More Language Notes (VN Diary No. 16)

I learned something important about Vietnamese phonology yesterday. A couple of things, actually. First, each Vietnamese syllable can be analyzed into five parts: tone, initial consonant, semivowel, dipthong, and terminal consonant. Not every syllable has all the elements, but understnadin this can help understand pronunciation by a careful "sound out" practice and this is particularly important because Vietnamese, for me, is difficult to produce; that is, my mouth has not been trained to make the right shapes. Second, Vietnamese syllables that end in a consonant are not asperated whereas those that end with a vowel are. This is simply not something an Englsih speaker notices, so it too is a useful bit of information in learning the language.

Author: jd

Joseph Duemer is Professor of Literature at Clarkson University in northern New York state. His most recent book of poems is Magical Thinking from Ohio State University Press. Since the mid-1990s he has spent a good deal of time in Vietnam, mostly Hanoi. He lives with his wife Carole & five terriers (four Jack Russells & one Patterdale) on the stony bank of the Raquette River in South Colton.