Thai language

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Thai
Central Thai, Siamese
ภาษาไทย, Phasa Thai
"Phasa Thai" (literally meaning "Thai language") written in Thai script
Pronunciation
Region
EthnicityCentral Thai, Thai Chinese, Mon, Lao Wiang, Phuan
Native speakersL1: 21 million (2000)
L2: 40 million (2001)
Total: 61 million
Language familyKra–Dai
Writing system
Official status
Official language in Thailand
Recognised minority
language in
 Cambodia
 Laos
 Malaysia
 Myanmar
Regulated byRoyal Society of Thailand
Language codes
ISO 639-1th
ISO 639-2tha
ISO 639-3tha
Glottologthai1261
Linguasphere47-AAA-b
Dark Blue: Majority Light Blue: Minority
A native Thai speaker, recorded in Bangkok

Thai, or Central Thai (historically Siamese; Thai: ภาษาไทย), is a Tai language of the Kra–Dai language family spoken by the Central Thai, Mon, Lao Wiang, Phuan people in Central Thailand and the vast majority of Thai Chinese enclaves throughout the country. It is the sole official language of Thailand.

Thai is the most spoken of over 60 languages of Thailand by both number of native and overall speakers. Over half of its vocabulary is derived from or borrowed from Pali, Sanskrit, Mon and Old Khmer. It is a tonal and analytic language. Thai has a complex orthography and system of relational markers. Spoken Thai, depending on standard sociolinguistic factors such as age, gender, class, spatial proximity, and the urban/rural divide, is partly mutually intelligible with Lao, Isan, and some fellow Thai topolects. These languages are written with slightly different scripts, but are linguistically similar and effectively form a dialect continuum.

Thai language is spoken by over 69 million people (2020). Moreover, most Thais in the northern (Lanna) and the northeastern (Isan) parts of the country today are bilingual speakers of Central Thai and their respective regional dialects because (Central) Thai is the language of television, education, news reporting, and all forms of media. A recent research found that the speakers of the Northern Thai language (also known as Phasa Mueang or Kham Mueang) have become so few, as most people in northern Thailand now invariably speak Standard Thai, so that they are now using mostly Central Thai words and only seasoning their speech with the "Kham Mueang" accent. Standard Thai is based on the register of the educated classes by Central Thai and ethnic minorities in the area along the ring surrounding the Metropolis.

In addition to Central Thai, Thailand is home to other related Tai languages. Although most linguists classify these dialects as related but distinct languages, native speakers often identify them as regional variants or dialects of the "same" Thai language, or as "different kinds of Thai". As a dominant language in all aspects of society in Thailand, Thai initially saw gradual and later widespread adoption as a second language among the country's minority ethnic groups from the mid-late Ayutthaya period onward. Ethnic minorities today are predominantly bilingual, speaking Thai alongside their native language or dialect.

Classification

Standard Thai is classified as one of the Chiang Saen languages—others being Northern Thai, Southern Thai and numerous smaller languages, which together with the Northwestern Tai and Lao-Phutai languages, form the Southwestern branch of Tai languages. The Tai languages are a branch of the Kra–Dai language family, which encompasses a large number of indigenous languages spoken in an arc from Hainan and Guangxi south through Laos and Northern Vietnam to the Cambodian border.

Standard Thai is the principal language of education and government and spoken throughout Thailand. The standard is based on the dialect of the central Thai people, and it is written in the Thai script.

Example of divergence among the Kra-Dai Languages
Kra-Dai 

Hlai languages

Kam-Sui languages

Kra languages

Be language

 Tai languages 

Northern Tai languages

Central Tai languages

Southwestern Tai languages
Northwestern Tai languages

Khamti language

Tai Lue language

Shan language

others

Chiang Saen languages

Northern Thai language

Sukhothai language

Thai language

Southern Thai language

Lao‑Phuthai languages

Tai Yo language

Phuthai language

Lao language (PDR Lao, Isan language)

History

Thai has undergone various historical sound changes. Some of the most significant changes occurred during the evolution from Old Thai to modern Thai. The Thai writing system has an eight-century history and many of these changes, especially in consonants and tones, are evidenced in the modern orthography.

Early spread

According to a Chinese source, during the Ming dynasty, Yingya Shenglan (1405–1433), Ma Huan reported on the language of the Xiānluó (暹羅) or Ayutthaya kingdom, saying that it somewhat resembled the local patois as pronounced in Guangdong: 107  Ayutthaya, the old capital of Thailand from 1351 - 1767 A.D., was from the beginning a bilingual society, speaking Thai and Khmer. Bilingualism must have been strengthened and maintained for some time by the great number of Khmer-speaking captives the Thais took from Angkor Thom after their victories in 1369, 1388 and 1431. Gradually toward the end of the period, a language shift took place. Khmer fell out of use. Both Thai and Khmer descendants whose great-grand parents or earlier ancestors were bilingual came to use only Thai. In the process of language shift, an abundance of Khmer elements were transferred into Thai and permeated all aspects of the language. Consequently, the Thai of the late Ayutthaya Period which later became Ratanakosin or Bangkok Thai, was a thorough mixture of Thai and Khmer. There were more Khmer words in use than Tai cognates. Khmer grammatical rules were used actively to coin new disyllabic and polysyllabic words and phrases. Khmer expressions, sayings, and proverbs were expressed in Thai through transference.

Thais borrowed both the Royal vocabulary and rules to enlarge the vocabulary from Khmer. The Thais later developed the royal vocabulary according to their immediate environment. Thai and Pali, the latter from Theravada Buddhism, were added to the vocabulary. An investigation of the Ayutthaya Rajasap reveals that three languages, Thai, Khmer and Khmero-Indic were at work closely both in formulaic expressions and in normal discourse. In fact, Khmero-Indic may be classified in the same category as Khmer because Indic had been adapted to the Khmer system first before the Thai borrowed.

Old Thai

Old Thai had a three-way tone distinction on "live syllables" (those not ending in a stop), with no possible distinction on "dead syllables" (those ending in a stop, i.e. either /p/, /t/, /k/ or the glottal stop that automatically closes syllables otherwise ending in a short vowel).

There was a two-way voiced vs. voiceless distinction among all fricative and sonorant consonants, and up to a four-way distinction among stops and affricates. The maximal four-way occurred in labials (/p pʰ b ʔb/) and dentals (/t tʰ d ʔd/); the three-way distinction among velars (/k kʰ ɡ/) and palatals (/tɕ tɕʰ dʑ/), with the glottalized member of each set apparently missing.

The major change between old and modern Thai was due to voicing distinction losses and the concomitant tone split. This may have happened between about 1300 and 1600 CE, possibly occurring at different times in different parts of the Thai-speaking area. All voiced–voiceless pairs of consonants lost the voicing distinction:

However, in the process of these mergers, the former distinction of voice was transferred into a new set of tonal distinctions. In essence, every tone in Old Thai split into two new tones, with a lower-pitched tone corresponding to a syllable that formerly began with a voiced consonant, and a higher-pitched tone corresponding to a syllable that formerly began with a voiceless consonant (including glottalized stops). An additional complication is that formerly voiceless unaspirated stops/affricates (original /p t k tɕ ʔb ʔd/) also caused original tone 1 to lower, but had no such effect on original tones 2 or 3.

The above consonant mergers and tone splits account for the complex relationship between spelling and sound in modern Thai. Modern "low"-class consonants were voiced in Old Thai, and the terminology "low" reflects the lower tone variants that resulted. Modern "mid"-class consonants were voiceless unaspirated stops or affricates in Old Thai—precisely the class that triggered lowering in original tone 1 but not tones 2 or 3. Modern "high"-class consonants were the remaining voiceless consonants in Old Thai (voiceless fricatives, voiceless sonorants, voiceless aspirated stops). The three most common tone "marks" (the lack of any tone mark, as well as the two marks termed mai ek and mai tho) represent the three tones of Old Thai, and the complex relationship between tone mark and actual tone is due to the various tonal changes since then. Since the tone split, the tones have changed in actual representation to the point that the former relationship between lower and higher tonal variants has been completely obscured. Furthermore, the six tones that resulted after the three tones of Old Thai were split have since merged into five in standard Thai, with the lower variant of former tone 2 merging with the higher variant of former tone 3, becoming the modern "falling" tone.

