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Vietnamese (tiếng Việt, or less commonly Việt ngữ), formerly known under French colonization as Annamese (see Annam), is the national and official language of Vietnammarker. It is the mother tongue of the Vietnamese people (người Việt or người Kinh), who constitute 86% of Vietnam's population, and of about three million overseas Vietnamese, most of whom live in the United Statesmarker. It is also spoken as a second language by many ethnic minorities of Vietnam. It is part of the Austroasiatic language family, of which it has the most speakers by a significant margin (several times larger than the other Austroasiatic languages put together).

Much vocabulary has been borrowed from Chinese, especially words that denote abstract ideas in the same way European languages borrow from Latin and Greek, and it was formerly written using the Chinese writing system, albeit in a modified format and was given vernacular pronunciation. The Vietnamese writing system in use today is an adapted version of the Latin alphabet, with additional diacritics for tones 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, where it has more than one million speakers and is the seventh most-spoken language (it is 3rd in Texasmarker, 4th in Arkansasmarker and Louisianamarker, and 5th in Californiamarker). In Australia, it is the sixth most-spoken language.

According to the Ethnologue, Vietnamese is also spoken by substantial numbers of people in Cambodiamarker, Canadamarker, Chinamarker, Côte d'Ivoiremarker, Czech Republicmarker, Finlandmarker, Francemarker, Germanymarker, Laosmarker, Martiniquemarker, the Netherlandsmarker, New Caledoniamarker, Norwaymarker, the Philippinesmarker, Senegalmarker, Thailandmarker, the United Kingdommarker, and Vanuatumarker.

Genealogical classification

Vietnamese was identified more than 150 years ago to be part of the Mon-Khmer branch of the Austroasiatic language family (a family that also includes Khmer, spoken in Cambodiamarker, as well as various tribal and regional languages, such as the Munda and Khasi languages spoken in eastern Indiamarker, and others in southern Chinamarker). Later, Mường was found to be more closely related to Vietnamese than other Mon-Khmer languages, and a Việt-Mường sub-grouping was established. As data on more Mon-Khmer languages were acquired, other minority languages (such as Thavưng, Chứt languages, Hung, etc.) were found to share Việt-Mường characteristics, and the Việt-Mường term was renamed to Vietic. The older term Việt-Mường now refers to a lower sub-grouping (within an eastern Vietic branch) consisting of Vietnamese dialects, Mường dialects, and Nguồn (of Quảng Bình Provincemarker).

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 for governing purposes, whereas written Vietnamese in the form of Chữ nôm was used for poetry and literature. It was also used for administrative purposes during the brief Ho and Tay Son 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.


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 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-Austroasiatic, nonetheless have become part of many of the phylogenetically unrelated languages of Southeast Asia; for example, Thai (one of the Kradai languages), Tsat (a member of the Malayo-Polynesian group within Austronesian), and Vietnamese each developed tones as a phonemic feature, although their respective ancestral languages were not originally tonal.Presently, Vietnamese has similarities with both Chinese and French due to the influence of the French invasion.

The ancestor of the Vietnamese language was originally based in the area of the Red Rivermarker 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 and the Khmer people of the Mekong Delta in the vicinity of present-day Ho Chi Minh Citymarker (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 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 characters (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), Korea (hanja), and other countries in the Sinosphere. 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 system of Romanized writing was developed in the 17th century by Portuguesemarker and other Europeans involved in proselytizing and trade in Vietnam. When Francemarker 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. 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 result of a thousand years of Chinese occupation, much of the Vietnamese lexicon relating to science and politics is derived from Chinese. As much as 60%-70% of the vocabulary has Chinese roots, 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 doesn't change when the tone is shifted. As a result of French colonization, Vietnamese also has words borrowed from the French language, for example cà phê (from French café). Nowadays, many new words are being added to the language's lexicon; these are usually borrowed from English, for example TV (though usually seen in the written form as tivi). Sometimes these borrowings are calques literally translated into Vietnamese for example, 'software' is calqued into phần mềm, which literally means "soft part".



Like other southeast Asian languages, Vietnamese has a comparatively large number of vowels. Below is a vowel diagram of Hanoi Vietnamese.

