Vietnam Embassy in Stockholm

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The Vietnamese language belongs to a language group which was establishes quite along time ago in East Asia.

However changes in material conditions over many centuries and the increasing demands of cultural life incrusted the development of the Vietnamese language, both spoken and written. While adopting many elements of Chances language, the Vietnamese people creatively Vietnamezed many Chinese words, and they gradually became Han-Viet Chinese-Vietnamese), incorporated alongside purely Vietnamese words. The Vietnamization was not only applied to the Chinese language however, but also to the French and other languages to create a great, diversified, vital vocabulary for the Vietnamese language.


Chu Nom: At the time when the multi-ethnic Vietnamese nation with its own cultural identify was taking shape, a great monarchy was established in the North and it began a southward expansion. The Vietnamese nation had to undergo thousands of years of Northern domination. That was why for a long time Chinese was used as the official written language. In addition, local mandarins of various levels were allowed to sit for examinations in the Northern Court (China), and were recruited in to the administrative machinery of foreign invaders. Based on the Chinese characters, the

Vietnamese worked out a unique writing system of their own called chu nom. In chu nom, two Chinese characters were usually combined; one of which indicated the meaning of the Vietnamese word, while the other indicated pronunciation.

Chu nom was welcomed and widely used by the masses in their daily life as well as in transcribing their national history and literature. According to researchers chu nom came into being very early, probably around the end of the Northern domination period and early in the 10th century (the independence period). The oldest, true evidence of chu nom currently available is a stele set up in the Bao An Pagoda in Yen Lang, Vinh Phu province dating back to 1209 (the Ly dynasty). However not until the 13th century under the Tran dynasty was chu nom systematized and used in literature.

Nguyen Thuyen (alias Han Thuyen) and Nguyen Si Co wrote poems in chu nom. Ho Qui Ly (1400) made Chinese textbooks translated in to Vietnamese using the chu nom writing system. He also used chu nom to write Royal proclamations and ordinances. In the 15th century, Nguyen Trai, a national hero, used chu nom to write 250 poems in

Quoc Am Thi Tap (Collection of Poems in the National Language). The chu nom literature was developed unceasingly from the 16th century onwards, and it totally dominated national literary circles. Worthy of note were poems written by Ho Xuan Huong, Ba Huyen Thanh Quan (the wife of Chief of Thanh Quan district), Cao Ba Quat, and Kieu story of Nguyen Du, and the translation of Chinh Phu Ngam (Lament of a Wife Whose Husband has Gone to War) by Doan Thi Diem. In parallel with the development of the nation, the Vietnamese language was constantly developed and improved. Around the 17th century, western missionaries came to Vietnam and learned Vietnamese in order to disseminate Catholicism. They developed a Romanced script to represent THE QUOC NGU or national language in order to translate prayer books and catechisms. A number of Portuguese and Italian missionaries used quoc ngu to compile catechisms and Portuguese - Vietnamese and Vietnamese - Portuguese dictionaries. Based on those works Alexandre de Rhodes, a French Jesuit missionary, published the Vietnamese - Portuguese-Latin dictionary and a fundamental catechism in Rome in 1649-1651. After Alexandre de Rhodes, quoc ngu was the further improved by foreign missionaries and Vietnamese scholars. In 1867, some colonial schools began to teach quoc ngu. But not until early in the 20th century was quoc ngu widely use in the local primary education system. The coming into being of quoc ngu constituted a new step in the development of the Vietnamese language. While Romanization received only reserved welcome in other Asian counties, it recorded an extraordinary success in Vietnam, creating favorable conditions for cultural and intellectual development