Old Thai (Sukhothai) consonant inventory
  Labial Alveolar (Alveolo-)
Palatal
Velar Glottal
Nasal

หม

หน

น, ณ

หญ

หง

 
Plosive/
Affricate

พ, ภ

ฏ, ต

ฐ, ถ

ท, ธ

ฎ, ด

ค, ฆ

Fricative

ศ, ษ, ส

Trill  

หร

   
Approximant

หว

หล

หย

อย

Historical Sukhothai pronuncation
Letters IPA Word in Sukhothai (in Modern Thai script) Pronunciation in IPA (excluding tone) Meaning and Definitions
วรรค ก | Varga Kor
k เกิด kɤːt̚ v. to be born
ของ kʰɔːŋ n. thing
x ฃึ้น (ขึ้น) xɯn v. to go up
g ครู gruː n. teacher
ɣ ฅวาม (ความ) ɣwaːm n. affair; matter; content
g ฆ่า gaː v. to kill
ŋ งก ŋok̚ adj. greedy
หง ŋ̊ หงอก ŋ̊ɔːk̚ v. to whiten (hair)
วรรค จ | Varga Jor
ใจ tɕaɯ n. heart
tɕʰ ฉาย tɕʰaːj v. to shine (on something)
ชื่อ dʑɯː n. name
z - ʑ ซ้ำ zam adv. repeatedly
ɲ ญวน ɲuan v. Vietnam (archaic)
หญ ɲ̊ หญิง ɲ̊iŋ n. woman
วรรค รฏ | Varga Ra Tor
ʔd ฎีกา ʔdiːkaː n. petition notice
t ฏาร tara n. Ganymede
ฐาน tʰaːn n. base, platform
n เณร neːn n. novice monk
วรรค ต | Varga Tor
ʔd ดาว ʔdaːw n. star
t ตา taː n. eye
ถอย tʰɔj v. to move back
d ทอง dɔːŋ n. gold
d ธุระ duraʔ n. business; affairs; errands
n น้ำ naːm n. water
หน หนู n̊uː n. mouse
วรรค ป | Varga Por
ʔb บ้าน ʔbaːn n. house
p ปลา plaː n. fish
ผึ้ง pʰɯŋ n. bee
f ฝัน fan n. dream
b พ่อ bɔː n. father
v ฟัน van n. tooth
b ภาษา baːsaː n. language
m แม่ mɛː n. mother
หม หมา m̊aː n. dog
อวรรค | Avarga
อย ʔj อย่า ʔjaː adv. do not
j เย็น jen adj. cold
หย เหยียบ j̊iap v. to step on
r รัก rak v. to love
หร หรือ r̊ɯː conj. or
l ลม lom n. wind
หล หล่อ l̥ɔː adj. handsome
w วัน wan n. day
หว หวี ẘiː n. comb
s ศาล saːn n. court of law
s ฤๅษรี (ฤๅษี) rɯːsiː n. hermit
s สวย swai adj. beautiful
ʔ อ้าย ʔaːi n. first born son
Early Old Thai

Early Old Thai also apparently had velar fricatives /x ɣ/ as distinct phonemes. These were represented by the now-obsolete letters ฃ kho khuat and ฅ kho khon, respectively. During the Old Thai period, these sounds merged into the corresponding stops /kʰ ɡ/, and as a result the use of these letters became unstable.

At some point in the history of Thai, a palatal nasal phoneme /ɲ/ also existed, inherited from Proto-Tai. A letter ญ yo ying also exists, which is used to represent a palatal nasal in words borrowed from Sanskrit and Pali, and is currently pronounced /j/ at the beginning of a syllable but /n/ at the end of a syllable. Most native Thai words that are reconstructed as beginning with /ɲ/ are also pronounced /j/ in modern Thai, but generally spelled with ย yo yak, which consistently represents /j/. This suggests that /ɲ/ > /j/ in native words occurred in the pre-literary period. It is unclear whether Sanskrit and Pali words beginning with /ɲ/ were borrowed directly with a /j/, or whether a /ɲ/ was re-introduced, followed by a second change /ɲ/ > /j/. The northeastern Thai dialect Isan and the Lao language still preserve the phoneme /ɲ/, which is represented in the Lao script by ຍ, such as in the word ຍຸງ (, mosquito). This letter is distinct from the phoneme /j/ and its Lao letter ຢ, such as in the word ຢາ (, medicine). The distinction in writing has been lost in the informal writing of the Isan language with the Thai script and both sounds are represented by ย /j/ (See: Comparison of Lao and Isan).

Proto-Tai also had a glottalized palatal sound, reconstructed as /ʔj/ in Li Fang-Kuei (1977). Corresponding Thai words are generally spelled หย, which implies an Old Thai pronunciation of /hj/ (or /j̊/), but a few such words are spelled อย, which implies a pronunciation of /ʔj/ and suggests that the glottalization may have persisted through to the early literary period.

Vowel developments

The vowel system of modern Thai contains nine pure vowels and three centering diphthongs, each of which can occur short or long. According to Li (1977), however, many Thai dialects have only one such short–long pair (/a aː/), and in general it is difficult or impossible to find minimal short–long pairs in Thai that involve vowels other than /a/ and where both members have frequent correspondences throughout the Tai languages. More specifically, he notes the following facts about Thai:

Furthermore, the vowel that corresponds to short Thai /a/ has a different and often higher quality in many of the Tai languages compared with the vowel corresponding to Thai /aː/.

This leads Li to posit the following:

  1. Proto-Tai had a system of nine pure vowels with no length distinction, and possessing approximately the same qualities as in modern Thai: high /i ɯ u/, mid /e ɤ o/, low /ɛ a ɔ/.
  2. All Proto-Tai vowels were lengthened in open syllables, and low vowels were also lengthened in closed syllables.
  3. Modern Thai largely preserved the original lengths and qualities, but lowered /ɤ/ to /a/, which became short /a/ in closed syllables and created a phonemic length distinction /a aː/. Eventually, length in all other vowels became phonemic as well and a new /ɤ/ (both short and long) was introduced, through a combination of borrowing and sound change. Li believes that the development of long /iː ɯː uː/ from diphthongs, and the lowering of /ɤ/ to /a/ to create a length distinction /a aː/, had occurred by the time of Proto-Southwestern-Tai, but the other missing modern Thai vowels had not yet developed.

Not all researchers agree with Li. Pittayaporn (2009), for example, reconstructs a similar system for Proto-Southwestern-Tai, but believes that there was also a mid back unrounded vowel /ə/ (which he describes as /ɤ/), occurring only before final velar /k ŋ/. He also seems to believe that the Proto-Southwestern-Tai vowel length distinctions can be reconstructed back to similar distinctions in Proto-Tai.

Phonology

Consonants

Initials

Standard Thai distinguishes three voice-onset times among plosive and affricate consonants:

Where English makes a distinction between voiced /b/ and unvoiced aspirated /pʰ/, Thai distinguishes a third sound – the unvoiced, unaspirated /p/ that occurs in English only as an allophone of /pʰ/, for example after an /s/ as in the sound of the p in "spin". There is similarly a laminal denti-alveolar /d/, /t/, /tʰ/ triplet in Thai. In the velar series there is a /k/, /kʰ/ pair and in the postalveolar series a /tɕ/, /tɕʰ/ pair, but the language lacks the corresponding voiced sounds /ɡ/ and /dʑ/. (In loanwords from English, English /ɡ/ and /d͡ʒ/ are borrowed as the tenuis stops /k/ and /tɕ/.)

In each cell below, the first line indicates International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), the second indicates the Thai characters in initial position (several letters appearing in the same box have identical pronunciation). The letter ห, one of the two h letters, is also used to help write certain tones (described below).

