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Learn the Thai Alphabet and Pronunciations

written by: Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch • edited by: Tricia Goss • updated: 4/5/2012

Interested in studying Thai? Learn the alphabet! Includes the 44 consonants and 32 vowels of the language and how they are pronounced.

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    The CIA World Factbook states that Thailand has a population of 66,720,153 people, with 75 percent speaking Thai. The Thai language uses an abugida writing system: written left to right, vowels are placed above, below, left or right to the consonant. The Thai alphabet has 44 consonants and 21 sounds, and 32 vowels (30 on a keyboard). We will go over each of the sounds the letters make, and which tone rule they follow.

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    Consonants

    We will start with the consonants, presented in dictionary order. Next to each consonant in parentheses is the tone.

    gor (middle)

    khor (high)

    khor (high)

    kor (low)

    kor (low)

    kor (low)

    ngor (low)

    jor (middle)

    chor (high)

    chor (low)

    sor (low)

    chor (low)

    yor (low)

    dor (mid)

    tor (mid)

    thor (high)

    thor (low)

    thor (low)

    nor (low)

    dor (middle)

    dtor (middle) (when speaking, blend the “d" and “t" together, which can be difficult)

    thor (high)

    tor (low)

    thor (low)

    nor (low)

    bor (middle)

    bpor (middle)

    por (high)

    fhor (high)

    phor (low)

    for (low)

    phor (low)

    mor (low)

    yor (low)

    ror (low)

    lor (low)

    wor (low)

    sor (high)

    sor (high)

    sor (high)

    hor (high)

    lor (low)

    or (middle)

    hor (low)

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    Vowels

    Next we will learn the vowels. Instead of the tone in the parentheses, we have whether the vowel is long or short. In the below examples, we use as a marker (when it is used the first time), but the consonant needed for the word would be placed there instead.

    อะ ah (short vowel)

    ออ or (long vowel)

    อัวaua (short vowel)

    อัวua (long vowel)

    อา aah (long vowel)

    อำaum (short vowel)

    อิai (short vowel) ← this accent resembles a semi-circle

    อี ee (long vowel) ← this accent resembles a semi-circle with a vertical line

    อึ eu (short vowel) ← this accent resembles a semi-circle with a small circle on the edge

    อื aeu (long vowel) ← this accent resembles a semi-circle with two vertical lines

    อุoo (short vowel)

    อู oo (long vowel)

    เอ ae (long vowel)

    เออaer (long vowel)

    เออaer (short vowel)

    เอะ aeh (short vowel)

    เอา aow (short vowel)

    เอาะ aor (long vowel)

    เอียeia (long vowel)

    เอีia (short vowel)

    เอือaeu (short vowel)

    เอืuea (short vowel)

    แอ ae (long vowel)

    แอะ aae (short vowel)

    โอ oh (long vowel)

    โอoh (short vowel)

    ใอ ai (short vowel)

    ไอai (short vowel)

    ror rue (short vowel)

    ฤๅror rue (long vowel)

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    Tones

    As we saw with the consonants, there are high, middle and low tones. When speaking in the high tone, it is above the normal pitch and resembles an “alarmed" tone. The middle tone is the normal tone for English speakers. With the low tone, we use a lower pitch when speaking. Besides these three tones, there are rising and fallings tone used when speaking sentences in Thai as well. The rising tone has an inflection similar to asking a question in English. If we are speaking with a falling tone, the inflection drops while speaking, similar to speaking with an emphasis in English.

References