History of writing in Vietnam
Spoken and written Vietnamese today uses the Latin-script based Vietnamese alphabet, the lexicon altogether containing native Vietnamese words derived from the Latin script, Chinese-Vietnamese words (Hán-Việt), Nôm words (native Vietnamese), together called Hán-Nôm, and other adapted foreign words. Historic Vietnamese literature was written by scholars in Nôm and before that Hán (Chinese characters).
During ancient times, the ancestors of the Vietnamese were considered to have been Proto-Austroasiatic (also called Proto-Mon–Khmer) speaking people, possibly traced to the ancient Dong Son culture. Modern linguists describe Vietnamese as having lost some Proto-Austroasiatic phonological and morphological features that the original Vietnamese language had. This was noted in the linguistic separation of Vietnamese from Vietnamese-Muong roughly one thousand years ago. From 111 BC up to the 20th century, Vietnamese literature was written in Traditional Chinese (Vietnamese: cổ văn 古文 or văn ngôn 文言), using Chữ Hán (Chinese characters) and then also Nôm from the 10th century to 20th century (Chinese characters adapted for vernacular Vietnamese).
Nom had widespread use in the 10th century, and was begun to be used as early as the 8th century in prose fiction and poetry in Vietnamese, but was never officiated. Nom used Chinese characters for Sino-Vietnamese vocabulary and an adapted set of characters to transcribe native Vietnamese, with Vietnamese approximations of Middle Chinese pronunciations. The two concurrent scripts existed until the era of French Indochina when the Latin alphabet chữ quốc ngữ gradually became the current written medium of literature. In the past, Sanskrit and Indic texts also contributed to Vietnamese literature either from religious ideas from Mahayana Buddhism, or from historical influence of Champa and Khmer.
In Vietnamese, Chinese characters go by several names, but all mean the same script:
- Chữ Hán (𡨸漢): "words of Hán", same meaning with Hán tự.
- Hán tự (漢字): "Hán characters/words"; also pronounced as Hanzi in Standard Chinese, Hanja in Korean, and Kanji in Japanese. Meaning Chinese characters.
- Hán văn (漢文): "Han script" or "Han literature", also pronounced as Hanwen in Standard Chinese, Hanmun in Korean, and Kanbun in Japanese. Meaning Classical Chinese.
- Chữ nho (𡨸儒 "words of Confucians").
Sino-Vietnamese (Vietnamese: từ Hán Việt 詞漢越 "Sino-Vietnamese words") refer to cognates or terms borrowed from Chinese into the Vietnamese language, usually preserving the phonology of the original Chinese that was introduced to Vietnamese. As for syntax and vocabulary this Sino-Vietnamese language was no more different from the Chinese of Beijing than medieval English Latin was different from the Latin of Rome. Its major influence comes from Vietnamese Literary Chinese (Chữ Hán).
The term Chữ Nôm (𡨸喃 "Southern characters") refers to the former transcription system for vernacular Vietnamese-language texts, written using a mixture of original Chinese characters and locally coined Nôm characters not found in Chinese to phonetically represent local Vietnamese words, meanings and their sound. However the character set for chữ Nôm is extensive, containing up to 37,000 characters, and many are both arbitrary in composition and inconsistent in pronunciation.
Hán Nôm (漢喃 "Hán and chữ Nôm characters") may mean both Hán and Nôm taken together as in the research remit of Hanoi's Hán-Nôm Institute, or refer to texts which are written in a mixture of Hán and Nôm, or some Hán texts with parallel Nôm translations. There is a significant orthographic overlap between Hán and Nôm and many characters are used in both Hán and Nôm with the same reading. It may be simplest to think of Nôm as the Vietnamese extension of Han characters. The term chữ quốc ngữ ("national language script" or 𡨸國語) means Vietnamese in the romanized or transliteration script.
Chinese characters are specifically called Chữ Hán (𡨸漢), Chữ Nho (𡨸儒) or Hán tự (漢字, lit. 'Han Character') in Vietnamese. Chữ Hoa or Tiếng Hoa is commonly used to describe Mandarin Chinese, as well as Tiếng Tàu for Chinese in general. Possibly even a thousand years earlier, in the late first millennium BC, Yuè elites in what is now southern China may have already adopted a form of writing based on Chinese characters to record terms from their own languages. During the Chinese rule from 111 BC to 905 AD, Chinese characters had been used as the official writing of the region. Local texts written in Chinese probably also included some characters adapted to represent Proto-Viet-Mường sounds, usually personal names or Vietic toponyms that had no Chinese equivalent. According to some scholars, the adoption Chữ Hán or Hán tự had been started by Shi Xie (137–226), but many disagree. The first wholly vernacular Vietnamese writing transcribed in Chinese characters started in late-Tang period, around ninth century by Liêu Hữu Phương.
