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Vietnam or Viet Nam?

From KNinh@asiafound.org Wed Jun 20 02:44:25 2001
Date: Tue, 19 Jun 2001 15:11:09 -0700
From: Kim Ninh <KNinh@asiafound.org>
Reply-To: vsg@u.washington.edu
To: Vietnam Studies Group <vsg@u.washington.edu>
Subject: Vietnam or Viet Nam?

Dear list members:

I'm writing to ask your opinions on something I am struggling with and not quite sure how to deal with it. I'm currently finalizing a manuscript on the politics of culture in Vietnam for publication, and very happy that the press I am working with is quite willing to publish the work with diacritic marks. It was something that I had expressly asked for.

In the preparation of the ms, I have decided to leave certain Vietnamese proper nouns in the forms well known to Western readers (namely Vietnam, Hanoi and Saigon) in their westernized forms, thinking simply that they have become common usage and to present them in Vietnamese form would be confusing. A reader of the ms. has challenged me on this, making the argument that such words, particular Vietnam with its heavy Vietnam War connotation, should be written in their Vietnamese forms and that it is time that readers come to recognize those words as such.

I am of two minds about this. On the one hand, the argument is persuasive to me, and Vietnam is increasingly being written as Viet Nam by many within the Asian American Studies/ethnic studies circles, although I don't see much of that trend among those of us focusing on Vietnam. Now that publishers are increasingly publishing works on Vietnam with diacritic marks, Vietnamese words are no longer so difficult to print. On the other hand, to use Viet Nam now while many other works refer to the country as Vietnam and there is the matter of correct citation and all that, it would seem rather confusing to readers to counter various different expressions of the word Vietnam in one work.

What do you think of this problem? How do we balance historical/cultural sensitivity with the practicalities of publication and the desire to broadening readership? Would be useful I think also for us to think of ways to standardize these seemingly pesky issues but they do have larger implications for Vietnamese studies.

Best regards,


From eemoise@clemson.edu Wed Jun 20 02:44:30 2001
Date: Tue, 19 Jun 2001 18:31:57 -0400
From: Edwin Moise <eemoise@clemson.edu>
Reply-To: vsg@u.washington.edu
To: Vietnam Studies Group <vsg@u.washington.edu>
Subject: Re: Vietnam or Viet Nam?

If you are going to use the diacritical marks, I would advise Viet Nam, Sai Gon, and so on. The policy of printing familiar names in their familiar forms (Vietnam and Danang but Ben Tre and Phuoc Thanh) makes more sense for cases in which the diacritics are omitted. And it is good to hear your press is printing diacritics. What press?

Ed Moise

From Ben.Kerkvliet@anu.edu.au Wed Jun 20 02:44:39 2001
Date: Wed, 20 Jun 2001 09:23:46 +1000
From: Ben Kerkvliet <Ben.Kerkvliet@anu.edu.au>
Reply-To: vsg@u.washington.edu
To: Vietnam Studies Group <vsg@u.washington.edu>
Subject: Vietnam or Viet Nam?

Neither "Vietnam" nor "Viet Nam" is Vietnamese. Right? People writing in Vietnamese wouldn't use either one. (The only exceptions these days that I can think of are when writing e-mails without diacritics.) Both are English words. The same for Ben Tre, Saigon (or Sai Gon). There all akin to how people using the English language say or write "China" or "Russia" or "Korea." These are English names. People writing in the languages of those countries wouldn't use them. Hence, I don't see how "Vietnam" or "Viet Nam" makes much difference.

Ben Kerkvliet

Dept. of Political and Social Change
Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies
Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200
phone: (61 2) 6125-2677; fax: (61 2) 6125-5523
e-mail: ben@coombs.anu.edu.au, or ben.kerkvliet@anu.edu.au

From hhtai@fas.harvard.edu Wed Jun 20 02:44:45 2001
Date: Tue, 19 Jun 2001 19:51:53 -0400
From: Hue Tam H. Tai <hhtai@fas.harvard.edu>
Reply-To: vsg@u.washington.edu
To: Vietnam Studies Group <vsg@u.washington.edu>
Subject: Re: Vietnam or Viet Nam?

Dear Kim Ninh"

I am very glad to learn that your ms. is being readied for publication. I have been looking forward to it.

If you are going to write Viet Nam with diacritics--that is, in Vietnamese--, then it should be two words; if you are going to leave out the diacritics, then it should be one word, English style. When writing in English, I refer to Germany, in French to Allemagne, as opposed to Deutschland ; I refer to Moscow in English and Moscou in French. I would not care to write in Cyrillic alphabet!) In other words, I do not refer to a place the way the natives of that place do, but the way my readers do.

And by the way, it may be my French education, but I have always written Saigon, no matter what language I write in, and so do my friends and relatives in Vietnam.

While I am happy to hear that your publisher is willing to use diacritics, you will need to proof very carefully. I had enough problems chasing errant accents aigus, accents graves, and cedilles to be thankful not to have to deal with diacritics as well. Conversely, I am very irritated when seeing wrong diacritics in a text.