Labial Dental/
Alveolar
(Alveolo-)
Palatal
Velar Glottal
Nasal /m/
/n/
ณ, น
/ŋ/
Plosive/
Affricate
voiced /b/
/d/
ฎ, ด
tenuis /p/
/t/
ฏ, ต
//
/k/
/ʔ/
aspirated //
ผ, พ, ภ
//
ฐ, ฑ, ฒ, ถ, ท, ธ
/tɕʰ/
ฉ, ช, ฌ
//
ข, ฃ, ค, ฅ, ฆ
Fricative /f/
ฝ, ฟ
/s/
ซ, ศ, ษ, ส
/h/
ห, ฮ
Approximant /w/
/l/
ล, ฬ
/j/
ญ, ย
Rhotic/Liquid /r/
Finals

Although the overall 44 Thai consonant letters provide 21 sounds in case of initials, the case for finals is different. For finals, only eight sounds, as well as no sound, called mātrā (มาตรา) are used. To demonstrate, at the end of a syllable, บ (/b/) and ด (/d/) are devoiced, becoming pronounced as /p/ and /t/ respectively. Additionally, all plosive sounds are unreleased. Hence, final /p/, /t/, and /k/ sounds are pronounced as , , and respectively.

Of the consonant letters, excluding the disused ฃ and ฅ, six (ฉ ผ ฝ ห อ ฮ) cannot be used as a final and the other 36 are grouped as following.

Labial Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal /m/
/n/
ญ, ณ, น, ร, ล, ฬ
/ŋ/
Plosive /p/
บ, ป, พ, ฟ, ภ
/t/
จ, ช, ซ, ฌ, ฎ, ฏ, ฐ, ฑ,
ฒ, ด, ต, ถ, ท, ธ, ศ, ษ, ส
/k/
ก, ข, ค, ฆ
/ʔ/
Approximant /w/
/j/
Clusters

In Thai, each syllable in a word is articulated independently, so consonants from adjacent syllables (i.e. heterosyllabic) show no sign of articulation as a cluster. Thai has specific phonotactical patterns that describe its syllable structure, including tautosyllabic consonant clusters, and vowel sequences. In core Thai words (i.e. excluding loanwords), only clusters of two consonants occur, of which there are 11 combinations:

The number of clusters increases in loanwords such as /tʰr/ (ทร) in อินทรา (/ʔīn.tʰrāː/, from Sanskrit indrā) or /fr/ (ฟร) in ฟรี (/frīː/, from English free); however, these usually only occur in initial position, with either /r/, /l/, or /w/ as the second consonant sound and not more than two sounds at a time.

Vowels

The vowel nuclei of the Thai language are given in the following table. The top entry in every cell is the symbol from the International Phonetic Alphabet, the second entry gives the spelling in the Thai script, where a dash (–) indicates the position of the initial consonant after which the vowel is pronounced. A second dash indicates that a final consonant follows.

Monophthongs of Thai. From Tingsabadh & Abramson (1993:25) Diphthongs of Thai. From Tingsabadh & Abramson (1993:25)
  Front Central Back
short long short long short long
Close /i/
 -ิ 
//
 -ี 
/ɯ/
 -ึ 
/ɯː/
 -ื- 
/u/
 -ุ 
//
 -ู 
Mid /e/
เ-ะ
//
เ-
/ɤ/
เ-อะ
/ɤː/
เ-อ
/o/
โ-ะ
//
โ-
Open /ɛ/
แ-ะ
/ɛː/
แ-
/a/
-ะ, -ั-
//
-า
/ɔ/
เ-าะ
/ɔː/
-อ

Each vowel quality occurs in long-short pairs: these are distinct phonemes forming distinct words in Thai.

The long-short pairs are as follows:

Long Short
Thai IPA Example Thai IPA Example
–า /aː/ ฝาน /fǎːn/ 'to slice' –ะ /a/ ฝัน /fǎn/ 'to dream'
–ี  /iː/ กรีด /krìːt/ 'to cut' –ิ  /i/ กริช /krìt/ 'kris'
–ู  /uː/ สูด /sùːt/ 'to inhale' –ุ  /u/ สุด /sùt/ 'rearmost'
เ– /eː/ เอน /ʔēːn/ 'to recline' เ–ะ /e/ เอ็น /ʔēn/ 'tendon, ligament'
แ– /ɛː/ แพ้ /pʰɛ́ː/ 'to be defeated' แ–ะ /ɛ/ แพะ /pʰɛ́ʔ/ 'goat'
–ื-  /ɯː/ คลื่น /kʰlɯ̂ːn/ 'wave' –ึ  /ɯ/ ขึ้น /kʰɯ̂n/ 'to go up'
เ–อ /ɤː/ เดิน /dɤ̄ːn/ 'to walk' เ–อะ /ɤ/ เงิน /ŋɤ̄n/ 'silver'
โ– /oː/ โค่น /kʰôːn/ 'to fell' โ–ะ /o/ ข้น /kʰôn/ 'thick (soup)'
–อ /ɔː/ กลอง /klɔ̄ːŋ/ 'drum' เ–าะ /ɔ/ กล่อง /klɔ̀ŋ/ 'box'

There are also opening and closing diphthongs in Thai, which Tingsabadh & Abramson (1993) analyze as /Vj/ and /Vw/. For purposes of determining tone, those marked with an asterisk are sometimes classified as long:

Long Short
Thai script IPA Thai script IPA
–าย /aːj/ ไ–*, ใ–*, ไ–ย, -ัย /aj/
–าว /aːw/ เ–า* /aw/
เ–ีย /ia/ เ–ียะ /iaʔ/
–ิว /iw/
–ัว /ua/ –ัวะ /uaʔ/
–ูย /uːj/ –ุย /uj/
เ–ว /eːw/ เ–็ว /ew/
แ–ว /ɛːw/
เ–ือ /ɯa/ เ–ือะ /ɯaʔ/
เ–ย /ɤːj/
–อย /ɔːj/
โ–ย /oːj/

Additionally, there are three triphthongs. For purposes of determining tone, those marked with an asterisk are sometimes classified as long:

Thai script IPA
เ–ียว* /iaw/
–วย* /uaj/
เ–ือย* /ɯaj/

Tones

There are five phonemic tones: mid, low, falling, high, and rising, sometimes referred to in older reference works as rectus, gravis, circumflexus, altus, and demissus, respectively. The table shows an example of both the phonemic tones and their phonetic realization, in the IPA. Moren & Zsiga (2006) and Zsiga & Nitisaroj (2007) provide phonetic and phonological analyses of Thai tone realization.

Thai language tone chart

Notes:

  1. Five-level tone value: Mid , Low , Falling , High , Rising . Traditionally, the high tone was recorded as either or . This remains true for the older generation, but the high tone is changing to among youngsters.
  2. For the diachronic changes of tone value, please see Pittayaporn (2007).
  3. The full complement of tones exists only in so-called "live syllables", those that end in a long vowel or a sonorant (/m/, /n/, /ŋ/, /j/, /w/).
  4. For "dead syllables", those that end in a plosive (/p/, /t/, /k/) or in a short vowel, only three tonal distinctions are possible: low, high, and falling. Because syllables analyzed as ending in a short vowel may have a final glottal stop (especially in slower speech), all "dead syllables" are phonetically checked, and have the reduced tonal inventory characteristic of checked syllables.
Unchecked syllables
Tone Thai Example Phonemic Phonetic Gloss
Mid สามัญ คา /kʰāː/ 'stick'
Low เอก ข่า /kʰàː/ or 'galangal'
Falling โท ค่า /kʰâː/ 'value'
High ตรี ค้า /kʰáː/ or 'to trade'
Rising จัตวา ขา /kʰǎː/ or 'leg'
Checked syllables
Tone Thai Example Phonemic Phonetic Gloss
Low (short vowel) เอก หมัก /màk/ 'marinate'
Low (long vowel) เอก หมาก /màːk/ 'areca nut, areca palm, betel, fruit'
High ตรี มัก /mák/ 'habitually, likely to'
Falling โท มาก /mâːk/ 'a lot, abundance, many'

In some English loanwords, closed syllables with a long vowel ending in an obstruent sound have a high tone, and closed syllables with a short vowel ending in an obstruent sound have a falling tone.

