Vietnamese (Tiếng Việt), a tonal language, is the national and official
language of Vietnam.
is the mother tongue of 87% of Vietnam's population, in addition to about
two million Vietnamese emigrants, including a significant number of
Vietnamese Americans. Although it contains many vocabulary borrowings from
Chinese and was originally written using Chinese characters, it is
considered by linguists to be one of the Austroasiatic languages, of which
it has the most speakers (it has 10 times the number of speakers as the next
most-spoken language, the Khmer language).
Presently, the written language uses a Roman character set called quốc ngữ
(national language). It was introduced in the 17th century by a French
Jesuit missionary named Alexandre de Rhodes (1591-1660), based on works of
earlier Portuguese missionaries. With the occupation of the French in the
19th century, it became popular and by the late 20th century virtually all
writings were done in quốc ngữ.