Good luck with your revisions.
Hue-Tam Ho Tai

From pengrui@163bj.com Wed Jun 20 02:44:50 2001
Date: Wed, 20 Jun 2001 13:25:13 +1000
From: Greg Pringle <pengrui@163bj.com>
Reply-To: vsg@u.washington.edu
To: Vietnam Studies Group <vsg@u.washington.edu>
Subject: Re: Vietnam or Viet Nam?

The issue that you raise is a very interesting one that is part of a wider general issue about the writing of foreign place names in English.

Personally, I think that your initial instinct is correct. The normal English practice is to write important and familiar foreign place names in an 'anglicised' form (for want of a better term). Should we write Munich or Muenchen? Cologne or Koeln? Milan or Milano? Warsaw or Warszawa? Marseilles or Marseille? Lisbon or Lisboa? Cairo or Al Qahirah? Jerusalem or Yerushalayim? Manila or Maynila? Or for that matter, Germany or Deutschland? Italy or Italia? Egypt or Al Misr? In almost every case, the first member of the pair is common usage. To write otherwise would be strange. (Of course, the practice of anglicising names applies only to familiar and commonly used names. Local usage can rightfully be followed for other, less familiar words, names, etc., especially in academic writing - although many English speakers do tend to baulk at diacritics!)

On the other hand, some post-colonial countries have successfully bucked the anglicising trend in a rejection of colonialism and imperialism. China virtually forced English to discard old names like Peking, Canton, Amoy, Tientsin, etc. in favour of Beijing, Guangzhou, Xiamen, Tianjin. (However, Hong Kong and Macau adhere to the old forms, and German and French still go their merry way with Pekin or P?kin. Unbeknownst to many, Peking University and Tsinghua University still officially use the old names in English). This trend has been followed by a number of other countries.

Rangoon has been replaced by Yangon, Bombay has been replaced by Mumbai, etc. Some countries have even changed their names in English. Myanmar and (at one stage) Kampuchea forced Burma and Cambodia off the maps. In some ways, this is akin to the name changes that took place in post-colonial Africa, e.g. from Basutoland to Lesotho, or Rhodesia to Zimbabwe.

Interestingly, the Far Eastern Economic Review embarked on a bold experiment some years ago in which it decided to follow local usage for all place and country names mentioned in its pages. Suddenly 'China' became 'Zhongguo', etc. The experiment lasted only a few issues, as I remember. It soon got ridiculous reading that "Zhongguo has a different view of events from Hangook". (The magazine didn't go as far as to adopt diacritics for any Asian languages.)

Just as an aside, the question of Vietnam or Viet Nam seems to me to be part of a wider question over syllable division in Chinese and languages that have borrowed from Chinese.

To take the case of Japanese, it is generally accepted that character compounds (borrowings from Chinese) should be written as one word in romanisation. For instance, it's Tokyo, not To Kyo, Nihon, not Ni Hon. The major economic daily is Nihon Keizai Shinbun, not Ni Hon Kei Zai Shin Bun.

In Chinese, also, the standard usage is Beijing, not Bei Jing, Shanghai, not Shang Hai. However, there is also a very strong latent desire among the Chinese to split up words along the lines of the characters. While 'Beijing' is official usage, it is very common for ordinary Chinese to write Bei Jing, or even more commonly BeiJing. Zhejiang becomes ZheJiang, Yunnan becomes YunNan, etc. Note also that Hong Kong is much more commonly written 'Hong Kong' than 'Hongkong', another case in which the desire to split the word into syllables has won out.

Vietnamese no longer uses Chinese characters, but quoc ngu still bears traces of the old writing system in the practice of separating words into syllables. This is so deeply rooted in the Vietnamese consciousness that most people believe Vietnamese to be a monosyllabic language, which, in fact, it is not. The perception that Vietnamese consists of syllables rather than words doesn't sit as well with speakers of European languages, who have a more clearly developed concept of the word. I suspect that this is why English, French, and other Western languages came to write Saigon, Hanoi, and Vietnam as single words.

Best Regards,

Greg Pringle

From oklahoma@netnam.org.vn Wed Jun 20 02:44:56 2001
Date: Wed, 20 Jun 2001 14:41:50 +0700
From: oklahoma@netnam.org.vn
Reply-To: vsg@u.washington.edu
To: Vietnam Studies Group <vsg@u.washington.edu>
Subject: Vietnam or Viet Nam?

Dear List members,

The followings was posted in our BBS two weeks ago. The full text is in Vietnamese "2020".

Nguyen Thanh Son

Abstract: Why vietnamese2020?

