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Learning Thai Consonants

Suggestions and references for self-study, including bookstores and libraries

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Learning Thai Consonants

Postby Richard Wordingham » Sat Aug 30, 2003 6:35 pm

When I was learning the Thai letters and their associated tone classes, I found it very useful to set them out in a grid in the same way as they are set out for Sanskrit or Pali. I have therefore prepared such a grid at An Alternative Presentation of the Thai Consonants. Scheduled for deletion - use link in next post! I hope it will be found useful enough to be adopted by this site as is - I therefore adapted one of the pages from this site. There may be one potential problem - it does contain an n tilde, which might upset some browsers. I've added some historical notes - whether they will help or bore I do not know.

Richard.
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Learning Thai Consonants

Postby Glenn Slayden » Sun Aug 31, 2003 3:53 pm

Thanks for contributing this interesting article, Richard. After a few edits, I've incorporated it on the site and you can find it in our reference section:

An Alternative Presentation of the Thai Consonants

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Learning Thai Consonants

Postby Gwindor » Sun Aug 31, 2003 4:39 pm

Richard, this is exactly what I needed to "connect the dots" that I was inquiring about on that other thread.

Well done!

Is this something commonly taught in Thailand which simply doesn't make it into English language textbooks?

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Learning Thai Consonants

Postby Richard Wordingham » Sun Aug 31, 2003 5:19 pm

I'm glad you like it. There are a few points though.

1. In the table of Pali consonants, you've transposed and .

2. We need to mention that Thai keeps all three /s/-type letters from Sanskrit.

3. On the vowel front we ought to mention the six extra Sanskrit vowels - ไอ เอา ฤ ฦ ฤๅ ฦๅ. Instances of the first two are ไมตรี 'friendship' and เสาร์ 'Saturn, Saturday' . I've never understood why comes before - perhaps their loss and then restoration explains it.

It's probably easier not to mention the vowels at all!

Incidentally, is another Thai addition. The vowel was the diphtong a + eu in your notation, but later merged with ai.

4. I was a bit nervous about using the king's name, for Thais hardly ever utter it. That why I laboured the point abut Rama IX. The whole system of Rama I, Rama II etc. is intended to provide an alternative. On the other hand, there is Chulalongkorn University, so perhaps I'm being over-cautious.

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Learning Thai Consonants

Postby Glenn Slayden » Sun Aug 31, 2003 6:23 pm

It was my understanding that refering to His Majesty King Bhumibol as พระราม ๙ might be disrespectful. Bryan agreed, adding that "พระราม ๙ and พระรามที่ ๙ are usually used as the names of, for example, the hospitals, passes, roads, streets, intersections, bridges, research centers, businesses, schools." For this reason, I edited that portion of your article.

I fixed the other error that you mentioned and deleted the mention of vowels, per your suggestion.

Thanks again for the informative piece, I learned a lot from it.

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Learning Thai Consonants

Postby Richard Wordingham » Mon Sep 01, 2003 2:34 am

This is largely a reply to Gwindor's posting.

The relationship between the Thai and Sanskrit scripts is, to Thais, as intuitively obvious as the connection between the versions of the alphabet used for English and Latin. When Thais print Sanskrit or Pali, they use the Thai alphabet - just think of the different alphabets as different fonts! It seems crazy to me that different versions of the Thai alphabet (Thai, Lao, old Tai Lue, etc.) should have completely different Unicode encodings. The key point here is that Sanskrit is not tied to any one alphabet, again because in one sense they are just like different fonts. The complications arise with the extra symbols peculiar to individual languages (cf. Swedish).

I've not come across the grid of consonants used for Thai. It's not included in wall charts of the Thai alphabet, I've not seen it in an exercise book teaching Thai
to Thai children (there were exercises on the use of tone marks and letter classes), and I've not seen such a grid in the few junior school classrooms I've been privileged to see (all at the same school). However, it's clearly used for Pali, presumably also for Sanskrit. But then, Sanskrit is 'complicated'. Thai for "It's Greek to me"
seems to be /sangit/. I have heard 'learn English' said as เรียน ภาษา สันสกฤต (but with only
two syllables in the last word. Maybe I should add a garan to the second !).

Actually, the Thai systems for writing Pali and Sanskrit make reading _simpler_. There is an extra mark for Pali (a dot under the consonant) that make it clear when an inherent vowel is not present. For that matter, it's use is mandatory in Tai Lue.

Is your (Gwindor's) 'signature' a request for information or just a complaint about dictionaries? Mind you, I'm not sure how one'd spell out เหงา. I suspect not the way one'd spell out เวลา, even though the dictionaries treat the different vowels the same. Does one just leave it to common sense to know whether the or the comes first?

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Learning Thai Consonants

Postby Gwindor » Mon Sep 01, 2003 5:38 am

The complaint in my signature is genuine, although it refers generally to dictionaries, as you ask.

The vowels have names, but these are never given anywhere. We get gor gai, kor kai, etc but nothing for the vowels. The first time my Thai friend Ott spelled a word for me out loud, I realized there was more to spelling than gor gai.

The same extends to other parts of thai writing and pronunciation. Text books generally do not tell you Thai words for the tones themselves, only the tone marks. And no where is it possible to find the Thai words for the "classes" of consonants. I'm talking about texts in English, btw.

Here is my other pet peeve about textbooks for English speakers learning Thai. (Image http://www.thai-language.com/ubb_cgi/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic;f=39;t=000042;p=1#000000)

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Learning Thai Consonants

Postby Gwindor » Wed Sep 24, 2003 6:59 am

The laying the old Sanskrit "grid" over the Thai alphabet explains so much about Thai spelling. But now I am curious about รร . Such as in บรรพบุรุษ. What is the derivation of this spelling?
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Learning Thai Consonants

Postby LOKi » Tue Oct 21, 2003 1:33 am

But now I am curious about รร .

รร can be found in words rooted from Sanskrit. It is ไม้หันอากาศ with double endings in Pali, such as มรรค - มัคค.

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Learning Thai Consonants

Postby LOKi » Tue Oct 21, 2003 1:42 am

In http://homepage.ntlworld.com/richard.wordingham/cons_hist.htm the word ภูมิพลอดุลยเดจ should be ภูมิพลอดุลยเดช. เดจ doesn't exist in Thai.

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