Thai Language - Information for TEFL Teachers Thailand
The Thai language is spoken by approximately 50 million people across the world and by 85% of the population in Thailand itself. The language has its presence within small groups in countries like the United States, the United Arab Emirates and Singapore as well.
Considered as an ‘uninflected, primarily monosyllabic, tonal language’ belonging to the ‘Ka-Tai Group’, the origin of this Thai mode or articulation can be traced back to an area where the current border of Vietnam and China lies. The Tai language family from which this Siamese language has been derived is a segment of the much larger Austric language group. The language shows predominant traits of association with the spoken discourse of eastern Burma, northern Vietnam, Yunnan and Laos.
King Ramkamhaeng – the third royal descendent in the Sukhothai dynasty is considered to be the introducer of the ‘Thai Language’ and also the inventor of the Sukhothai Script in 1238 AD. This second son of King Si Intharathit was an independent lord with strong national feeling who wanted to form the new official Thai script, pure and free from any Mon or Khmer influence. The Sukhothai script can be linked to Grantha – a form of the ancient Brahmi script from South India that permeated through the Indo-Chinese border with the spread of Buddhism and trade contacts to be blended with the Pali and Sanskrit. Used till 1357, this script was replaced by ‘King Li Thai Script’ incorporation a few moderations, during the reign of King Li Thai, the grandson of King Ramkhamhaeng. However, the alteration in the Thai script since its inception has been so insignificant that the inscriptions from the Sukhothai era can still be deciphered by the contemporary Thai readers.
The Thai language can be categorized under four predominant dialects distributed across four major regional divides – the southern, the northern (Yuan), the north-eastern (resembles Lao Language) and central regions. The central Thai or the Bangkok Thai is the more popularly and officially used version across schools and media of communication. The minor dialects like ‘Phuan’ and ‘Lue’ are practiced by small populations.
The Thai alphabets series consists of forty four consonants and fifteen basic vowel characters, written in a horizontal order from left to right without any separating space, while syllable, words and sentences are composed. In this alphabetic language system, pronunciation of a word is independent of its meaning. But unlike English, the Thai language has an unmistakable tonality where each word is assigned a certain pitch characteristic that need to be followed for proper communication. Theories have revealed that the phonic pattern has mid, low, high, rising and falling tones.
The Thai grammar is uncomplicated as the words here aren’t modified or compounded for tenses, plurals, genders or subject-verb agreement. There aren’t any use of articles either like ‘a’, ‘an’ or ‘the’. Various modifying words or ‘particles’ serve the purpose of tenses, levels of politeness, verb-to-noun conversation and other linguistic modulations when added to the basics subject-verb-object format.