Vietnamese2020 is a proposal for reforming the Vietnamese writing system other than it is known today. Vietnamese is no longer a monosyllabic language, but syllables of a "word" are still written separately. Concepts such as 'hocbong' (scholarship), 'bangkhuang' (melancholy), 'bangquo' (vague), 'matuy' (narcotic) or thousands of other words are obviously dissyllabic in nature; however, they are still represented as several units. It is not scientific; words should be written in syllabic combination as some samples cited above. This will scientifically represent the true characteristics of today's Vietnamese. What are the benefits? Examine German, English, Chinese or Korean and think about it! How do you feel if you have to read and write 'scholarship' as 'scho lar ship' or even 'scholar ship'? But 'hoc bong' is written as such. A society progresses if its language progresses. It's painful to reform but you have to do it. Vietnamese2020 proposes a new way of writing Vietnamese in the years to come and that will be the way it should be in the year 2020. This new proposed writing system will speed up the process of absorbing information and facilitate the advancement of science faster. Why? Please think about that! Please! Join us in this effort NOW by start writing Vietnamese in combined formation of syllables of a word for each concept. In practice, when you are in doubt, think of an equivalent word in English or in another common foreign language. For example, for 'although' we have 'macdu', for 'blackboard' > 'bangden', 'faraway' > 'xaxoi', and so on.

From weitzel@undp.org.vn Wed Jun 20 02:45:01 2001
Date: Wed, 20 Jun 2001 10:49:16 ·
From: Vern Weitzel <weitzel@undp.org.vn>
Reply-To: vsg@u.washington.edu
To: Vietnam Studies Group <vsg@u.washington.edu>
Subject: Re: Vietnam or Viet Nam?

Just to add my two bits, UNDP has been separating syllables in its publications for the last two years. This includes place names and personal names. This does not seem to have caused any problem other than that these words are not recognised in a spelling checker. the reasoning behind this, though, owed much to Lady Borton's suggestion that to angliscise was perhaps a bit rude to Vietnamese people.


Vern Weitzel (Mr.), Webmanager
<weitzel@undp.org.vn> or <webmanager@undp.org.vn>
United Nations Development Programme
address: 25-29 Phan Boi Chau; Ha Noi, Viet Nam

From gwade@hkucc.hku.hk Wed Jun 20 10:08:25 2001
Date: Wed, 20 Jun 2001 17:54:46 +0800 (HKT)
From: Geoff Wade <gwade@hkucc.hku.hk>
Reply-To: vsg@u.washington.edu
To: Vietnam Studies Group <vsg@u.washington.edu>
Subject: Vietnam or Viet Nam?

In response to Nguyen Thanh Son's repost from Vietnamese2020, members may be interested in a similar battle being waged in the Chinese romanisation/ orthography realm. Professor Victor Mair's arguments in this sphere are copied in his email to the H-ASIA list reproduced below this message. A response to Professor Mair was made on the H-ASIA list as follows: "Professor Mair raises a number of objections to the separation of "syllables" in LC cataloguing of pin-yin entries. Perhaps the adoption of pin-yin modified by the orthography of the Taiwan system, whereby the syllables of "words" are hyphenated, would resolve the contradiction between the two sides. This would give, using Professor Mair's examples, "zhe-xue", "fei-ji", "dian-nao", "run-se" and "tu-shu-guan".

The desire of the LC to represent the phonetics of individual component graphs would be met, and the demand of Professor Mair that "words" be represented would also be satisfied. Many PRC persons overseas are adopting this method for their own names, to assist non-Chinese speakers in pronouncing the name. E.g. Li Weixing is now Li Wei-xing."


It appears that similar arguments are being advanced by both the author of the piece on the Tieng-Viet2020/Vietnam2020 and Professor Mair--that is, that the components of words have to be fully combined to provide the language with dignity, a real orthography for words, and a romanised form which is readily utilisable in the IT field.

The argument that separating the elements of Vietnamese or Chinese words into their (usually two or three) components is like writing "scho lar ship", or "U NI TED STA TES OF A ME RI CA" in English, is disingenuous, as none of the individual elements in these latter creations have any semantic significance. The individual components of Vietnamese and Chinese words do have their own semantic significance and, while that significance may have been modified in the combinations which create words, there is still a semantic connection.

While the LC system of separating all individual syllables of Chinese words is foolhardy, perhaps the alternative presented above might be examined for Vietnamese romanisation.

Might Vietnamese2020 proponents consider the use of hyphenation as an alternative to either complete separation or the components of "words" or combining the elements fully.

As noted above, this would allow the original components to be identifiable,"words" would still be represented, there would be recognition that Vietnamese is not monosyllabic, and the form proposed would be readily identifiable by all forms of IT technology, as either individual components or "words", depending on needs.


Geoff Wade

Co-ordinator, China-ASEAN Project
Centre of Asian Studies
University of Hong Kong
Pokfulam Rd.
Ph: (+852) 2859 1917
Fax: (+852) 2559 5884

From rob@coombs.anu.edu.au Wed Jun 20 10:08:33 2001
Date: Wed, 20 Jun 2001 21:28:33 +1000 (EST)
From: Rob Hurle <rob@coombs.anu.edu.au>
Reply-To: vsg@u.washington.edu
To: Vietnam Studies Group <vsg@u.washington.edu>
Subject: Re: Vietnam or Viet Nam?