Tone Thai Example Phonemic Phonetic Gloss
High ตรี มาร์ก /máːk/ 'Marc, Mark'
High ตรี ชาร์จ /tɕʰáːt/ 'charge'
Falling โท เมกอัป /méːk.ʔâp/ 'make-up'
Falling โท แร็กเกต /rɛ́k.kêt/ 'racket'

Grammar

From the perspective of linguistic typology, Thai can be considered to be an analytic language. The word order is subject–verb–object, although the subject is often omitted. Additionally, Thai is an isolating language lacking any form of inflectional morphology whatsoever. Thai pronouns are selected according to the gender and relative status of speaker and audience.

Adjectives and adverbs

There is no morphological distinction between adverbs and adjectives. Many words can be used in either function. They follow the word they modify, which may be a noun, verb, or another adjective or adverb.

คน

khon

/kʰōn

อ้วน

uan

ʔûan/

คน อ้วน

khon uan

/kʰōn ʔûan/

'a fat person'

คน

khon

/kʰōn

ที่

thi

tʰîː

อ้วน

uan

ʔûan

เร็ว

reo

rēw/

คน ที่ อ้วน เร็ว

khon thi uan reo

/kʰōn tʰîː ʔûan rēw/

'a person who became fat quickly'

Comparatives take the form "A X กว่า B" (kwa, /kwàː/), 'A is more X than B'. The superlative is expressed as "A X ที่สุด" (thi sut, /tʰîː sùt/), 'A is most X'.

เขา

khao

/kʰǎw

อ้วน

uan

ʔûan

กว่า

kwa

kwàː

ฉัน

chan

tɕʰǎn/

เขา อ้วน กว่า ฉัน

khao uan kwa chan

/kʰǎw ʔûan kwàː tɕʰǎn/

'S/he is fatter than me.'

เขา

khao

/kʰǎw

อ้วน

uan

ʔûan

ที่สุด

thi sut

tʰîː sùt/

เขา อ้วน ที่สุด

khao uan {thi sut}

/kʰǎw ʔûan tʰîː sùt/

'S/he is the fattest (of all).'

Adjectives in Thai can be used as complete predicates. Because of this, many words used to indicate tense in verbs (see Verbs:Tense below) may be used to describe adjectives.

ฉัน

chan

/tɕʰǎn

หิว

hio

hǐw/

ฉัน หิว

chan hio

/tɕʰǎn hǐw/

'I am hungry.'

ฉัน

chan

/tɕʰǎn

จะ

cha

tɕàʔ

หิว

hio

hǐw/

ฉัน จะ หิว

chan cha hio

/tɕʰǎn tɕàʔ hǐw/

'I will be hungry.'

ฉัน

chan

/tɕʰǎn

กำลัง

kamlang

kām.lāŋ

หิว

hio

hǐw/

ฉัน กำลัง หิว

chan kamlang hio

/tɕʰǎn kām.lāŋ hǐw/

'I am hungry right now.'

ฉัน

chan

/tɕʰǎn

หิว

hio

hǐw

แล้ว

laeo

lɛ́ːw/

ฉัน หิว แล้ว

chan hio laeo

/tɕʰǎn hǐw lɛ́ːw/

'I am already hungry.'

Verbs

Verbs do not inflect. They do not change with person, tense, voice, mood, or number; nor are there any participles. The language being analytic and case-less, the relationship between subject, direct and indirect object is conveyed through word order and auxiliary verbs. Transitive verbs follow the pattern subject-verb-object.

ฉัน

chan

/tɕʰǎn

1SG

ตี

ti

tīː

hit

เขา

khao

kʰǎw/

3SG

ฉัน ตี เขา

chan ti khao

/tɕʰǎn tīː kʰǎw/

1SG hit 3SG

'I hit him.'

เขา

khao

/kʰǎw

3SG

ตี

ti

tīː

hit

ฉัน

chan

tɕʰǎn/

1SG

เขา ตี ฉัน

khao ti chan

/kʰǎw tīː tɕʰǎn/

3SG hit 1SG

'S/He hit me.'

In order to convey tense, aspect and mood (TAM), the Thai verbal system employs auxiliaries and verb serialization. TAM markers are however not obligatory and often left out in colloquial use. In such cases, the precise meaning is determined through context. This results in sentences lacking both TAM markers and overt context being ambiguous and subject to various interpretations.

ฉัน

chan

/tɕʰǎn

กิน

kin

kīn

ที่

thi

tʰîː

นั่น

nan

nân/

ฉัน กิน ที่ นั่น

chan kin thi nan

/tɕʰǎn kīn tʰîː nân/

'I eat there.'

ฉัน

chan

/tɕʰǎn

กิน

kin

kīn

ที่

thi

tʰîː

นั่น

nan

nân

เมื่อวาน

mueawan

mɯ̂a.wāːn/

ฉัน กิน ที่ นั่น เมื่อวาน

chan kin thi nan mueawan

/tɕʰǎn kīn tʰîː nân mɯ̂a.wāːn/

'I ate there yesterday.'

ฉัน

chan

/tɕʰǎn

จะ

cha

tɕàʔ

กิน

kin

kīn

ที่

thi

thîː

นั่น

nan

nân

พรุ่งนี้

phrungni

pʰrûŋ.níː/

ฉัน จะ กิน ที่ นั่น พรุ่งนี้

chan cha kin thi nan phrungni

/tɕʰǎn tɕàʔ kīn thîː nân pʰrûŋ.níː/

'I'll eat there tomorrow.'

The sentence chan kin thi nan can thus be interpreted as 'I am eating there', 'I eat there habitually', 'I will eat there' or 'I ate there'. Aspect markers in Thai have been divided into four distinct groups based on their usage. These markers could appear either before or after the verb. The following list describes some of the most commonly used aspect markers. A number of these aspect markers are also full verbs on their own and carry a distinct meaning. For example yu (อยู่) as a full verb means 'to stay, to live or to remain at'. However, as an auxiliary it can be described as a temporary aspect or continuative marker.

The imperfective aspect marker กำลัง (kamlang, /kām lāŋ/, currently) is used before the verb to denote an ongoing action (similar to the -ing suffix in English). Kamlang is commonly interpreted as a progressive aspect marker. Similarly, อยู่ (yu, /jùː/) is a post-verbal aspect marker which corresponds to the continuative or temporary aspect.

เขา

khao

/kʰǎw

กำลัง

kamlang

kām.lāŋ

วิ่ง

wing

wîŋ/

เขา กำลัง วิ่ง

khao kamlang wing

/kʰǎw kām.lāŋ wîŋ/

เขา

khao

/kʰǎw

วิ่ง

wing

wîŋ

อยู่

yu

jùː/

เขา วิ่ง อยู่

khao wing yu

/kʰǎw wîŋ jùː/

เขา

khao

/kʰǎw

กำลัง

kamlang

kām.lāŋ

วิ่ง

wing

wîŋ

อยู่

yu

jùː/

เขา กำลัง วิ่ง อยู่

khao kamlang wing yu

/kʰǎw kām.lāŋ wîŋ jùː/

'He is running.'

Comparably ยัง (yang, /jāŋ/, still) which is used in an incompleted action, and usually cognates in phrase with yu (อยู่) or any other aspect markers in common use.

ex:

เขา

khao

/kʰǎw

ยัง

yang

jāŋ

เขียน

khian

kʰiǎn

อยู่

yu

jùː/

เขา ยัง เขียน อยู่

khao yang khian yu

/kʰǎw jāŋ kʰiǎn jùː/

He is still writing.

ex:

เขา

khao

/kʰǎw

3SG

ยัง

yang

jāŋ

IMP

เขียน

khian

kʰiǎn

write

ไม่เป็น

mai pen

mâj pēn/

unable to

เขา ยัง เขียน ไม่เป็น

khao yang khian {mai pen}

/kʰǎw jāŋ kʰiǎn mâj pēn/

3SG IMP write {unable to}

He can't even write yet.

