Vietnamese morphology

Vietnamese morphology

Vietnamese, like many languages in Southeast Asia, is an analytic (or isolating) language. Vietnamese lacks morphological marking of case, gender, number, and tense (and, as a result, has no finite/nonfinite distinction). [Comparison note: As such its grammar relies on word order and sentence structure rather than morphology (in which word changes through inflection). Whereas European languages tend to use morphology to express tense, Vietnamese uses grammatical particles or syntactic constructions.]


Vietnamese is often erroneously considered to be a "monosyllabic" language. Vietnamese words may consist of one or more syllables. There is a tendency for words to have two syllables (disyllabic) with perhaps 80% of the lexicon being disyllabic. Some words have three or four syllables — many polysyllabic words are formed by reduplicative derivation.

Additionally, a Vietnamese word may consist of a single morpheme or more than one morpheme. Polymorphemic words are either compound words or words consisting of stems plus affixes or reduplicants [The "reduplicant" is the reduplicated part that is copied from the base. Reduplicants are similar in form to affixes.] .

Most Vietnamese morphemes consist of only one syllable. [An exception to this may be demonstratives like "đây" "here", "nầy" "this", "đấy" "there", "nấy" "that", etc., which may be analyzed as consisting of the following sub-syllabic morphemes: "đ-" "nominal deictic", "n-" "noun modifier deictic", "-ây~-ầy" "proximal", "-ấy" "medial", etc. (See the demonstrative section in the syntax article.)] Polysyllabic morphemes tend to be borrowings from other languages. Examples follow:




Vietnamese has the following tonal alternations (or tonal ablaut) which are used grammatically:

::(Nguyễn 1997:42-44)

Vietnamese also has other instances of alternations, such as consonant mutations and vowel ablaut. Different regional varieties of Vietnamese may have different types of alternations.


ee also

* Vietnamese syntax
* Vietnamese phonology
* Vietnamese language


* Beatty, Mark Stanton. (1990). "Vietnamese phrase structure: An X-bar approach". (Master's thesis, University of Texas at Arlington).
* Emeneau, M. B. (1951). "Studies in Vietnamese (Annamese) grammar". University of California publications in linguistics (Vol. 8). Berkeley: University of California Press.
* Nguyễn, Đình-Hoà. (1997). "Vietnamese: Tiếng Việt không son phấn". Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
* Nguyễn, Phú Phong. (1992). Vietnamese demonstratives revisited. "The Mon-Khmer Studies Journal", "20", 127-136.
* Nguyễn, Tài Cẩn. (1975). "Từ loại danh từ trong tiếng Việt hiện đại" [The word class of nouns in modern Vietnamese] . Hanoi: Khoa học Xã hội.
* Nhàn, Ngô Thanh. (1984). "The syllabeme and patterns of word formation in Vietnamese". (Doctoral dissertation, New York University).
* Noyer, Rolf. (1998). Vietnamese 'morphology' and the definition of word. "University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics", "5" (2), 65-89. (Online link to entire journal volume: []
* Phong, Nguyễn Phu. (1976). "Le syntagme verbal in vietnamien". Mouton: Le Haye.
* Shum, Shu-ying. (1965). "A transformational study of Vietnamese syntax". (Doctoral disseration, Indiana University).
* Thompson, Laurence E. (1963). The problem of the word in Vietnamese. "Word", "19" (1), 39-52.
* Thompson, Laurence E. (1965). Nuclear models in Vietnamese immediate-constituent analysis. "Language", "41" (4), 610-618.
* Thompson, Laurence E. (1991). "A Vietnamese reference grammar". Seattle: University of Washington Press. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. (Original work published 1965).
* Uỷ ban Khoa học Xã hội Việt Nam. (1983). "Ngữ-pháp tiếng Việt" [Vietnamese grammar] . Hanoi: Khoa học Xã hội.

External links

* [ Vietnamese Online Grammar Project]
* [ Vietnamese/Cambodian references] (Linguist List)
* [ Additional Vietnamese references] (Linguist List)

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