Dear All,

This is interesting:

> Vietnamese2020 is a proposal for reforming the Vietnamese writing
> system other than it is known today. Vietnamese is no longer a
> monosyllabic language, but syllables of a "word" are still written
> separately. Concepts such as 'hocbong' (scholarship), 'bangkhuang'
> (melancholy), 'bangquo' (vague), 'matuy' (narcotic) or thousands of
> other words are obviously dissyllabic in nature; however, they are
> still represented as several units. It is not scientific; words
>... (deleted)

I have just been reading an internal Party document from 1943 (at least, it purports to be such), and it makes some mention of "reforming the language" as a part of a necessary revolution in culture. The document purports to come from the Central Committee, and I guess was developed by Truong Chinh. There is another later publication "A New Culture" (Mo^.t Ne^`n Va(n Ho'a Mo+'i) by Nguyen Huu Dang and Nguyen Dinh Thi, written in 1945, which builds on this paper. This later publication is published by the National Salvation Literary Association, and uses a similar system to that proposed in the above posting. That is, "politics" is "chinh-tri" (with diacritics, of course), and "culture" is "van-hoa". The dash (-) issued between the syllables to form the words. Maybe something like the Party proposal of 1943 is to be realised in 2020 :-)


Rob Hurle

Rob Hurle rob@coombs.anu.edu.au
Connect-A Tel: +61 2 6247 2397
PO Box 13 Fax: +61 2 6248 8905
Ainslie ACT 2602 Mobile: 0417 293 603

From hhtai@fas.harvard.edu Wed Jun 20 10:08:43 2001
Date: Wed, 20 Jun 2001 09:03:07 -0400
From: Hue Tam H. Tai <hhtai@fas.harvard.edu>
Reply-To: vsg@u.washington.edu
To: Vietnam Studies Group <vsg@u.washington.edu>
Subject: Re: Vietnam or Viet Nam?

Dear all:

It is interesting to compare the way Chinese and Vietnamese are handled. Chinese romanization (whether pinyin, Wade-Giles or the Taiwanese romanization system) continues to stand for individual characters which, when spoken, represent single syllables. There is no way to string together these characters as would be possible with an alphabet. Yet in romanizing these characters, there have been attempts to link them together into single dissyllabic words (Beijing, daxue) or through hyphenation (most often in proper names). Vietnamese, on the other hand, is no longer linked to Chinese characters or to nom. It ought to be easier to manipulate writing to represent concepts, as in the examples furnished by Rob Hurle, but in fact less has been done in this direction with Vietnamese than with Chinese. daihoc looks strange, where daxue seems fine.

As for being disrespectful to Vietnamese if writing Vietnam in one word instead of two, this Vietnamese has become afraid that she is being disrespectful to Italians every time she writes Italy instead of Italia, China instead of Zongguo (or better, characters), and so forth, but is not about to change. When I am in France, and trying to avoid using franglais,I say that I currently live in les Etats Unis d'Amerique. But perhaps I will consider rewriting the old saw into "When in Roma, do as the Romans do."

Hue-Tam Ho Tai (whose first name appears hyphenated on her birth certificate).

From oklahoma@netnam.org.vn Wed Jun 20 10:08:51 2001
Date: Wed, 20 Jun 2001 20:44:08 +0700
From: oklahoma@netnam.org.vn
Reply-To: vsg@u.washington.edu
To: Vietnam Studies Group <vsg@u.washington.edu>
Subject: Vietnam or Viet Nam?

Further to Geoff Wade's notice about the similarity between Vietnamese2020 and the battle waged by Professor Victor Mair, I would like to re-post some of MCCL (Modern Chinese Culture and Literature- which I am a member) views on this issue

Nguyen Thanh Son

Prof. Mair's article is very interesting. The whole issue can boil down to how to group hanzi. Everyone may agree that philosophy is zhexue, library is tushuguan. But the problem is that there are some (about 20%) of the combinations, dictionary entries, for instance, which are something between words and phrases. For instance, we really do not know whether "to go to school" should be written as shangxue, shang-xue, shang xue, or something else. The 3rd choice is what the Library has made in order to avoid the difficult decision. It is true that Chinese is not monosyllabic, but it not completely polysyllabic either. Again we are talking about something between. Especially in daily use, the ratio of the monosyllabic "words" is much higher than in the dictionary. One example is the movie Not One Less (yi ge dou bu neng shao). Yige is OK, but what about the dou bu neng part? Should we write doubuneng, dou buneng, doubu neng, or (by following the rules set by the Library of Congress) dou bu neng? Apparently, the separation of syllables, though simple and not so scholarly at sight, can prevent future confusion when different cataloguers may write the same title differently.

Mingliang Hu

I think Hu Mingliang hit the nail right on the head in pointing out the problems of Chinese word division. However, we should not cut our foot to fit the shoe. Certain rules for division could be devised, even sometimes arbitrarily, by the Library of Congress so that pinyin entries can adopt some sort of word division and made easier to recognize and understand.

The rest of us needn't agree with the linguistic principles LC utilized, but just accept them for expediency's sake. It would probably be much easier to read than the monosyllabic division currently used.

