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The Thai Language


Basics

Thai language and script  is not easy to understand, even after intensive study. Thai language has five intonations so the  very individual pronunciation and the Thai alphabet makes it so different from western languages.

According to linguists, the Thai language belongs to the Sino-Tibetan language.
Important elements originate from Sanskrit and from the official language Pali, which is derived from Sanskrit and from the writings of the Mon and Khmer. Thai is a tonal language, similar to Chinese. About 400 basic words build up the main phonetic vocabulary. The grammar is very simple:  neither articles nor plural forms are used nor declination of verbs. The basis for the Thai language was created in the 13th century by King Ramkamhaeng. There are 44 consonants and 48 simple and connected vowels. The writing and the reading is from left to right.
Intonation

Caused by the one-syllable and unchanging base words the linguistic arrangements of the Thai language is rather limited. There are word combinations and different tones. Five tone levels - middle, rising, falling, high, low - so one word can have five different meanings depending on the tone. This allows diversity in expressing the language with  a pleasant and melodious sound as well. The right intonation however, seems to be the biggest hindrance for foreigners in learning Thai. If you are interested in learning the language, the best way is to ask Thai people to speak the words a couple of times so you can catch the right tone.
Dialects

Pasah Thai
is spoken in Bangkok. It is taught in schools and universities and heard on radio and TV as well. It is standard Thai. However, working class people such as taxi drivers, waiters and sales people in the markets use pasah talad, which is widely used, but not a “literary” language for daily use. One of the most used dialects is pasah isan, which is similar to Laotian and used in the Northeast of Thailand and pasah dai, the language of the non-Muslim Thai people in the South. The ethnic minorities living in the mountains in the North have their own language.
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