Overview of the Vietnamese Language

Overview of the Vietnamese LanguageVietnamese Language

The Vietnamese Alphabet and Vietnamese Pronunciation

In 1910, a romanized script that had been devised by Catholic missionaries in the 17th Century was adopted as the official Vietnamese alphabet. This writing system, called Quốc Ngữ (national language), is still in use today.

The Vietnamese alphabet consists of 17 consonants and 12 vowels. Vietnamese is a tonal language, meaning that the tone or pitch used when a word is pronounced helps determine its meaning. There are six distinct tones in Vietnamese: the level tone, the high rising tone, the low falling tone, the low rising tone, the high rising broken tone, and the low broken tone.

Formal and Informal Address in the Vietnamese Language

The use of personal pronouns in Vietnamese is determined by the age, marital status, gender, and social standing of the person you are speaking to, as well as your relationship with that person. Also, in Vietnamese, these forms of address are often used in situations where they would be omitted in English.

Vietnamese Grammar

Vietnamese grammar uses tends to use word order and sentence structure to convey grammatical meanings, rather than inflections within words. Many grammatical concepts which would be expressed by word changes in English and other languages are expressed with particles in Vietnamese. These particles are generally short words that cannot readily be translated into English. They fulfill a variety of functions in Vietnamese, from indicating tense to increasing the politeness of a sentence. Reduplication (repeating a word or part of word) is another noteworthy element of Vietnamese grammar.


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