . Thus, thau "brass" is while thao "raw silk" is .
The consonants that occur in Vietnamese are listed below in the Vietnamese orthography
with the phonetic pronunciation to the right.
Some consonant sounds are written with only one letter (like "p"), other consonant sounds are written with a digraph
(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 Vietnamese has had different analyses. One analysis has final ''ch'', ''nh'' as being phonemes contrasting with syllable-final ''t'', ''c'' and ''n'', ''ng'' and identifies final ''ch'' with the syllable-initial ''ch'' . The other analysis has final ''ch'' and ''nh'' as predictable allophonic
variants of the velar phonemes and that occur after the upper front vowels ''i'' and ''ê'' ; although they also occur after ''a'', but in such cases are believed to have resulted from an earlier ''e'' which diphthongized to ''ai'' (cf. ''ach'' from ''aic'', ''anh'' from ''aing''). (See Vietnamese phonology: Analysis of final ''ch'', ''nh''
for further details.)
Each Vietnamese syllable is pronounced with an inherent tone
, centered on the main vowel or group of vowels. Tonal language in Vietnamese translates to "ngôn ngữ âm sắc"''.'' Tones differ in:
* length (duration)
* pitch contour
(i.e. pitch melody)
* pitch height
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:
Other dialects of Vietnamese may have fewer tones (typically only five).
In Vietnamese poetry, tones are classed into two groups: (tone pattern
Words with tones belonging to a particular tone group must occur in certain positions within the poetic verse.
practice a distinctive style of prayer recitation called , in which each tone is assigned a specific note or sequence of notes.
The Vietnamese language has several mutually intelligible
Vietnamese has traditionally been divided into three dialect regions: North, Central, and South. Michel Ferlus and Nguyễn Tài Cẩn also proved that there was a separate North-Central dialect for Vietnamese as well. 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 number 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 (around the end of the 15th century). The North-central region is particularly conservative; its pronunciation has diverged less from Vietnamese orthography than the other varieties, which tend to merge certain sounds. 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, despite the fact that their pronunciation fits the written language the most closely; this is typically because of various words in their vocabulary which are unfamiliar to other speakers (see the example vocabulary table below).
The large movements of people between North and South beginning in the mid-20th century and continuing to this day have resulted in a sizable number of Southern residents speaking in the Northern accent/dialect and, to a greater extent, Northern residents speaking in the Southern accent/dialect. Following the Geneva Accords of 1954
that called for the temporary division of the country
, about a million northerners (mainly from Hanoi, Haiphong
and the surrounding Red River Delta areas) moved south (mainly to Saigon and heavily to Biên Hòa
and Vũng Tàu
, and the surrounding areas) as part of Operation Passage to Freedom
. About 3% (~30,000) of that number of people made the move in the reverse direction (''Tập kết ra Bắc'', literally "go to the North".)
Following the reunification of Vietnam
in 1975, Northern and North-Central speakers from the densely populated Red River Delta and the traditionally poorer provinces of Nghệ An, Hà Tĩnh, and Quảng Bình have continued to move South to look for better economic opportunities, beginning with the new government's "New Economic Zones program" which lasted from 1975 to 1985.
The first half of the program (1975–80), resulted in 1.3 million people sent to the New Economic Zones (NEZs), majority of which were relocated to the southern half of the country in previously uninhabited areas, of which 550,000 were Northerners.
The second half (1981–85) saw almost 1 million Northerners relocated to the NEZs.
Government and military personnel from Northern and North-central Vietnam are also 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 increased interregional movement and relations between distant parts of Vietnam through business and travel. These movements have also resulted in some blending of dialects, but more significantly, have made the Northern dialect more easily understood in the South and vice versa. Most Southerners, when singing modern/old popular Vietnamese songs or addressing the public, do so in the standardized accent if possible (which is Northern pronunciation). This is true in Vietnam as well as in overseas Vietnamese communities.
Modern Standard Vietnamese is based on the Hanoi dialect. Nevertheless, the major dialects are still predominant in their respective areas and have also evolved over time with influences from other areas. Historically, accents have been distinguished by how each region pronounces the letters ''d'' (uh
in the Northern dialect and uh
in the Central and Southern dialect) and ''r'' (uh
in the Northern dialect, uh
in the Central and Southern dialects). Thus, the Central and Southern dialects can be said to have retained a pronunciation closer to Vietnamese orthography and resemble how Middle Vietnamese sounded in contrast to the modern Northern (Hanoi) dialect which underwent shifts.
-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.
