Vietnamese is sino-tibetan ?

Discussions on the Cantonese language.
AlexNg

Vietnamese is sino-tibetan ?

Postby AlexNg » Tue Oct 19, 2004 7:56 am

Does the vietnamese language really belong to the sino-tibetan language group ? Some linguists say that vietnamese belongs to the mon-khmer group, I think this is a mistake !

If you judge the vietnamese people by their skin color and shape of the eyes, they are indistinguishable from the southern chinese people. Their culture, food and religion all points to a chinese origin. If you look at the khmer people from cambodia, you will notice that they are different in terms of eye shape (rounder) and skin color (darker) from the chinese.

While it is true that annam (northern vietnam) territory was under chinese rule for one thousand years, but from my research, before the chinese rule over annam started, a chinese general named yuen escaped to the south (for some reason I cannot remember) and founded that area called annam.
That is why a lot of people in vietnam has a surname of nguyen which is a slight mispronounciation of the original word yuen in mandarin or yuin in cantonese.

This analogy is similar to the taiwan chinese who are originally from china.

The intermarriage between the chinese and the khmer people might have resulted in the present language called vietnamese. Remember that southern vietnam was inhabited mostly by the mon-khmer group and was actually part of the CAMBODIA(KHMER) empire at that time. Some basic words from khmer could have been integrated into the chinese language forming the present vietnamese language due to the lack of communication between china and annam at that time (paper was not invented then)

The fact that the vietnamese language contains the unique tone differentiation (6 to 9 tones) that is unique to sino-tibetan group strongly suggest that it has a chinese origin rather than a khmer origin.

A language that is non-tonic cannot gain tonic ability if they were just to borrow foreign vocabulary (for example, japanese which is non-tonic but borrows from chinese) because tonic ability is extremely difficult to learn for people whose basic language is non-tonic (just ask european language speakers).

I believe it is the other way round, the vietnamese incorporated the khmer grammar but retained their vocabulary and tone. So it is considered a sino-tibetan language.

And due to their proximity to guangdong province or general yuan might be from that province itself (need to confirm this later), is it any wonder that the vietnamese language is very similar to the cantonese language ? I do not know vietnamese language itself to compare with any of the southern chinese dialects to compare but my strong guess is that it is most similar to cantonese !

Any arguments and feedback on this is welcome.

Dylan Sung

Re: Vietnamese is sino-tibetan ?

Postby Dylan Sung » Tue Oct 19, 2004 9:57 pm

Never judge a language by its speakers. English is spoken in America, where there are a lot of black people. Would you say English speakers were thus black? Likewise your assessment that Vietnamese may not be mon-khmer is based on skin colour is thus plain silly.

Chinese are not one ethnic group, and over the last two or three millenia, the culture has absorbed all manner of different ethnicities. The original extent of the Shang/Zhou conquest is mainly in the north of China, and by the end of Zhou, the Wu and Chu were absorbed into the mix, and further southward expansion must have also absorbed the Yue.

Dyl.

AlexNg

Re: Vietnamese is sino-tibetan ?

Postby AlexNg » Wed Oct 20, 2004 11:16 am

Dear Dylan,

I am trying to determine the origin of the vietnamese people and the vietnamese language. All the clues point to a chinese origin possibly a group similar to the yuet people (cantonese in guangdong).

It is not ridiculous to speculate that due to the intermingling of culture and language of the viet people with the powerful khmer empire in the south at that time that the original sino dialect incorporated some khmer grammar to form the vietnamese language.

I do not agree with linguists that you should strip off all except the basic words to determine the language family. While this rule may be true for the majority of languages but it should not apply to ALL languages. The whole language has to be analyzed. Even some basic words like the numbers (1-10) are very cantonese like and not mon-khmer. The Mon-khmer language is essentially an indian dialect with very long words to determine an expression, if you look at the vietnamese words that I know they are more like singular words like yat, yi etc.

In malaysia and singapore, the chinese language has incorporated some basic malay words like lui (money) and pasar (market) and makan (eat) but they are essentially still sino.

In the case of the blacks in america, it is due to a powerful language subduing the weaker language. The same holds true for indonesian chinese, they do not know how to speak chinese but from their skin color, and shape of the eyes, you can determine their origin.

In conclusion, I would like to say that my observations are not based on skin color alone, but also their history and geographical proximity.

Dylan Sung

Re: Vietnamese is sino-tibetan ?

Postby Dylan Sung » Fri Oct 22, 2004 2:24 pm

A method of analysing a language independent of it's speaker means that there is no bias towards one or another ethnic group.