The marker ได้ (dai, /dâːj/) is usually analyzed as a past tense marker when it occurs before the verb. As a full verb, dai means 'to get or receive'. However, when used after a verb, dai takes on a meaning of potentiality or successful outcome of the main verb.

ex:

เขา

khao

/kʰǎw

ได้

dai

dâːj

ไป

pai

pāj

เที่ยว

thiao

tʰîaw

เมือง

mueang

mɯ̄aŋ

ลาว

lao

lāːw/

เขา ได้ ไป เที่ยว เมือง ลาว

khao dai pai thiao mueang lao

/kʰǎw dâːj pāj tʰîaw mɯ̄aŋ lāːw/

He visited Laos. (Past/Perfective)

ex:

เขา

khao

/kʰǎw

3SG

ตี

ti

tīː

hit

ได้

dai

dâːj/

POT

เขา ตี ได้

khao ti dai

/kʰǎw tīː dâːj/

3SG hit POT

'He is/was allowed to hit' or 'He is/was able to hit.' (Potentiality)

แล้ว (laeo, /lɛ́ːw/; 'already') is treated as a marker indicating the perfect aspect. That is to say, laeo marks the event as being completed at the time of reference. Laeo has to other meanings in addition to its use as a TAM marker. Laeo can either be a conjunction for sequential actions or an archaic word for 'to finish'.

เขา

khao

/kʰǎw

3SG

ได้

dai

dâːj

PST

กิน

kin

kīn/

eat

เขา ได้ กิน

khao dai kin

/kʰǎw dâːj kīn/

3SG PST eat

He ate.

เขา

khao

/kʰǎw

3SG

กิน

kin

kīn

eat

แล้ว

laeo

lɛ́ːw/

PRF

เขา กิน แล้ว

khao kin laeo

/kʰǎw kīn lɛ́ːw/

3SG eat PRF

He has eaten.

เขา

khao

/kʰǎw

3SG

ได้

dai

dâːj

PST

กิน

kin

kīn

eat

แล้ว

laeo

lɛ́ːw/

PRF

เขา ได้ กิน แล้ว

khao dai kin laeo

/kʰǎw dâːj kīn lɛ́ːw/

3SG PST eat PRF

He's already eaten.

Future can be indicated by จะ (cha, /tɕàʔ/; 'will') before the verb or by a time expression indicating the future. For example:

ex:

เขา

khao

/kʰǎw

3SG

จะ

cha

tɕàʔ

FUT

วิ่ง

wing

wîŋ/

run

เขา จะ วิ่ง

khao cha wing

/kʰǎw tɕàʔ wîŋ/

3SG FUT run

'He will run' or 'He is going to run.'

The passive voice is indicated by the insertion of ถูก (thuk, /tʰùːk/) before the verb. For example:

ex:

เขา

khao

/kʰǎw

3SG

ถูก

thuk

tʰùːk

PASS

ตี

ti

tīː/

hit

เขา ถูก ตี

khao thuk ti

/kʰǎw tʰùːk tīː/

3SG PASS hit

'He got hit.'

This describes an action that is out of the receiver's control and, thus, conveys suffering.

Negation is indicated by placing ไม่ (mai, /mâj/; not) before the verb.

Thai exhibits serial verb constructions, where verbs are strung together. Some word combinations are common and may be considered set phrases.

ex:

เขา

khao

/kʰǎw

he

ไป

pai

pāj

go

กิน

kin

kīn

eat

ข้าว

khao

kʰâːw/

rice

เขา ไป กิน ข้าว

khao pai kin khao

/kʰǎw pāj kīn kʰâːw/

he go eat rice

'He went out to eat'

ex:

ฉัน

chan

/tɕʰǎn

I

ฟัง

fang

fāŋ

listen

ไม่

mai

mâj

not

เข้าใจ

khao chai

kʰâw tɕāj/

understand

ฉัน ฟัง ไม่ เข้าใจ

chan fang mai {khao chai}

/tɕʰǎn fāŋ mâj kʰâw tɕāj/

I listen not understand

'I don't understand what was said'

ex:

เข้า

khao

/kʰâw

enter

มา

ma

māː/

come

เข้า มา

khao ma

/kʰâw māː/

enter come

'Come in'

ex:

ออก

ok

/ʔɔ̀ːk

exit

ไป!

pai

pāj/

go

ออก ไป!

ok pai

/ʔɔ̀ːk pāj/

exit go

'Leave!' or 'Get out!'

Nouns

Nouns are uninflected and have no gender; there are no articles. Thai nouns are bare nouns and can be interpreted as singular, plural, definite or indefinite. Some specific nouns are reduplicated to form collectives: เด็ก (dek, 'child') is often repeated as เด็ก ๆ (dek dek) to refer to a group of children. The word พวก (phuak, /pʰûak/) may be used as a prefix of a noun or pronoun as a collective to pluralize or emphasise the following word. (พวกผม, phuak phom, /pʰûak pʰǒm/, 'we', masculine; พวกเรา phuak rao, /pʰûak rāw/, emphasised 'we'; พวกหมา phuak ma, '(the) dogs'). Plurals are expressed by adding classifiers, used as measure words (ลักษณนาม), in the form of noun-number-classifier:

ครู

khru

/kʰrūː

teacher

ห้า

ha

hâː

five

คน

khon

kʰōn/

person

ครู ห้า คน

khru ha khon

/kʰrūː hâː kʰōn/

teacher five person

"five teachers"

While in English, such classifiers are usually absent ("four chairs") or optional ("two bottles of beer" or "two beers"), a classifier is almost always used in Thai (hence "chair four item" and "beer two bottle").

Possession in Thai is indicated by adding the word ของ (khong) in front of the noun or pronoun, but it may often be omitted. For example:

ลูก

luk

/lûːk

child

ของ

khong

kʰɔ̌ːŋ

belonging to

แม่

mae

mɛ̂ː/

mother

ลูก ของ แม่

luk khong mae

/lûːk kʰɔ̌ːŋ mɛ̂ː/

child {belonging to} mother

"mother's child"

นา

na

/nāː

field

อา

a

ʔāː/

uncle

นา อา

na a

/nāː ʔāː/

field uncle

"uncle's field"

Nominal phrases

Nominal phrases in Thai often use a special class of words classifiers. As previously mentioned, these classifiers are obligatory for noun phrases containing numerals e.g.

ผู้หญิง

phuying

/pʰûː.jǐŋ

woman

สอง

song

sɔ̌ːŋ

two

คน

khon

kʰōn/

CL

ผู้หญิง สอง คน

phuying song khon

/pʰûː.jǐŋ sɔ̌ːŋ kʰōn/

woman two CL

two women

In the previous example khon (คน) acts as the classifier in the nominal phrase. This follows the form of noun-cardinal-classifier mentioned above. Classifiers are also required to form quantified noun phrases in Thai with some quantifiers such as ทุก ('all'), บาง ('some'). The examples below are demonstrated using the classifier khon, which is used for people.

นักเรียน

nak rian

/nák rīan

student

ทุก

thuk

tʰúk

every

คน

khon

kʰōn/

CL

{นักเรียน} ทุก คน

{nak rian} thuk khon

/nák rīan tʰúk kʰōn/

student every CL

"every student"

ครู

khru

/kʰrūː

teacher

บาง

bang

bāːŋ

some

คน

khon

kʰōn/

CL

ครู บาง คน

khru bang khon

/kʰrūː bāːŋ kʰōn/

teacher some CL

"some teacher"

However, classifiers are not utilized for negative quantification. Negative quantification is expressed by the pattern ไม่มี (mai mi, /mâj mīː/) + NOUN. Classifiers are also used for demonstratives such as นี้ (ni, /níː/; 'this/these') and นั่น (nan, /nán/; 'that/those'). The syntax for demonstrative phrases, however, differ from that of cardinals and follow the pattern noun-classifier-demonstrative. For example, the noun phrase "this dog" would be expressed in Thai as หมาตัวนี้ (literally 'dog (classifier) this').

