Wiktionary:About Vietnamese

This is a Wiktionary policy, guideline or common practices page. Parts of this document might be draft-like but most of this document reflects consensus among editors of Vietnamese entries in en.wikt.
Policies – Entries: CFI - EL - NORM - NPOV - QUOTE - REDIR - DELETE. Languages: LT - AXX. Others: BLOCK - BOTS - VOTES.

Vietnamese is an Austroasiatic language that originated in Vietnam, where it is the national and official language. It is the native language of the Kinh ethnicity, as well as a first or second language for the many ethnic minorities of Vietnam.



Modern Vietnamese is descended from the various dialects of Middle Vietnamese, including those documented in Alexandre de Rhodes' Dictionarium Annamiticum Lusitanum et Latinum, which mainly focuses on Northern Vietnamese. According to Wikipedia, modern Vietnamese is the language as it was spoken from the 19th century to the present. Other early materials of Vietnamese, including Phật thuyết đại báo phụ mẫu ân trọng kinh (佛說大報父母恩重經) and Quốc âm Thi tập (國音詩集), are also in the Northern dialects, as evident in the consistent presence of diphthongs in words that show the conservative monophthongs in the modern Central dialects, as well as usage of the non-Central demonstratives and vocabulary items.

Many Vietnamese words are loaned from Chinese, either with the orthodox Sino-Vietnamese pronunciations (for which use the template {{vi-etym-sino}}) or with non-Sino-Vietnamese pronunciations (for which use {{vi-etym-sino|chinese etymon|hv/nat/preMC=n}}).


  • Proto-Vietnamese: universal nasalization of implosives and neutralization of final palatals, *-l preserved, a full system of demonstratives.
    • Northern Old Vietnamese: the oldest Nôm texts; universally affected by *-l > /j/, the r-series of demonstratives was much dismissed or lost aside from sao, innovated ấy, đấy became more prominent.
      • Northern Middle Vietnamese: the main bulk in de Rhodes (1651); throughoutly affected by lenition.
        • modern Inland dialects: /ɓl/ > /z/, /tl/ > /ʈ/ (> /c/), /ʐ/ > /z/.
        • modern Coastal dialects (?): /ɓl/ > /l/, /tl/ > /ʈ/, preservation of the rhotic.
    • other unattested Old Vietnamese dialects (heterogeneous):
      • other unattested Middle Vietnamese dialects (heterogeneous):
        • modern Central Vietnamese dialects (highly diverse and heterogeneous): descended from various unattested Old Vietnamese dialects, clearly already seperated when Northern Old Vietnamese was spoken. Conservative features: much less affected by lenition, modern conservative monophthongs for Northern Old Vietnamese diphthongs, more common preservation of both medial and final *uː (tui, su, etc.); innovations: aspiration for items where Northern dialects are lenited/plain (phứt vs. bứt, thốt vs. dốt, etc.), *C-l- from conservative *C-r- (trừng vs. sừng, etc.) Some Central Vietnamese dialects had /-j/ as common reflex of *-l, others have /-n/; lost (or reduced the functions of) the đ-, b- and v-series of the demonstratives with n- and r-series fill their functions; unique usage of some Sino-Vietnamese items (mạo, the quân in bầy quân, nhà quân, etc.).
        • modern Southern Vietnamese dialects (very homogenous): possibly originated from a transitional Central dialect (somewhere in Thanh Hoá?) as base with a very thick Northern substrate. All the phonological features above from the Central dialects apply, just much more inconsistent: much more affected by lenition than the Central dialects (but not completely; bét, điêu (hồng)), some items with monophthongs (chí, , etc.), some items with aspiration (phỏng, khảy, etc.), preservation of *uː (bu, thúi, etc.). Keeps rày and sao from the r-series, keeps both the b- and v-series, đó became prominent.
    • Modern Standard Written Vietnamese (chiefly a mixture of Northern and Southern dialects): strongly affected by lenition, lacks r-series aside from sao, ấy presents, competing/interchangeable đấy vs. đó, typically Southern treatment of clusters with *-l- (Northern giời, giồng, nhớn, nhời eclipsed by Southern trời, trồng, lớn, lời), predominantly Northern readings of Sino-Vietnamese morphemes, only a few uniquely Central items entered this written language (đa displaced Northern-Southern da, etc.), a few doublets (Northern giở vs. Southern trở, Northern nhầm vs. Southern lầm, etc.).



The template {{vi-pron}} or {{vi-IPA}} automatically adds several regional pronunciations in IPA.

