The Vietnamese language –Tiếng Việt –is a tonal Austroasiatic language, which was first written down in the 13th century, using a logographic writing system – Chữ Nôm. This system was based on the script used for writing Classical Chinese, but it was supplemented with characters developed in Vietnam to record daily Vietnamese words. Chu Nom was widely used by the social elite from the 15-19th century.
In the 1920s, the Latin-based Vietnamese alphabet displaced Chu Nom to record Vietnamese. This dramatic change was intimately linked with French colonialism and Catholic missionary activity in Vietnam. Although arguably opening the Vietnamese language to global culture, this process precipitated an inevitable loss of connection with historical Vietnamese culture, from books to engravings on historical building, which would affect the subsequent generations’ mindset.
Through exploring calligraphic writing in this project, I aim to investigate the possibility of developing a script/typeface family which pays serious attention to the basic requirements of Vietnamese, especially unique diacritics and their importance as an integral part of a tonal language. How does the presence of diacritics affect the spatial design, and what are the effects of minor details on the overall reading experience? Furthermore, I hope to develop a Unicode font based on an understanding of the interaction of the language with social identity, and the unique practical and aesthetic needs of the Vietnamese language.