These writings were at first indistinguishable from contemporaneous classical Chinese works produced in China, Korea or Japan. These include the first poems in Literary Chinese by the monk Khuông Việt (匡越), the Nam Quốc Sơn Hà (南國山河), and many Confucian, Daoist, and Buddhist scriptures.
By 1174, Chinese characters Chữ Hán had become the official writing script of the court, mainly used by administration and literati, and continued to serve this role until mid-19th century when the traditional writing system was abolished in during French colonial rule, where the French education system which was taught in transliterated chữ quốc ngữ.
Sino-Vietnamese readings of Chữ HánEdit
In Vietnam, Chữ Hán texts were read with the vocalization of Chinese text is called Hán văn (漢文), similar to Chinese on-yomi in Japanese kanbun (漢文), or the assimilated vocalizations in Korean hanmun (한문/漢文). This occurred alongside the diffusion of Sino-Vietnamese vocabulary into vernacular Vietnamese, and created a Sinoxenic dialect. The Sinologist Edwin G. Pulleyblank was the one of the first linguists to actively employ "Sino-Vietnamese" to recover earlier histories of China.
From the 13th century, the dominance of Chinese characters began to be challenged by Chữ Nôm, a different set of writing system created based on the Chinese script to transcribe native Vietnamese words. These were even more difficult than Chinese characters themselves. Nôm script borrowed Chinese characters in their phonetic and semantic values to create new characters.
Whilst designed for native Vietnamese words, Nôm required the user to have a fair knowledge of chữ Hán, and thus chữ Nôm was used primarily for literary writings by cultural elites (such as the poetry of Nguyễn Du and Hồ Xuân Hương), while almost all other official writings and documents continued to be written in classical Chinese until the 20th century.
Though technically different from chữ Hán, it is simplest to think of it as a derivation of chữ Hán for vernacular Vietnamese - with modifications thereof as well as new Vietnamese-coined logograms. Together, they are called Hán Nôm. Unfortunately, the invention of this new script, although was in practice, was deemed as an inferior method of allowing mass communication and transcription of Vietnamese speech, with the Latin script often seen as the more popular method for vernacular Vietnamese.
Quốc Âm Tân TựEdit
Quoc Am Tan Tu (Chữ Nôm: 國音新字), litterally means new script of national sound (language), is a proposal of Vietnamese writing in the mid-19th century. At the Institute for the Study of Han Nom , two versions are still kept. An old manuscript (four pages each) of the same document called Quoc Am Tan Tu (國音新字) written on this type of script. There is no information in the text of the Quoc Am Tan Tu that indicates the specific date and year this work was written. Based on the fact that in the preface of the work the last stroke of the character "華" (Hoa) has been ommitted due to naming taboo), it can be guessed that this text was written during the reign of Emperor Thieu Tri (Emperor Thiệu Trị's mother's name was "Hồ Thị Hoa" 胡氏華). At the end of the text's preface, there is a line "五星聚斗南城居士阮子書" (Ngũ Tinh Tụ Đẩu Nam Thành Cư Sĩ Nguyễn Tử Thư). Through this inscription, it can be known that the author of Quoc Am Tan Tu is a layman with the surname Nguyen (阮) in Nam Dinh citadel (南定) with the nickname Ngu Tinh Tu Dau (五星聚斗).
Quoc Am Tan Tu is a type of phonetic script made from the strokes of Chinese characters and Nom characters (similar to Hiragana and Katakana of Japanese or Chinese zhuyin) Based on the pronunciation of Vietnamese, there are 22 "cán tự" 幹字 and 110 "chi tự" 枝字 ("chan" means trunk, "chi" means branches). The shank is used to record the first consonant, and the chi is used to write the rhyme. Each character is named with a word that rhymes "ông" with the first consonant being the first consonant that the character signifies, for example, the word "đ" denotes the consonant "đ" is named "đông" ( similar to today, the Vietnamese call the consonant "đ" the sound "đờ"). Quoc Am Tan Tu does not distinguish between "d" and "gi" as in Quoc Ngu (possibly because the author followed the Northern accent when "d" and "gi" sound almost the same). There is a shank used to record the initial consonant /ʔ/, which is named "ông".
