The Vietnamese Writing System
Modern Vietnamese is written with the Latin alphabet, known as quoc ngu (quốc ngữ) in Vietnamese. Quoc ngu consists of 29 letters. These are:
- The 26 letters of the English alphabet minus f, j, w, and z. ̣ (These letters are, however, found in foreign loanwords.)
- Seven modified letters using diacritics: đ, ă, â, ê, ô, ơ, and ư.These modified letters are all considered separate letters of the alphabet. Vietnamese dictionaries follow the order a - ă - â - b - c - d - đ - e - ê - ... etc, where the extra letters follow the letter on which they are based. The order after o is: o - ô - ơ.The combinations gh, gi, kh, ng, nh, th, and tr have also traditionally been considered separate letters with their own section in the dictionary, but this is less common nowadays.In addition, diacritics are used to indicate the tones of Vietnamese. Tone markings are: a (no mark), à, á, ả, ã, and ạ. When letters are combined with tone markings, some complex diacritics can result, such as: ắ, ở, ẫ, and ể.The following is a sample of Vietnamese in quoc ngu, a rather unexciting story about the increase in tourism to Laos in 2004. There are many words in this passage that are derived from Chinese, but because they are not written in Chinese characters their origin is not immediately apparent. Note that Laos has its own name in Vietnamese, like many countries in Europe and other Asian neighbours, but unlike the names of most other countries which are simply written in English.