Vietnamese Language and Alphabet

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Vietnamese Language and Alphabet

Vietnamese is a language spoken by about 82 million people mainly in Vietnam. There are also Vietnamese speakers in the USA, China, Cambodia, France, Australia, Laos, Canada and a number of other countries.

Vietnamese was originally written with a Siniform (Chinese-like) script known as Chữ-nôm. During the 17th century, Roman Catholic missionaries introduced a Latin-based orthography for Vietnamese, Quốc Ngữ (national language), which has been used ever since. Until the early 20th century, Quốc Ngữ was used in parallel with Chữ-nôm.

Today only Quốc Ngữ is used.


Vietnamese alphabet and pronunciation

Vietnamese Alphabet


  • The letters “F”, “J”, “W” and “Z” are not part of the Vietnamese alphabet, but are used in foreign loan words. “W” (vê-đúp)” is sometimes used in place of “Ư” in abbreviations. In informal writing, “W”, “F”, and “J” are sometimes used as shorthands for “QU”, “PH” and “GI” respectively.
  • The digraph “GH” and the trigraph “NGH” are basically replacements for “G” and “NG” that are used before “I”, in order to avoid confusion with the “GI” digraph. For historical reasons, they are also used before “E” or “Ê”.
  • G = [ʒ] before i, ê, and e, [ɣ] elsewhere
  • D and GI = [z] in the northern dialects (including Hanoi), and [j] in the central, southern and Saigon dialects.
  • V is pronounced [v] in the northern dialects, and [j] in the southern dialects.
  • R = [ʐ, ɹ] in southern dialects

Vietnamese is a tonal language with 6 tones.