The author of Quoc Am Tan Tu used four pen strokes: (一), (丨), (丶), (丿) (comma stroke also has a variation of "㇏") to create the characters. and self. Not every single word has all four strokes, there are single letters that contain only two or three strokes, but no matter how many strokes a single letter has, the total number of strokes, regardless of the type of stroke, in a single letter. those are all four.
Quoc Am Tan Tu uses the traditional "tone" division, the tones are divided into four categories: "bình" 平, "thượng" 上, "khứ" 去, "nhập" 入. Each type is further divided into two degrees “yin” 陰 and “yang” 陽. There are eight tones in total:
Âm bình or yin ping 陰平: is the "thanh ngang" as it is called today.
Dương Bình or yang ping 陽平: is Thanh Huyền as it is called today.
âm thượng or yin shang 陰上: is the "thanh hỏi as it is called today.
dương thượng or yang shang 陽上: is the "thanh ngã as it is called today.
Âm khứ or yin qu 陰去: is the tone "thanh sắc" in words that, when written in the Quốc ngữ script, do not end with one of the four letters "c", "ch", "p", "t".
Dương khứ or yang qu 陽去: is a "thanh nặng" in words that, when written in the Latin script, do not end with one of the four letters "c", "ch", "p", "t".
âm nhập or yin ru 陰入: is the "thanh sắc" in words that, when written in the Latin script, end with one of the four letters “c”, “ch”, “p”, “t”.
“Dương nhập or yang ru” 陽入: is a heavy bar in words that, when written in national language, end with one of the four letters “c”, “ch”, “p”, “t”.
Tones of "âm/yin" degree are marked with a small semi-circle, and tones of "dương/yang" degree are marked with a small circle mark. To indicate serenity, the tone is placed next to the "left foot" of the word, with the bar mark placed next to the "left shoulder" of the word, with the accent bar placed next to the "right shoulder" of the text. , with the accent bar placed next to the “right foot” of the text.
Quoc Am Tan Tu can be written vertically or horizontally like Han characters and Nom characters, and is a set of phonetic scripts created by the Vietnamese themselves (when Chu Nom is a logographic created by the Vietnamese, Quoc Ngu is a phonetic script created by a foreigner). Unfortunately, when Quoc Am Tan Tu was born, it didn't have enough time to be completed and popularized like Kana in Japan, because the political and social situation of Vietnam was too complicated at that time due to the gradual weakening of Nguyen rule and the beginning of the French invasion.
Chữ Quốc ngữEdit
Latin script of Vietnamese language, also called as Chữ quốc ngữ is the currently-used script. It was first developed by Portuguese missionaries in the 17th century, based on the pronunciation of Portuguese language and alphabet. For 200 years, chu quoc ngu was mainly used within the Catholic community. However, during French administration, the alphabet was further modified and then later made a part of compulsory education in 1910.
Meanwhile, the use of classical Chinese and its written form chu Hán started to decline. At this time there were briefly four competing writing systems in Vietnam; chữ Hán, chữ Nôm, chữ quốc ngữ, and French. Although the first romanized script chữ quốc ngữ newspaper, Gia Dinh Bao, was founded in 1865, Vietnamese nationalists continued to use chữ Nôm until after the First World War.
BBC journalist Nguyễn Giang noted that while the early Christian missionaries are credited with creating the Vietnamese alphabet, what they did wasn't unique or difficult and would have been done later without them had they not created it. Giang further stated that the main reason for the popularisation of the Latin alphabet in the Nguyễn dynasty (the French protectorates of Annam and Tonkin) was because of the pioneering efforts by intellectuals from French Cochinchina combined with the progressive and scientific policies of the French government in French Indochina, that created the momentum for the usage of chữ Quốc ngữ to spread. Giang stated that the Tonkin Free School only removed the stigma against using chữ Quốc ngữ for the Nguyễn dynasty elites, but didn't actually popularise it.
An important reason why Latin script became the standard writing system of Vietnam but did not do so in Cambodia and Laos that were both dominated by the French for a similar amount of time and existed within the same colonial framework has to do with the fact that the Emperors of the Nguyễn dynasty heavily promoted its usage. According to the historian Liam Kelley in his 2016 work "Emperor Thành Thái’s Educational Revolution" neither the French nor the revolutionaries had enough power to spread the usage of chữ Quốc ngữ down to the village level. It was by imperial decree in 1906 that the Thành Thái Emperor parents could decide whether their children will follow a curriculum in Hán văn (漢文) or Nam âm (南音, "Southern sound", the contemporary Nguyễn dynasty name for chữ Quốc ngữ). This decree was issued at the same time when other social changes, such as the cutting of long male hair, were occurring.
