Updated May 1, 2001
System in Vietnamese (3/4)
Oatlamoe e Giim He-thong Siau-kai
2. Vietnamese phonology
Attention: you will need IPA and Vietnamese fonts to read this paper.
Comparing to Taiwanese, Vietnamese vowels are much more complicated and difficult. The Vietnamese vocalic system was divided into upper and lower vocalics (Thompson 1987:19). The upper vocalics include six vowels, /i µ u e F o/. They are formed relatively high in the mouth and characterized by a three-way position (front, back unrounded, and back rounded). Lower vocalics include five vowels, /E Ť Ś a A/. They are formed relatively low and characterized by a two-way position distinction (front, back).
Table 2. Vietnamese vowels of Hanoi dialect.
/i/ high front or central unrounded vowel. Phonetically, /i/ can be divided into lower high central, upper high front, and lower high front.
Lower high central occurs before /c ř/.
e.g. ich ‘be useful’
Upper high front occurs before [e A p m] in the same syllable.
e.g. biet ‘to know’
chia ‘to divide’
Lower high front occurs elsewhere, i.e. before [j w t n].
e.g. di [dij] ‘go’
chiu [ciw] ‘endure’
/e/ Upper mid front or central unrounded vowel.
Upper mid central occurs before final /c ř/; and after [i] before [w p m t n] in the same syllable.
e.g. ech ‘frog’
Upper mid front occurs elsewhere, i.e. before [j w p m t n].
e.g. de [dej] ‘put, place’
het ‘be used up’
/µ/ lower high back unrounded vowel.
e.g. tu, ‘fourth’
/F/ upper mid back unrounded vowel. For Taiwanese speakers, this vowel sounds like /«/ in Taiwanese, though they are not exactly the same.
e.g. cho, ‘market’
so,m ‘be early’
/u/ high back rounded vowel.
Upper high: before [p m]
e.g. chup ‘seize suddenly’
chum ‘earthenware jar’
Lower high: elsewhere.
e.g. nui ‘mountain’
chua ‘Buddhist temple’
/o/ upper mid back rounded vowel.
Higher mean mid: before [j w]
e.g. toi [toj] ‘I’
co [kow] ‘father's sister’
Mean mid strongly centralized: after /u/.
e.g buon ‘be sad’
Upper mid: elsewhere.
e.g. hom ‘day’
Three of the lower vacalics, i.e. /E Ť a/ are relatively long and appear in final position. The others, /Ś A/ are very short and do not occur finally.
/E/ lower mid front unrounded vowel.
e.g. nghe ‘listen’
/Ť/ lower mid back rounded vowel.
e.g. kho ‘difficult’
/a/ lower low front unrounded vowel. This vowel is similar to father in English or 拜 in Taiwanese.
e.g. bai ‘lesson’
lam ‘to act’
/Ś/ higher low central unrounded vowel.
e.g. may ‘machine’
an ‘to eat’
/A/ relatively low back unrounded vowel. This sound is similar to the vowel in English but.
Lower mid back, strongly centralized: after [w, b, f, v, m], before [j].
e.g. may ‘how many’
Lower mid back: elsewhere.
e.g. tay ‘west’