In addition to the regional variation described above, there is a merger of ''l'' and ''n'' in certain rural varieties in the North:
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 in "fifteen" (see Vietnamese grammar#Cardinal
). In some northern varieties, this numeral appears with an initial ''nh'' instead of ''l'': "twenty-five", instead of mainstream .
There is also a merger of ''r'' and ''g'' in certain rural varieties in the South:
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 with a cluster in Hảo Nho (Yên Mô
, Ninh Bình Province
) but ''trời'' in Southern Vietnamese and in Hanoi Vietnamese (initial single consonants , respectively).
Although there are six tones in Vietnamese, some tones may slightly "merge", but are still highly distinguishable due to the context of the speech. The ''hỏi'' and ''ngã'' tones are distinct in North and some North-central varieties (although often with different pitch contour
s) but have somewhat merged in Central, Southern, and some North-Central varieties (also with different pitch contours). Some North-Central varieties (such as Vietnamese) have a slight 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
type) in the tones among dialects.
The table above shows the pitch contour of each tone using Chao tone number notation
(where 1 represents the lowest pitch, and 5 the highest); glottalization
) is indicated with the symbol; murmured voice
with ; glottal stop
with ; sub-dialectal variants are separated with commas. (See also the tone section
Vietnamese, like Chinese and many languages in Southeast Asia, is an analytic language
. Vietnamese does not use morphological
marking of case
(and, as a result, has no finite
distinction). Also like other languages in the region, Vietnamese syntax conforms to subject–verb–object word order
, is head-initial
ordering), and has a noun classifier
system. Additionally, it is pro-drop
, and allows verb serialization
Some Vietnamese sentences with English word glosses
and translations are provided below.
Dates and numbers writing formats
Vietnameses speak date in the format "ayonthear
. Each month's name is just the ordinal of that month appended after the word ''tháng'', which means "month". Traditional Vietnamese however assigns other names to some months; these names are mostly used in the lunar calendar
and in poetry.
When written in the short form, "DD/MM/YYYY" is preferred.
*English: 28 March 2018
*Vietnamese long form: Ngày 28 tháng 3 năm 2018
*Vietnamese short form: 28/3/2018
The Vietnamese prefer writing numbers with a comma
as the decimal separator in lieu of dots, and either spaces or dots to group the digits. An example is 1 629,15 (one thousand six hundred twenty-nine point fifteen). Because a comma is used as the decimal separator, a semicolon
is used to separate two numbers instead.
dictionary ''Nhật dụng thường đàm'' (1851), Chinese characters () are explained in .
Up to the late 19th century, a writing system that was a mix of two types of scripts was used in Vietnam: ''chữ Hán
'' (Chinese characters
) and ''chữ Nôm'' (). All formal writing, including government business, scholarship and formal literature, was done in Classical Chinese
(called as "văn ngôn" - 文言 or "Hán văn" - 漢文 in Vietnamese) with chữ Hán.
Folk literature in Vietnamese was recorded using the ''chữ Nôm
'' script, which is based on borrowed Chinese characters and mostly modified and invented to represent native Vietnamese words. This was because chữ Hán could only be used for Sino-Vietnamese words
, and was not enough to write native Vietnamese words. For example, the Vietnamese numerals
for 1-2-3 are read in "một-hai-ba" in Vietnamese or "nhất-nhị-tam" by Sino-Vietnamese pronunciation. Although the "nhất-nhị-tam" represented by 一二三 in chữ Hán was used in official contexts, Vietnamese speakers modified its chữ Nôm equivalent to 𠬠𠄩𠀧 in order to represent "một-hai-ba", which is the colloquial native equivalent.
Created in the 13th century or earlier, the ''Nôm'' writing reached its zenith in the 18th century when many Vietnamese writers and poets composed their works in Nôm, most notably Nguyễn Du
and Hồ Xuân Hương
(dubbed "the Queen of Nôm poetry"). However, it was only used for official purposes during the brief Hồ
and Tây Sơn
A Vietnamese Catholic
, Nguyễn Trường Tộ
, 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 Nôm.
of Vietnamese was codified in the 17th century by the Avignonese Jesuit
missionary Alexandre de Rhodes
(1591–1660), based on works of earlier Portuguese missionaries
, particularly Francisco de Pina
, Gaspar do Amaral and Antonio Barbosa.
Still, ''chữ Nôm'' was the dominant script in Vietnamese Catholic
literature for more than 200 years. Starting from the late 19th century, the Vietnamese alphabet
(''chữ Quốc ngữ'' or "national language script") was gradually expanded from its initial usage in Christian writing to become more popular among the general public.
