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Change the Way 
Vietnamese is Written:

Don't write Vietnamese as it is a monosyllabic language!

By PHU CUONG

I've been wondering for a while the question: "Why is Vietnamese written as a monosyllabic language while it is not?" The answer I found is based on these theories:

From the very beginning of the modern human races, all languages around the world were developed from single sounds or monosyllabic words! The first human languages, originated somewhere from Africa, certainly had about few hundreds of simple monosyllabic words, e.g. eat, drink, jump, go, run, I, you, he. je, nous, vous, etc. By observing how babies learn their first language this fact can be proved . Later, thanks to the human brain evolution and due to needs for better communication, people started adding more sounds (or syllables) to the original words for clearly expressing their mind. In fact, monosyllabic languages on earth now are spoken only by a very few tribal minorities in Asia and Africa, excluding Vietnamese . Unfortunately, Vietnamese is still considered by many people as one of those monosyllabic languages which are still existing on earth (spoken at least by 75 millions or more people).

Even though Vietnamese is now grouped into the Mon-Khmer language family by majority of Vietnamese linguists, which is still questionable and debatable matter, it still can be considered as a cousin of the original Chinese based on all the similar characteristics of all its linguistic aspects except for the case of grammatical order of the adjective position (cf. thien thanh vs. troi xanh).  Vietnamese is written the way as it is today mainly because each of its sound is originally based on each of the Chinese writing character. However, Chinese at the present state is certainly a polysyllabic language as reckoned by most Chinese linguists. Besides Vietnamese and Chinese, Korean and Japanese are also written in a similar way in block characters -- but they are not monosyllabic languages at all. Therefore the fact that Vietnamese is still written in separate formation cannot constitute Vietnamese as a monosyllabic language by nature. We can prove that by examining many basic Vietnamese words which are polysyllabic or disyllabic words in nature, for example, mangtang, moac, cuicho, bavai... Solely the only fact that the majority of vocabulary originated from Chinese being used in Vietnamese is enough to establish the polysyllabic nature of the Vietnamese language. For example, one can say sonha, giangsan, sonthuy, but cannot break the morpheme son or san out from its combined formation to say "toi len son".

Today's Romanized Vietnamese was invented and evolved when European missionaries came to Vietnam and learned Vietnamese mostly from peasants and ethnic minorities such as Muong people, whose Vietnamese proficiency was not too good or poorly spoken. In the process of using Latin alphabet to transcribe the spoken Vietnamese, these missionaries intentionally simplified the way words were written so that the new writing system was easier to read for the less-educated mass. Therefore the Vietnamese words were separated clearly by a space or a hyphen between syllables regardless of they were monosyllablics or polysyllabics in nature. For examples: ong_Troi, con_gai, Quoc_Tu_Giam...(instead of... ongtroi, congai, Quoctugiam), ..or tu-tuong, thanh-kien, thien-than, vat-chat, tu-do which should have been correctly transcribed as tutuong, thanhkien, thienthan, vatchat, tudo, etc.

The way of writing Vietnamese as it was then was made out of their own advantages and convenience, too. Please don't get me wrong on this, I would not deny the good deeds they contributed toward developing our modern written language. However, just imagine that if you were a math teacher and always gave your students easy problems all the time to make them happy. That was how they wanted to keep their followers happy. It has been over 300 years now and even though the writing language has been in official use for less than a century people have gotten used to that way of reading and writing. Unfortunately, this has profoundly affected the way we speak and write, and most importantly, the evolution of genetic structure of our people's brain, too.

Nowadays, when writing Vietnamese people have become lazy to draw a short bar or "hyphen -" between disyllabic or polysyllabic words such as tivi, honda, mayvitinh, vanhocnghethuat, but many do remember to use a hyphen (-) to write their full names such as Nguyen-van-Anh-Vu. Why don't they just write Nguyenvan Anhvu instead? Something must be sacred about their names, but the soul of Vietnamese is not -- that's somebody's else business. Technically, it's just a waste of paper and time. Just take into consideration the fact that one must lift the pen or hit space key on a computer keyboard hundreds of times for a few pages in writing.  It is illogical that most newspapers print "Saigon, Ha Noi in Viet Nam" instead of Saigon, Hanoi in Vietnam. My rough estimate is that we will save up to 5 % of paper , and 10% of our valuable time if we omit those separation spaces.

Nevertheless, this writing is not to bring up the subject of saving time and paper. There is something more important: The way we write will affect to the way we speak and the development of our people's brain structure, especially for children who begin to learn their first words in the Vietnamese language. The brain of  children who "must" learn his first language from a more sophisticated language, in this case the written language, would be naturally required to work harder, and as a result, his brain would develop a little much better than otherwise. Generation after generation, that will have an accumulated effect significantly on genetic evolution of our people's brain.

Any language on earth is evolving or changing slowly in time.  Typically more than a few vocabulary words and meanings are added into American English a day! Vietnamese language should need more than that because of the increasing role played by new technology and science in daily life that are much in need for a developing country like Vietnam. That needed change would not be easily accomplished if our language still keeps its monosyllabic way of writing because the Vietnamese language as it is today is no longer a monosyllabic language. Monosyllabic languages which are still in use are those of tribal or less civilized people whose brains have not evolved or developed sophisticatedly enough to memorize or coordinate different syllables simultaneously in their native tongues. We do not have to be Vietnamese linguists to apprehend the problems with our mother tongue; common sense teaches us what is "better" or "better not". So, please don't take this lightly. Let's join in a movement to start writing Vietnamese in a more scientific way which reflects the true nature of our polysyllabic language. 

Here is the first simple step we can begin with: Do not leave a "space" between the polysyllabic words. For instance: cuicho, chanmay, bavai, bangkhuang, bongo, thanhaonhansi, hanghasaso, hientuongluan, nhansinhquan, utru, tuongtuong, canhchung, xemxet, quansat, suyluan, tuduy... or any words that usually come together such as cucchangda, tuynhien, buoisang, chodu, macke... In English one may notice that the commonly paired words are written in the combined formation. For instance, the word "university" was originated by two words "universal city", or "nevertheless" was "never the less", "albeit" was "all be it", afternoon was  clearly from after......noon!" etc. 

Noitomlai, dayla mot loi viet dung cho tieng Viet hiendai:

Chungta cothe batdau lam mot cuoc cachmang nho cho vanhoa Vietnam, bangcach thaydoi loi viet tieng Viet ngaytubaygio. Bietdau trong tuonglai motvai thehe toi se cho ketqua totdep ma hientai khong ai cothe thaytruoc duoc!

PHU CUONG

 

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