I'm one of the people for whom papaya smells like barf :( I can only eat it if I hold my nose :P https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20090421192503AAGDcpG
What's the difference in pronunciation between the An that's someone's name and the an that represents eating? Does the u-shaped accent mark serve a specific purpose in pronunciation? And is it applied to characters in the Vietnamese alphabet that do not resemble the English "a"?
The letter a is pronounced as a long /aː/ sound, while the letter ă marks a short /a/ sound. The quality of the sounds is (almost) the same, but the main difference is in length.
Another pair of vowels which sound the same are ơ and â, which are pronounced like a long /ɤː/ and a short /ɤ/, respectively (very similar to the first sound in English about, hence sometimes transcribed phonetically as /əː/ and /ə/).
Is there a way of differentiating between a questioning tone (ủ) and a falling tone (ù)?
My understanding was that the ủ diacritic was supposed to be spoken with an inflection which sounds like a question (i.e. dropping a little at first but then rising sharply), but in this example it just sounds like the tone is dropping throughout.
Or is it a case of context being important (such that đu đù would make no sense)?
There is at least one other language there with falling tone in questions, Hungarian, so it is maybe rather a matter of being accostumed to recognizing questions by a rising tone towards the end of the sentence then of a rule. For Indoeuropean ears it is quite confusing to identify those questions just by hearing them.
In Hungarian, if you can only answer with "yes" or "no", the tone pitch in interrogative sentences raises until the last but one syllable continuously, but the last syllable drops sharply down (it drops even deeper than the tone pitch is at the beginning of the question). In case of general questions the tone pitch is simply descending. In Hungarian, sometimes an interrogative suffix "e" added after an obligatory "-" ("-e") shows that this is a question, and usually, in all general questions, the most important part of an interrogative sentence is the first word. (e.g. "minek" [=what for], "honnan" [=where from], "hová" [=where to], "miért" [=why]. I wonder whether Vietnamese has a comparable intonation behavior i.e. word order in case of questions as one can discover some more rare similarities between the linguistic solutions in these two languages apart from the fact that they are not related at all.
Why would "An is eating papaya" not work in this case? (I'm assuming it's wrong)
Does "cái" (also) infer a continuous(?) action [is eating], rather than a habitual/general present action(?) [eats], so the absence of it should infer the latter?
I'm fairly sure 'eats' and 'is eating' translates as 'ăn' in most
Well, this seems to be a challenge for learners of Vietnamese at the very beginning of the course. However, the sentence is fine and so is the pronunciation. I'm a native Vietnamese speaker but I don't hear "anh" but "an".
Wish that the VN team can change the name "An" to another one that's easier to guess.
[Edit] You add 'trái' or 'quả' when you count the number of a kind of fruit (one, two, three, ... ten, twenty, these, those, etc.), not an amount of it [kilogram(s), basket(s), bag(s), etc.]:
- I eat A papaya -> Tôi ăn MỘT (1) TRÁI/QUẢ đu đủ.
- She buys THREE apples -> Cô ấy mua BA (3) TRÁI/QUẢ táo.
- SOME oranges in the fridge had spoiled. -> MỘT SỐ TRÁI/QUẢ cam trong tủ lạnh đã bị hỏng/hư.
- THESE durians are stinking the whole house out -> NHỮNG TRÁI/QUẢ sầu riêng NÀY đang làm hôi cả căn nhà.
You don't need the classifiers 'trái' or 'quả' when you're referring to an amount of a kind of fruit [kilogram(s), basket(s), bag(s), etc.], not its number (one, two, three, ... ten, twenty, etc.):
- I eat papaya(s) -> Tôi ăn đu đủ.
- She buys two kilograms of apples -> Cô ấy mua hai kí/ký/ki-lô-gam táo.
- Three bags of oranges in the fridge had spoiled. -> Ba túi/bọc/bịch cam trong tủ lạnh đã bị hỏng/hư.
- A giant basket full of durians are stinking the whole house out -> Một giỏ lớn đựng đầy sầu riêng đang làm hôi cả căn nhà.
There are many exceptions as always but they are too complicated to explain in one post. Feel free to ask questions when you're in doubt :)