Lily Lee

Here are my responses to Hu Mingliang's most recent posting:

> Professor Lily Lee is right to point out the need to somehow group the syllables of one "word" together. The difficult task has been taken on by scholars in China for many years, but with no results. I suspect they were arguing among themselves already before reaching a solid conclusion.
> Without their rules and regulations, other people may produce different rules.
> Plus, new words and expression are coming up every day. The rules may not be fast enough to keep up. Di1 (taxi) is never (?) used alone, but in combinations like da3-di1 (take a taxi), di1-ge1 (male taxi driver), di1-jie3 (female taxi driver), mian4-di1 (minibus taxi), mo2-di1 motorcycle taxi, or taxi motorcycle). We have to set rules all the time to deal with those new- comers. In this case, I think it is better to code di1 (taxi) as an entry, rather than putting all the combinations (words? phrases?) as individual entries.

And if you don't know in advance *exactly* how a word is constructed, you cannot possibly look it up in an online catalogue. There has to be agreement on what constitutes a word in all circumstances. (In English, when a word might be divided in two different ways, we often have to make a separate entry for a different version of a title, so that people who think of looking it up differently will still be able to find it).

> I sort of support the idea of using the hanzi catalogues which we can se just like another dictionary when searching or sorting. But that will not be ready before many more years.

I think the new generation of online catalogs, for example the new catalog that L.C. installed last summer, may be able to handle character lookup, but I am not sure. I know it's something every library with large Chinese holdings wants in their next catalog.

> Mr. Juli Zhang reported that the librarian in charge of cataloguing in Chinese at LOC said that some names, like Beijing, Deng Xiaoping, etc. would still be treated as words and spaced as they are. But that will open up the flush lock. I will see how they will handle other names. Mr. Juli Zhang also reported that searching and sorting by syllables is as fast as, if not faster than, the word-based one.

This is so because the computer does not have to learn the meaning of the words.

The rule is that all names with syllables commonly kept together (that would mean all Chinese personal names) will be printed as one word. At least, that's what the copy of the LC rules I received says. But the documentation is really sparse.

Judy Amory

From ProschanF@folklife.si.edu Wed Jun 20 10:08:58 2001
Date: Wed, 20 Jun 2001 10:04:43 -0400
From: Frank Proschan <ProschanF@folklife.si.edu>
Reply-To: vsg@u.washington.edu
To: Vietnam Studies Group <vsg@u.washington.edu>
Subject: Re: Vietnam or Viet Nam? - amodestsuggestion

Ratherthanfeelingcompelledalwaystoborrowmodularmodernityfromthewest, woulditnotmakemoresense forVietnamesetofollow themodel ofitsclosestneighbors LaosThailandandCambodia andstringwordstogetherbyphrases orevencompletesentences ratherthanstoppinghalfway?

If it's any consolation, Vietnamese cannot decide how to write foreign place names when writing in Vietnamese. Last year we were editing publications about Italy. Half the Hanoi maps show the Dai su quan Y and half show the Dai su quan I-tal-ia. The Italian Embassy has one version on its stationery and another on its gate. Newspapers have I-tal-ia but other government publications have Y. Where are the language police when we need them?

(This message was NOT inadvertently sent to the entire list like my last few were.)


Frank Proschan
Save Our Sounds

Date: Wed, 20 Jun 2001 12:44:24 -0500
From: William S. Turley <wturley@siu.edu>
Reply-To: vsg@u.washington.edu
To: Vietnam Studies Group <vsg@u.washington.edu>
Subject: Re: Vietnam or Viet Nam?

If the party went back to hyphenation now, it would be picking up here some Saigon - excuse me, Sai Gon, or is it Sai-Gon? - newspapers left off in. I clearly recall reading hyphenated Vietnamese in the Saigon daily, Chinh Luan, in the late 60s.

Bill Turley

William S. Turley
Department of Political Science
Southern Illinois University
Carbondale, Illinois, USA 62901-4501
phone: (618) 453-3182
fax: (618) 453-3163

Date: Wed, 20 Jun 2001 12:55:23 -0500
From: William S. Turley <wturley@siu.edu>
Reply-To: vsg@u.washington.edu
To: Vietnam Studies Group <vsg@u.washington.edu>
Subject: Re: Vietnam or Viet Nam? - amodestsuggestion

Exactly. And while they're at it, maybe the Vietnamese can drop "My" and "Hoa ky" for something more respectful of our feelings like "U-ni-the-dö Sö-tay-sö-tis o-ve A-me-ri-ca." (Hard to get right without VNese word processing capabilities....but ya'll get the idea.

William S. Turley
Department of Political Science
Southern Illinois University
Carbondale, Illinois, USA 62901-4501
phone: (618) 453-3182
fax: (618) 453-3163

From mchale@gwu.edu Wed Jun 20 17:46:31 2001
Date: Wed, 20 Jun 2001 17:07:12 -0400
From: mchale <mchale@gwu.edu>
Reply-To: vsg@u.washington.edu
To: Vietnam Studies Group <vsg@u.washington.edu>
Subject: Print culture, Elephant and Castle, and Vietnam/ Viet Nam

To add a slightly different twist to the discussion:

Years ago, when I was in London, I asked someone where oh where did the underground stop "Elephant and Castle" get its name. I was told that it may have been a corruption of "L'enfant de Castille."