{| class="wikitable" style="text-align: center;"

Front, central, and low vowels (i, ê, e, ư, â, ơ, ă, a) are unrounded, whereas the back vowels (u, ô, o) are rounded. The vowels âand ăare pronounced very short, much shorter than the other vowels. Thus, ơand âare basically pronounced the same except that ơis long while âis short — the same applies to the low vowels long aand short ă.There are different descriptions of Hanoi vowels. Another common description is that of Thompson (1965):

{| class="wikitable" style="text-align: center;"

This description distinguishes four degrees of vowel height and a rounding contrast (rounded vs. unrounded) between back vowels. The relative shortness of ăand âwould, then, be a secondary feature. Thompson describes the vowel ăas being slightly higher (upper low) than a.

In addition to single vowels (or monophthongs), Vietnamese has diphthongsand triphthongs. The diphthongs consist of a main vowel component followed by a shorter semivowel offglideto a high front position , a high back position , or a central position .

{| class="wikitable" style="text-align: center;"

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, uawhen they end a word and are spelled , ươ, , 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 is usually written as ihowever, it may also be represented with y. In addition, in the diphthongs and the letters yand ialso indicate the pronunciation of the main vowel: ay= ă+ , ai= a+ . Thus, tay"hand" is while tai"ear" is . Similarly, uand oindicate different pronunciations of the main vowel: au= ă+ , ao= a+ . Thus, thau"brass" is while thao"raw silk" is .

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 , many phonological descriptions analyze these as consonant glides . Thus, a word such as đâu"where", phonetically , would be phonemicized as .


Vietnamese vowels are all pronounced with an inherent tone. Tones differ in:

Tone is indicated by diacritics written above or below the vowel (most of the tone diacritics appear above the vowel; however, the nặngtone dot diacritic goes below the vowel). The six tones in the northern varieties (including Hanoi) are:

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

In Vietnamese poetry, tones are classed into two groups:

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


The consonants that occur in Vietnamese are listed below in the Vietnamese orthographywith the phonetic pronunciation to the right.

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Some consonant sounds are written with only one letter (like "p"), other consonant sounds are written with a two-letter 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 sectionfor further elaboration.

The analysis of syllable-final orthographic chand nhin Hanoi Vietnamese has had different analyses. One analysis has final ch, nhas being phonemes contrasting with syllable-final t, cand n, ngand identifies final chwith the syllable-initial ch. The other analysis has final chand nhas predictable allophonicvariants of the velar phonemes and that occur before upper front vowels iand ê. (See Vietnamese phonology: Analysis of final ch, nhfor further details.)

Language variation

There are various mutually intelligible regional varieties (or dialects), the main four being:

{| class="wikitable"

The first article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights spoken by Nghiem Mai Phuong, native speaker of a northern variety.

Ho Chi Minh reading his Declaration of Independence.
Ho Chi Minh is from Nghe An Provincemarker, speaking a northern-central variety.

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-Annamrefers 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 intelligibleto 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 sociolinguisticattitudes, 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 that called for the "temporary" division of the country, almost a million Northern speakers (mainly from Hanoi and the surrounding Red River Delta areas) moved South (mainly to Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City, and the surrounding areas.) 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 have 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.

{| class="wikitable" style="text-align: center;"

The syllable-initial chand trdigraphs 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 rwhereas the North has a three-way merger and the Central and South have a merger of dand giwhile keeping rdistinct. At the end of syllables, palatals chand nhhave merged with alveolars tand n, which, in turn, have also partially merged with velars cand ngin Central and Southern varieties.

{| class="wikitable" style="text-align: center;"

In addition to the regional variation described above, there is also a merger of land nin certain rural varieties:

{| class="wikitable" style="text-align: center;"

Variation between land ncan be found even in mainstream Vietnamese in certain words. For example, the numeral "five" appears as nămby itself and in compound numerals like năm mươi"fifty" but appears as lămin mười lăm"fifteen". (See Vietnamese syntax: Cardinal numerals.) In some northern varieties, this numeral appears with an initial nhinstead 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 Vieticlanguages). 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 Provincemarker) but trời in Southern Vietnamese and giời in Hanoi Vietnamese (initial single consonants , respectively).

Generally, the Northern varieties have six tones while those in other regions have five tones. The hỏiand ngãtones are distinct in North and some North-central varieties (although often with different pitch contours) but have merged in Central, Southern, and some North-central varieties (also with different pitch contours). Some North-central varieties (such as Hà TĩnhVietnamese) have a merger of the ngãand nặngtones while keeping the hỏitone distinct. Still other North-central varieties have a three-way merger of hỏi, ngã, and nặngresulting in a four-tone system. In addition, there are several phonetic differences (mostly in pitch contour and phonationtype) in the tones among dialects.

