A better source for an overview of Vietnamese language and writing is
[BTW, I found this by typing "Vietnam" into Ask Jeeves, so it's not like
it's esoteric knowledge].
Specific corrections: Vietnamese has a lot of Chinese loan-words, but is
not a "distant variant of Chinese."
The 17th century is not "the late 1700's."
The old writing scheme, chu'~ no^m, really didn't work very well, quite
apart from any possible missionary's discomfort with Chinese writing. I
can't read it myself, but I understand that it requires two ideographs for
each Vietnamese word -- one to indicate meaning and one to indicate
I don't suppose that I know what the "western alphabet" is, nor do I
necessarily understand why Vietnamese is any different from other languages
using Latin characters and diacritics. Unicode 2.0 lists 13+ languages
supported by the Latin-1 supplement, and another 27+ supported when Latin
Extended-A is added. I suspect all of these languages could be
characterized as "Just enough [like English] to make it look readable to a
[English-reading] westener, but not enough to make it pronouncable." [sic]
Unlike English, Vietnamese does have the property that when you have
learned the values of the letters and diacritics, you know how to pronounce
every word acceptably, if not completely idiomatically. There are none of
the crazy English exceptions that led Bernard Shaw to propose "ghoti" as an
acceptable spelling of "fish" (think of "enouGH", "wOmen", and
"Johnboy" <firstname.lastname@example.org> on 09/28/99 11:14:34 AM
To: <ThosStew@aol.com>, <email@example.com>
cc: (bcc: Mark Day/CAM/Lotus)
Subject: Re: RE: This message will self-destruct
>I imagine the Bible played a similar role in other languages--anyone know?
Well I know that the vietnamese alphabet was devised by French Jesuit
missionaries in the late 1700's, mainly because the spoken vietnamese is a
distant variant of chinese and they couldn't deal well with the characters.
So to translate the Bible, they invented an alphabet that looks alot like
the westen one. It has 24 letters and seven diacritical marks. Just enough
to make it look readable to a westener, but not enough to make it