Compared to numerous corruptions, mispronunciations, and adaptations of place names around the world, the use of the term "Vietnam" instead of "Viet Nam" seems a small problem. I can see the arguments for both sides. I also sense that the choice one makes often has slight ideological overtones. Odd.

Students of print culture have noted that with the spread of mass literacy, and the rise of certain vernaculars to prominence (especially in the age of nationalism), certain people became more interested in standardization of spellings. In Vietnam, a southern orthography loses out to a northern one. Terms like "quac" for "country" are replaced by "quoc." A southern and central freedom in the use of certain tone marks is replaced by standardization according to northern pronunciation. Some items of vocabulary are labelled "localisms" [tieng dia phuong], whereas others make it into the standard language. This standardization is not necessarily better: after all, standard written Vietnamese today probably does a poorer job at representing southern speech than it did in 1940.

Seen in such a light, the choice between "Viet Nam" and "Vietnam" seems somewhat arbitrary. Both terms represent the spoken word equally well. In short, I can see no compelling argument in favor of changing from one usage to another . . . so go with what makes you happy.

Shawn McHale

Assistant Professor of History and International Affairs
The George Washington University
e-mail address: mchale@gwu.edu

Date: Thu, 21 Jun 2001 10:18:14 +1000
From: David Marr <dgm405@coombs.anu.edu.au>
Reply-To: vsg@u.washington.edu
To: Vietnam Studies Group <vsg@u.washington.edu>
Subject: Re: Vietnam or Viet Nam?

To dash or not to dash has occupied Vietnamese intellectuals since the 1920s, if not earlier. Of course either way is a convention with no basis in earlier language usage.

Truong-Chinh became something of an embarrassment on this issue. Long after most publications in the DRV had dropped the hyphen, he insisted his name (actually pseudonym) include it. I'm told he tried to convince the Politburo to use hyphens on Ho Chi Minh's tomb...

On the original question, if we try to follow current native practice, will we have to write Viet Namese, and Viet Nam's?

The politics of orthography is alive and well!

David Marr

Date: Wed, 20 Jun 2001 22:49:08 -0700 (PDT)
From: Nam Ngo <vnsngo@u.washington.edu>
Reply-To: vsg@u.washington.edu
To: Vietnam Studies Group <vsg@u.washington.edu>
Subject: Re: Vietnam or Viet Nam?

Vie^.t Nam
Viet Nam

I think that though in different forms, all of the above still imply the meaning of the country. I find it more problematic with the ways Vietnamese names are listed in American way, i.e. first name come first.

Take the name of Nguye^~n Phu+o+'c Bu+?u Ho^.i for example, we might have: Nguye^~n Phu+o+'c Bu+?u Ho^.i

Nguye^?n Phu'c Bu*?u Ho^.i
Hoi Phuoc Buu Nguyen
Hoi Buu Phuoc Nguyen
Hoi Nguyen Phuoc Buu
Buu-Hoi Nguyen-Phuoc
Hoi P.B. Nguyen

Du NGuyen means
Nguye^~n Du
or Nguye^~n Du+~?

We do need a common style for Vietnamese names in English writing. Hope that some people will do it.


Nam-Son NGO-VIET, Assoc. AIA, APA

From KNinh@asiafound.org Thu Jun 21 20:25:30 2001
Date: Thu, 21 Jun 2001 09:04:04 -0700
From: Kim Ninh <KNinh@asiafound.org>
Reply-To: vsg@u.washington.edu
To: Vietnam Studies Group <vsg@u.washington.edu>
Subject: Vietnam or Viet Nam?

Thank you everyone for your responses which do help to clarify matters or me. I will stick with my initial instinct to go with Vietnam, Hanoi, and Saigon, but I am looking forward to seeing the ms. being published with diacritic marks. To have them included (and hopefully correctly!) make for such a different book, especially when we are increasingly using many more Vietnamese works.

For your information, the various presses that I have come into contact with in the preparation of my ms. have been quite willing to publish with diacritic marks, noting that this is simply the trend in publishing works on Vietnam, that they need to stay competitive with other presses, and that it is getting much easier to do so. I was rather hesitant at first in pressing for this, but actually encountered little opposition. My own book will be out this fall from University of Michigan Press.

Best regards,


Kim Ninh
Governance, Law and Civil Society Programs
The Asia Foundation
465 California Street, 14th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94104
Tel: 415-743-3331
Fax: 415-392-8863
E-mail: KNinh@asiafound.org

From O.SALEMINK@FORDFOUND.ORG Thu Jun 21 20:25:37 2001
Date: Thu, 21 Jun 2001 10:16:58 -0700
Reply-To: vsg@u.washington.edu
To: Vietnam Studies Group <vsg@u.washington.edu>
Subject: RE: Vietnam or Viet Nam?