The Vietnamese alphabet
contains 29 letters, including one digraph
'') and nine with diacritics
, five of which are used to designate tone
(i.e. ''à'', ''á'', ''ả'', ''ã'', and ''ạ'') and the other four used for separate letters of the Vietnamese alphabet (''ă, ''â/ê/ô'', ''ơ'', ư'').
This Romanized script became predominant over the course of the early 20th century, when education became widespread and a simpler writing system was found to be more expedient for teaching and communication with the general population. Under French colonial rule
, French superseded Chinese in administration. Vietnamese written with the alphabet became required for all public documents in 1910 by issue of a decree by the French Résident Supérieur of the protectorate of Tonkin. In turn, Vietnamese reformists and nationalists themselves encouraged and popularized the use of ''chữ quốc ngữ''. By the middle of the 20th century, most writing was done in ''chữ quốc ngữ'', which became the official script on independence.
Nevertheless, ''Chữ Hán'' was still in use during the French colonial period and as late as World War II was still featured on banknotes, but fell out of official and mainstream use shortly thereafter. The education reform by North Vietnam
in 1950 eliminated the use of ''chữ Hán'' and ''chữ Nôm''. Today, only a few scholars and some extremely elderly people are able to read ''chữ Nôm'' or use it in Vietnamese calligraphy
. In contrast, members of the Gin
minority in China still write in ''chữ Nôm''.
''Chữ quốc ngữ'' reflects a "Middle Vietnamese" dialect that combines vowels and final consonants most similar to northern dialects with initial consonants most similar to southern dialects. 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
is based on the Chancery Standard of Late Middle English
, with many spellings retained even after the Great Vowel Shift
character set contains all Vietnamese characters and the Vietnamese currency symbol. On systems that do not support Unicode, many 8-bit Vietnamese code page
s are available such as Vietnamese Standard Code for Information Interchange
(VSCII) or Windows-1258
. Where ASCII
must be used, Vietnamese letters are often typed using the VIQR
convention, though this is largely unnecessary with the increasing ubiquity of Unicode. There are many software tools that help type Roman-script Vietnamese on English keyboards, such aWinVNKey
on Windows, oMacVNKey
on Macintosh, with popular methods oencoding
Vietnamese using Telex, VNI or VIQR input methods. Telex
input method is often set as the default for many devices.
It seems likely that in the distant past, Vietnamese shared more characteristics common to other languages in the Austroasiatic family, such as an inflectional morphology
and a richer set of consonant cluster
s, which have subsequently disappeared from the language. However, Vietnamese appears to have been heavily influenced by its location in the Mainland Southeast Asia linguistic area
, with the result that it has acquired or converged toward characteristics such as isolating morphology and phonemically distinctive tones
, through processes of tonogenesis
. These characteristics have become part of many of the genetically unrelated languages of Southeast Asia; for example, Tsat
(a member of the Malayo-Polynesian
group within Austronesian
), and Vietnamese each developed tones as a phonemic feature. The ancestor of the Vietnamese language is usually believed to have been originally based in the area of the Red River Delta
in what is now northern Vietnam.
Distinctive tonal variations emerged 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
and the Khmer people
of the Mekong Delta
in the vicinity of present-day Ho Chi Minh City
, also known as Saigon.
Vietnamese was primarily influenced by Chinese, which came to predominate politically in the 2nd century BC. After Vietnam achieved independence in the 10th century, the ruling class adopted Classical Chinese
as the formal medium of government, scholarship and literature. With the dominance of Chinese came radical importation of Chinese vocabulary and grammatical influence. A portion of the Vietnamese lexicon in all realms consists of Sino-Vietnamese words
(They are about a third of the Vietnamese lexicon, and may account for as much as 60% of the vocabulary used in formal texts.)
When France invaded Vietnam in the late 19th century, French 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.
described six periods of the Vietnamese language:
#Proto-Viet–Muong, also known as ''Pre-Vietnamese'' or ''Proto-Vietnamuong'', the ancestor of Vietnamese and the related Muong language
(before 7th century AD).
#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.
#Archaic Vietnamese, the state of the language upon adoption of the Sino-Vietnamese vocabulary
and the beginning of creation of the Vietnamese characters during the Ngô Dynasty, c. 10th century AD.
#Ancient Vietnamese, the language represented by Chữ Nôm
(c. 15th century), widely used during the Lê and the Chinese–Vietnamese, and the Ming glossary "Annanguo Yiyu" 安南國譯語 (c. 15th century) by the Bureau of Interpreters 会同馆 (from the series ''Huáyí Yìyǔ'' (). By this point, a tone split
had happened in the language, leading to six tones but a loss of contrastive voicing among consonants.