As a result of extensive education in chữ quốc ngữ, Vietnamese unversed in Chinese characters or Chinese-origin words are unable to read earlier Vietnamese texts written in Hán-Nôm. The Hán Nôm Institute is the national centre for academic research into Hán-Nôm literature. Although there have been movements to restore Hán-Nôm in Vietnam, via education in schools or usage in every day life, almost all ancient poems and literary texts have been translated to and converted to Chữ Quốc Ngữ, which makes the need for literacy in Hán-Nôm almost obsolete. However, many Vietnamese find it difficult to detach themselves from their Hán-Nôm legacy, and may still feel an intimate relationship with Chinese characters.
Sanskrit, Cham, Khmer and Indic scriptsEdit
Sanskrit texts have often been passed over and translated to Vietnamese indirectly from Chinese texts via religious teachings from Buddhist sectors, or directly, such as from Champa and Khmer. One of the most significant landmarks still remaining to this day is the ancient Mỹ Sơn Hindu Temple which has Sanskrit and Champa inscriptions. The Võ Cạnh inscription is also the oldest Sanskrit inscription ever found in Southeast Asia, a legacy of Lâm Ấp, Champa, and Funan kingdoms. The most well-known modern Vietnamese phrase with Sanskrit phrase is from common religious Buddhist mantra नमोऽमिताभाय/ Namo Amitābhāya (Nam mô A Di Đà Phật / 南無阿彌陀佛), meaning, "Hail Buddha of Infinite Light" (translated directly from Sanskrit) or "I pay homage to the Enlightened One immeasurable" / "I turn to rely on the Enlightened One immeasurable". Additionally, many sites in Vietnam have names that are Khmer in origin, from when the land was under Funan and Chenla reign, etc. For example, ស្រុកឃ្លាំង Srok Khleang is written as Sóc Trăng in Vietnamese. There is Khmer cultural influence in Mekong Delta, Vietnam.
Tai Dam scriptEdit
The Tai Viet script is the abugida used by the Tai Dam people and other Southwest Tai-speaking peoples in Northern Vietnam, from 16th century to present-day, derived from the Fakkham script of Tai Lanna people.
Modern usage of Chữ Hán and Chữ NômEdit
Individual Chữ Hán are still written by calligraphers for special occasions such as the Vietnamese New Year, Tết. They are still present outside Buddhist temples and are still studied for scholarly and religious purposes.
Since the mid-1990s, there has been a resurgence in the teaching of Chinese characters, both for Chữ Hán and the additional characters used in Chữ Nôm. This is to enable the study of Vietnam's long history as well as cultural synthesis and unification.
Additionally, many Vietnamese may study Han characters to learn other languages such as Chinese, Japanese, and sometimes Korean. This can make it easier to study these languages due to the high concentration of Chinese-cognate words. Hence, they also end up with some measure of fluency with Hán-Nôm characters.
The significance of the characters has occasionally entered western depiction of Vietnam, especially since French rule. For instance, novelist E. M. Nathanson mentions chu Hán in A Dirty Distant War (1987).
It is known that Ho Chi Minh wrote in a mixed Vietnamese Latin–Hán-Nôm script. In light of the history of Vietnamese Hán-Nôm, there have been successful movements restoring the script for transcribing native Vietnamese such as the Han Nom Revival Committee of Vietnam (委班復生漢喃越南, http://www.hannom-rcv.org/).
|Hindu-Arabic Numerals||Chinese characters||Sino-Vietnamese pronunciation||Chinese (Mandarin) Pinyin for comparison||Chữ Nôm and modern chữ Quốc ngữ||French|
|10,000||萬||Vạn||Wàn||𨑮 𠦳||Mười Nghìn||dix mille|
|1,000,000||百萬||Bách vạn||Bǎi Wàn||兆||Triệu||un million|
From the Sino-Vietnamese readings, some words have ended up in common vernacular Vietnamese. For example, "nhất" (一) has come to mean "first" and "tứ" (四) has come to mean fourth in vernacular Vietnamese. Modern Vietnamese can be thought of as a romanised or transliteration rendering of common Hán-Nôm words, that has since been used as the main medium of language in Vietnam.
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- Asian & Pacific quarterly of cultural and social affairs – Volumes 20–21 Cultural and Social Centre for the Asian and Pacific Region 1988 – Page 7 "... known script that was used by the Vietnamese, the "Southerners," to transcribe their language, in contrast to the Chinese ideographs (called chữ Hán i.e., "Chinese script," or chữ nho i.e. "Confucian script") of the "Northerners," the Chinese."