{| class="wikitable" style="text-align: center;"

The table above shows the pitch contour of each tone using Chao tone number notation(where 1 = lowest pitch, 5 = highest pitch); glottalization(creaky, stiff, harsh) is indicated with the > symbol; breathy voicewith <‬‬‬‬‬‬>; glottal stopwith >; sub-dialectal variants are separated with commas.</‬‬‬‬‬‬> <‬‬‬‬‬‬>(See also the tone sectionbelow.)</‬‬‬‬‬‬>


Vietnamese, like many languages in Southeast Asia, is an analytic(or isolating) language. Vietnamese does not use morphologicalmarking of case, gender, numberor tense(and, as a result, has no finite/nonfinitedistinction). Also like other languages in the region, Vietnamese syntax conforms to Subject Verb Objectword order, is head-initial(displaying modified-modifierordering), and has a noun classifiersystem. Additionally, it is pro-drop, wh-in-situ, and allows verb serialization.

Some Vietnamese sentences with English word glossesand translations are provided below.

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Writing system

Currently, the written language uses the Vietnamese alphabet(quốc ngữor "national script", literally "national language"), based on the Latin alphabet. Originally a Romanization of Vietnamese, it was codified in the 17th century by a French Jesuit missionary named Alexandre de Rhodes (1591–1660), based on works of earlier Portuguesemarker 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 Vietnamesedialect 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.

Before Frenchmarker rule, the first two Vietnamese writing systems were based on Chinese script:
  • the standard Chinese character set called chữ nho (scholar's characters, 字儒): used to write Literary Chinese
  • a complicated variant form known as chữ nôm (southern/vernacular characters, 字喃) with characters not found in the Chinese character set; this system was better adapted to the unique phonetic aspects of Vietnamese which differed from Chinese

The authentic Chinese writing, chữ nho, was in more common usage, whereas chữ nômwas used by members of the educated elite (one needs to be able to read chữ nhoin order to read chữ nôm). Both scripts have fallen out of common usage in modern Vietnammarker, and almost all citizens are unable to read chữ nôm in more recent years.

Chữ nho was still in use on early North Vietnameseand late French Indochinesebanknotes issued after WWII but fell out of official use shortly thereafter.

Computer support

The Unicodecharacter set contains all Vietnamese characters and the Vietnamese currency symbol. On systems that do not support Unicode, many 8-bit Vietnamese code pagesare available such as VISCIIor CP1258. Where ASCIImust be used, Vietnamese letters are often typed using the VIQRconvention, though this is largely unnecessary nowadays, with the increasing ubiquity of Unicode. There are many software tools that help type true Vietnamese text on US keyboards, such as WinVNKeyand Unikeyon Windows, or MacVNKeyon Macintosh.

Pragmatics and ethnography of communication

Word play

A language gameknown as nói láiis used by Vietnamese speakers and is often considered clever. Nói láiinvolves switching the tones in a pair of words and also the order of the two words or the first consonant and rimeof each word; the resulting nói láipair preserves the original sequence of tones. Some examples:

{| class="wikitable"

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

Another word game somewhat reminiscent of pig latinis 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.

{| class="wikitable"

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


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. It was originally written in Nôm (titled Đoạn Trường Tân Thanh 斷腸新聲) and is widely taught in Vietnammarker today.

