Morphosyntax of the Vietnamese Language

Morphosyntax of the Vietnamese Language

The Vietnamese Language is known before as Annamese, when the country was under the French power - Morphosyntax of the Vietnamese Language introduction. This is the common spoken language of the country, and is the mother tongue of the people of Vietnam, who makes up more than 80% of Vietnam’s population. The Vietnamese Language can be associated in the Viet-Muong class of the Mon-Khmer branch, which is in turn associated to the Austro-Asiatic language family. The Austro-Asiatic family is of the Southeast Asian origin, and has spread throughout parts in Bangladesh as well as India.

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The Vietnamese Language is one of the few who has a long recorded history and to have an official status. This language has been formed under the influence of other cultures, wherein most of the vocabulary here has been borrowed from the Chinese. The French occupation has also brought enrichment to the Vietnamese language, not only in the vocabulary, but also in the syntax by the loan translation.

When characterizing the Language type of this Vietnamese language, it is considered to be an isolating type, which is characterized by several qualities and specifications. These qualities differentiate them from other languages, such as the languages that it has commonly rooted from. In the case of the Vietnamese language, it was the Chinese.

The first one is that it is considered as a monosyllabic language. It is predominantly composed of words which have only one syllable. But it doesn’t mean that all of the words on the Vietnamese language are monosyllabic. It is normally most of the words are constituted of a single syllable. Because of this, the Vietnamese language is said to be classified as a tonal language, wherein it uses tones to distinguish it from other languages. It uses tone, a phonological characteristic of languages, to distinguish its words (Nguyen, Nguyen, Romary, & Vu, 2005).

The following are the 22 consonants of the Vietnamese Phonology. The consonant /c/ is often affricated [ṯʃ], but is not necessarily the same with the English correspondence, [tʃʰ].

Bilabial     Labio-dental     Dental/Alveolar     Retroflex     Palatal     Velar     Glottal

Stop        unaspirated     p                    t                                                                          c            k           (ʔ)

aspirated                                                             t̺ʰ

glottalized       ɓ                                                 ɗ

Affricate                                                                                                             ʈʂ

Fricative                          f                    (vʲ)                         s                    ʂ   r                              x    ɣ         h      Nasal                      m                                                 n                                             ɲ               ŋ

Approximant   central       w                                                                                           j

lateral                                                         l̻


When it comes to the alignment system of the Vietnamese Language, it is difficult to classify whether it is in the ergative absolutive form, nominative accusative for or the active stative form. This is because the language follows a topic-comment structure. Looking closely at each forms of alignment, it is clear that Vietnamese language doesn’t fit or match several of its descriptions. The Nominative Accusative alignment considers the Subject argument of an intransitive verb as an Agent argument of transitive verbs, which makes the Object argument unique or distinct. Because of this, languages which are Nominative Accusative in alignment can often detransitivize the verbs which are transitive, by demoting the Agent argument and promoting the Object argument to become the actual subject of the sentence.

On the other hand, Ergative Absolutive language alignment considers the intransitive argument like a transitive Object argument, wherein the Agent argument is separated. Languages which follow the Ergative Absolutive alignment can detransitivize transitive verbs by promoting the Agent argument to become the Subject while demoting the Object argument. While for the Active Stative arguments, there is a similarity between the Agent argument of transitives and the transitive Object argument. Because of this, there has been certain degree of irregularities. The intransitives are not uniform in the behavior, thus the criteria of designating the verbs in various classes differs from every language. The adjustments could be made by fixing it lexically depending on the verb being used or chosen by the speaker depending on the degree of the verbal action being used, or even the degree of sympathy of the speaker.


Front Central Back

High                    i          ɨ         u

Upper Mid          e         ə:        o

Lower Mid         ɛ         ɜ         ɔ

Low                            ɐ / ɐ:

The Vietnamese vocabulary contains several elements which make up the Vietnamese Language. These include simple words which are primarily monosyllabic, reduplicated words which are made by repeating or duplicating words, compound words composed of semantic coordination, compound words composed by semantic subordination, compound words wherein the syllable combination is not recognizable, and lastly, complex words which are phonetically transcribed and has roots to foreign languages and terminologies (Vietnam National University, 2006).

Being classified as an isolating language, the Vietnamese language commonly follows a certain word order. The normal format that it usually follows is the S-V-O or the Subject-Verb-Object order. The language uses only prepositions and has no use of postpositions. The order is usually that the noun follows or precedes the adjectives and the genitive follows the governing noun (Omniglot Writing Systems, 2004).

The syntactic structure of the Vietnamese language follows a certain pattern which is the topic-comment structure, wherein it belongs to a language class of topic-prominent languages, wherein topics are embedded or coded in the surface structure which is done to denote control and easy referencing or co-referentiality. The basic type of sentence is the “double subject” type, where it is considered as a topic-oriented format. On the other hand, the subject-oriented forms just like the passive and “dummy” subject are considered to be rare or non-existent in this language for.

Vietnamese language is a unique type of language, which clearly shows the rich culture of its people. The language itself is a mixture of the interventions from other cultures which made it more appealing and unique in its own sense. It is an aspect of the Vietnamese society which the people can truly be proud of for sure.

References: Online. (2006). Vietnamese Language.   Retrieved June 6, 2007, from

Encyclopedia Britannica Online. (2006). Vietnamese Language.   Retrieved June 6, 2007, from

Gecko’s Adventures. (2007). Vietnam. Gecko Grassroots Adventure   Retrieved June 6, 2007, from

Nguyen, T. B., Nguyen, T. M. H., Romary, L., & Vu, X. L. (2005). Lexical descriptions for Vietnamese language processing.   Retrieved June 6, 2007, from

Omniglot Writing Systems. (2004). Vietnamese (tiếng Việt).   Retrieved June 6, 2007, from

University, A. S. (2006). Vietnamese Language Heritage.   Retrieved June 6, 2007, from

Vietnam National University. (2006). Some Issues In Vietnamese Language Processing.   Retrieved June 6, 2007, from

Yamada Language Center. (2005). The Grammar of Volapük.   Retrieved June 6, 2007, from

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