Yes, I do agree that some note must be made of the history of it's speakers, however, the majority of the world's languages do not have a writing system, or did not have one until recently. As such their history may not have been recorded. What may be word of mouth may not always accurate, so such evidence may not always be used.

From this perspective, do you agree that language analysis must be carried out independently from the speakers themselves?

Linguists in looking at a language must survey it's vocabulary and then separate out those items which could be from borrowings, and be left with the native vocabulary to analyse.

For Vietnamese, quite a lot of vocabulary is thought to come from Chinese, and those Sino-Vietnamese borrowings must be sifted out to be left with purely Vietnamese words. From these words, they can look at the languages in the vicinity of Vietnam and figure out how related it is to them.

Unfortunately there is little written evidence of the language that the BaiYue spoke, but that does not mean that there is no evidence of possible vocabulary left by them in the areas they once inhabited. In fact, there are such items of vocabulary.

One of the texts that I made some notes from is called Putonghua Guangzhouhua de Bijiao Xuexi 普通话广州话的比较学习 (comparison between Putonghua and Cantonese) by OuYang JueYa 欧阳觉亚, ISBN 7-5004-144-5
published in 1993.

It has a section where Cantonese vocabulary is compared with that of other languages amongst them the 壮, 侗 , 布依, 傣, 京, 黎, etc.

The jing 京 mentioned in my previous post are thought to be Vietnamese.

Dyl.

drunk_on_tea

Re: Vietnamese is sino-tibetan ?

Postby drunk_on_tea » Wed Oct 27, 2004 1:53 pm

Indeed, the Vietnamese did originate from the Guangdong and Guangxi areas. Many alters dedicated to ancient Vietnamese heros and heroines can still be found in the remote regions of these provinces. The origin of the Vietnamese language however, is still being heavily debated. The researches conducted on the Vietnamese language have been extremely below par with other East Asian languages and so far, the Westerners haven't exactly gotten their facts straight. It's best not to make any definite conclusion is what I am saying.

I know that the Vietnamese regard themselves as "Kinh" people relative to their mountainous minorities because "Kinh" or (Jing) means capital, thus, identifying themselves as the majority that live in the city. I doubt this is the same ethnic Jing you refer to Dylan.

Also, Nguyen is Ruan in Mandarin and Yuen in Cantonese. It is not a mispronunciation but a cognate of that word. To say Nguyen is the bastardized word of Yuen is to say Ruan is the bastardized word of Yuen.=)

Dylan Sung

Re: Vietnamese is sino-tibetan ?

Postby Dylan Sung » Wed Oct 27, 2004 4:22 pm

drunk_on_tea wrote:

> Indeed, the Vietnamese did originate from the Guangdong and
> Guangxi areas. Many alters dedicated to ancient Vietnamese
> heros and heroines can still be found in the remote regions of
> these provinces. The origin of the Vietnamese language however,
> is still being heavily debated. The researches conducted on the
> Vietnamese language have been extremely below par with other
> East Asian languages and so far, the Westerners haven't exactly
> gotten their facts straight. It's best not to make any definite
> conclusion is what I am saying.

Vietnamese is said to be a member of the Mon-Khmer family.

>
> I know that the Vietnamese regard themselves as "Kinh" people
> relative to their mountainous minorities because "Kinh" or
> (Jing) means capital, thus, identifying themselves as the
> majority that live in the city. I doubt this is the same ethnic
> Jing you refer to Dylan.

Yes, the Chinese character is 莠ャ


>
> Also, Nguyen is Ruan in Mandarin and Yuen in Cantonese. It is
> not a mispronunciation but a cognate of that word. To say
> Nguyen is the bastardized word of Yuen is to say Ruan is the
> bastardized word of Yuen.=)


No. The character 髦ョ is reconstructed in Guangyun as /ngjuan/ (荳雁ケウ22nd rime 蜈 and 荳願? 20th rime 髦ョ 陌樣□蛻?. The Sino-Viet pronunciation preserves the initial better than Mandarin and Cantonese. In fact, the character is pronounced as ngion in the Shang 荳 tone in Hakka, another dialect of Chinese.

Dyl.

drunk_on_tea

Re: Vietnamese is sino-tibetan ?

Postby drunk_on_tea » Fri Oct 29, 2004 3:44 pm

"Vietnamese is said to be a member of the Mon-Khmer family."

Yes, but further research may alter this view because it is also said that Vietnamese belongs to the Sino-Tibetan family. I'm not advocating either argument, just merely stating that research being conducted on the Vietnamese language has been too scant for a firm conclusion to be made.
The language itself varies from Northern to Central to Southern region and it is only in the Southern region that bears similarities to the Khmer language. This is only natural since Vietnamese migration and permanent settlement in this area would have influenced and been influenced by the indigenous language there. The Northern Vietnamese accent has managed to retain its original form and does not sound anything like the languages that lie southern to its periphery.

