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List of Bird Species of Vietnam

Note on languages represented


The Vietnamese bird names section of the Sibagu site features seven languages (aside from the Latin names): Vietnamese, English, French, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, and Malaysian/Indonesian. The justification for these specific languages is as follows:

Vietnamese: Unfortunately, 'minor' countries and languages like Vietnam tend to be given short shrift in the world of vernacular bird names, even in English-language books that purport to deal with the birds of that country. It goes without saying that Vietnamese should be listed.

In addition to listing the ornithological Vietnamese names, some attempt has also been made at indicating dialect words or variant dialect pronunciations at the column on 'Other Vietnamese names'.

English: English names appear to have become universal among ornithologists and birders, perhaps even more so than the Latin names. English is also the native language of the creator of this site. English names are thus given to the right of the scientific names.

French: French is the language of Vietnam's colonial power in the 19th and 20th centuries. Although French had considerable influence on the Vietnamese vocabulary, it does not appear to have had much impact on bird naming, with a few small exceptions in the boobies. Nevertheless, in view of historical and (to some extent) continuing influence of French in Vietnam, as well as French interest in its former colony, French bird names are listed.

Chinese: Vietnam has had a long and close (if ambivalent) historical relationship with its northern neighbour. For a thousand years Vietnam was a part of China. For the next thousand, it accepted China as the standard for its own culture. Chinese influence on Vietnam was thus pervasive and deep-rooted. The abandonment of Chinese characters in the early 20th century represented the abrupt end of a major element in this cultural link. So complete was the break that when it came to creating a list of ornithological Vietnamese bird names in the last century, there was very little influence from Chinese tradition. Nevertheless, the Chinese names are essential, both because of China is still an overwhelmingly important neighbour and cultural and economic influence on Vietnam, and because the Chinese names provide an essential backdrop to understanding the current names in Vietnam.

Chinese names as used in Taiwan are listed separately for reference.

Japanese: Japanese is a major Asian language that has had an important influence on bird names in East Asia. It is also one of the only Asian languages to have a worldwide list of bird names.

Thai: Although Vietnam has traditionally looked to China as a cultural model, it is unmistakably a part of the Southeast Asian world. Thailand is a major birding country and Thai is a major language of the region. Thanks to Michael Nichols, I have been able to include Thai names, along with pronunciations and glosses. What emerges are some startling areal commonalities in bird naming between the two languages.

Malay/Indonesian: The only other major Southeast Asian countries with standardised lists of bird names are Malaysia (for the peninsula only) and Indonesia. Although there are numerous differences in vocabulary, Malaysian and Indonesian are essentially the same language, which, however, has been standardised differently in the two countries for political reasons. This list includes the Malaysian and Indonesian standard names, thanks again to Michael Nichols. Apart from very interesting differences in the approach to bird name standardisation between the Malaysian and Indonesian birding establishments, the lists again reveal fascinating areal features shared in common between Vietnamese, Thai, and Malaysian/Indonesian bird names.

The seven languages on this section of this site are thus there for a reason. The result is hopefully a more borderless view of the natural environment of Vietnam than is available from narrow territorially defined human languages.