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Are "D" and "Gi" in Northern Vietnamese phonetically identical?

April 24, 2016



Well, in the some places, 'gi' sounds like 'j'. However, in Hanoi (and Duolingo as well) 'd' and 'gi' sound the same.


Không có gì-You're welcome.


Hello JackyDW. In Vietnamese standard voice, d's sound is /j/ and gi's sound is /z/.
But at present, "d" is pronounced the same as "gi" (IPA: /z/, like z in zoo) in almost Northern dialects (including Hanoian dialect which the audio of this course is in). In Southern dialects, "gi" and "d" are pronounced the same too (but their sound is /j/, like y in yes). So it's a challenge not only for foreign learners but also for native speakers to decide to write which letter when they hear a word that includes these sounds. If you write them wrong, the word will change into another word and have different meanings though their pronunciations are the same (e.g: (what) and (aunt), both of them are /zi˨˩/ in Northern dialects or /ji˨˩/ in Southern dialects).
There are some rules to know when to write "d" or "gi" but they are complicated and not applied much in real life. Most of native speakers learn these words by heart.

- Why we have these two letters for only one sound? Actually, these two letters used to be pronounced distinctly in Middle Vietnamese. D represented /ð/ while gi represented /ʝ/.
- If they are pronounced the same in Modern Vietnamese, why don't we reject one of these two letters? Because it just makes Vietnamese vocabulary more complicated. Retained words will have to take on many meanings from rejected words.
- People in some North Central dialects can pronounce these two sounds distinctly, which means they can pronounce words like giáo dục /zaw˧˥ juk˧ˀ˩ʔ/ (education) or diễn giải (to explain) exactly.


Wow. That answered everything. Thanks so much for your explanation of those two letters! They were giving me so much listening trouble.


I'm sorry for reviving this thread but I was wondering, is the 'z' for northern, 'y' for southern universally true, or are there exceptions? Is the 'z' sound ever used in southern Vietnamese? For example, the word 'giàu'--is it also pronounced with the 'y' initial sound in southern? I ask because I've been trying to learn the southern accent and have been using forvo.com to hear pronunciations lately but it seemed every recording of 'giàu' that I ran into used the 'z' sound even if the recording came from southern Vietnam. Thank you for taking the time to clear all these accent-related things up.


I dont know how i ended up here or if you haven't figured it out yet but Giao=Yiao or Jiao in southern accent

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