Thai language

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Thai language

(tī), formerly Siamese, member of the Tai or Thai subfamily of the Sino-Tibetan family of languages (see Sino-Tibetan languagesSino-Tibetan languages,
family of languages spoken by over a billion people in central and SE Asia. This linguistic family is second only to the Indo-European stock in the number of its speakers.
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). The official language of Thailand, Thai is spoken by approximately 50 million people in Thailand, Vietnam, and the Yunnan province of China. It has several dialects. Although most of the words are monosyllables, a number of them are polysyllabic. Because there is no inflection, word order is important for showing grammatical relationships. The Thai language is also tonal, and the tones serve to distinguish meanings of words otherwise pronounced alike. There are five tones: high, middle, low, rising, and falling. Over the centuries Thai has borrowed many words from Chinese, Khmer, Pali, Sanskrit, and, more recently, from European languages such as French and English. The Thai language has its own alphabet, which ultimately goes back to a script of S India and which was adopted in the 13th cent. A.D. Thai is written from left to right.


See E. M. Anthony et al., Foundations of Thai (1968); U. Warotamasikkhadit, Thai Syntax: An Outline (1972); M. R. Haas and H. R. Subhanka, Spoken Thai (1973).

Thai (Siamese) Language


the language of the Khon Thais in Thailand; the official language of Thailand. Thai belongs to the Thai group of languages; its deeper genetic links have not been established. There are four dialects: central (the basis of the literary language), northern, northeastern, and southern.

Structurally, Thai is a syllabic language. The syllable generally corresponds to the morpheme and is thus the basic structural unit, characterized by a specific tone. Thai has five tones that serve to distinguish meaning. Phonologically, there are 20 consonants and 24 vowel phonemes, of which 18 are monophthongs and six are diphthongs. The vowels are paired according to length and shortness. Word formation occurs chiefly by means of compounding. Morphologically, Thai is an analytic language; the grammatical meaning of the content word is transmitted by auxiliary words.

Typologically, Thai belongs to the root-isolating languages. The written language, established in 1283, derives from southern Indian script, probably through Khmer writing.


Morev, L. N., Iu. Ia. Plam, and M. F. Fomicheva. Taiskii iazyk. Moscow, 1961.
Noss, R. B. Thai: Reference Grammar. Washington, D.C., 1964.