#Middle Vietnamese, the language of the ''Dictionarium Annamiticum Lusitanum et Latinum
'' of the Jesuit missionary Alexandre de Rhodes
(c. 17th century); the dictionary was published in Rome in 1651. Another famous dictionary of this period was written by P. J. Pigneau de Behaine in 1773 and published by Jean-Louis Taberd in 1838.
#Modern Vietnamese, from the 19th century.
The following diagram shows the phonology of Proto-Viet–Muong (the nearest ancestor of Vietnamese and the closely related Muong language
), along with the outcomes in the modern language:
According to Ferlus, * and * are not accepted by all researchers. Ferlus 1992
also had additional phonemes * and *.
The fricatives indicated above in parentheses developed as allophones of stop consonants occurring between vowels (i.e. when a minor 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:
In Middle Vietnamese
, the outcome of these sounds was written with a hooked ''b'' (
), representing a that was still distinct from ''v'' (then pronounced ). See below.
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 *, distinct at that time from *.
The following initial clusters occurred, with outcomes indicated:
* *pr, *br, *tr, *dr, *kr, *gr > > > ''s''
* *pl, *bl > MV ''bl'' > Northern ''gi'', Southern ''tr''
* *kl, *gl > MV ''tl'' > ''tr''
* *ml > MV ''ml'' > ''mnh'' > ''nh''
* *kj > ''gi''
A large number of words were borrowed from Middle Chinese
, forming part of the Sino-Vietnamese vocabulary
. These caused the original introduction of the retroflex sounds and (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:
Glottal-ending syllables ended with a glottal stop , while fricative-ending syllables ended with or . Both types of syllables could co-occur with a resonant (e.g. or ).
At some point, a tone split
occurred, as in many other Southeast Asian languages
. 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 allotone
s were pronounced with additional breathy voice
or creaky voice
and with lowered pitch. The quality difference predominates in today's northern varieties, e.g. in Hanoi
, while in the southern varieties the pitch difference predominates, as in Ho Chi Minh City
.) 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
(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
, 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 and 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.)
Old Vietnamese was a Vietic language which was separated from Viet–Muong around 9th century, and evolved to Middle Vietnamese by 15th century. The sources for the reconstruction of Old Vietnamese are 12th-century text ''Phật thuyết Đại báo phụ mẫu ân trọng kinh'' ("Sūtra explained by the Buddha on the Great Repayment of the Heavy Debt to Parents") and late 13th-century (possibly 1293) Annan Jishi
' by Chinese diplomat Chen Fu
(c. 1259 – 1309). Old Vietnamese used Chinese characters phonetically where each word, monosyllabic in Modern Vietnamese, is written with two Chinese characters or in a composite character made of two different characters.
The writing system used for Vietnamese is based closely on the system developed by Alexandre de Rhodes
for his 1651 ''Dictionarium Annamiticum Lusitanum et Latinum
''. 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 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:
occurs only at the end of a syllable.
This symbol, "Latin small letter B with flourish
", looks like: 10px|alt=ȸ|b with flourish
. It 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.
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 and , where it is notated ''ĕ''. This ''ĕ'', and the it notated, have disappeared from the modern language.
Note that ''b'' and ''p'' never contrast in any position, suggesting that they are allophones.
The language also has three clusters at the beginning of syllables, which have since disappeared:
*''tl'' > modern ''tr''
*''bl'' > modern ''gi'' (Northern), ''tr'' (Southern)
*''ml'' > ''mnh'' > 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
. Within a century or so, both and had merged as , spelled as ''v''.
*de Rhodes' system has a second medial glide that is written ''ĕ'' and appears in some words with initial ''d'' and hooked ''b''. These later disappear.
*''đ'' was (and still is) alveolar
, whereas ''d'' was dental. The choice of symbols was based on the dental rather than alveolar nature of and its allophone
in Spanish and other Romance languages. The inconsistency with the symbols assigned to vs. was based on the lack of any such place distinction between the two, with the result that the stop consonant
appeared more "normal" than the fricative . In both cases, the implosive
nature of the stops does not appear to have had any role in the choice of symbol.
*''x'' was the alveolo-palatal fricative
rather than the dental
of the modern language. In 17th-century Portuguese
, the common language of the Jesuits, ''s'' was the apico-alveolar sibilant
(as still in much of Spain and some parts of Portugal), while ''x'' was a palatoalveolar
. The similarity of apicoalveolar to the Vietnamese retroflex
led to the assignment of ''s'' and ''x'' as above.
De Rhodes's orthography also made use of an apex
diacritic to indicate a final labial-velar nasal
, an allophone of that is peculiar to the Hanoi dialect to the present day. This diacritic is often mistaken for a tilde in modern reproductions of early Vietnamese writing.
