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Thai language

In contrast to most European languages, Thai, like the languages ​​of neighboring countries (except Khmer), is a so-called tonal language: the mostly monosyllabic words acquire completely different meanings through pronunciation in different pitches and tone sequences. There are five different tones in Thai, Thai is written with its own alphabet.

Language levels

The centuries-old hierarchical structure of society has also been carried over to the Thai language and is still noticeable today.

There are at least five language levels:

  • the common colloquial language (ภาษา พูด, phasa phut [pʰaːsǎː pʰûːt] - literally: spoken language) without politeness particles, which is mostly used between family members and close friends,
  • the upscale language (ภาษา เขียน, phasa khian [pʰaːsǎː kʰǐːan] - literally: written language) with politeness particles and partly different vocabulary,
  • the official language (ภาษา ราชการ, phasa ratchakan [pʰaːsǎː râːtʨʰákaːn] - literally: state language), which can be heard in public announcements and news,
  • the court language (ราชาศัพท์, rachasap [raːʨʰaːsàp]) for all matters relating to the royal family, with a lot of special politeness and other vocabulary, mostly from the Khmer language, but also from the Pali,
  • the monastic language with its own politeness particles and vocabulary used in relation to Buddhism and very much influenced by Pali and Sanskrit.

Regional variants

The standard Thai language (ภาษา ไทย มาตรฐาน, phasa thai mattrathan) is based on the central Thai (ภาษา ไทย กลาง, phasa thai sound), as spoken by educated residents of the capital, Bangkok. Thai knows many different dialects, most Thai do not speak the standard language in everyday life. Standard Thai and the Central Thai dialects together have over 20 million speakers.

The regional varieties differ so clearly from the standard Thai that they are classified by linguists as related, but independent languages. Native speakers, on the other hand, often understand them as regional expressions of "a larger Thai language", as "different types of Thai". This is particularly noticeable in the northeast (Isan), where there is a dialect continuum, i.e. a transition between Thai and Lao, which in turn occurs in numerous local dialects. The Thai-Laotian dialects of the northeast are summarized as Phasa Isan ("Isan language"), whereby this category is more subjective and political / historical than linguistic, as the transitions in the dialect continuum run smoothly and without rigid borders. They have a total of over 15 million speakers. Other important regional variants, which are controversial as to whether they are dialects or independent languages, are northern Thai (also called Lanna or Kam Mueang) with around 6 million speakers and southern Thai (also Pak Tai or Dambro) with around 4.5 Million speakers.

The regional dialects have no official status; standard thai is used almost exclusively in schools and universities, in the press and on the radio. The regional languages ​​are almost exclusively used for oral communication, the written Lao (Tai Noi) and the Lanna script, which used to be widespread in the north, have almost completely been pushed back. The dialects are often given little social prestige, which is particularly true of the Isan dialects. Younger and educated speakers in particular try to speak the standard language in official situations and in front of outsiders and to hide their native dialect.
Source: Wikipedia