Thai: ลา ก่อน!

Ok … Thai time’s over.

This language wasn’t what I thought it was going to be. I assumed it would be a carbon copy of Khmer, but it had a few surprises. Not enough of them though …

SUMMARY: Thai appeared over 700 years ago in the Buddhist Sukhotai kingdom, which is what Thailand was known as at the time. The language is highly influenced by the Indic languages Sanskrit and Pali. Thailand was never colonized at any point during its history, although it does get some of its vocabulary from Old Khmer. It is a tonal language, belonging to the Kradai language family, with Lao. Its alphabet has 44 consonants, 32 vowels (which are added below, above, to the left of right of consonants) and five tones, marked by diacritics.

FINAL IMPRESSION: I still don’t like the alphabet. I knew that would be a given, but I didn’t expect it to be even more complicated than Khmer’s. What seems to make it more difficult are the factors that determine the tone of a syllable (the class of the consonant, whether the vowel is short or long, and the tone itself). It seems like this would be a lot to remember when simply writing a word. Another issue I had was that Thai words aren’t separated by spaces. Transcribing Thai isn’t standardized, either.

For all of the complexities of the alphabet, everything else seemed to be a breeze. For example, Thai grammar is quite simple for English speakers. It doesn’t have any definite articles, verbs don’t conjugate and past/future tense is determined by the context of words or verbs dâi (will) or ja (already) placed before the main verb.  Here’s an example from Into-Asia:

chán ja bpai rohng-rian – I will go to school (actually, I will go school).

Another thing about Thai are the particles khrap and kaa, used for politeness. Khrap is used at the end of sentences when speaking to men, kaa for women. They can both mean yes in some cases.

Listening to Thai was interesting as well. It’s monosyllabic, but I was able to make out words quite well; the tones actually helped with this. I compared Thai videos to Khmer ones and, even though it’s not in the same language family, Thai sounds way more relaxed than Khmer.

Still, I’m going to pass on Thai. But there are definitely no hard feelings.

Anyway, random! And funny! Here’s a group of Thai commercials for a peppermint headache gel. Even if you can’t understand them, I think you’ll still get a kick out of them:


Intelligibilty: 3
Complexity: 3
Resonance: 2
Continuation: 1

Into-Asia: Thai Grammar
Wikipedia – Thai Language

COMING UP: Turkish

6 thoughts on “Thai: ลา ก่อน!

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