The Thai language


Some information about Thai language and Thai writing

Thai language – ภาษาไทย [pa:’sa: ‘tai]

Thai language (or Thai) belongs like Lao (or Laotian), Vietnamese and Chinese to the so-called tonal languages, this means that the words get completely different meanings by pronunciation and different pitches and tones. Altogether there are five different phonemic tones in Thai: mid (with flat stress, respectively), low (with constrained stress, resp.), high (with raising stress, resp.), rising (with questioning stress, resp.) and falling (with exclaiming stress, resp.). In writing they are indicated by a combination of (one or two) initial consonant sounds, final consonant sound (when existent), vowel lenght and a tone marker as may be the case (see below).

Thai consists mainly of monosyllabic words. In Thai, loanwords and words of foreign origin primarily originate from the Old Indic languages Pali and Sanskrit as well as from Khmer (Cambodian) and Chinese (mainly Cantonese), and, lately, increasingly from English. Multisyllabic words used in Thai usually date back to these languages, where their pronunciation is adapted to the characteristics of Thai.

Thai grammar can be easily grasped by European language speakers. There are no corruptions such as declension or plural forms of nouns and adjectives (as for example hous, houses, or long, longer, longest) or conjugation and tenses of verbs (go, goes, went, gone). Nor there are any articles in Thai. Plural forms, tenses and other features of circumstance are formed by means of particles. The syntax of simple sentences in Thai normally follows the same structure as in German (subject, predicate, object). However, the structure of more complex sentences in Thai can be difficult.

Standard Thai or Central Thai is the official language for the appr. 65 mio inhabitants of Thailand. Thai or other languages closely related to Thai are spoken in some regions in Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam, Malysia, Yunnan (China) and Assam (India). The about one million hill tribespeople in the north of Thailand speak beside their respective tribal languages usually Thai as well. As in many other languages, Thai colloquial language, called street Thai (ภาษาพูด), differs from its written language, called elegant Thai (ภาษาเขียน), and other standard language forms as for example rhetorical Thai (used for public speeches) or royal Thai (ราชาศัพท์) used for addressing members of the royal family or reporting about them.

At schools, standard Thai (called Central Thai, spoken in Bangkok and its surrounding area) is taught. As the official language, it is also used by the Thai media. Regional varieties of Thai are to be found in South, North and Northeast Thailand. In the northeast, the Isan dialects merge into Lao (the Laotian language) which is closely related to Thai. (Further information on Thai language see Wikipedia.)

Thai script - อักษรไทย [ak's?:n 'tai]

For the first time Thai script was proven by a stone inscription of a stele discovered in the 19th century the text of which was created in 1292 and is attributed to King Ramkhamhaeng. Thai script belongs to the Southeast Asian branch of Indic scripts and was presumptively developed from a mixture of elements of a Mon script and the Khmer script of that time.

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