Thai is the National language of Thailand, It is spoken by around 80% of the 60 million
residents. It is a tonal, primarily monosyllabic, uninflected language. The language
is in the Tai-Kadai family. The spoken Thai is believed to have originated in the
area between Vietnam and China.
Linguistically, the language is related to languages spoken in Myanmar (Burma), North
Vietnam, Yunnan and Laos.
The written language was introduced by King Rankhamhaeng in 1823 and has changed
There are regional variations and the four main dialects are Soujther, Northern,
North Eastern and Central. The Central dialect is called Bangkok Thai and is taught
in all schools. It is also used for TV broadcasts. English is now taught in all public
schools. There are a few other minority Thai dialects such as Phuan and Lue. The
primary dialects should not be confused with languages. Certain words are only used
by the Thai Royal Family and this is called the Royal Language. There are also languages
A Traditional Thai Welcome. Accompanied by ‘Sawadee krap”(male speaking) or “Sawadee Ka”(female speaking).
religious figures, polite everyday interactions and crude communications. The Thai language uses a phonetic alphabet of 44 consonants, fifteen basic vowel graphemes, which are assembled into about 32 vowel combinations (and us English have difficulty with 5!). It is a left to right, horizontal language but with no spaces in words, syllables or sentences. The vowel graphemes are written above and below, and/or before or after the consonant they modify, although you always sound the consonant first when the syllable is spoken. The vowel graphemes (and a few consonants) can be combined in different ways to form numerous compound vowels (diphthongs and triphthongs). All
syllables must contain a vowel sound. A syllable which ends in a vowel is called ‘open’, whilst one that ends with a consonant is called ‘closed’. Each syllable is pronounced in one of five tones (lexical tones), mid, high, low, rising or falling. This creates a melodic pattern, sometimes described as a sing-song language. Pronunciation of the words is independent of it’s meaning like in English (an alphabetic language). Most significantly, words are not modified or conjugated for tense, person, possession, number (singular/plural), gender, or subject-verb agreement. There are no determiners such as a, an or the in the Thai language. There are however different words depending on whether a man or woman is speaking.