Thai alphabet

Thai alphabet

Infobox Writing system
creator=King Ramkhamhaeng the Great
unicode= [ U+0E00–U+0E7F]
The Thai alphabet ( _th. อักษรไทย, "àksŏn thai") is used to write the Thai language and other s in Thailand. It has forty-four consonants ( _th. พยัญชนะ, "phayanchaná"), fifteen vowel symbols ( _th. สระ, "sàrà") that combine into at least twenty-eight vowel forms, and four tone marks ( _th. วรรณยุกต์ or วรรณยุต, "wannayúk" or "wannayút").

The character set is an abugida, a writing system in which consonants include an inherent vowel sound. The inherent vowel is described as an implied 'a' or 'o', below. Consonants are written horizontally from left to right, with vowels symbols arranged above, below, to the left or to the right of the corresponding consonant or in a combination of those positions.

Thai has its own set of Thai numerals which are based of the Hindu Arabic numeral system ( _th. ตัวเลขไทย, "tua lek thai"), but the standard western Hindu-Arabic numerals ( _th. ตัวเลขฮินดูอารบิก, "tua lek hindu arabik") are also commonly used.



The Thai alphabet is derived from the Old Khmer script ( _th. อักขระเขมร, akchara khamen), which is a southern Brahmic style of writing called Vatteluttu. Vatteluttu was also commonly known as the "Pallava script" by scholars of Southeast Asian studies such as George Coedes.According to tradition it was created in 1283 by King Ramkhamhaeng the Great ( _th. พ่อขุนรามคำแหงมหาราช).


Thai letters do not have small and capital forms like the Roman alphabet. Texts are usually written with no space between words.

Minor pauses in sentences "may" be marked by a comma ( _th. จุลภาค or ลูกน้ำ, "chun lap hâk" or "lûk nám"), and major pauses by a period ( _th. มหัพภาค or จุด, "ma hàp phâk" or "chùt"), but most often are marked by a blank space ( _th. วรรค, "wák"). A bird's eye ๏ ( _th. ตาไก่, "ta kài"), officially called ( _th. ฟองมัน, "fong man"), formerly indicated paragraphs, but is now obsolete.

A "khomut" ๛ ( _th. โคมูตร) can be used to mark the end of a chapter or document.

Thai writing also uses quotation marks ( _th. อัญประกาศ, "an-yá-prà-kàt") and parentheses (round brackets) ( _th. วงเล็บ, "wong lép"), but not square brackets or braces.

Alphabet listing

You will need a Unicode-capable browser and font that contains the Thai alphabet to view the Thai letters below.


There are 44 consonants representing 21 distinct consonant sounds. Duplicate consonants represent different Sanskrit and Pali consonants pronounced identically in Thai (although the distinction between the consonants is retained in spoken Khmer). The consonants are divided into three classes — low ( _th. เสียงต่ำ, "siang tam" ), middle ( _th. เสียงกลาง, "siang klang") and high ( _th. เสียงสูง, "siang sung") — which determine the tone of the following vowel. There are in addition four consonant-vowel combination characters not included in the tally of 44.

To aid learning, each consonant is traditionally associated with a Thai word that either starts with the same sound, or features it prominently. For example, the name of the letter ข is "kho khai" (ข ไข่), in which "kho" is the sound it represents, and "khai" (ไข่) is a word which starts with the same sound and means "egg".

Two of the consonants, ฃ ("kho khuat") and ฅ ("kho khon"), are not used in written Thai anymore, but still appear on many keyboards and in character sets. Some say [cite web
title=The origins of the Thai typewriter
] that when the first Thai typewriter was developed by Edwin Hunter McFarland in 1892, there was simply no space for all characters, thus two had to be left out. Also, neither of these two letters correspond to a Sanskrit or Pali letter, and each of them, being a modified form of the letter that precedes it (compare ข and ค), has the same pronunciation and the same consonant class as the preceding letter. This makes them redundant. Set in 1890's Siam, a 2006 film titled in Thai: ฅนไฟบิน "Flying Fire Person" (in English: Dynamite Warrior), uses ฅ "kho khon" to spell ฅน "Person". Compare entry for ฅ in table below, where "person" is spelled คน.

Equivalents for romanisation are shown in the table below. Many consonants are pronounced differently at the beginning and at the end of a syllable. The entries in columns "initial" and "final" indicate the pronunciation for that consonant in the corresponding positions in a syllable. Where the entry is '-', the consonant may not be used to close a syllable. Where a combination of consonants ends a written syllable, only the first is pronounced; possible closing consonant sounds are limited to 'k', 'm', 'n', 'ng', 'p' and 't'.

