Vietnamese – the official language of Vietnam

Languages spoken in Vietnam

Almost all people in Vietnam speak Vietnamese  language (tiếng Việt). This is the official language of the country.

The majority of Vietnamese population (around 90%) speak this language as native, however, the other 10% also speak Vietnamese as a second language. Vietnam is an ethnically diverse country, with various minority groups living mostly in mountainous regions in the north of the country and in the Central Highlands region. Each minority group speaks their own language. From a linguistic point of view, most of these minority languages are not related to Vietnamese at all.

There is a long list of individual languages spoken in Vietnam, which amounts to 110. Of these, 109 are living and 1 is extinct. Of the living languages, 1 is institutional, 15 are developing, 51 are vigorous, 37 are in trouble, and 5 are dying. Click here for more information. Source: http://www.ethnologue.com/country/VN/languages

About Vietnamese:

Vietnamese is one of the world’s most important languages, ranked 16th by number of native speakers (2007 stastics; click here for more information).

Total population of overseas Vietnamese

 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overseas_Vietnamese

~4,000,000 (estimates)[citation needed]
Regions with significant populations
 United States 1,799,632(2010) [1]
 Cambodia 600,000[2]
 Laos 150,000
 France 250,000[3]
 Australia 159,848(2006) [4]
 Canada 180,125(2006) [5]
 Taiwan 120,000
–200,000[6][7]
 Russia up to 150,000[8]
 Germany 137.000(2010)[9]
 South Korea 116,219(2011)[10]
 Czech Republic 60,000(2008) [11]
 United Kingdom 55,000[12]
 Poland 50,000[8]
 Japan 41,136(2008) [13]
 United Arab Emirates 20,000[14]
 China 20,000[8]
 Netherlands 18,913[15]
 Norway 18,333(2006) [16]
 Sweden 11,771(2003) [17]
 Thailand 10,000[18]
 Denmark 8,575(2002) [17]
  Switzerland 8,173(2008) [19]
 Qatar 8,000
 Belgium 7,151(2001) [17]
 New Zealand 4,875(2006) [20]
 Ukraine 3,850(2001) [21]
 Hungary 1,020(2001) [22]
 Finland 4,000[23]
 Slovakia 3,000[24]
 Brazil 1,000
 Italy 3,000
Elsewhere 400,000

Vietnamese is not only the national language of Vietnam, but also native language for about 4 million Vietnamese living overseas, particularly in Australia, Cambodia, Canada, China, Taiwan, Côte d’Ivoire, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Laos, Martinique, Netherlands, New Caledonia, Norway, Philippines, Russian Federation, Senegal, Thailand, United Kingdom, United States, Vanuatu, and many other countries.

Source: http://www.ethnologue.com/country/VN/languages

Roots of the language:

Linguists have had a lot of trouble classifying the origins of Vietnamese. It has borrowed so much from foreign languages near and far, over the course of so many centuries, that there are several superficial characteristics that might seem to tie it to one group or another. The true roots of the Vietnamese language are still obscured by the huge impact foreign languages have had on its development, and the linguistic community has yet to reach a full consensus.

Chinese has been a major influence on Vietnamese, and so on the surface it appeared to belong to the Sino-Tibetan language family. Further investigation, however, revealed unrelated roots that dated back to an earlier language tradition. It was then thought that Vietnamese was more closely related to Thai, but this too was a surface layer. It is now generally thought that Vietnamese branched from the Austro-Asiatic language family, with its closest relatives being the Khmer language of Cambodia and several minority languages in India, Bangladesh, and other areas of Southeast Asia.

Click here for an interesting research into the roots of Vietnamese, but unfortunately the research is in Vietnamese.

Language characteristics:

Vietnamese, like Chinese, is a tonal language and therefore has a large number of vowels and different ways to pronounce them. Subtly changing the tone of a vowel can change the meaning of the entire word, making the written language at times easier to understand than the spoken one. Also like Chinese, Vietnamese is what is known as an “analytic” language, which is to say that it uses separate words to define tense and gender rather than modifying root words. Both today and in the distant past, Vietnamese has often created new terms by forming compound words. These compound words can even combine native Vietnamese words with borrowings from other languages (there are a high number of Vietnamese-Chinese compounds, for instance).

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vietnamese_phonology

Written form:

The people of Vietnam originally borrowed the character set of the Chinese in order to write things, but after a while they created a variant that modified the characters to reflect their own phonetic vernacular. Educated Vietnamese have traditionally written either in Classical Chinese or using the more complicated Vietnamese variant. Latin script was then introduced to their country in the seventeenth century by Portuguese missionaries, who wanted to Romanize the Vietnamese language in order to help spread Christianity. The Vietnamese alphabet uses Latin letters as a base and modifies them to indicate non-Latin phonetic aspects.

Tone name

Tone ID

Description

Chao Tone Contour

Diacritic

Example

ngang “level”

A1

mid level

˧ (33)

(no mark)

ba ‘three’

huyền “hanging”

A2

low falling (breathy)

˨˩ (21) or (31)

`

 ‘lady’

sắc “sharp”

B1

mid rising, tense

˧˥ (35)

´

 ‘governor’

nặng “heavy”

B2

mid falling, glottalized, short

˧ˀ˨ʔ (3ˀ2ʔ) or ˧ˀ˩ʔ (3ˀ1ʔ)

 ̣

bạ ‘at random’

hỏi “asking”

C1

mid falling(-rising), harsh

˧˩˧ (313) or (323) or (31)

bả ‘poison’

ngã “tumbling”

C2

mid rising, glottalized

˧ˀ˥ (3ˀ5) or (4ˀ5)

˜

 ‘residue’

Once present-day Vietnam became part of the French colonial empire, the Latinized script became the official written language and has remained so even after Vietnam’s independence. The institution of a Latin-based writing system proved to be a two-edged sword for the Vietnamese people; a Latinized alphabet is far easier to learn than a system of Chinese characters, enabling most of Vietnam’s population to become literate, but at the same time distancing them from their traditional literature.

Source: http://www.mapsofworld.com/pages/tongues-of-world/languages/tongues-of-the-world-vietnamese/

Vietnamese dialects:

There are a lot of dialects of Vietnamese spoken, sometimes at even the village level, across the country. Among them, Hanoi dialect is the official variant. It would be very hard to have insights into all of them and in fact there is still no such research taken ever. For a comparison between the regional key dialects (Northen, Hanoi, Southern, Saigon, Central), click here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vietnamese_phonology

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