Not just in Chinh Luan -- using dashes was quite common in the South before 75. Recently, I have begun to do a bit of ghostwriting the occasional speech and advising on delivery for a non-VN friend of mine, and reverted to the use of hyphenated words because that makes it much easier too distinguish words and keep some rhythm in the delivery. I was inspired by the former south-vietnamese practice but also motivated by observing many VN colleagues themselves stumble over words and sentences when giving speeches, lectures or papers.

However, that is for very particular use only. I don't have the illusion that the VN authorities would change the current spelling, despite president Ho's reputed favoring of simplified spelling.

Oscar Salemink

From quynh-du.ton-that@anu.edu.au Thu Jun 21 20:25:46 2001
Date: Fri, 22 Jun 2001 13:34:55 +1000
From: ton-that quynh-du <quynh-du.ton-that@anu.edu.au>
Reply-To: vsg@u.washington.edu
To: Vietnam Studies Group <vsg@u.washington.edu>
Subject: Re: Vietnam or Viet Nam? a word boundary problem

Dear all,

I have been following this debate with some interest. It's true that VSG members have dealt with some issues commonly debated in Vietnam for a long time, that many non-language forces have been at play as David Marr put it 'The politics of orthography is alive and well!' , but it's not entirely true either to say that 'either way is a convention with no basis in earlier language usage'.

In fact I would argue that it is language-related issues that have made it such an intractable issue.

The issue raised by Nguyen Thanh Son and Geoff Wade in their postings is based entirely on language usage. Both seem to say that a word should be written in such a way that indicates clearly where it begins and ends. In English a word such as "international" is written in such a way that is clear to any reader where it begins (with the letter i) and ends (with letter l) while incorporating all its semantic conceptual components ( inter and nation) and even its grammatical category (the al ending for an adjective). Nguyen Thanh Son gave several examples : "for 'although' we have 'macdu', for 'blackboard' > 'bangden', 'faraway' > 'xaxoi', and so on."

One complication is that while one person might regard bangden as one word - blackboard, some others would regard it as two - a board (that's) black. Similarly, in a sentence such as 'Bo toi la nguoi phat thu." some might regard nguoiphatthu as one word - postman, while another might regard nguoi phat thu as a noun phrase person who delivers mail. So what helps to define what a word is involves more than its semantic content (person -deliver - mail) but also the role of that bundle in the structure of the sentence (nguoiphatthu if a noun and nguoi phat thu for a phrase.)

And I would argue that current usage of the Vietnamese language, and I presume earlier usage the same if not more so, is flexible and fluid enough to give validity to either view.

A more vexing matter that contributes to the word boundary problem is the way the Vietnamese language goes about creating new words. Unlike English, where one can extend from nation > national > international, Vietnamese doesn't allow this form of word derivation. Instead, we put two (or more) words together when there is a need to create new words. So we put nha and cua together to make nha cua - housing, accommodation, ao + quan to make ao quan - clothes, ong + buom to make ong buom - sexual liaisons etc... As pointed out by Vo Phien, there is a specific - generic dichotomy: we tend to put two specific words together to make a new word of the next level of generality. In other cases, we use reduplicatives: nho nhen = petty minded, while nho nhoi = insignificant in stature.

There is the question of mention plural markers too. Should we greet a group of men Chao cacanh? and a group of people of both sexes Chao cacanhcacchi?

That was a trick question, because the answer is that in spoken form we would say - Chao cac anh cac chi - in five syllables highly isolated from each other. Very different from international - five syllables which are rolled in the same breath. If you doubt this claim try to get a native speaker of Vietnamese to say cac anh as fast as he/she can. No matter how fast the two syllables cac anh are pronounced, they will not sound like ca canh. Which means that there is a silence in between cac and anh, or generally in between most Vietnamese syllables. There lies one of the most important reasons why Vietnamese is written in this way, one unit of writing (chu) for each sound (tieng), according to a paper by Professor Nguyen Quang Hong given in 1991. The problem of where a word (tu) begins and ends is somewhat different.

I think Vietnamese2020 is to be congratulated in their attempt to make things easier for the readers. I guess proponents of Vietnamese2020 wish to be able to signal to their readers a little more clearly where their words begin and end, thus aiding in the process of constructing the meaning of what they are reading. But I am not aware of any impediment to understanding a text written in the present way. In fact, as usual, I find a little solace in that theory that says the meaning is arrived at in the mind of the readers when engaged with the text. No matter how closely / loosely / deliberately the writer signals his/her intention the final understanding will be partly reader-relevant.

I say leave things the way they are. Chao tat ca cac ban.


Date: Fri, 22 Jun 2001 00:04:35 -0400
From: Hue Tam H. Tai <hhtai@fas.harvard.edu>
Reply-To: vsg@u.washington.edu
To: Vietnam Studies Group <vsg@u.washington.edu>
Subject: Re: Vietnam or Viet Nam? a word boundary problem

Dear all:

I have been very impressed by Quynh Du's extremely thoughtful comments on hyphenation. I, too, would have real trouble writing nguoiphatthu or cacanhcacchi. In fact, I would have trouble writing xaxoi or bangden. One could argue that xaxoi is indeed one single concept (try using xoi without xa--you get a totally different meaning as in xoi bap or xoi thit) whereas bang den is really made up of a modifier and a modified object, that is, *the board that is black'. Many of the words that were hyphenated in the pre-75 South are Sino-Vietnamese compound words (and many are neologisms): lich-su, dai-hoc, and so forth. these are words that are now linked (no hyphen) in pinyin romanization. so we have lishi yanjiu but nghien cuu lich su. It might make sense to hyphenate these compound words. But I also believe in letting well enough alone.


p.s.: many blackboards in the US are actually green; at Harvard "blue books" change color every year. And of course we know that green cards have not been green in quite some time. Language evolves all the time.

