Table 3. The Tone System

Tone Pitch
Name Symbol Level Contour Other Features

High Rising Tenseness

High Rising Glottalization
ngang (unmarked) High-Mid Trailing-Falling Laxness

Low Trailing Laxness, breathiness

Mid-Low Droping Tenseness


Low Droping Glottalization or tenseness

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Symbol Name Description Examples
spkr1.gif (932 bytes)a (ngang) Mid or high-mid trailing pitch, nearly level when syllable is not final in pause group; in final syllables pitch falls to low range (citation forms often show level pitch) ba - three
khng - not
ăn - eat
tư - fourth
mơ - dream
spkr1.gif (932 bytes) huyền Low trailing pitch, often accompanied by breathy voice quality v - and
gần - near
bằng - made of
cờ - chess
spkr1.gif (932 bytes) sắc High rising pitch, often heard as nearly high level in rapid speech c - fish
sch - book
số - number
bắn - shoot
cứ - persit
lớp - class
spkr1.gif (932 bytes) nặng Low dropping pitch, abruptly falling to bottom of normal voice range; syllable ends in stop or cut off abruptly by glottal stop mạ - rice seedling
nặng - heavy
chợ - market
ngựa - horse
lại - come
cập - briefcase
vật - thing
sạch - clean
được - get
spkr1.gif (932 bytes) hỏi Mid-low dropping pitch, less abrupt than the tone đust decribed accompanied in citation forms by rise at end cả - elder
hỏi - ask
ổ - nest
thử - try out
spkr1.gif (932 bytes) ng High rising pitch, accompanied by glottal stop or "strangulted" vowel quality đ [anterior tense marker]
mỗi - each
chữ - written word
cũng - likewise

Contents prepared by Dan Dan Tu
Designed by Hieu Nguyen
Audio by Trung Van Vo