"Yes, the Chinese character is ?"

I thought you meant Jingpo. There are 54 ethnic minorities in Viet Nam as well and the Jings could be related to any of these mountainous peoples. Thanks for your input on the transformation of the last name.

Han Ny

Re: Vietnamese is sino-tibetan ?

Postby Han Ny » Sat Oct 30, 2004 7:08 pm

You guys seem to know alot about the Vietnamese and Cantonese language, so can you tell me if someone who is vietnamese try to learn Cantonese, it would be easier for them because the two is sort of similiar to each other?

[%sig%]

Kitty

Re: Vietnamese is sino-tibetan ?

Postby Kitty » Tue Nov 02, 2004 4:35 am

It seems to me that lots of Vietnamese people know Cantonese very well?

[%sig%]

AlexNg

Re: Vietnamese is sino-tibetan ?

Postby AlexNg » Tue Nov 02, 2004 5:15 pm

I found this interesting article which might shed some light into the origins of the viet people. They are closer to the chinese people rather than
the mon-khmer people.

"
The Vietnamese themselves claim one of China's first kings as their ancestor, and in fact there was a tribe that called itself "Viet" (Yue in Chinese) on the banks of the Yangtze River (in China's Zhejiang province) in the first millennium B.C. The theory now accepted is that the Viets migrated to the south after the Chinese absorbed their homeland in 334 B.C. Some Viets settled in Fujian Province; their kingdom, called Man Viet (Min Yue in Chinese), was conquered by China in 110 B.C. The rest of the Viets continued to the Red River delta, intermarried with the peoples already living there, and formed the ethnic Vietnamese of today.

Au Loc was in turn conquered by a Chinese general named Zhao To in 208 B.C. But even while the Chinese took over, the masters of China, the Qin dynasty, were overthrown. Instead of submitting to a new emperor, Zhao took for himself a Viet name, Trieu Da, adopted Viet customs, and declared the area under his control--the Red River valley plus Guangdong and Guangxi provinces--an independent kingdom called Nam Viet (Nan Yue in Chinese). At this point true history replaces legends.

For nearly a century Trieu Da's successors used diplomatic and military duels to keep the Chinese out. Then in 111 B.C. Nam Viet was conquered by the Chinese emperor Wu Di. At first the Chinese ruled leniently, introducing many things the Vietnamese welcomed, like writing, roads, canals, improved agriculture, and iron tools/weapons. But the Viets refused to become Chinese; as a result, from the first century A.D. onwards the Chinese attempted a program of total Sinicization. Thousands of Chinese administrators, soldiers and scholars came in, filling the government jobs previously held by Vietnamese. Confucianism, Daoism, and the Chinese language were taught; Chinese customs and fashions became mandatory. Despite all this only the educated elite were affected much, and even they preferred to speak only Vietnamese at home. "

And I believe a lot of them have surnames of le which I believe is the
vietnamese version of lee in cantonese (as in bruce lee). Is my presumption correct ? The fact that nyugen and lee are both family names for the cantonese too speak of a common origin for both people ?

AlexNg

Re: Vietnamese is sino-tibetan ?

Postby AlexNg » Tue Nov 02, 2004 6:29 pm

"The language itself varies from Northern to Central to Southern region and it is only in the Southern region that bears similarities to the Khmer language. This is only natural since Vietnamese migration and permanent settlement in this area would have influenced and been influenced by the indigenous language there. The Northern Vietnamese accent has managed to retain its original form and does not sound anything like the languages that lie southern to its periphery."

If you look at the history of the viet people, you will know that originally vietnam as we know it today only consists of "north vietnam" which was called annam when it was part of china. When the khmer empire to the south collapses into the smaller modern cambodia, the vietnamese expanded south to the modern "southern vietnam". It is not illogical to presume that at that time the pure vietnamese dialect was diluted with mon-khmer words since the cambodian's language is mon-khmer. Therefore, the northern vietnamese is actually more sino-tibetan.

So it is more logical to say that the vietnamese language is actually sino-tibetan rather than mon-khmer.

Thanks for your input "drunk_on_tea".

I think the westerners need to research more on the vietnamese dialect in relation to the cantonese dialect.

montela77

Re: Vietnamese is sino-tibetan ?

Postby montela77 » Wed Nov 03, 2004 3:33 pm

I doubt the chinese origin of vietnamese. And in my opinion the arguments you give in favor of sino-tibetan are not convincing at all.

