Origins of the Vietnamese Language
Like the origins of the Vietnamese people and culture, the history of the Vietnamese language is also a mixture of different parts and components. The monotonic Mon-Khmer language gave Vietnamese many of its basic words and the Tai languages contributed many aspects of tonality and grammar. Also, because the Chinese dominated Vietnamese culture and history for almost almost a millenium, not suprisingly, much of the Vietnamese language's political, literary, philosophical, military, and religious vocabulary comes from Chinese, although the pronunciations have changed through the years. Finally, there is a sprinkling of modern French and English words as well.
A writing system called "chu nom" was developed in the 8th century that used partly modified Chinese characters. However, it was not until the 1600s that the Vietnamese language acquired its current form. This happened when two Portugese Jesuit missionaries named Gaspar d'Amiral and Antonio Barboza romanized the language by developing a writing and spelling system using the Roman alphabet and several signs to represent the tonal accents of Vietnamese speech. This system was further codified in the first comprehensive Vietnamese dictionary (containing over 8,000 words) by Frenchman Alexandre de Rhodes in 1651.
This new Roman script, called "quoc ngu" or national language, was spread by later missionaries as a means of converting Viet Nam to Christianity and it quickly replaced the Chinese-based chu nom system as the dominant form of Vietnamese writing. It was finally declared the official language of Viet Nam by the French in 1910 and has been universally learned, used, and written by all Vietnamese since then.
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