See also


  1. Another variant, tiếng Việt Nam, is rarely used by native speakers and is likely a neologism from translating literally from a foreign language. It is most often used by non-native speakers and mostly found in documents translated from another language.
  3. Even though this is supported by etymological comparison, some linguists still believe that Viet-Muong is a separate family, genealogically unrelated to Mon-Khmer languages.)
  4. The symbol ː represents long vowel length.
  5. In Vietnamese, diphthongs are âm đôi.
  6. The diphthongs and triphthongs as described by Thompson can be compared with the description above: :{| class="wikitable" style="text-align: center;" |+ Thompson's diphthongs |- ! Vowel nucleus ! Front offglide ! Back offglide ! Centering offglide |- ! i | – || iu~yu || ia~iê |- ! ê | – || êu || – |- ! e | – || eo || – |- ! ư | ưi || ưu || ưa~ươ |- ! â | ây || âu || – |- ! ơ | ơi || – || – |- ! ă | ay || au || – |- ! a | ai || ao || – |- ! u | ui || – || ua~uô |- ! ô | ôi || – || – |- ! o | oi || – || – |} :{| class="wikitable" style="text-align: center;" |+ Thompson's triphthongs |- ! Centering diphthong ! Front offglide ! Back offglide |- ! ia ~ iê | – || iêu |- ! ưa ~ ươ | ươi || ươu |- ! ua ~ uô | uôi || – |}
  7. The lack of diphthong consisting of a ơ + back offglide (i.e., ) is an apparent gap.
  8. Called thanh điệu in Vietnamese
  9. Note that the name of each tone has the corresponding tonal diacritic on the vowel.
  10. Sources on Vietnamese variation include: Alves (forthcoming), Alves & Nguyễn (2007), Emeneau (1947), Hoàng (1989), Honda (2006), Nguyễn, Đ.-H. (1995), Pham (2005), Thompson (1991[1965]), Vũ (1982), Vương (1981).
  11. Some differences in grammatical words are noted in Vietnamese grammar: Demonstratives, Vietnamese grammar: Pronouns.
  12. Table data from Hoàng (1989).
  13. In southern dialects, v is reported to have a spelling pronunciation (i.e., the spelling influences pronunciation) of or among educated speakers. However, educated speakers revert to usual in more relaxed speech. Less educated speakers have more consistently throughout their speech. See: Thompson (1959), Thompson (1965: 85, 89, 93, 97-98).
  14. Gregerson (1981) notes that this variation was present in de Rhodes's time in some initial consonant clusters: mlẽ ~ mnhẽ "reason" (cf. modern Vietnamese lẽ "reason").
  15. Comparison note: As such its grammar relies on word order and sentence structure rather than morphology (in which word changes through inflection). Whereas European languages tend to use morphology to express tense, Vietnamese uses grammatical particles or syntactic constructions.
  17. Nguyễn Đ.-H. (1997: 29) gives the following context: "... a collaborator under the French administration was presented with a congratulatory panel featuring the two Chinese characters quần thần. This Sino-Vietnamese expression could be defined as bầy tôi meaning ‘all the king's subjects’. But those two syllables, when undergoing commutation of rhyme and tone, would generate bồi tây meaning ‘servant in a French household’.
  18. See, Language Log's, and for more examples.



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External links

Upper Mid
â / ơ
Lower Mid
ă / a
Upper Mid
Lower Mid
Vowel nucleus
Diphthong with front offglide
Diphthong with back offglide
Diphthong with centering offglide
Triphthong with front offglide
Triphthong with back offglide
iu~yu ia~iê~yê~ya iêu
ưi ưu ưa~ươ ươi ươu
ây âu
ay au
ai ao
ui ua~uô uôi
Sample vowel
ngang   'level'
mid level
(no mark)
ma  'ghost'
huyền   'hanging'
low falling (often breathy)
` (grave accent)
sắc   'sharp'
high rising
´ (acute accent)
 'cheek, mother (southern)'
hỏi   'asking'
mid dipping-rising
 ̉ (hook)
mả  'tomb, grave'
ngã   'tumbling'
high breaking-rising
˜ (tilde)
 'horse (Sino-Vietnamese), code'
nặng   'heavy'
low falling constricted (short length)
 ̣ (dot below)
mạ  'rice seedling'
Tone group
Tones within tone group
bằng "level, flat"
ngang and huyền
trắc "oblique, sharp"
sắc, hỏi, ngã, and nặng
p [p]
Dialect region
Names under French colonization
Northern Vietnamese
Hanoimarker, Haiphongmarker, and various provincial forms
North-central (or Area IV) Vietnamese
Nghệ Anmarker (Vinhmarker, Thanh Chươngmarker), Thanh Hoámarker, Quảng Bìnhmarker, Hà Tĩnhmarker
High Annam
Central Vietnamese
Huếmarker, Quảng Nammarker
Low Annamese
Southern Vietnamese
Saigonmarker, Mekong (Far West)
Regional variation in grammatical words
Northern Central Southern English gloss
này ni nầy "this"
thế này ri vầy "thus, this way"
ấy nớ, 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) (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)"
Regional consonant correspondences
Syllable position Orthography Northern North-central Central Southern

after e

after ê

after i

after i, ê
l, n variation
"Mainstream" varieties
Rural varieties
Regional tone correspondences
 Vinh  Thanh

Hà Tĩnh
33 35 35 35, 353 35 33
2 1 33 33 33 33 21
35 11 11, 1 3 1 3 1 3 35
31 3 31
31 ʔ
3ʔ5 1 3
21 ʔ 22 2 2 2 2 212
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.
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
horse black
"I like the black horse."
Tôi thích cái con ngựa đen.
I (generic) like
horse black
"It's the black horse that I like."
Original phrase Phrase after nói lái transformation Structural change
đái dầm "(child) wet their pants" đấm dài (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
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

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