Meanderings of an Amateur Linguist

Just me and my languages – a dangerous combonation

Archive for November, 2008

Vietnamese: Lesson 1 / Tiếng Việt: Bài Một

Posted by ILuvEire on November 23, 2008

1 Pronunciation


Quổc Ngũ Letter Sound Name
B ɓ – a regular b, but it sounds like you’re trying to swallow it
C k
Ch c – say cute
D j – sounds like the English y
Đ ɗ – sounds like a normal d, just try to swallow it đê
G ɣ – pronounced similar to the word loch but voiced giê
Gi j – like English y. The i is silent unless it’s the only vowel
H h hát
K k ka
Kh x – say loch or kʰ – k with air coming out.
L l e-lờ
M m em-mờ
N n en-nờ
Nh ɲ – onion
Ng/Ngh ŋ – sing
P p – be careful not to aspirate
Ph f
Qu kw – always spelled with a u quy
R ʐ – put your mouth in the position to say r, but say z instead. er-rờ
S ʂ – put your mouth in the position to say y, but say s instead. ét-sì
T t – careful not to aspirate!
Th tʰ – English t with extra air after it
Tr ʈ – put your tongue in position to say r, but say t instead
V j – like English y
X s ích-xi

The consonants aren’t so bad. There are very few consonant clusters, so it’s no big deal.


Quổc Ngũ Letter Pronunciation
A ɐ – pronounced like cat (In American English) but a little farther back in the mouth
Ă a – father
 ə – about
E ɛ day without the y-sound at the end
Ê e – dead
I i – me
O ɔ bought
Ô o – no
Ơ ɤ – pronounced just like ô, but with your lips un-rounded.
U u – moo
Ư ɯ – NOT W, pronounced just like U but without the rounded lips.
Y i – me

Remember, Ă, Â, Ê, Ô, Ư, and Ơ are all separate letters, not just A, E, O, or U with a diacritic.

Y and I are the exact same. Usually Y is used for Sino-Vietnamese vocabulary (vocabulary from Chinese), but it can be used more or less randomly. Like, for example, America is Mỹ. Why? Who knows?
Now for the hardest part of the language:


Tone name in English Tone name in Vietnamese What’s it look like? Example – Definition
Level Không dấu (no marking) aăâeêioôơuưy ma – ghost
High Rising dấu sắ ̣(áćút́é áććéńt́) áắấéếíóốớúứý má – cheek
Low/falling dấu huyền ̣̀(g̀r̀àv̀è àc̀c̀èǹt̀) àằầèềìòồờùừỳ mà – but
Dipping/rising dấu hỏi ̉(h̉ỏỏk̉) ảẳẩẻểỉỏổởủửỷ mả – tomb
High rising glottalized dấu ngũ ̃(t̃ĩld̃ẽ) ãẵẫẽễĩõỗỡũữỹ mã – horse
Low glottalized dấu nạng ̣(ḍọṭ ḅẹḷọẉ) ạặậẹệịọộợụựỵ mạ – rice seedling

I think this is all for now. Soon I’ll have a lesson two up (as well as hopefully lessons in other languages!)


Posted in Vietnamese - Tiếng Việt | Leave a Comment »

Language Family Moods

Posted by ILuvEire on November 23, 2008

I for some reason seem to get into “language family moods.” For some reason, I’m just randomly attracted to a particular language family for a few months. It doesn’t even have to be a language family! It can just be an “area.” Like right now, I’m studying Vietnamese, and am very interested in Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean and Japanese.  Right before this I was in the mood for “Mediterranean” languages, you know Greek, Italian, French, Turkish etc. Before that I was interested in Baltic(ish) area languages, like Finnish, Lithuanian, Latvian, Estonian, and Saami.

I think that’s the main reason I have so many languages of differing families on my list. Just watch, in a couple of days I’ll be switching to Scandinavia, learning Norwegian and Icelandic (and trying in vain to learn Faroese). Then I’ll switch to the Bantu languages – Swahili, Zulu, and Xhosa.

Does anyone else do this? Leave me a comment! I’m pretty sure I have anonymous commenting allowed on here.

Posted in Linguistics, Personal | 2 Comments »

What does it mean to be a linguist?

Posted by ILuvEire on November 23, 2008

I call myself an amateur linguist, but I’m not too sure that I use the same definition as everyone else. I take it to mean the study of the inner workings of language. I’m most interested in Psycholinguistics – the relationship between the mind and language. I believe it’s very important and that there’s a lot more to be discovered.

Wikipedia defines linguistics as

Linguistics is the scientific study of language

The Webster’s dictionary defines linguistics as

–noun (used with a singular verb) the science of language, including phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, pragmatics, and historical linguistics.

Now that’s a definition I can work with! That supports my definition. The definition everyone seems to attack me with is similar to this:

…individual speaker who uses two or more languages,

AKA the definition of Multilingualism from Wikipedia.

That’s quite interesting. 🙂

Posted in Linguistics | 1 Comment »

Languages to be…

Posted by ILuvEire on November 23, 2008

Ciao a tutti!

I have been thinking about languages and which ones I want to learn, and I have compiled a 10 step list.

1 Vietnamese tiéng Việt
2 Hebrew* עברית
3 Icelandic íslenska
4 Portuguese* Português
5 Welsh Cymraeg
6 Cherokee* Tsa-la-gi
7 Italian l’Italiano
8 Greek* Ελληνικα
9 Norwegian Norsk (Bokmål)
10 Japanese 日本語

* Hebrew, Cherokee, and Portuguese are my “sub-foci.” You’ll find that I divide all my language choices into sub-foci and main-foci. The main-foci languages I have already set up books and notes and CDs etc. The sub-foci are ones I’m very interested in, and I will study, but most likely not to the extent of the other languages.

I have purchased at least on course for each one of these languages, and have started my progression through the list at Vietnamese.

I have also purchased a course for Mandarin Chinese, but I’m not totally sure that I want to use. Plus, I like having a nice round number like 10. 11 is so…odd!

I structured the list so that I can study two languages at a time and they will be still from different families (or in the case of IE different branches. :þ) I’m somewhat ADD so I can’t just study one language at a time. Besides who would want to do that anyway?!

Later on down the line, I am interested in many more languages. The top of this list would probably be Cantonese, followed by Korean. Is it clear to you yet that I love Asia? I’m not sure what is so appealing about it…I think it is because I can identify with Confucius’ teachings as well as Buddha. Plus I love the morphology (and phonology!) of all the languages. Tones are beutiful. Also I’m interested in Thai, I’m devinitly going to study it to “go with” Vietnamese.

Does anyone else do this? I package languages (because I for some reason feel that I need to justify my want to learn them or something…) For this very reason, I’m interested in Turkish (to go with Greek), and Arabic (to go with Hebrew).

I’m also very interested in the languages of North America. I’m learning Cherokee now (it’s spoken by the largest number of people near me). Beyond that, I’m interested in Navajo – it’s got the largest amount of speakers of any native American language. Nahuatl interests me, because I am so interested in the Aztec culture. I like Lakota for it’s awesome grammar. The phonology is quite nice too, but the grammar is so alien to me.

So, that’s a brief look into my future languages.

Posted in general, Linguistics, Personal | 2 Comments »