Pronouns

Subject pronouns are often omitted, with nicknames used where English would use a pronoun. See Thai name#Nicknames for more details. Pronouns, when used, are ranked in honorific registers, and may also make a T–V distinction in relation to kinship and social status. Specialised pronouns are used for royalty, and for Buddhist monks. The following are appropriate for conversational use:

Word RTGS IPA Meaning
ข้าพเจ้า khaphachao /kʰâː.pʰáʔ.tɕâːw/ I/me (very formal)
กระผม kraphom /kràʔ.pʰǒm/ I/me (masculine; formal)
ผม phom /pʰǒm/ I/me (masculine; common)
ดิฉัน dichan /dìʔ.tɕʰǎn/ I/me (feminine; formal)
ฉัน chan /tɕʰǎn/ I/me (mainly used by women; common) Commonly pronounced as
ข้า kha /kʰâː/ I/me (from high-status to low-status or familiar; informal)
กู ku /kūː/ I/me (impolite/vulgar)
หนู nu /nǔː/ I/me (used by women when speaking to people much older than themselves; informal)
เรา rao /rāw/ we/us (common), I/me (casual), you (sometimes used but only when older person speaks to younger person)
คุณ khun /kʰūn/ you (common)
ท่าน than /tʰâːn/ you (highly honorific; formal) Commonly pronounced as
แก kae /kɛ̄ː/ you (familiar; informal)
เอ็ง eng /ʔēŋ/ you (from high-status to low-status or familiar; informal)
เธอ thoe /tʰɤ̄ː/ you (informal), she/her (informal)
พี่ phi /pʰîː/ older brother, sister (also used for older acquaintances; common)
น้อง nong /nɔ́ːŋ/ younger brother, sister (also used for younger acquaintances; common)
เขา khao /kʰǎw/ he/him (common), she/her (common) Commonly pronounced as
มัน man /mān/ it, he/she (offensive if used to refer to a person)
มึง mueng /mɯ̄ŋ/ you (impolite/vulgar)

The reflexive pronoun is ตัวเอง (tua eng), which can mean any of: myself, yourself, ourselves, himself, herself, themselves. This can be mixed with another pronoun to create an intensive pronoun, such as ตัวผมเอง (tua phom eng, lit: I myself) or ตัวคุณเอง (tua khun eng, lit: you yourself). Thai also does not have a separate possessive pronoun. Instead, possession is indicated by the particle ของ (khong). For example, "my mother" is แม่ของผม (mae khong phom, lit: mother of I). This particle is often implicit, so the phrase is shortened to แม่ผม (mae phom). Plural pronouns can be easily constructed by adding the word พวก (phuak) in front of a singular pronoun as in พวกเขา (phuak khao) meaning 'they' or พวกเธอ (phuak thoe) meaning the plural sense of 'you'. The only exception to this is เรา (rao), which can be used as singular (informal) or plural, but can also be used in the form of พวกเรา (phuak rao), which is only plural.

Thai has many more pronouns than those listed above. Their usage is full of nuances. For example:

Particles

The particles are often untranslatable words added to the end of a sentence to indicate respect, a request, encouragement or other moods (similar to the use of intonation in English), as well as varying the level of formality. They are not used in elegant (written) Thai. The most common particles indicating respect are ครับ (khrap, /kʰráp/, with a high-rising tone) when the speaker is male, and ค่ะ (kha, /kʰâʔ/, with a low-falling tone) when the speaker is female. Used in a question or a request, the particle ค่ะ (low-falling tone) is changed to a คะ (high-rising tone).

Other common particles are:

Word RTGS IPA Meaning
จ้ะ, จ้า or จ๋า cha /tɕâʔ/, /tɕâː/ or /tɕǎː/ indicating emphasis. Used in a less formal context when speaking to friends or someone younger than yourself
ละ or ล่ะ la /láʔ/ or /làʔ/ indicating emphasis.
สิ si /sìʔ/ indicating emphasis or an imperative. It can come across as ordering someone to do something
นะ na /náʔ/ softening; indicating a request or making your sentence sound more friendly.

Register

Central Thai is composed of several distinct registers, forms for different social contexts:

Most Thais can speak and understand all of these contexts. Street and Elegant Thai are the basis of all conversations. Rhetorical, religious, and royal Thai are taught in schools as part of the national curriculum.

As noted above, Thai has several registers, each having certain usages, such as colloquial, formal, literary, and poetic. Thus, the word 'eat' can be กิน (kin; common), แดก (daek; vulgar), ยัด (yat; vulgar), บริโภค (boriphok; formal), รับประทาน (rapprathan; formal), ฉัน (chan; religious), or เสวย (sawoei; royal), as illustrated below:

"to eat" IPA Usage Note
กิน /kīn/ common
แดก /dɛ̀ːk/ vulgar
ยัด /ját/ vulgar Original meaning is 'to cram'
บริโภค /bɔ̄ː.ríʔ.pʰôːk/ formal, literary
รับประทาน /ráp.pràʔ.tʰāːn/ formal, polite Often shortened to ทาน /tʰāːn/.
ฉัน /tɕʰǎn/ religious
เสวย /sàʔ.wɤ̌ːj/ royal

Thailand also uses the distinctive Thai six-hour clock in addition to the 24-hour clock.

Vocabulary

Other than compound words and words of foreign origin, most words are monosyllabic.

Chinese-language influence was strong until the 13th century when the use of Chinese characters was abandoned, and replaced by Sanskrit and Pali scripts. However, the vocabulary of Thai retains many words borrowed from Middle Chinese.

Khmer was used as a prestige language in the early days of the Thai kingdoms which are believed to have been bilingual societies proficient in Thai and Khmer. There are over 2,500 Thai words derived from Khmer, surpassing the number of Tai cognates. These Khmer words span across all semantic fields. Thai scholar Uraisi Varasarin classified them into over 200 sub-categories. As a result, it is impossible for Thais, past and present, to engage in a conversation without incorporating Khmer loanwords in any given topic. The influence is particularly preponderant in regard to royal court terminology.


Later, most vocabulary was borrowed from Sanskrit and Pāli; Buddhist terminology is particularly indebted to these. Indic words have a more formal register, and may be compared to Latin and French borrowings in English. Since the beginning of the 20th century, however, the English language has had the greatest influence, especially for scientific, technical, international, and other modern terms.

Origin Example IPA Gloss
Native Tai ไฟ fire
น้ำ water
เมือง town
รุ่งเรือง prosperous
Indic sources:
Pāli or Sanskrit
อัคนี (agni) fire
ชล (jala) water
ธานี (dhānī) town
วิโรจน์ (virocana) prosperous

Arabic-origin

Arabic words Thai rendition IPA Gloss
الْقُرْآن (al-qurʾān) or قُرْآن (qurʾān) อัลกุรอาน or โกหร่าน or Quran
رجم (rajm) ระยำ bad, vile (vulgar)

Chinese-origin

From Middle Chinese or Teochew Chinese.

Chinese words Thai rendition IPA Gloss
交椅 Teochew: gao1 in2 เก้าอี้ chair
粿條 / 粿条 Min Nan: kóe-tiâu ก๋วยเตี๋ยว rice noodle
Hokkien: chiá/ché
Teochew: zê2/zia2
เจ้ or เจ๊ or older sister (used in Chinese community in Thailand)
Hokkien: jī
Teochew: ri6
ยี่ two (archaic, but still used in word ยี่สิบ ; 'twenty')
Middle Chinese: dəuH ถั่ว bean
Middle Chinese: ʔɑŋX/ʔɑŋH อ่าง basin
Middle Chinese: kˠau กาว glue
Middle Chinese: kˠæŋX ก้าง fishbone
Middle Chinese: kʰʌmX ขุม pit
Middle Chinese: duo/ɖˠa ทา to smear
退 Middle Chinese: tʰuʌiH ถอย to step back

English-origin

English words Thai rendition IPA Remark
apple แอปเปิล
bank แบงก์ means 'bank' or 'banknote'
bill บิล or
cake เค้ก
captain กัปตัน
cartoon การ์ตูน
clinic คลินิก
computer คอมพิวเตอร์ colloquially shortened to คอม
corruption คอร์รัปชัน
countdown เคานต์ดาวน์
dinosaur ไดโนเสาร์
duel ดวล
email อีเมล
fashion แฟชั่น
golf กอล์ฟ
shampoo แชมพู
slip สลิป
taxi แท็กซี่
technology เทคโนโลยี
valve วาล์ว
visa วีซ่า
wreath (พวง)หรีด