Although an official standard for romanisation is the Royal Thai General System of Transcription (RTGS) defined by the Royal Thai Institute, many publications use different Romanisation systems. In daily practice, a bewildering variety of Romanisations are used, making it difficult to know how to pronounce a word, or to judge if two words (e.g. on a map and a street sign) are actually the same. For more precise information, an equivalent from the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) is given as well.

Each consonant is assigned to a "class" (low, middle, or high), which plays a role in determining the tone with which the syllable is pronounced.

None, that is, no tone marker, is used with the base accent พื้นเสียง.

Mai tri and mai chattawa are only used with mid-class consonants.

ห นำ "ho nam" leading ho. A silent, high-class ห "leads" low-class nasal consonants (ง, ญ, น and ม) and non-plosives (ว, ย, ร and ล), which have no corresponding high-class phonetic match, into the tone properties of a high-class consonant. In polysyllabic words, an initial mid- or high-class consonant with an implicit vowel similarly "leads" these same low-class consonants into the higher class tone rules, with the tone marker borne by the low-class consonant.

อ นำ "o nam" leading o. In four words only, a silent, mid-class อ "leads" low-class ย into mid-class tone rules: อย่า ("ya" don't) อยาก ("yak" desire) อย่าง ("yang" yet) อยู่ ("yu" stay). Note all four have long-vowel, low-tone "siang ek", but อยาก, a dead syllable, needs no tone marker, but the three live syllables all take "mai ek".

Exceptions where words are spelled with one tone but pronounced with another often occur in informal conversation (notably the pronouns "chan" and "khao", which are both pronounced with a high tone rather than the rising tone indicated by the script); generally when such words are recited or read in public, they are pronounced as spelled.

Other diacritics are used to indicate short vowels and silent consonants:

While letters are listed here according to their class in Sanskrit, Thai has lost the distinction between many of the consonants. So, while there is a clear distinction between ช and ฌ in Sanskrit, in Thai these two consonants are pronounced identically (including tone). Likewise, Thais are unable to tell the difference between the retroflex and dental classes, because Thai has no retroflex consonants and all the retroflex consonants are in fact pronounced as if they are dental: thus ฏ is pronounced like ต, and ฐ is pronounced like ถ, and so forth.

The Sanskrit unaspirated unvoiced plosives are pronounced as unaspirated unvoiced, while the Sanskrit aspirated, voiced, and aspirated voiced plosives are pronounced as aspirated unvoiced, except in the retroflex class where the Sanskrit voiced and aspirated voiced plosive are pronounced as unaspirated unvoiced. None of the Sanskrit plosives are pronounced as the Thai voiced plosives.

Non-plosives (อวรรค "IAST|avargaḥ")

"Semivowels and liquids" (กี่งสระ "king sara" branch vowels") come in Thai alphabetical order after , the last of the plosives. The term อวรรค "awak" means "without a break"; that is, without a plosive.

seriessymbolvaluerelated vowels
palatalya [yá] อิ and อี
retroflexra [rá] ฤ and ฤๅ
dentalla [lá] ฦ and ฦๅ
labialwa [wá] อุ and อู

ibilants (เสียดแทรก)

เสียดแทรก, pronounced "เสียดแซก" (siang sak), meaning "inserted sound(s)", follow the semi-vowel ว in alphabetical order.

palatalsà [śa]
retroflexsà [IAST|ṣa]
dentalsà [sa]

Like Sanskrit, Thai has no voiced siblant (so no 'z' or 'zh'). In modern Thai, the distinction between the three high-class consonants has been lost and all three are pronounced 'sà'; however, foreign words with an sh-sound may still be transcribed as if the Sanskrit values still hold (e.g., "ang-grit" อังกฤษ for "English" instead of อังกฤส).:ศ ศาลา (so sala) leads words, as in its example word, ศาลา. The digraph ศริ (Indic "sri") is regularly pronounced สิ (si), as in Sisaket Province, Thai: ศรีสะเกษ.:ษ ฤๅษี (so rue-si) may only lead syllables "within" a word, as in its example, ฤๅษี, or to end a syllable as in ศรีสะเกษ "Sisaket" and อังกฤษ "Anggrit" English. :ส เสือ (so suea) spells native Thai words that require a high-class /s/, as well as naturalized Pali/Sanskrit words, such as สารท (สาท) in Thetsagan Sart: เทศกาลสารท (เทด-สะ-กาน-สาท), formerly ศารท (สาท). :ซ โซ่ (so soe), which follows the similar-appearing ช in Thai alphabetical order, spells words requiring a low-class /s/, as does ทร + vowel.:ทร, as in the heading of this section, เสียดแทรก (pronounced เสียดแซก "siang sak"), when accompanied by a vowel (implicit in ทรง (ซง "song" an element in forming words used with royalty; a semivowel in ทรวง (ซวง "suang" chest, heart); or explicit in ทราย (ซาย "sigh" sand). Exceptions to ทร + vowel = /s/ are the prefix โทร- (equivalent to "tele-" far, pronounced โทระ "toe-ra"), and phonetic re-spellings of English tr- (as แตร (trae) meaning "trumpet", with the latter respelled phonetically as ทรัมเพ็ท.) ทร is otherwise pronounced as two syllables ทอระ-, as in ทรมาน (ทอระมาน "to-ra-man" to torment.