A language game
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
of each word; the resulting ''nói lái'' pair preserves the original sequence of tones. Some examples:
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
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.
This language game is often used as a "secret" or "coded" language useful for obscuring messages from adult comprehension.
(tiếng lóng) changed from time to time. Vietnamese slang consists of pure Vietnamese words or words borrowed from other languages such as Mandarin
or Indo-European languages
It is estimated that Vietnamese slang that originated from Mandarin accounts for a tiny proportion of all Vietnamese slang (4.6% of surveyed data in newspapers).
On the contrary, slang that originated from Indo-European languages accounts for a more significant proportion (12%) and is much more common in today's uses.
Slang borrowed from these languages can be either transliteration
With the rise of the Internet, new slang is generated and popularized through social media
. This more modern slang is commonly used among the younger generation in Vietnam. This more recent slang is mostly pure Vietnamese, and almost all the words are homonyms
or some form of wordplay
. Some examples:
There are debates on the prevalence of uses of slang among young people in Vietnam, as certain teen speak conversations become difficult to understand for older generations. Many critics believed that incorporating teenspeak or internet slang into daily conversation among teenagers would affect the formality and cadence of speech. Others argue that it is not the slang that is the problem but rather the lack of communication techniques for the instant internet messaging era. They believe slang should not be dismissed, but instead, youth should be informed enough to know when to use them and when it is appropriate.
''The Tale of Kieu
'' is an epic narrative poem by the celebrated poet Nguyễn Du
, (), which is often considered the most significant work of Vietnamese literature
. It was originally written in Chữ Nôm (titled ) and is widely taught in Vietnam.
* Vietnamese Wikipedia
* Vietnamese studies
* Dương, Quảng-Hàm. (1941). ''Việt-nam văn-học sử-yếu'' utline history of Vietnamese literature
Saigon: Bộ Quốc gia Giáo dục.
* 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). "Current developments in 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.
* Nguyễn, Đình-Hoà. (1997). ''Vietnamese: Tiếng Việt không son phấn''. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
* Thompson, Laurence C. (1991)''A Vietnamese reference grammar''
Seattle: University of Washington Press. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. (Original work published 1965)
* Uỷ ban Khoa học Xã hội Việt Nam. (1983). ''Ngữ-pháp tiếng Việt'' ietnamese grammar
Hanoi: Khoa học Xã hội.
* Alves, Mark J. 2007"A Look At North-Central Vietnamese"
In ''SEALS XII Papers from the 12th Annual Meeting of the Southeast Asian Linguistics Society 2002'', edited by Ratree Wayland et al. Canberra, Australia, 1–7. Pacific Linguistics, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, The Australian National University
* 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
* Hoàng, Thị Châu. (1989). ''Tiếng Việt trên các miền đất nước: Phương ngữ học'' ietnamese 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.
* 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.
* Vũ, Thanh 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" ome notes on special qualities of the rhyme in local Quảng Nam speech in Hội An
In ''Một Số Vấn Ðề Ngôn Ngữ Học Việt Nam'' ome linguistics issues in Vietnam
(pp. 311–320). Hà Nội: Nhà Xuất Bản Ðại Học và Trung Học Chuyên Nghiệp.
* 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.
Historical and comparative
* 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).
* 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
** English translation:
* Nguyễn, Đình-Hoà. (1955). ''Quốc-ngữ: The modern writing system in Vietnam''. Washington, DC: Author.
* 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. .
* 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.
* Nguyễn, Đình-Hoà. (1967). ''Read Vietnamese: A graded course in written Vietnamese''. Rutland, Vermont: C.E. Tuttle.
* Lâm, Lý-duc; Emeneau, M. B.; von den Steinen, Diether. (1944). ''An Annamese reader''. Berkeley: University of California, Berkeley.
* Nguyễn, Đăng Liêm. (1970). ''Vietnamese pronunciation''. PALI language texts: Southeast Asia. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.
; Online lessons
Online Vietnamese lessons
from Northern Illinois University
Vietnamese Vocabulary List
(from the World Loanword Database)
Swadesh list of Vietnamese basic vocabulary words
(from Wiktionary'Swadesh-list appendix
; Language tools
The Vietnamese keyboard
its layout is compared with US, UK, Canada, France, and Germany's keyboards.
Research projects and data resources
rwaai | Projects
RWAAI (Repository and Workspace for Austroasiatic Intangible Heritage)
Vietnamese in RWAAI Digital Archive
Category:Languages of Vietnam
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Category:Languages of China
Category:Languages of the Czech Republic
Category:Tonal languages in non-tonal families