Parts of speech


Vietnamese is very flexible with parts of speech (PoS). In order to avoid the tedious duplication/triplication/… of information, words should only be listed with their most basic PoS. So Việt Nam would only be listed as a proper noun (meaning "Vietnam") and not as an adjective (meaning "Vietnamese", which is nothing but the attributive use of the noun sense).



Nouns can be added with the template {{vi-noun}}, classifiers can be added with {{vi-noun|cls=classifier}}.

Combinations of classifier + noun should not receive separate entries, and neither should words transparently nominalized with particles like sự.[1] This means we should not have entries at cái bút, con mèo, trái táo, sự giải quyết, etc. but instead at bút, mèo, táo, giải quyết, etc. Exceptions are when such combinations are idiomatic and have a meaning different from what one would naively expect, such as with Trái Đất, đàn nguyệt, sự việc etc.



Many linguistic descriptions of Vietnamese do not distinguish adjectives from verbs, such that the word đẹp for example is analysed as a stative verb meaning "to be beautiful". Here at Wiktionary we follow the tradition of many dictionaries and analyse these stative verbs as adjectives instead. This means đẹp is an adjective meaning "beautiful". Only non-stative verbs should go under the ===Verb=== header.


This government building in Vietnam is signposted as ủy ban nhân dân rather than uỷ ban nhân dân, the spelling that Wiktionary uses as a standard for its lemmas.

The lemma form of Vietnamese words in Wiktionary is the "modern" spelling: always writing i instead of y in monophthongs ( instead of mỹ) and putting the tone accent on the second vowel in oa, uy, oe (khoẻ instead of khỏe). Other spellings should be added as "alternative spelling of", for which the template {{vi-alternative spelling of}} exists. General consensus is that spellings need not be attested, as long as some spelling of the same word is. For consistency, the main lemma at Wiktionary is always found at this standadized spelling, for example:

These spelling reforms have not been widely adopted by Overseas Vietnamese communities and is far from universal within Vietnam: the choice of which orthographic variant to use depends mostly on the user's whim, they could use one variant in a sentence and a different variant the next. When writing for these audiences, you can set your Vietnamese input method to automatically convert to the traditional tone mark placement.

Proper names are not included in the spelling reform, such that the "traditional" spelling can be the main lemma.

As Nôm script (chữ Nôm) was (with decreasing frequency) used until well into the twentieth century, Nôm spellings can be added with {{vi-noun|nôm character}} etc.

Note that these are orthographic variants and have no bearing on the pronunciation of the spoken language, and thus are alternative spellings, their impact on intelligiblity is negligible if not zero. On the other hand, variation such as hạt vs. hột reflects actual spoken variants and is not alternative spellings.



Vietnamese has many reduplication patterns with varying levels of productivity. For a full treatment, see our appendix on the subject. For purposes of inclusion in this Wiktionary:

In the first three cases, cites, quotes, example sentences, etc. should be put at the main lemma (so quotes of đỏ điếc, đỏ đỏ, and đo đỏ should go at đỏ), unless they are to prove the existence of the reduplicated form.

Reduplicants (such as đo in đo đỏ and ngợm in người ngợm) can be given soft redirects with the template {{vi-reduplicant}}.

Chinese vs. Vietnamese


Note that many works written by Vietnamese people (especially older ones) were actually in Chinese. These works are nowadays often transcribed into quốc ngữ, reflecting the Vietnamese pronunciation; this does not change the fact that the language is still Chinese. Quotes from these works and word meanings derived from them should therefore not be added under the Vietnamese-language header.

To clarify, the following is Chinese:

  • 1077, “Nam quốc sơn hà”:
    Nam quốc sơn hà nam đế cư.
    Among the mountains and rivers of the South, the Southern emperor dwells.

The following is actual (Archaic) Vietnamese:

  • 13th century, Trần Nhân Tông, Cư trần lạc đạo phú, "Đệ cửu hội":
    Trà Triệu lão, bánh Thiều Dương, bầy thiền tử hãy còn đói khát.
    Old man Triệu's tea, Thiều Dương cakes, the novices remain hungry and thirsty.

Transliterations of pre-modern Vietnamese written in Nôm characters


Ideally, there would be systems in place for transliterations of Old and Middle Vietnamese texts, in the same line of the usage of Yale with proper tone-marking for Middle Korean among linguists, or the systems that show the various vowel distinctions and prenasalization in Western Old Japanese. However, since these systems do not yet exist for Vietnamese (exept for many spontaneous and very problematic reconstructions in various papers by Vietnamese linguists), the modern Vietnamese descendant forms have to unfortunately be used.


  1. ^ See the discussion at Talk:sự hy sinh.