First, one cannot conclude just by examining lexicon.
Obviously there are a lot of chinese borrowings but I still believe that the core vietnamese language has a different origin.
AlexNg states the opposite: that the core language is chinese and other words are alien. You should have a look at what can be considered the core of the language: interestringly enough, numbers or words related to body parts are definitevely not chinese (which I think would be kind of weird for a chinese language).

Second, one cannot conclude by saying that "tonal language" implies "sino-tibetan language". What about thai (and of course vietnamese...) ? Old chinese also did not have tones. Just because vietnamese has tones does not mean they were borrowed from chinese: they could have developped independently. Moreover, fine tone system analysis suggests that phonology (the way tones are distinguished) is quite special in vietnamese (compared to cantonese for instance). (See Mark J Alves papers on this topic). The tones features of vietnamese could have been built on vocal features of related vietic languages (such as vocalic creakiness for instance).
Of course it is tempting to compare vietnamese to major language such as chinese dialects, but the languages of vietnamese highlanders share some intersting features with the"kinh" vietnamese and should be seriously considered.

And third, the structure of vietnamese should be considered. It really differs from chinese. For instance the word order is the OPPOSITE for the determinancy relationship between words. This is an important point, a language is not just a lexicon, but also structures and usage. Vietnamese seems to resist chinese to the extent that sometimes vietnamese words composed of sino-vietnamese components only does not follow the chinese order, but the vietnamese order...

One more thing: the controversy between sino-tibetan and mon-khmer should not be reduced to a chinese/khmer opposition. Mon-khmer is a group, which is not encompassed by khmer. Of course southern vietnamese is more influenced by genuine khmer because of geography, but I don't agree with your conclusion on "vietnamese is actually sino-tibetan". You should discuss on mon-khmer fundation (common structures etc) rather that on khmer.


And I also want to add that this kind of discussion is often higly politically oriented: some chinese people may consider vietnamese as a chinese dialect just because they also consider that vietnam was and should be a chinese province.

Huong

Re: Vietnamese is sino-tibetan ?

Postby Huong » Fri Nov 05, 2004 11:57 pm

I believe that Vietnamese are Sino-Tibetan, and I don't know what "Sino" is but maybe I can provide readings that has been researched from Chinese books, etc.

Vietnamese is half Mongolian and Chinese; they migrated to Indochina, Manchuria, etc. I am at college, but I will send the link when I get back home. Email me!

Huong

Re: Vietnamese is sino-tibetan ?

Postby Huong » Fri Nov 05, 2004 11:58 pm

I believe that Vietnamese are Sino-Tibetan, and I don't know what "Sino" is but maybe I can provide readings that has been researched from Chinese books, etc.

Vietnamese is half Mongolian and Chinese; they migrated to Indochina, Manchuria, etc. I am at college, but I will send the link when I get back home. Email me!

P.S... Even my name is Vietnamese/chinese.

Huong Ho

[%sig%]

thribbi

Re: Vietnamese is sino-tibetan ?

Postby thribbi » Tue Nov 09, 2004 5:48 am

Having studied Mandarin, Cantonese and Vietnamese, I must strongly disagree with any suggestion that Vietnamese is of Sino-Tibetan origin.

As montela77 pointed out, the structural and phonetic differences between Vietnamese and the Chinese languages/dialects (I prefer the word languages since many Chinese dialects are mutually unintelligible) are too great for the language to be derived even from Ancient Chinese (Shang/Zhou/Spring-Autumn periods).

In addition to the differences in word order between Vietnamese and Chinese, which has already been mentioned, I would like to point out the completely different use of measure words in Vietnamese. The use of measure words is very similar in all Chinese dialects and only refers to quantity, whereas in Vietnamese their use is sometimes closer to the use of definite articles in European languages. Vietnamese also has a more developed tense/aspect system than Chinese does.

Whether the language is more distantly related to Sino-Tibetan is a more difficult question, but as the origin of those languages (notabene including Tibetan) is believed to be in Northern China, in the Yellow River basin, I am more inclined to believe that the ancestor of modern Vietnamese was a language unrelated to Sino-Tibetan languages, spoken in the area that now comprises Guangxi and Guangdong. Consider that it took Chinese people a long time to settle the Southern provinces due to their geographic isolation, and I would venture to say that before the Southern migrations of Chinese people there would have been very little contact between northern China and the South-Western provinces.

As to the Mon-Khmer question, I am not familiar enough with those languages to state anything for sure.

If anyone can confirm or contradict any of the above, any references to current work underway on the origin of the Vietnamese language would be welcome. All I have read so far seems to indicate that Vietnamese has not been proven to be related to any other Asian language. If this sounds unfeasible, consider Japanese and Korean, which may possibly be related to each other (albeit very, very distantly) but are wholly unrelated to other Asian languages.


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