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Tone


View Asia 2008 on Wardsan's travel map.

Just got back to Hanoi from Hạ Long Bay, to discover that the visa I had expected to turn up tomorrow is not due until Friday. But I paid an extra $20 to avoid this. I am pissed off and very tired.

Vietnamese has six tones. Like all European-language-speakers, I find it hard to tell most of them apart, and impossible to reproduce them at speaking pace. (One, however, is easy: it starts high and goes higher, with a glottal stop in the middle, as if Vinnie Jones had grabbed your vitals.)

Nouns come with ‘classifiers’, of which there are many. There is one for ‘thing’, another for ‘fruit’, another for ‘animals (which includes knife), another for paper, etc.

There are at least ten words for ‘you’ depending on the relative age of the speaker and interlocutor.

On the other hand, the tense system shows just how much redundancy there is in, say, French. It consists of a tense marker, plus the (invariant) verb. English is pretty similar in the future tense. Thus:-

Ðã – past (the tilde denotes the strangulated shriek tone I just mentioned)
Ðang - present
Sẽ – future.

Food is pretty simple, too. None of your lovingly hand-crafted reduction of free-range Lincolnshire jus, or whatever. Stir-fried squid with lemongrass and chilli, for example, is squid fry lemongrass chilli – four syllables in Vietnamese.

Posted by Wardsan 21:39 Archived in Vietnam

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