- Vietnam 10 – Page 522 Nick Ray, Yu-Mei Balasingamchow, Iain Stewart – 2009 "For centuries, the Vietnamese language was written in standard Chinese characters (chữ nho). Around the 13th century, the Vietnamese devised their own writing system called chữ nôm (or just nôm), which was created by combining two Chinese words or by using single Chinese characters for their phonetic value. Both writing systems were in use until the 20th century – official business and scholarship was conducted in chữ nho, while chữ nôm was used for popular literature. The Latin-based quốc ngữ script, widely used since WWI, was developed in the 17th century by Alexandre de Rhodes (see the boxed text, right). Quốc ngữ served to undermine the position of Mandarin officials, whose power was based on traditional scholarship in chữ nho and chữ nôm, scripts that were largely inaccessible to the masses."
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Because the Chinese characters were pronounced according to Vietnamese preferences, and because certain stylistic modifications occurred over time, later scholars came to refer to a hybrid 'Sino-Vietnamese' (Han-Viet) language. However, there would seem to be no more justification for this term than for a Fifteenth Century 'Latin-English' versus the Latin written contemporaneously in Rome.
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The linguistic defects are the same as those noted throughout this book for Chinese characters generally, caused by the large number of tokens (some twenty thousand in chữ nôm), the arbitrariness of their composition, and the inconsistent way the units and their components connect with the sounds of the language.
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A large portion of the lexicon of the Vietnamese language in recent centuries derives from Hán. Consequently, there is a significant orthographic overlap between Hán and Nôm, which is to say that many characters are used in both with the same meaning. This is primarily a lexical, not a syntactic, phenomenon, although Hán grammar did influence Nôm prose to a relatively significant extent (Xtankevich 1986).
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No work of literature from the brush of a Vietnamese survives from the period of Chinese rule prior to the rise of the first national dynasties; and from the Dinh, Former Le, and Ly dynasties, all that remains are some poems by Lac Thuan (end of the tenth century), Khuông Việt (same period), and Ly Thuong Kiet (last quarter of the eleventh century). Those competent to judge consider these works to be quite up to the best standards of Chinese literature.
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Sino-Vietnamese literature was written in Chinese characters (chữ nho). Dominated by Confucian and Buddhist texts, it was governed by strict rules of metre and verse. Modern Vietnamese literature (quoc am) includes anything recorded in ...
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Although traditional Vietnamese scholars called Sino-Vietnamese literature 'serious literature' and nôm literature 'the literature of pleasure', this dichotomy is obviously misleading.
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Sifting out Sinitic from native vocabulary is more of a problem in Vietnamese than in Japanese or even in Korean because of the longer history of contact between Chinese and Vietnamese, and because of the intimacy (most Vietnamese would...) Vietnam was under Chinese 'suzerainty'... During this long period, the Vietnamese language itself was overshadowed and to some extent replaced by Chinese, opening the door to thousands of Chinese terms...
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- Simon Eliot, Jonathan Rose A Companion to the History of the Book – Page 124 2009 "The first publication in quoc ngu was the first Vietnamese newspaper, Gia-dinh báo (Daily Paper, 1865), ... During World War I, the colonial administration encouraged quoc ngu journalism for propaganda purposes, and as a result journals"
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- Simon Eliot, Jonathan Rose A Companion to the History of the Book Page 124 – 2011 "Since the use of quoc ngu for education has rendered most Vietnamese now incapable of reading earlier Vietnamese ... an increasing commitment to the publication of translations from Chinese or of transcriptions from nom texts to render ..."
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- Kornicki, Peter (2017), "Sino-Vietnamese literature", in Li, Wai-yee; Denecke, Wiebke; Tian, Xiaofen (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Classical Chinese Literature (1000 BCE-900 CE), Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 568–578, ISBN 978-0-199-35659-1
- Li, Yu (2020). The Chinese Writing System in Asia: An Interdisciplinary Perspective. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-00-069906-7.
- 漢字 Hán tự: A Vietnamese-Chinese wordlist (via Wayback Machine)
- Từ điển Hán Việt Thiều Chửu (漢越辭典) (via Wayback Machine)
- Hán Việt Từ Điển Trích Dẫn, Vietnamese Han character dictionary
- Thiều Chửu dictionary
- vi:Chữ viết tiếng Việt (contains additional info that has yet to be translated into the English wiki)