Vietnamese language

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Vietnamese
Tiếng Việt
Native to Vietnam, Vietnamese diaspora
Ethnicity Kinh/Gin people
Native speakers 76 million  (2007)[1]
Language family
Writing system Latin (Vietnamese alphabet)
Vietnamese Braille
Official status
Official language in  Vietnam[2]
Language codes
ISO 639-1 vi
ISO 639-2 vie
ISO 639-3 vie
Linguasphere 46-EBA

Vietnamese is the official language of Vietnam.

History and development[change | change source]

Influences[change | change source]

Like many languages from Asia the Vietnamese language is a tonal language. It has been strongly changed by Chinese languages.[3] The Vietnamese language has shared history with other languages such as Khmer. Today, it uses a Latin alphabet called the National Language (Quốc Ngữ) made official by French authority. Vietnam once used Chinese characters called Chữ Nôm.[3] Fewer people know Chữ Nôm today.[3] Most Chinese speakers who live in Vietnam now use regular Chinese script for calligraphy. Some traditional calligraphy artists can still be found.[3] For example, Ho Chi Minh City has a district famous for its popular Chinatown. In modern times Vietnamese adds new words that are needed. With more engineering, science, and academics many words are taken from these professions. Also there has been an increase in media use. Some social words taken from media are now considered common.[4]

Language System[change | change source]

Spoken[change | change source]

The spoken language of Vietnam changes between each province. The greater the distance between provinces the stronger the difference. The difference between Hanoian and the Mekong is called a dialect difference. Nowadays, the national education for all of Vietnam includes the Hanoian dialect. However, each ethnic tribe may still use a different dialect, language, or vocabulary.

In computers[change | change source]

There are speaking programs that use the Vietnamese language. A computer add-on for the Firefox web browser can read text with the 'vietnamization' that is needed. It's called Vietnamese TTS. TTS means Text to Speech. Audio libraries are available to reproduce the Vietnamese language. Google translate uses a TTS reader and sound library to read Vietnamese in simple sentences. Hand held electronic translators are also very popular. Kim Tu Dien makes the most common pocket dictionary for the Vietnamese market.

Script[change | change source]

Alphabet[change | change source]

The Vietnamese alphabet.

Vietnamese diphthong[change | change source]

The combination of two vowels makes a diphthong. The dipthongs used in the Vietnamese language have some rules when used. For example, one rule states where the singular tone for both letters must be placed.

Vietnamese triphthong[change | change source]

There are more triphthongs in Vietnamese than English. 'uye' is included.

Vietnamese syllables[change | change source]

The syllables refers to the Chinese use of two characters as syllables. So, Hong is one and Kong the other. Vietnamese also uses one syllable as a word. In the same way as English, people can say just 'go'. For more emphasis (in Vietnamese) it could be said twice. The use of the syllable twice is from the history of languages for Asia. Some Australian Aboriginal languages are known do the same thing.[5] So, 'go - go' (Vietnamese: đi đi)[6] means definitely go. But also, 'go' would have been enough in Vietnamese. Many single syllables are used by the Vietnamese language. They can form sentences without pairing with other syllables as they do in Chinese. Readers (and speakers) still notice that many syllables, in most sentences, are paired.

Vietnamization[change | change source]

Many words from around the world were needed in Vietnamese. Sushi is a common word used by most languages. When a word gets vietnamization it is changed to sound Vietnamese. China uses the same idea: Ao-day-lia in Pinyin means Australia.

The first rule[change | change source]

The first rule for vietnamization is that 'no Vietnamese word/syllable is broken by a consonant'.[7] E.g. (Việt Nam). An example of how to break a foreign word into two syllables is mô tô which is used for motorbike. It's not the most common word for motorbike, but it is accepted. This word is a vietnamized version of 'motor' and 'auto'(ô tô).
But, the rule isn't used in every vietnamization of a word, e.g. lôgic. When introducing a common foreign word, people 'vietnamize' the word in at least one spoken demonstration for Vietnamese listeners.

  • This rule should explain a problem with the foreign use of the name Nguyen. It will never be New Yen! Y is not a consonant in Vietnam. A better explanation is by comparing the English name Ian to any name with Yen( e.g. Yến). This use of Y has an equal in English: many, penny, etc. use the vowel 'y'.

The second rule[change | change source]

The second (softer) rule for vietnamization is that the sound of each syllable must be made 'a little closer to Viet sounds'. The second rule is made to work by adding the tone marks for vowel letters. For example: lôgic is an alteration of 'logic'. It would be needed to teach a couple of school and science subjects. Computer science uses this word.

Exceptions[change | change source]

Any word can be made an exception to vietnamization. Names like Barack Obama, or Bill Clinton might be attempted by all Vietnamese speakers. In writing, these foreign names will mostly stay together (intact). Names like David are easy for Vietnamese people to say, and have become very popular in English-class writing.

Grammar[change | change source]

Exclamations[change | change source]

Exclamations words are very popular in Vietnamese.[8] People can use exclamations as an introduction to more things to be said. Or people can pass a comment (after saying something) with a quick exclamation. The exclamation word may express a feeling or just be an expression.

Conjunctions[change | change source]

Conjunctions are used in Vietnamese.[9]

References[change | change source]