The six-toned dialect of the central Red River delta region, particularly around Hanoi, is regarded as the language's standard form, but significant dialectical variations exist between regions in terms of the number of tones, accents, and vocabulary.Dialectical differences often serve as important symbols of regional identity in social life.The country's birth rate, estimated to increase at 1.37 percent per year, has led to rapid population growth since the 1980s with approximately 34 percent of the population under 14 years of age. Vietnamese is the dominant language, spoken by an estimated 86.7 percent of the population.
The combination of warfare, land shortages, population surpluses, illegal logging, and the migration of lowlanders to highland areas has resulted in deforestation and environmental degradation in many mountainous areas.
The country is largely lush and tropical, though the temperature in the northern mountains can cool to near freezing in the winter and the central regions often experience droughts. The current population is approximately seventy-seven million composed almost exclusively of indigenous peoples.
These range from languages spoken by large numbers of people, such as Muong (767,000), Khmer (700,000), Nung (700,000), Tai Dam (over 500,000), and Chinese (500,000), to those spoken by only a few hundred people, such as O'Du, spoken by an estimated two hundred people.
Many minority group members are bilingual, though not necessarily with Vietnamese as their second language. The Vietnamese government extensively employs a number of symbols to represent the nation.
Its 2,135 miles (3,444 kilometers) of coastline run from its border with Cambodia on the Gulf of Thailand along the South China Sea to its border with China.
The delineation of Vietnam's borders has been a focus of dispute in the post–1975 period, notably the ownership disputes with China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Malaysia over the Spratly Islands; and with China and Taiwan over the Paracel Islands.Recent progress has been made settling land border disputes with China and Cambodia.The Vietnamese culturally divide their country into three main regions, the north ( Bac Bo ), center ( Trung Bo ), and south ( Nam Bo ), with Hanoi, Hue, and Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) serving as the main cities of each region.The Communist Party still exercises exclusive control over political life, but the question of whether Vietnam will continue its socio-economic development in a climate of peace and stability remains uncertain at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Vietnam occupies approximately 127,243 square miles (329,560 square kilometers), an area roughly equivalent to New Mexico, and is situated between 8 and 24 degrees latitude and 102 and 110 degrees longitude.It borders China in the north, Laos in the northeast and center, and Cambodia in the southwest. The name Vietnam originated in 1803 when envoys from the newly founded Nguyen dynasty traveled to Beijing to establish diplomatic relations with the Chinese court.The new emperor had chosen the name Nam Viet for his kingdom.Irrigated rice agriculture is also practiced in numerous smaller river deltas and plains along the country's coast.Vietnam's western salient is defined by the mountainous Annamite Cordillera that is home to most of the country's fifty-four ethnic groups.Expatriates of many nationalities reside in urban areas.The country's two largest population centers are Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, but over 75 percent of the population lives in rural areas.