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Vietnamese (ting Vit) is the national, official language of Vietnam.

It is the native language of Vietnamese people (Kinh), and of about three million Vietnamese residing elsewhere. It also is spoken as a first or second language by many ethnic minorities of Vietnam. It is part of the Austroasiatic language family of which it has, by far, the most speakers (several times that of the other Austroasiatic languages combined).[citation needed] Much of Vietnamese vocabulary has been borrowed from Chinese, and it formerly used a modified set of Chinese characters called ch nm given vernacular pronunciation. As a byproduct of French colonial rule, Vietnamese was influenced by the French language; the Vietnamese alphabet (quc ng) in use today is a Latin alphabet with additional diacritics for tones, and certain letters.

Geographic distribution
This article contains Vietnamese text. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of HanNom and the Vietnamese alphabet.

As the national language of the major ethnic group, Vietnamese is spoken throughout Vietnam by the Vietnamese people, as well as by ethnic minorities. It also is 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 third in Texas, fourth in Arkansas and Louisiana, and fifth in California).[3] It is the sixth most-spoken language in Australia.[4] According to the Ethnologue, Vietnamese also is spoken by substantial numbers of people in Cambodia, Canada, China, Cte d'Ivoire, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Laos, Martinique, the Netherlands, New Caledonia, Norway, the Philippines, the Russian Federation, Senegal, Taiwan, Thailand, the United Kingdom, and Vanuatu.[5]

Linguistic classification
Vietnamese was identified more than 150 years ago[6] as part of the MonKhmer branch of the Austroasiatic language family (a family that also includes Khmer, spoken in Cambodia, as well as various tribal and regional languages, such as the Munda and Khasi languages spoken in eastern India, and others in southern China). Later, Mng was found to be more closely related to Vietnamese than other MonKhmer languages, and a Vit-Mng sub-grouping was established. As data on more MonKhmer languages were acquired, other minority languages (such as Thavng, Cht languages, Hung, etc.) were found to share Vit-Mng characteristics, and the Vit-Mng term was renamed to Vietic. The older term Vit-Mng now refers to a lower sub-grouping (within an eastern Vietic branch) consisting of Vietnamese dialects, Mng dialects, and Ngun (of Qung Bnh Province).[7]

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 written in the standard set of Chinese characters, distinguished as ch nho "Confucian script". In the 13th century, however, the country invented Ch nm, a writing system making use of Chinese characters with phonetic elements in order to better suit the tones associated with the Vietnamese language. Ch nm proved to be much more efficient than classical Chinese characters and consequently was used extensively in the 17th and 18th centuries for poetry and literature. Ch nm was used for administrative purposes during the brief H and Ty Sn 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.


The words in orange belong to the Vietnamese native lexical stock while the ones in green belong to the Sino-Vietnamese vocabulary.

Like other east Asian countries, as a result of close ties with China for thousands of years, much of the Vietnamese lexicon relating to science and politics is derived from Chinese - see SinoVietnamese vocabulary. At least 60% of the lexical stock has Chinese roots, not including naturalized word borrowings from China, although many compound words are composed of native Vietnamese words combined with Chinese borrowings[citation needed]. One can usually distinguish between a native Vietnamese word and a Chinese borrowing if it can be reduplicated or its meaning does not change when the tone is shifted.[clarification needed] As a result of French occupation, Vietnamese has since had many words borrowed from the French language, for example c ph (from French caf). Nowadays, many new words are being added to the language's lexicon due to heavy Western cultural influence; 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 phn mm, which literally means "soft part").


Main article: Vietnamese phonology Vowels

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