From chung.nguyen@umb.edu Sun Jun 24 00:48:18 2001
Date: Sun, 10 Jun 2001 03:13:46 -0700
From: Chung Nguyen <chung.nguyen@umb.edu>
Reply-To: vsg@u.washington.edu
To: Vietnam Studies Group <vsg@u.washington.edu>
Subject: Re: Vietnam or Viet Nam? - amodestsuggestion

Very interesting discussion. I just happen to glance at a few emails on this and my head swirls with vision of vast possibility ! As I recall, there has been a long tradition of trying to "reform"/"renovate" the Vietnamese writing to give it various added lustres - modernity, scientific character, aesthetics", to name a few.

One of the first was to replace some of the "y" by the "i". For ex.,"ty" by "ti". There are, of course, exceptions: "thu'y" cannot be replaced by "thu'i", which makes the whole scheme problematic. Other candidates: "f" for "ph", "z" for "d". HCM was particular fond of the "f". For some reasons, these never catch on.

Then the use of hyphenation: dai-hoc instead of dai hoc. Typographically, that proves an added burden for typesetters, spellers, and even writers. That was eventually dropped.

Then the stringing together of compound words: daihoc instead of dai hoc. Aside from the reason G. Wade has pointed out, this isn't as simple as it sounds. For why stop at daihoc ? Should it be daihoc quocgia or shouldn't it be daihocquocgia ? How about daihocquocgiachinhqui ?

Vision of "Em toi theo hoc mot truong daihocquocgiachinhquihiendai" dances in my mind. An innocent reader might parse it differently - daihoc-quocgiac-hinhqui ?

I have a suspicion that both "Vietnam" and "Viet Nam" would survive as legitimate spellings, one as a common anglicized version, the other as more reflective of the Vietnamese spelling, esp. in the realm of culture-sensitive writings.

As for Y and I-tal-ia, I own a dictionary of foreign names and their Vietnamese equivalents published in Vietnam. The good thing is that every Vietnamese can pronounce these foreign names; the drawback is that sometimes these Vietnamese transliterations become unrecognizable. One has no idea what they actually refer to (perhaps, that's why you need to buy the dictionary).

Recently, articles in Vietnam have started using the English versions directly. With global networks, CNN, internets, can English names be far behind?

Nguyen Ba Chung
William Joiner Center

From msefaj@nus.edu.sg Sun Jun 24 21:49:31 2001
Date: Mon, 25 Jun 2001 12:05:56 +0800
From: Adam Fforde <msefaj@nus.edu.sg>
Reply-To: vsg@u.washington.edu
To: Vietnam Studies Group <vsg@u.washington.edu>
Subject: RE: Print culture, Elephant and Castle, and Vietnam/ Viet Nam

My pennyworth on this (just back from two weeks in VN).

In the UK, we pronounce and write various continental place names in our own manner(s) - eg, Cologne (Koln), Warsaw (Warszawa), Moscow (??). The spelling and pronunciation decision was and remains negotiated/made within the particular English language community (as we can see over the Atlantic in the marvelous US pronunciation of Notre Dame). This can change if it is thought useful (ie the shift from Peking to Beijing, since they are a very large country etc etc.). Bombay/Mumbai remains less clear. It is often remarked that English English tends, by comparison with US English, and when there is no specific English name for the place, to attempt to mimic the native pronunciation. Whether this is true or not I do not know.

For a while, in the very early 1990s, I noticed that English English speakers would pronounce certain Vietnamese place names in the American fashion, fabulously far from any original pronunciation, since that was how they had heard them in English during the war (rather than in English English). Danang and Can Tho were favourites. This now seems to have stopped.

Personally, writing in English I always write Hanoi, and usually Haiphong. Danang as such, also Saigon, but that is about it. The rest I write 'character wise' like the Vietnamese, but without (obviously) the tone marks. In doing so I think I am following the same language rule as for Cologne - it has sufficient usage to have become 'English', at least whatever that means in my language community. I recall a conference in The Hague (sic) in the early 1980s where Ken Post received some flak for writing Vietnam in English with tone marks and with two words. Same issue - why write Koln? Why not?



PS The Goat and Compasses is 'Le bon dieu nous encompasse', my mother told me. Probably went through some rhyming slang on the way.

Dr. Adam Fforde, Senior Fellow
Rm AS3 06-14, Southeast Asian Studies Programme
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, NUS
Tel: (65) 874 6865
Fax: (65) 774 8750
email: msefaj@nus.edu.sg


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