Presentation of and samples from:



Part IV: Writing Manuals

The 3 manuals (Thai-, Isan-, and Lao-manual) are analogue in content:

1 : The 9 basic vowels (English sample words).
2 : Basic vowels - short and long.
3 : All vowels in alphabetic order.
4 : The consonants (Kor Kai).
5 : The double consonants.
6 : The consonants in large script.
7 : Words about tones and signs.
8 : Determination of tones - use of tonal-chart.
9 : Words and tones (lists of words with identical tone).
10 : Tonal-chart.

     The manuals can appear a little scaring at a first glimpse. But there is no need to be worried; the new student doesn't need to learn the whole content the very first day. 
     Start with the basic vowels and the consonants in order to get familiar with these - and to get familiar with the phonetics.
     When needed, then continue to the more difficult part: Determination of tones.




1) The 9 basic vowels - with English sample words:


The 9 basic vowels - with English sample words

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2) Isan basic vowels

     Isan basic vowels is a part of a table on one page, describing 9 Single, 12 double and 3 triple-vowels - short and long.

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4) Thai consonants - "Kor Kai"

     Kor Kai is a part of a table on two pages.

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8) Determination of tones

- reading a tonal chart

See tonal chart below ...


Determination af tones - 2 - tonal chart of Vientiane

     The two tables above are brought in their full extend.

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9) Words and tones in Lao

     Words and tones is a part of a table on three pages. The columns are analogue to the 15 "boxes" in the tonal chart above. All the words in one box/column have the same tone in a chosen dialect.

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Outside the scope of the Thai-Isan-Lao Phrasebook:

     For the advanced student:
     If the student happens not to be living in Bangkok, Vientiane or Maha Sarakham, the student can  make his own local tonal chart by letting native speakers of that area read the words in the "word and tones" diagrams. Using images of or pointing at an item is even better, because the informant then won't be distracted by official writing systems. And the best informants are mostly elderly illiterate people ("best" meaning people, who still speaks the original dialect from the days before TV and migration).

     For the more advanced:
     If the student happens be living in a Tai Dam area in Northern Vietnam or a Tai Lue area in Yunnan the same method can be used - but as the locals won't be able to read neither Thai nor Lao script, the student must use images of the items. Most of the Proto-tai words for fish, star, forest, village, mouth, flower, duck, etc. will be the same allover the Tai-Kadai area (see Linguistic History). Depending on locality there might be "glides" in some consonants: phii (ghost) will in some Tai Dam localities be fii (!) - ph <=> f, for all words. But the tones will follow the rules described above.

     Final notes:
     The writer of this book mostly resides in a Phu Tai area in Eastern Isan, where some of the double vowels glides into single vowels: suan for "garden" is pronounced soon (with a rising tone as well), and "cow": wua (in Thai), ngua (in Lao) becomes gnoo, all three forms still belonging to the same tonal box/category: A3.
     When I have more time I will continue already ongoing comparative studies of Phu Tai dialects on both sides of the Mekong River: In Mukdahan province in Eastern Isan and in Sawannakhet province in Southern Laos. Using the manuals in Thai and Lao, I start with the vowels and continue with the consonants. Then I try to find out which glosses (phonemes) are different from the Lao dialects, which is the cultural environment. And at last I aim at the tonal system. Following exactly the same procedure as I propose the beginner in Thai or Lao to follow.
     Good luck!



Thai-Isan-Lao Phrasebook with phonetics and soundtrack

Page 1 Index page.
Page 2 Introduction: Front page, introduction, content.
Page 3 Texts: Shopping, Learning by Oneself, etc.
Page 4 Wordlists: Menu-card, people, etc.
Page 5 Grammar: Present-Past-Future, adjectives, classifiers, etc.
Page 6 Writing Manuals: Thai consonants, Lao vowels, Isan clusters, etc.
Page 7 Appendixes: Comparing Lao and Thai consonants and vowels, etc.
Page 8 About the author
Page 9 Link page: Literature and web-sites


Asger Mollerup, June 2005