Vietnamese is a tonal language. The meaning of each word depends on the “tone”  in which it is pronounced.

There are six distinct tones in the standard northern dialect. But in Southern Vietnamese, there is a merging of the hỏi and ngã tones, in effect leaving five basic tones.

Tiếng Việt Marker  Example

English Meaning

Mid-level tone Thanh ngang (unmarked) ma Ghost
Rising tone Dấu sắc  ́ Mother
Falling tone Dấu huyền  ̀ Which
Low-falling-rising tone Dấu hỏi  ̉̉̉ mả Tomb
High-rising broken tone Dấu ngã  ̃ Horse
Low-falling broken Dấu  nặng  ̣ mạ Rice Seedling

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