French-origin

French words Thai rendition IPA English translation
buffet บุฟเฟต์
café กาแฟ coffee
คาเฟ่ coffee shop, restaurant serving alcoholic drinks and providing entertainment (dated)
caféine กาเฟอีน caffeine
chauffeur โชเฟอร์
consul กงสุล
coupon คูปอง
croissant ครัวซ็อง
gramme กรัม
litre ลิตร
mètre เมตร metre
parquet ปาร์เกต์
pétanque เปตอง

Japanese-origin

Japanese words Thai rendition IPA Gloss
カラオケ () คาราโอเกะ karaoke
忍者 () นินจา ninja
寿司 () ซูชิ sushi

Khmer-origin

From Old Khmer

Khmer words Thai rendition IPA Gloss
ក្រុង (/kroŋ/) กรุง capital city
ខ្ទើយ (/kʰtəːj/) กะเทย kathoey
ខ្មួយ (/kʰmuəj/) ขโมย to steal, thief
ច្រមុះ (/crɑː.moh/) จมูก nose
ច្រើន (/craən/) เจริญ prosperous
ឆ្លាត or ឆ្លាស
(/cʰlaːt/ or /cʰlaːh/)
ฉลาด smart
ថ្នល់ (/tʰnɑl/) ถนน road
ភ្លើង (/pʰləːŋ/) เพลิง fire
ទន្លេ (/tɔn.leː/) ทะเล sea

Malay-origin

Malay words Thai rendition IPA Gloss
kelasi กะลาสี sailor, seaman
sagu สาคู sago
surau สุเหร่า small mosque

Persian-origin

Persian words Thai rendition IPA Gloss
گلاب‎ (golâb) กุหลาบ rose
کمربند‎ (kamarband) ขาวม้า loincloth
ترازو (tarâzu) ตราชู balance scale
سقرلات (saqerlât) สักหลาด felt
آلت (âlat) อะไหล่ spare part

Portuguese-origin

The Portuguese were the first Western nation to arrive in what is modern-day Thailand in the 16th century during the Ayutthaya period. Their influence in trade, especially weaponry, allowed them to establish a community just outside the capital and practise their faith, as well as exposing and converting the locals to Christianity. Thus, Portuguese words involving trade and religion were introduced and used by the locals.

Portuguese words Thai rendition IPA Gloss
carta / cartaz กระดาษ paper
garça (นก)กระสา heron
leilão เลหลัง auction, low-priced
padre บาท(หลวง) (Christian) priest
pão (ขนม)ปัง bread
real เหรียญ coin
sabão สบู่ soap

Tamil-origin

Tamil words Thai rendition IPA Gloss
கறி‎ (kaṟi) กะหรี่ curry, curry powder
கிராம்பு‎ (kirāmpu) กานพลู clove
நெய் (ney) เนย butter

Writing system

"Kingdom of Thailand" in Thai script.

Thai is written in the Thai script, an abugida written from left to right. The language and its script are closely related to the Lao language and script. Most literate Lao are able to read and understand Thai, as more than half of the Thai vocabulary, grammar, intonation, vowels and so forth are common with the Lao language.

The Thais adopted and modified the Khmer script to create their own writing system. While in Thai the pronunciation can largely be inferred from the script, the orthography is complex, with silent letters to preserve original spellings and many letters representing the same sound. While the oldest known inscription in the Khmer language dates from 611 CE, inscriptions in Thai writing began to appear around 1292 CE. Notable features include:

  1. It is an abugida script, in which the implicit vowel is a short /a/ in a syllable without final consonant and a short /o/ in a syllable with final consonant.
  2. Tone markers, if present, are placed above the final onset consonant of the syllable.
  3. Vowels sounding after an initial consonant can be located before, after, above or below the consonant, or in a combination of these positions.

Transcription

There is no universally applied method for transcribing Thai into the Latin alphabet. For example, the name of the main airport is transcribed variably as Suvarnabhumi, Suwannaphum, or Suwunnapoom. Guide books, textbooks and dictionaries may each follow different systems. For this reason, many language courses recommend that learners master the Thai script.

Official standards are the Royal Thai General System of Transcription (RTGS), published by the Royal Institute of Thailand, and the almost identical ISO 11940-2 defined by the International Organization for Standardization. The RTGS system is increasingly used in Thailand by central and local governments, especially for road signs. Its main drawbacks are that it does not indicate tone or vowel length. As the system is based on pronunciation, not orthography, reconstruction of Thai spelling from RTGS romanisation is not possible.

Transliteration

The ISO published an international standard for the transliteration of Thai into Roman script in September 2005 (ISO 11940). By adding diacritics to the Latin letters it makes the transcription reversible, making it a true transliteration. Notably, this system is used by Google Translate, although it does not seem to appear in many other contexts, such as textbooks and other instructional media.

See also

Explanatory notes

  1. ^ In Thai: ภาษาไทย Phasa Thai
  2. ^ In Thai: ภาษาไทยกลาง RTGS: Phasa Thai Klang; Not to be confused with Central Tai
  3. ^ In Thai: ภาษาสยาม Phasa Sayam
  4. ^ Although "Thai" and "Central Thai" have become more common, the older term, "Siamese", is still used by linguists, especially when it is being distinguished from other Tai languages (Diller 2008:6). "Proto-Thai" is, for example, the ancestor of all of Southwestern Tai, not just Siamese (Rischel 1998).
  5. ^ Xiānluó was the Chinese name for Ayutthaya, a kingdom created by the merger of Lavo and Sukhothai or Suphannabhumi
  6. ^ The glottalized stops /ʔb ʔd/ were unaffected, as they were treated in every respect like voiceless unaspirated stops due to the initial glottal stop. These stops are often described in the modern language as phonemically plain stops /b d/, but the glottalization is still commonly heard.
  7. ^ Modern Lao, Isan and northern Thai dialects are often described as having six tones, but these are not necessarily due to preservation of the original six tones resulting from the tone split. For example, in standard Lao, both the high and low variants of Old Thai tone 2 merged; however, the mid-class variant of tone 1 became pronounced differently from either the high-class or low-class variants, and all three eventually became phonemic due to further changes, e.g. /kr/ > /kʰ/. For similar reasons, Lao has developed more than two tonal distinctions in "dead" syllables.
  8. ^ Initial อ is silent and therefore considered as a glottal stop.
  9. ^ ฃ and ฅ are no longer used. Thus, modern Thai is said to have 42 consonant letters.
  10. ^ The glottal plosive appears at the end when no final follows a short vowel