Voiced h (มีหนักมีลม)


, a high-class consonant, comes next in alphabetical order, but its low-class equivalent, , follows similar-appearing อ as the last letter of the Thai alphabet. Like modern Hindi, the voicing has disappeared, and the letter is now pronounced like English 'h'. Like Sanskrit, this letter may only be used to start a syllable, but may not end it. (A popular beer is romanized as Singha, but in Thai is สิงห์, with a "mai karan" on the ห; correct pronunciation is "sing", but foreigners to Thailand typically say "sing-ha".)

Vowels (สระ)

Thai Sanskrit has only 12 vowels.

"a" [a]
อา"a" [ā]
อิi [i]
อีi [ī]
อุu [u]
อูu [ū]
เอe [e]
โอo [o]
ru [IAST|ṛ]
ฤๅru [IAST|ṝ]
lu [IAST|ḷ]
ฦๅlu [IAST|ḹ]

All consonants have an inherent 'a' sound, and therefore there is no need to use the ะ symbol when writing Sanskrit. The Thai vowels อื, ไอ, ใอ, and so forth, are not used in Sanskrit. The 'zero' consonant, อ is unique to the Indic alphabets descended from Khmer. When it occurs in Sanskrit, it is always the 'zero' consonant and never the vowel "o" [IPA|ɔː] . Its use in Sanskrit is therefore to write vowels that cannot be otherwise written alone: e.g., อา or อี. When อ is written on its own, then it is a carrier for the implied vowel, "a" IPA| [a] (equivalent to อะ in Thai).

The vowels อำ and อึ occur in Sanskrit, but only as the combination of the pure vowels "sara a" อา or "sara i" อิ with "nikhahit" อํ.

Other symbols

There are a number of additional symbols only used to write Sanskrit or Pali, and not used in writing Thai.

=Nikhahit นิคหิตฺ (anusvāra)=

In Sanskrit, the anusvāra indicates that the preceding vowel be nasalised. In Thai this is written as an open circle above the consonant. Nasalisation does not occur in Thai, therefore, a nasal consonant is substituted instead: e.g. ตํ IAST|taṃ, is pronounced as ตัง "tang" by Thai sanskritists. If nikhahit occurs before a consonant, then Thai uses a nasal consonant of the same class: e.g. สํสฺกฺฤตา [IAST|saṃskṛta] is read as สันสกฤตา "san-si-ki-ta" (The ส following the nikhahit is a dental class consonant, therefore the dental class nasal consonant น is used). For this reason, it has been suggested that in Thai, nikhahit should be listed as a consonant. [cite web
author=Theppitak Karoonboonyanan
title=Standardization and Implementations of Thai Language
] "Nikhahit" นิคหิต occurs as part of the vowels "sara am" อำ and "sara ue" อึ.

Pinthu พินทุ (virāma)


Because the Thai script is an abugida, a symbol (equivalent to virāma in devanagari) needs to be added to indicate that the implied vowel is not to be pronounced. This is the pinthu, which is a solid dot below the consonant.

Yamakkan ยามักการ


Yamakkan is an obsolete symbol used to mark the beginning of consonant clusters: e.g. พ๎ราห๎มณ "phramana" [IAST|brāhmaṇa] . Without the yamakkan, this word would be pronounced "pharahamana" [IAST|barāhamaṇa] instead. This is a feature unique to the Thai script (other Indic scripts use a combination of ligatures, conjuncts or virāma to convey the same information). The symbol is obsolete because "pinthu" may be used to achieve the same effect: พฺราหฺมณ.


The means of recording visarga (final voiceless 'h') in Thai has been lost.

Thai in Unicode

The Unicode range for Thai is U+0E00–U+0E7F. This area is a verbatim copy of the older TIS-620 character set which encodes the vowels เ แ โ ใ ไ before the consonants they follow, and thus is the only Unicode script using visual order instead of logical order. Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points.

ee also

* Thai language
** Royal Thai General System of Transcription
**ISO 11940
* Thai numerals
* Thailand


External links

* [ Omniglot - Thai]
* [ Virtual Thai Keyboard] Freeware for the Windows operating system
* [ Thai Alphabet]
* Transliterations for [ Thai Vowels] , [ Thai Consonants] , and [ Alternative Presentation of Thai Consonants] , by Richard Wordingham
* [ Thai vowels]
* [ Thai consonants]

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