Chữ Vòng, literally "circle script", is an
alternative alphabet for Vietnamese invented by Albert Nguyen. The
motivation to create Chữ Vòng came from the
desire to mimic the ability of Korean and Japanese, which also once
used Chinese as the sole writing system, to maintain the use of Chinese
characters along with their own phonetic writing systems.
While Chữ Nôm is a good way to represent
native Vietnamese words, it is cumbersome, takes years of study to master,
and it has not been updated for modern Vietnamese.
Quốc Ngữ is simple and flexible, but is not written in
blocks and so does not support Chữ Nho (Chinese characters).
Chữ Vòng provides a purely phonetic syllabic script
that is flexible enough to import new words as necessary and is much easier
to learn than Chữ Nôm.
Generally written from left to right, top to bottom. The traditional top
to bottom, right to left pattern can still be used for artistic and ceremonial purposes.
Each syllable block can consist of up to four parts, an initial consonant,
a middle vowel or diphthong, a final consonant and tone mark. The only required
component is a vowel.
Chữ Vòng maintains constructions of Quốc
Ngữ when not inconvenient. For example, while "tr" is closer to "ch"
in sound, it is more similar to "t" when written.
The nearly one-to-one relationship between Quốc Ngữ and
Chữ Vòng letters (not including diphthongs) allows
for easy transliteration from Quốc Ngữ to Chữ
Additional consonants allow importing words with phonemes not native
Certain letters in Quốc Ngữ are pronounced differently
depending on the regional accent, so the IPA pronunciation of the letters
is not provided. Letters should be pronounced the same as their Quốc
Diphthongs are constructed by combining component vowels and using
an existing or modified character that resembles the combined vowels
That Chữ Vòng is written in blocks allows the
parallel use of Chữ Nho and Chữ Nôm.
While Chữ Nho and Chữ Nôm can be used along with
Chữ Vòng, there are no set rules to determine which
should be used and in what situations. Possible rules include:
Always use Chữ Nho and Chữ Nôm when the needed
character exists and only use Chữ Vòng when no
Only use Chữ Nho and Chữ Nôm to write the top X
frequently used words. (The sample below of the first two lines of Truyện
Kiều uses this rule).
Only use Chữ Nho and Chữ Nôm when the character
requires fewer strokes than than when written in Chữ Vòng.
Use all Chữ Nho characters and only use Chữ Nôm
characters that require fewer strokes than when written in Chữ
A committee will determine a set of standard Chữ Nho and
Chữ Nôm characters to be used, and all other words will be
written in Chữ Vòng.
Only use Chữ Nho and Chữ Nôm for names,
decorative, and ceremonial uses.
The entirity of Chữ Nho and Chữ Nôm may be
used without rules, and the writer risks not being understood when
using Chữ Nho and Chữ Nôm too aggressively.
Modern use of Chữ Nho and Chữ Nôm provides an opportunity
to simplify characters as Simplified Chinese and Japanese have done. This would
allow more characters to be used if one of the rules that consider stroke count
Chữ Vòng writing system
Notes on consonants
Italiced Quốc Ngữ letters indicate letters that are
not native to Vietnamese, but are provided to import words as necessary.
When transliterating words that start with "g(i)" or "q(u)", the "i"
and "u" must be kept on the subsequent vowel or diphthong.
The consonant variant of "y" is only used when followed by a vowel
or diphthong. When "y" appears isolated or as an initial followed by
a consonant, the vowel variant is used.
The "none" consonant marker is used on isolated and initial diphthongs
to indicate the word is written in Chữ Vòng and
is not a Chữ Nho or Chữ Nôm character.
Notes on diphthongs
Isolated and initial diphthongs should start with the "none" consonant
marker to indicate a Chữ Vòng word instead of a
Chữ Nho or Chữ Nôm character.
Diphthongs should be resized in the same way individual vowels are
resized when appearing as an initial, middle, or final letter.
Text in Quốc Ngữ
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They
are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another
in a spirit of brotherhood. (Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)
If you have any questions about Chữ Vòng, you can contact Albert at: albert.v.nguyen[at]gmail[dot]com
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