References

Citations

  1. ^ a b c Thai at Ethnologue (27th ed., 2024) Closed access icon
  2. ^ Diller, A.; Reynolds, Craig J. (2002). "What makes central Thai a national language?". In Reynolds (ed.). National identity and its defenders : Thailand today. Chiang Mai: Silkworm Books. ISBN 974-7551-88-8. OCLC 54373362.
  3. ^ Draper, John (2019), "Language education policy in Thailand", The Routledge International Handbook of Language Education Policy in Asia, Abingdon, Oxon; New York, NY: Routledge, pp. 229–242, doi:10.4324/9781315666235-16, ISBN 978-1-315-66623-5, S2CID 159127015
  4. ^ Baker, Christopher (2014). A history of Thailand. Melbourne, Australia: Cambridge University Press. pp. 3–4. ISBN 978-1-316-00733-4.
  5. ^ Enfield, N.J. "How to define 'Lao', 'Thai', and 'Isan' language? A view from linguistic science". Tai Culture. 3 (1): 62–67.
  6. ^ Peansiri Vongvipanond (Summer 1994). "Linguistic Perspectives of Thai Culture". paper presented to a workshop of teachers of social science. University of New Orleans. p. 2. Archived from the original on 20 November 2012. Retrieved 26 April 2011. The dialect one hears on radio and television is the Bangkok dialect, considered the standard dialect.
  7. ^ Kemasingki, Pim; Prateepkoh, Pariyakorn (1 August 2017). "Kham Mueang: the slow death of a language". Chiang Mai City Life: 8. there are still many people speaking kham mueang, but as an accent, not as a language. Because we now share the written language with Bangkok, we are beginning to use its vocabulary as well
  8. ^ Andrew Simpson (2007). Language and national identity in Asia. Oxford University Press. Standard Thai is a form of Central Thai based on the variety of Thai spoken earlier by the elite of the court, and now by the educated middle and upper classes of Bangkok. It ... was standardized in grammar books in the nineteenth century, and spread dramatically from the 1930s onwards, when public education became much more widespread
  9. ^ Thepboriruk, Kanjana (2010). "Bangkok Thai tones revisited". Journal of the Southeast Asian Linguistic Society. 3 (1). University of Hawaii Press: 86–105. Linguists generally consider Bangkok Thai and Standard Thai, the Kingdom's national language, to be one and the same.
  10. ^ Antonio L. Rappa; Lionel Wee (2006), Language Policy and Modernity in Southeast Asia: Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand, Springer, pp. 114–115
  11. ^ Lieberman, Victor (2003). Strange Parallels: Volume 1, Integration on the Mainland: Southeast Asia in Global Context, c.800–1830. Studies in Comparative World History (Kindle ed.). ISBN 978-0-521-80086-0.
  12. ^ Wyatt, David K. (2003). Thailand: A Short History. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-08475-7.
  13. ^ a b c Khanittanan, Wilaiwan (2004). "Khmero-Thai: The Great Change in the History of the Thai Language of the Chao Phraya Basin" (PDF). Annual Meeting of the Southeast Asian Linguistics Society. 11.
  14. ^ Ying-yai Sheng-lan: The Overall Survey of the Ocean's Shores (1433), Hakluyt Society at the University Press, 1970, ISBN 0-521-01032-2
  15. ^ Kasetsiri 1999: 25
  16. ^ Varasarin 1984: 91
  17. ^ Tingsabadh & Abramson (1993:25)
  18. ^ Frankfurter, Oscar. Elements of Siamese grammar with appendices. American Presbyterian mission press, 1900 (Full text available on Google Books)
  19. ^ Morén, Bruce; Zsiga, Elizabeth (2006). "The Lexical and Post-Lexical Phonology of Thai Tones*". Natural Language & Linguistic Theory. 24 (1): 113–178. doi:10.1007/s11049-004-5454-y. ISSN 0167-806X. S2CID 170764533.
  20. ^ Zsiga, Elizabeth; Nitisaroj, Rattima (2007). "Tone Features, Tone Perception, and Peak Alignment in Thai". Language and Speech. 50 (3): 343–383. doi:10.1177/00238309070500030301. ISSN 0023-8309. PMID 17974323. S2CID 18595049.
  21. ^ Teeranon, Phanintra. (2007). "The change of Standard Thai high tone: An acoustic study and a perceptual experiment". SKASE Journal of Theoretical Linguistics, 4(3), 1–16.
  22. ^ Thepboriruk, Kanjana. (2010). "Bangkok Thai Tones Revisited". Journal of the Southeast Asian Linguistics Society, 3(1), 86–105.
  23. ^ Pittayaporn, Pittayawat. (2007). "Directionality of Tone Change". Proceedings of the 16th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences (ICPhS XVI).
  24. ^ Warotamasikkhadit, Udom (1972). Thai Syntax. The Hague: Mouton.
  25. ^ a b c Bisang, W. (1991), "Verb serialisation, grammaticalisation, and attractor positions in Chinese, Hmong, Vietnamese, Thai and Khmer", Partizipation: das sprachliche Erfassen von Sachverhalten, Tübingen: Narr, pp. 509–562, retrieved 2 May 2021
  26. ^ a b c d e f Jenny, Mathias; Ebert, Karen H.; Zúñiga, Fernando (2001), "The aspect system of Thai", Aktionsart and Aspectotemporality in non-European languages, Zürich: Seminar für Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft, Universität Zürich, pp. 97–140, ISBN 978-3-9521010-8-7, retrieved 2 May 2021
  27. ^ a b Boonyapatipark, Tasanalai (1983). A study of aspect in Thai. University of London.
  28. ^ Koenig, Jean-Pierre; Muansuwan, Nuttanart (2005). "The Syntax of Aspect in Thai". Natural Language & Linguistic Theory. 23 (2): 335–380. doi:10.1007/s11049-004-0488-8. ISSN 0167-806X. JSTOR 4048104. S2CID 170429648.
  29. ^ Jenks, Peter (2011). The Hidden Structure of Thai Noun Phrases (PDF) (PhD dissertation). Harvard University. ISBN 978-1-267-10767-1. S2CID 118127511. ProQuest 915016895. Archived (PDF) from the original on 3 May 2015.
  30. ^ "Thailanguage.org". Archived from the original on 17 August 2017. Retrieved 18 September 2010.
  31. ^ a b Smyth, David (2014). Thai (2nd ed.). Hoboken: Taylor and Francis. ISBN 978-1-317-97457-4. OCLC 879025983.
  32. ^ "The Many Different Ways To Say "I"". Beginner Thai Speaking. 28 September 2021. Retrieved 12 November 2021.
  33. ^ Joanne Tan. "How to say You in Thai Language". Learn Thai in Singapore.
  34. ^ a b "What Do 'krub' And 'ka' Mean In Thai Language & When To Use". 5 October 2021. Retrieved 1 November 2021.
  35. ^ "The Languages spoken in Thailand". Studycountry. Retrieved 26 December 2017.
  36. ^ Haspelmath, Martin; Tadmor, Uri (2009). Loanwords in the World's Languages: A Comparative Handbook. p. 611. Thai is of special interest to lexical borrowing for various reasons. The copious borrowing of basic vocabulary from Middle Chinese and later from Khmer indicates that, given the right sociolinguistic context, such vocabulary is not at all immune
  37. ^ Haarmann, Harald (1986). Language in Ethnicity: A View of Basic Ecological Relations. p. 165. In Thailand, for instance, where the Chinese influence was strong until the Middle Ages, Chinese characters were abandoned in written Thai in the course of the thirteenth century.
  38. ^ Leppert, Paul A. (1992). Doing Business With Thailand. p. 13. At an early time the Thais used Chinese characters. But, under the influence of Indian traders and monks, they soon dropped Chinese characters in favor of Sanskrit and Pali scripts.
  39. ^ "S̄yām-portukes̄ ṣ̄ụks̄ʹā: Khả reīyk "chā kāfæ" khır lxk khır thịy h̄rụ̄x portukes̄" สยาม-โปรตุเกสศึกษา: คำเรียก "ชา กาแฟ" ใครลอกใคร ไทย หรือ โปรตุเกส . 2010.
  40. ^ Pronk, Marco (2013). The Essential Thai Language Companion: Reference Book: Basics, Structures, Rules. Schwabe AG. p. v. ISBN 978-3-9523664-9-3. learn the Thai alphabet as early as possible, and get rid of romanized transcriptions as soon as you can
  41. ^ Juyaso, Arthit (2015). Read Thai in 10 Days. Bingo-Lingo. p. xii. There have been attempts by Thai language schools to create a perfect phonetic system for learners, but none have been successful so far. ... Only Thai script is prevalent and consistent in Thailand.
  42. ^ Waites, Dan (2014). "Learning the Language: To Write or Not to Write". CultureShock! Bangkok. Marshall Cavendish. ISBN 978-981-4516-93-8. you're far better off learning the Thai alphabet
  43. ^ Cooper, Robert (2019). "Learning Thai: Writing Thai in English". CultureShock! Thailand: A Survival Guide to Customs and Etiquette. Marshall Cavendish. ISBN 978-981-4841-39-9. take a bit of time to learn the letters. The time you spend is saved many times over when you begin to really learn Thai.
  44. ^ Royal Thai General System of Transcription, published by the Thai Royal Institute only in Thai
  45. ^ Handbook and standard for traffic signs (PDF) (in Thai), Appendix ง, archived (PDF) from the original on 15 November 2017
  46. ^ ISO 11940 Standard.

General and cited sources

Further reading

Thai edition of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Wikiquote has quotations related to Thai proverbs. Wikivoyage has a phrasebook for Thai. Glossaries and word lists Dictionaries Learners' resources