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.

Diagram-of-tones-in-vietnamese


 Tiếng ViệtMarker ExampleEnglish Meaning
Mid-level toneThanh ngang(unmarked)maGhost
Rising toneDấu sắc ́Mother
Falling toneDấu huyền ̀Which
Low-falling-rising toneDấu hỏi ̉̉̉mảTomb
High-rising broken toneDấu ngã ̃Horse
Low-falling brokenDấu  nặng ̣mạRice Seedling